Welcome to Lighting the Lamp, a year-round NHL column. This week, we’re looking back at the last few games of the 2017-18 regular season and looking forward to what promises to be a contentious set of Stanley Cup playoff matchups.
It took an extra day of waiting, but we finally know the Super 16 ahead of the 2018 Stanley Cup playoffs.
The Boston Bruins and the Florida Panthers played the final game of the regular season Sunday night — postponed because of a snowstorm — which took the air out of Super Saturday only a little bit.
In truth, the token Sunday night matchup actually had huge playoff implications. If the Bruins had won in any fashion, they would have secured the top berth in the Atlantic Division and the No. 1 seed overall in the Eastern Conference. If they failed to secure two points — which they did — the Tampa Bay Lightning would secure their hold on the East and home-ice advantage throughout the conference playoffs.
This season was wild, especially in the Western Conference, though it was amusing that it was the Eastern Conference, which had been essentially decided for days in entrants if not order, that held up the proceedings.
But now we know all the first-round matchups, and there are some juicy ones. The Lightning landed the New Jersey Devils, the No. 2 wild card in the East, in the first round, but New Jersey could surprise some people and possibly even shock the Bolts. The Devils swept the regular-season series 3-0-0 and while one of those wins was thanks to a shootout, which won’t be the the case in the playoffs, it’s still a fact that catches your attention.
It’s also kind of fun that the Vegas Golden Knights, in their first-ever playoffs, will face their divisional opponent the Los Angeles Kings. Is this a nascent rivalry in the making?
Let’s take a look at the rest of the best storylines that emerged from the NHL this week.
NHL power rankings
2018 playoff teams ranked by how much I want them to win
- Boston Bruins
- San Jose Sharks
- Nashville Predators
- Vegas Golden Knights
- Anaheim Ducks
- Minnesota Wild
- Los Angeles Kings
- Winnipeg Jets
- Colorado Avalanche
- Washington Capitals
- Columbus Blue Jackets
- New Jersey Devils
- Pittsburgh Penguins
- Toronto Maple Leafs
- Tampa Bay Lightning
- Philadelphia Flyers
Lamp Lighters: The week’s best goals
Who doesn’t love the Sedins? The NHL will greatly miss Daniel and Henrik now that they’ve elected to hang up their skates, but there’s no better way to go out than this:
The Panthers successfully played spoiler to the Bruins’ hopes at taking the No. 1 seed in the East on Sunday night, and this guy played a big hand in it:
This kid is gonna be special. The Buffalo Sabres have a bright future ahead:
And, finally, we might as well rename this section Sidney Crosby Lamp LightersTM. This week, he defies the laws of physics with a shot from behind the goal line:
Coast to Coast: What you might have missed around the league
- Another Chicago Blackhawks great is hanging up his skates. On Friday night, after the Hawks’ home game against the St. Louis Blues, Patrick Sharp took a solo skate around the ice for what was known to be his final home game — and, as it turned out, his final game, period. Sharp announced his impending retirement after the game. I was at the game and took this video of his goodbye skate:
- It’s awards time! Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid won his second straight Art Ross Trophy as the league’s leading scorer, Washington Capitals winger Alex Ovechkin earned his seventh Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy with the most goals in the league and Jonathan Quick of the Los Angeles Kings won his second William M. Jennings Trophy among goaltenders. And, of course, the Nashville Predators won the Presidents’ Trophy with 117 points.
1. Connor McDavid did it. He locked down the Art Ross Trophy as the league’s leading scorer with 108 points (41 goals, 67 assists) on the season. The Edmonton Oilers center became the first to win the award in consecutive years since Jaromir Jagr won four in a row (1997-98 through 2000-01). The Oilers’ season may be done, but I already can’t wait to see him play next season.
2. What’s the deal with the Bruins? For a team that purports to make a run all the way to the Stanley Cup Final, getting embarrassed by the Florida Panthers twice in the last week (and three times in the last month) is…worrisome. Down the stretch, however, already grappling with injuries, perhaps these Bruins just wanted to get off the ice and into the playoffs and avoid any more bloodshed. We’ll see in the first round, when they take on the Toronto Maple Leafs.
3. The gofundme for the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team, organized by Sylvie Kellington, a resident of Humboldt, Saskatchewan, has already raised more than $4 million in just two days. This tragedy touches us all in different ways, whether we ourselves played junior hockey, had a sibling who did, had a child who did — or simply support young people pursuing their dreams.
4. When I think hockey, I think a warm breeze, fresh-cut grass and the sun on my face. Wait, what? Okay, that’s golf, but the two sports will be strangely intertwined this month. When the first-round schedule was revealed by NBC, many noticed a strange channel carrying some of the teams’ Game 4 matchups.
Maybe the NHL should have sent its players to the Olympics? Just sayin’.
5. The Jets’ Patrik Laine and the Devils’ Taylor Hall will be making their playoff debuts this month, and it’s going to be fantastic. Two of the league’s most exciting talents with everything on the line. Laine had 44 goals this season — which is only five fewer than Ovechkin. Hall led the Devils with 93 points (39 goals, 54 assists). Is there anything better than playoff hockey?
Tweet of the week
In a moment of such tragedy, it’s heartwarming to see the international hockey community pull together like this.