Stanley Cup Playoffs Vibe Check: Farewell Capitals, Oilers and Blues

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The first week of the 2021 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs are in the books and we already get to Hunger Games cannon away three teams. Washington won just once against the Bruins, Edmonton was stunningly swept by the Jets, and the Blues couldn’t beat Colorado at all, so they go home into the abyss that is the offseason.

Their vibes aren’t good, but everyone else at least has a chance to figure out theirs before the First Round ends.

Boston Bruins

The vibe: Boston Brewin’

Energy check: When Dunkin’ makes your order right

Pretty good series for the Bruins. They did what they had to do and what was expected of them and then some with a five-game series win over the Capitals. Next, they’ll deal with either the Penguins or Islanders, which will undoubtedly be a tougher series.

Washington Capitals

The vibe: good morning, god has let me live another day or something

Energy check: Weird social media

Strange tweets aside, the Capitals had just about everything go wrong for them. The goaltending situation was weird from Game 1 on, the power play didn’t do enough, and even when the Bruins didn’t play their best, they didn’t take advantage. They have some work to do this offseason.

Pittsburgh Penguins

The vibe: Kind of sus

Energy check: Flightless bird

They easily could win two games in a row, but boy, Tristan Jarry is a little suspect right now. The thing about the Islanders is they can smother a team, and they’ve done that to the Penguins so far. Again, they’re not done but this doesn’t look good.

New York Islanders

The vibe: Good

Energy check: Fisherman jerseys

The Islanders have a series lead and have played pretty well overall, even if the Penguins have their issues. Ilya Sorokin has been good in net when he’s gotten the chance. They can close things out in Game 6.

Carolina Hurricanes

The vibe: Spicy

Energy check: good 4 u

The Hurricanes will be fine. Right? Right?!?

Nashville Predators

The vibe: Surprising

Energy check: “You can’t get rid of me” TikTok audio

The Predators have been battling for their playoff lives well before the postseason began. Maybe it’s not too surprising they’ve been able to compete in more win-or-go home scenarios. It wasn’t until late in the season anyone believed it wouldn’t be Dallas as the fourth seed, so they’ve continued to play hard.

Florida Panthers

The vibe: Good Knight

Energy check: Vibing Panther every time

The Lightning went up 3-1 in the series but Florida finally figured out their goaltending. Now down 3-2, it’s the Spencer Knight show. Winning the next two against the Lightning isn’t a given by any means, but the Panthers vibes remain good.

Lightning
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Tampa Bay Lightning

The vibe: Shocking

Energy check: The “they’re not gonna know” TikTok audio

Tampa Bay is still in the drivers seat, along with their like, $20M extra in the postseason sans salary cap. Florida has hung tough as expected, but going back to AMALIE Arena for Game 6 is a big opportunity for the Lightning to put the series away. Game 7 in Sunrise would not be fun (for them, for all of us it would be very fun).

Vegas Golden Knights

The vibe: KNIGHT

Energy check: Flower

This was always going to be a tough series, and Vegas has outplayed Minnesota for the majority of it. Game 6 at Xcel Energy Center is a little concerning, still.

Minnesota Wild

The vibe: wild with a lowercase w

Energy check: “What like it’s hard?”

The Wild absolutely did not play the best Game 5 of their lives and still forced the Golden Knights to go back to their barn for a Game 6. They will need to not be outshot by like 30 to win this team in case that’s the analysis you’re looking for.

Colorado Avalanche

The vibe: Couldn’t be better

Energy check: The “say, Colorado” Vine

The Avalanche are who we thought they were and so are the Blues, so they predictably swept their way into the Second Round and will have some rest.

St. Louis Blues

The vibe: Poor

Energy check: Jordan Binnington‘s “be quiet” tweet

Another year of the Blues being disappointing. It’s been a rough go for them with injuries and underperformance and they clearly weren’t going to contend with the Avalanche.

Maple Leafs
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Toronto Maple Leafs

The vibe: Leafy

Energy check: North Division-esque

After a blip in Game 1, the Maple Leafs have done what’s expected against a lesser Canadiens team. It’s still just a 2-1 series lead and yes, anything can happen, but they look on their way to playing the… Jets, apparently.

Montreal Canadiens

The vibe: Last Canadian Cup winner

Energy check: meh

The Habs took Game 1 and have been somewhat unimpressive since. They’re not supposed to win this series anyways, so, meh.

Edmonton Oilers

The vibe: Horrible

Energy check: That other time the Oilers broke your heart, whichever one it doesn’t matter

Yikes. Not quite the “Blue Jackets sweeping the Lightning out of the First Round” kind of shock but in the same category at least. We all knew the North was kind of smoke and mirrors but this is the worst Oilers being Oilers example in a while.

Winnipeg Jets

The vibe: Jetting

Energy check: Almost as if they have an airport

Winnipeg??? That Winnipeg? Look out, the Maple Leafs, the Jets are going to have some rest to work with and have to feel awesome about shutting down Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl and whoever else plays for the Oilers.

Marisa Ingemi is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop her a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow her on Twitter @Marisa_Ingemi.

Coaching carousel leaves 10 NHL teams with new face on bench

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The coaching carousel spun a little faster than usual across the NHL, meaning nearly a third of the league will have someone new behind the bench this season. And not just bottom-feeders making changes.

Ten teams go into the season next month with a new coach, from Presidents’ Trophy-winning Florida and perennial playoff-contending Boston to rebuilding Chicago and San Jose.

John Tortorella will try to whip Philadelphia into shape, Bruce Cassidy is tasked with getting Vegas back to the playoffs and Derek Lalonde takes his two Stanley Cup rings as a Tampa Bay assistant to his new challenge with the Detroit Red Wings.

TORTS REFORM

Philadelphia players knew they were in for some changes when Tortorella was hired, so they asked Cam Atkinson, who spent six years playing for the no-nonsense coach in Columbus.

“I keep telling them like he’s a guy that’s going to change the whole dynamic of this organization,” Atkinson said.

Tortorella has not shied away from saying a culture change is needed after a last-place finish and a decade with one playoff series win. There is likely not much he and players can do this year about a Cup drought that dates to 1975, but they can start with maddeningly inconsistent stretches of games that have plagued the Flyers for years, no matter the roster.

BIG MO

The Panthers were the league’s best team in the regular season last year but struggled in the playoffs before losing in the second round to cross-state rival Tampa Bay in five games. That was enough for general manager Bill Zito to decide to move on from interim coach Andrew Brunette and hired seasoned veteran Paul Maurice.

The expectation is to get back to the playoffs and compete for the Cup, and having Maurice at the helm was one of the factors that made power forward Matthew Tkachuk pick Florida as his trade-and-sign destination.

“He’s got high hopes for our team,” Tkachuk said. “He sees us playing in a certain way that’s going to make us successful. And he’s done it. He’s been around the NHL a long time, been a very successful head coach and somebody that I’m really looking forward to working with.”

PLAYOFF ROTATION

Bruins GM Don Sweeney fired Cassidy after a seven-game loss to Carolina in the first round despite Boston’s sixth consecutive playoff appearance.

Vegas had already fired Peter DeBoer, making him the scapegoat for an injury-riddled fall from the top of the Western Conference that ended with the team’s first playoff miss in five years of existence. The Golden Knights quickly turned to Cassidy, who like Maurice brings experience and gravitas to a franchise with championship aspirations.

“I think we’re very fortunate as an organization to have him as our coach,” center Jack Eichel said. “Every single person I’ve spoke to about them, they said the same thing: that he’s got a really, really great knack for the game and to able to make adjustments and he understands things. Very, very competitive — wants to win, has won a lot of hockey games over the last few years.”

The Bruins replaced Cassidy with Jim Montgomery, a hockey lifer getting a second chance after being fired by Dallas in December 2019 for inappropriate conduct. Montgomery sought and received help at a rehab facility and got a big endorsement from the staff with St. Louis, the team he was working for as an assistant.

“He’s a winner,” Bruins goalie Jeremy Swayman said. “I think guys are going to thrive on that energy.”

The Stars completed the circle by hiring DeBoer, who has coached two teams (New Jersey in 2012 and San Jose in 2016) to the final and is on his fifth stop around the league.

“This is a tough league and it’s a tough one to coach in and you have to be able to handle situations,” GM Jim Nill said. “I know Pete can do it.”

LAMBERT ISLAND

Lane Lambert served as an assistant under Barry Trotz with Nashville, Washington – where they won the Cup together – and the Islanders. When Trotz was abruptly fired after New York missed the playoffs for the first time in his four seasons on the job, his right-hand man got the gig with his endorsement.

Longtime executive Lou Lamoriello thought his team needed a new voice. But Lambert isn’t that new, and his familiarity with the Islanders keeps some continuity.

“Barry was great for our team, and having Lane as an assistant, he had lots of say, as well,” forward Mathew Barzal said. “As a group, we all have a good relationship with him, so I think it’ll be an easy transition for our team.”

MORE NEW VOICES

The final coaching change of the offseason came in San Jose, with ownership and interim management firing Bob Boughner and his assistants before Mike Grier took over as GM. Grier hired David Quinn, who most recently coached the U.S. at the Beijing Olympics after spending three years with the Rangers.

Rick Bowness, the Stars’ interim coach when Montgomery was fired who helped them reach the final in 2020 and was not brought back, joined Winnipeg. He immediately made an impact by stripping Blake Wheeler of the Jets captaincy.

The other new coaches – Lalonde in Detroit and Luke Richardson in Chicago – are not expected to make such big waves.

Richardson, who briefly was acting coach for Montreal during the 2021 final when Dominique Ducharme tested positive for the coronavirus, is overseeing the start of a long-term rebuild by the Blackhawks. Lalonde was Red Wings GM Steve Yzerman’s pick to help end the storied franchise’s playoff drought.

“He believes in what he’s preaching, which I think is great walking into a new locker room,” captain Dylan Larkin said. “He’s made a great impression on the guys.”

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

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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

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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.