Are we headed to a Conference finals letdown?

Sharks1.jpgThere’s no doubt that this has been one of the most amazing hockey
playoff seasons we’ve had in a very long time. Forget the multiple Game 7
dramas, or the absolute upsets of the Penguins and the Capitals. You
could even overlook the history that was made last night in Pittsburgh,
and you would still come away thinking this has been one heck of a
postseason.

The television ratings are up.

Dan Boyle’s own
goal.

Roberto Luongo’s delusion.

Joe Thornton’s redemption.

The
Phoenix Coyotes took the Red Wings to the brink out in the desert.

Sami
Salo’s…..well, Salo’s issue.

Ian Laperriere taking a puck to
the face for the good of his team.

The multiple players that have
returned early from injury, making a big impact (both good and bad).

All
of this in just the first two rounds of the playoffs, and we still have
two left to go. There’s really only one way to go from here, and that’s
to some disappointing series in the conference finals. It almost feels
inevitable. We’ve exhausted nearly every storyline imaginable thus far
in the playoffs, from improbable comebacks to Cinderella teams, to the
teams out West that we’ve all seemingly forgotten about.

Now we
have four teams remaining, who have up to this point burned an
incredible amount of energy and fought through so many injuries that a
letdown is coming. Some of these teams will likely have nothing left in
the tank and will get steamrolled by their opponent, lost in the dust on
the way to the Stanley Cup.

Whether it’s Philadelphia, who
seemingly reached into the depths of their hockey souls for one last
gasp against the Bruins, overcoming a 0-3 deficit both in the series and
in the game, or it’s the San Jose, who finally made it to this point
only to find themselves facing an angry, rabid and hungry Blackhawks
team.

Hopefully I’m wrong, and the chances are that I’m off base.
Yet after so much greatness this season, there will come a point where
it all crashes down and we’re left with a 4-1 series win the Conference
finals before an easy sweep in the Stanley Cup finals.

Maybe it
doesn’t matter. Those West Coast teams we’ve all forgotten about?
They’ll destroy whatever team they face in the finals anyhow.

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    Islanders agree to terms with Mathew Barzal on 8-year extension

    Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
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    Mathew Barzal has agreed to terms with the New York Islanders on an eight-year extension, a move that keeps the franchise’s top forward under contract for the balance of his prime.

    The deal is worth $73.2 million with an annual salary cap hit of $9.15 million, according to a person with knowledge of the contract. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the team did not announce terms.

    Barzal has led the team in scoring, or been tied for the lead, every season since he became a full-time NHL player in 2017-18. He has 349 points in 411 regular-season and playoff games for the defensively stingy Islanders, who qualified for the postseason three consecutive times before an injury- and virus-altered last year.

    “We feel recharged,” Barzal said recently. “We feel like everybody had good summers and worked hard, and we got that excitement back.”

    Barzal, now 25, is coming off putting up 59 points in 75 games. The offensive star will now be asked to round out his game.

    “I’m a fan because Mat has the ability to raise his game and to be a special player,” general manager Lou Lamoriello told reporters at the team’s practice facility on Long Island. “And now, with this contract and our faith in him, (it) puts that responsibility on him. We’re trusting that. It’s up to him to respond to that.”

    Senators goaltender Cam Talbot out 5-7 weeks with injury

    Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
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    OTTAWA, Ontario — Ottawa Senators goaltender Cam Talbot is expected to be out five to seven weeks with what the team called an upper-body injury.

    The Senators initially called Talbot day to day with what they hoped was a minor injury. Instead he’s now expected to miss at least the first month of the NHL season.

    Ottawa claimed goalie Magnus Hellberg off waivers from the Seattle Kraken upon announcing Talbot’s expected absence. Hellberg, who played for Sweden at the Beijing Olympics could split time with countryman Anton Forsberg while Talbot is out.

    The Senators acquired Talbot from Minnesota during the offseason to make him their starter after the Wild opted against bringing him back along with Marc-Andre Fleury. Talbot, 35, had a 2.76 goals-against average and .911 save percentage this season.

    Losing Talbot is a blow to the Senators, who also acquired winger Alex DeBrincat from Chicago and signed longtime Philadelphia Flyers captain Claude Giroux as part of a move toward contending and ending their playoff drought.

    Blackhawks’ Boris Katchouk sidelined by ankle sprain

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    CHICAGO — Blackhawks forward Boris Katchouk will be sidelined for four to six weeks with a left ankle sprain, the team announced.

    The 24-year-old Katchouk played almost 12 minutes during a 3-0 preseason loss to Detroit on Saturday night. He was acquired in a multiplayer trade with Tampa Bay in March.

    The Blackhawks open the season on Oct. 12 at Colorado.

    The team also said forward Jujhar Khaira is day to day with a right ankle injury.

    Ducks’ Urho Vaakanainen crashes into boards, leaves on stretcher

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    ANAHEIM, Calif. — Ducks defenseman Urho Vaakanainen was taken off the Honda Center ice on a stretcher after he crashed into the end boards in the first period of Anaheim’s preseason game against the San Jose Sharks.

    The Finnish defenseman was conscious and alert with full movement in his extremities at UCI Medical Center, the Ducks said.

    The frightening incident occurred midway through the opening period when Vaakanainen smashed into the boards at a dangerous speed behind the Sharks’ net. Vaakanainen appeared to be concentrating on the pass he had just made to Derek Grant, who scored the Ducks’ opening goal on the assist.

    Vaakanainen’s teammates came onto the ice and gathered around him as he was taken away on the stretcher.

    The Ducks acquired the 23-year-old Vaakanainen from Boston last March in the deal that sent longtime Ducks defenseman Hampus Lindholm to the Bruins. After recording two assists in 14 games for the Ducks last season, Vaakanainen is attempting to win a top-six role on Anaheim’s defense this fall.