A quick mix of the things we gleaned from the week of hockey, serious and less so, and rolling four lines deep. The only blog fueled by not-the-best spicy pork and broccoli, and turned sushi.
1. If you took time to sift through the rubble of the Toronto Maple Leafs’ collapse to the Montreal Canadiens last spring, you could uncover a few mementos worth saving among the ashes.
One of the most overlooked aspects of that series is that Jack Campbell — who shouldered the blame after allowing a softy in Game 7 — submitted a fantastic performance.
Campbell’s save percentage in that series (.934), his first as an NHLer, outsparkled that of Carey Price (.932).
And now, three games into Toronto’s bid to take down the champs, Campbell (.924) holds the decided edge on reigning Conn Smythe winner Andrei Vasilevskiy (.890).
“Human nature as an athlete, you want to be the best you can be. Obviously, Vasi has proven how good he is over the course of his NHL career,” Campbell says.
“It’s a fun challenge. I’d be lying if I said I don’t want to do my best to beat him.”
Thin on healthy, proven backup support — and failing to add a goaltender by the trade deadline — the Maple Leafs’ top priority down the stretch was to ensure Campbell was in top form, mentally and physically.
He’s entered the series rested and ready. (Pitching a shutout in his final regular-season game couldn’t harm the confidence.)
Standing behind the deepest Leafs’ D-corps of the cap era certainly helps. But whether it’s stoning Brayden Point in tight or stunning Steven Stamkos blasting away from the flank, Campbell is emerging as a difference-maker.
“Great shot. Better save,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper tipped the cap after Game 3’s highlight.
In three outings, he has allowed just three even-strength goals. Vasilevskiy has surrendered seven at evens and two more shorthanded.
“He gives us confidence when he’s out there,” Auston Matthews says.
“He’s talkative. He chats out there. He has a lot of fun out there. And I think that’s the most important part for him — when he’s playing really well, he’s having a lot of fun out there.”
2. Mark Scheifele is under contract with Winnipeg through 2024. He can’t begin negotiating an extension until the summer of 2023.
To hear a player more than two years away from free agency talk as if he has a pressing decision to make about his future is stunning.
Not sure why you would want that energy in your dressing room, particularly from one of your captains.
The 29-year-old centreman has a 10-team no-trade list. His actual salary ($5.5 million in 2022-23, $6 million in 2023-24, none of it in signing bonuses) is lower than his cap hit ($6.125 million).
Which is to say, a productive pivot like Scheifele could fetch a fine return on the trade market. Cap-friendly centres in their prime don’t become available often.
(P.S. Paul Maurice is a smart man. It was stunning to see him walk away from the Jets mid-season under the belief that he had brought these players as far as he could. In hindsight, one must wonder if he sensed this unravelling coming.)
3. Call it the Shark Tank.
By losing its final three games of the season — and a crazy 14 of its final 17 — San Jose dropped below the Columbus Blue Jackets in the overall standings to finish with the 11th-worst record in the NHL.
That’s significant, because under the new draft lottery rules, non-playoff teams can only move up 10 spots if they win.
In other words, the Sharks are the best team with a shot at the first-overall pick.
The Jackets, Islanders, Jets, Canucks, Golden Knights can only elevate to No. 2 at best.
The “Do Wrong for Wright” lottery goes Tuesday, and draft host Montreal has the greatest chance of celebrating.
Note that both Chicago (to Columbus) and Vegas (to Buffalo) have both protected their traded picks this summer and will hang onto them if they win.
Here are the full odds:
4. Jared Spurgeon was fined $5,000 for cross-checking Pavel Buchnevich’s vulnerable ankle in a play that had zero to do with hockey and everything to do with malicious intent.
Spurgeon made $9 million this season.
To the Minnesota Wild captain, a $5,000 fine is the equivalent of the average employed American being fined $29.
In other words: As a deterrent, this is a joke.
So many bang-bang borderline hits with accidental outcomes warrant a suspension. How in the world does this result in a light wrist-slap?
Ironically, Spurgeon committed the act Monday night, less than three hours after I included him on my Lady Byng ballot. Doh.
(Kyle Connor topped my list, for what it’s worth.)
5. Fans at Capital One Arena Saturday for the Caps-Panthers game will have a chance to sink their teeth into this monstrosity: a spicy fried chicken sandwich on a cinnamon roll. Seventeen dollars’ worth of punishment for your arteries.
Also being unveiled at Game 3: a roving robot serving desserts on the concourse. The future is now!
6. Three-time winner Rick Tocchet lugged the Stanley Cup into the NBA on TNT studio for a little cross-promotion.
Respect to Charles Barkley for declining a free lift.
“You know I would never touch that. I would never touch a championship trophy,” Barkley said.
“That’s just a rule. Anybody knows that. Even if it’s not my sport. That’s a rule.”
7. Based on Jim Rutherford’s half-hearted endorsement, the cleared bench in Philadelphia, and the relationship with GM Chuck Fletcher, it’s nearly impossible to find someone in hockey who doesn’t believe Bruce Boudreau will end up behind the Flyers bench.
(What makes this clip great is the typically dry and serious nature of the post-game playoff coach availability.
And to be fair to Sheldon Keefe, the wheels on the Amalie Arena pressroom chairs are super stealth. They look like regular four-legged chairs, and the wheels caught me delightfully off-guard as well. I wasn’t on camera.)
9. Dramatic turn in the Pittsburgh Penguins crease, with No. 1 Tristan Jarry too hurt to start the post-season and Casey DeSmith now done with season-ending surgery.
Until his spicy-pork-fuelled emergency overtime victory in Game 1, third-stringer Louie Domingue had only appeared in one other playoff game, making seven saves in relief for the Lightning in 2018.
The journeyman backup already has as many NHL playoff appearances as regular-season appearances this season (two).
During his two years backing up workhorse Andrei Vasilevskiy in Tampa, the good-natured Domingue served as the dressing room DJ. His former teammates are rooting for him.
“He’s an energetic guy. Kind of a character in the room. Always brought good energy for us,” Ryan McDonagh says. “But he’s really competitive on the ice. In practice, if you scored on him, he wasn’t very happy about it. Always had that competitive edge to him. When he did into games, he’d have that competitive feistiness to him too.
“So, it’s been fun to see him having a role with Pit now and stepping up.”
The playoffs are five days old and already 20 goalies have made an appearance.
10. Some took the stance that it was offside for Brock Boeser to be asked a non-hockey question about his father Duke’s health during Canucks locker cleanout day.
Boeser chose to answer a question he did not anticipate, though, and did so in a beautifully raw and honest way.
Fans are better for it because it gave them a small peek into the pain he’s playing through. The moment humanized Boeser in great way.
Boeser’s agent, Ben Hankinson, told Donnie and Dhali in a follow-up interview that Boeser felt “rattled” afterward. He wondered if he had “screwed up” with his answer or embarrassed himself.
Nothing could be further from the truth, Brock.
“There’s a lot more to it than what you see on the ice,” Hankinson said.
“It was probably a good thing, believe it or not, for Brock to go through that and just let it out. Because he doesn’t say anything to me, his mom, his brother, his sister, his dad.”
11. Wayne Gretzky unveiled his complete playoff bracket on the league’s Instagram account, and Oilers fans might want to unfollow right now.
The Great One predicted a long-desired Battle of Alberta in Round 2… with the Calgary Flames coming out on top.
The Oilers’ responded to their legend in the comments: “Ouch, Wayne.”
He also chose pal Jon Cooper’s Lightning to boot the Maple Leafs in Round 1, and the Rangers to outduel Pittsburgh.
In Gretzky’s final, the underrated Carolina Hurricanes trump his former team, the St. Louis Blues, in the final.
“I think Carolina is a sleeper team, and they’re destined this year to get to the Stanley Cup final,” Gretzky said.
The Hurricanes emphasized the pick with a string of eyeball emojis.
12. Drake didn’t pick a winner like the GOAT, but he did place a mellow $400,000 bet that the Leafs–Lightning series would go the seven-game distance. So far, that’s tracking well.
The payout? $1.2 million. Or, as Drake calls it, sweater money.
Everything is relative.
The wager arrives on the same week the Raptors’ ambassador inked a new deal with Universal Music Group, reportedly worth approximately $400 million.
Drake on Jack Harlow’s brand-new “Churchill Downs”: I’m getting so rich, my music’s not relatable.