Is the Lightning's dynasty over? Will the Avalanche lose before the conference finals? We overreacted to the opening week of the NHL Playoffs.
The NHL playoffs never fail to bring excitement. The 2023 edition has been no different.
The NHL has yet to wrap up a single first-round series, yet there have been nine overtime games, two suspensions, multiple goalie controversies and a few matchups that are definitely heading to at least six games.
It’s an (extremely) small sample size, but the eight days of playoff hockey has seen certain teams and players step up, while others are still trying to find their stride. It’s easy to overreact to performances, good or bad, but hey, that’s the fun of it.
Here are some overreactions from the first 32 games of the 2023 NHL playoffs.
All good things must come to an end. The Lightning’s dynasty is no different.
The three-time defending Eastern Conference champions did not end the regular season well, but as we’ve come to learn about Jon Cooper’s crew, the Lightning know how to turn it up in the playoffs. But that doesn’t seem to be the case in 2023, as Tampa Bay is facing a 3-1 series deficit against Toronto in the first round.
The core is getting older. Andrei Vasilevskiy has not been as lights out as in the past. The club’s blue line is extremely weak and the team is losing games in ways that are so un-Lightning-like.
It feels more than likely there will be a new Eastern Conference champion in 2023.
No one needed the Maple Leafs to perform well in the playoffs more than Toronto GM Kyle Dubas. The analytical wizard’s contract is set to expire at the end of this season, and another first-round exit surely would have meant Dubas was out the door.
But Toronto is now a game away from winning its first-round series against Tampa Bay, and a large part of that has to do with the moves made by Dubas, especially at the deadline.
Ryan O’Reilly, a Stanley Cup champion and Conn Smythe winner, has been as advertised, giving Toronto a ton of depth down the middle and excelling in the faceoff dot. Noel Acciari’s sandpaper style of player has been a strong boost to the bottom-six.
Luke Schenn and Jake McCabe each have added size and physicality to the back end. Even Ilya Samsonov, who signed a one-year, prove-it deal this summer, has been strong in net for a Toronto team that completely overhauled the crease in the offseason.
Of course, the Leafs have not won anything yet, and while Toronto fans may disagree, winning one playoff series by no means defines a postseason as successful. But Dubas clicked all the right buttons to get this team get over the hump and has earned a new contract from the Maple Leafs.
It was well known heading into the 2023 postseason that this Avalanche team was not the same one that hoisted the Stanley Cup in 2022. However, Colorado was still viewed as one of, if not, the team to beat in the Western Conference.
While the club has dominated play at times against the Kraken, Seattle has been a tough task for Colorado to handle, resulting in a 2-2 series. It took the Avs until the Stanley Cup Final last year to lose their third playoff game, but it could be coming in the first round this year.
The team is not nearly as deep at forward as its Cup-winning squad. With Gabriel Landeskog ruled out of the playoffs and leave of absence from Val Nichushkin, Colorado’s offense hasn’t packed the same power. Mikko Rantanen and Nathan MacKinnon are the only skaters with more than one goal in the series and can only do so much.
If the Avs can somehow hang on and hand the Kraken a first-round loss, it’s not going to get easier in the second round facing the winner of Stars-Wild. Colorado is more than capable of turning things around and making a deep playoff run again, but they haven’t played like it.
It’s hard to nitpick a record-breaking team that’s up 3-1 in a series. The Bruins haven’t been perfect, but they look well on their way to taking care of business against the Panthers. However, David Pastrnak hasn’t been nearly the force he was in the regular season.
Pastrnak, who scored 61 goals and had 113 points in the regular season, has just two tallies and no assists through four games against the Panthers. His 14 shots on goal are second to only Brad Marchand on the team, but the puck isn’t finding the back of the net for the star winger.
The Bruins have done just fine so far with Pastrnak struggling to find twine. In fact, they’re winning despite the absences of Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci, which speaks volumes to the depth of the team.
However, Boston’s offense is at its best when Pasta is lighting the lamp. It’s clear they’re trying to get him the puck, but it hasn’t clicked quite yet in the postseason.