Shane breaks down each round 2 matchup for the 2023 NHL Playoffs

Florida Panthers slayed the Toronto Maple Leafs

The Florida Panthers are building one of the best wildcard stories in all of sports as they took down Toronto, who finally advanced to the 2nd round of playoffs for the first time since 2004. ESPN did a bracket challenge with over 15k entries and only 1 person had Florida advancing past the Bruins, let alone the Toronto Maple Leafs. This is a team that’s been called out by their newly acquired star player Matthew Tkachuk, their newly appointed coach Paul Maurice, and Hall of Famer Keith Tkachuk. What’s that saying about a cornered animal fighting the most desperately? Anyhow, Florida advances after some stellar play by Sergei Bobrovsky who has been fully activated. This is the 10-million-dollar man that steals games. Aaron Ekblad had his first and one of the most important team goals in Game 5 as he got the game started 1-0 on the way to a 3-2 overtime win.

Some won’t agree with me, and I’m a Bruins fan so this is weird, but I love sports, and you HAVE to feel for this Leafs organization that just had their heart ripped out again, but with extra hope this time. Marner and Matthews are the Ovechkin-Backstrom, the Crosby-Malkin, but Morgan Reilly as well with these original hogs just can’t get it done. Locking Nylander up and signing Tavares still didn’t give them that extra punch. So, they went out and added Ryan O’Reilly and Luke Schenn to add some grit and experienced depth in the front and back of the lineup. Still not enough. Yeah, Ilya Samsonov wasn’t stellar in his couple of games against Florida but he was cash money against Tampa Bay. Joseph Woll had some magic in net to turn the tide although the offensive explosion by the Maple Leafs never happened to help support their goalie. 

Carolina Hurricanes snuff out the feisty New Jersey Devils 

The bigger, stronger team with veterans loaded on the bottom 6, edged out a feisty but relatively good team in New Jersey. Jack Hughes is elite. The guy is one of the best in the league. Dougie Hamilton is nice. The Devils needed some gritty guys who can game like David Perron or someone like Stastny and Noesen. Those are former number 1 talents playing 4th line minutes and executing to the best they can with the limited minutes on ice. I didn’t think the Devils added enough to match some of these eastern teams with grit top to bottom and it seemed their high flying offensive ways couldn’t save them in round 2. 

Tough, strong, enduring. That is Rod “the Bod” Brind’amour’s style, as his team embodies his character and fights every second during the game. They may not be the most creative bunch is their only knock, but they will take it because they are strong hogssss. Frederik Andersen plays tough and shuts down rebounds well so I like how this team looks to be getting stronger instead of more comfortable in a sense. 

Vegas Golden Knights cash out Edmonton Oilers

Wow. Game 6 victory on the road in Edmonton to close the series out was a massive statement by Vegas as they look ahead to Dallas in the Western Conference Finals. Bruce Cassidy took the challenge head on and got his team to stick to the game plan of not taking penalties as they were shorthanded only 1 time in Game 6. Jonathan Marchassault had a hat trick to lead the Vegas hopefuls to the promised land after being down 2-1 at the end of the first. The defenseman of Vegas came out to play as they were all over forcing turnovers, moving the puck, and shutting down that offensive creativity out of McDavid and Draisatil. You have to feel for the rookie Stuart Skinner though, to be the solution in net for this Edmonton Oilers team is a massive task. You don’t have to make every save but you have to make the important ones and Edmonton failed to do both… again, unfortunately. Jack Campbell is going to be public enemy number 1 as his poor play and constant injuries will irk fans all off season. Edmonton also had that constant issue of depth scoring and it was ill timed in game 6 as they had no power play chances for the #1 unit in the NHL. Give credit to Bruce Cassidy who was basically shipped out of Boston for being a hardass, and good for Vegas scooping up the 2019-20 Jack Adams award winner. I still can’t believe Boston got rid of him after what he was able to do consistently with that team. 

Anyways, the Oilers are heading to the same frantic offseason of doubt and the same question of “how do we get better?”. Ekholm was a correct step but maybe getting Nurse to restructure his deal to allow more cap so they can get more defense. I’ve never played pro hockey, but I know that a #1 defensive pairing of Cody Ceci and Darnell Nurse will not go well. Nurse -3 and Leon -4 in that game 6, not good from your stars and Conner couldn’t crack 0 even with a goal. 

Dallas Stars harness the Seattle Kraken

What a hard-fought series that produced a quality game between two quality teams. The Kraken made great strides in their second season but the experienced, overall depth of the Stars with better goaltending in Jake Oettinger saw Dallas advance in 7. This Wyatt Johnston kid is amazing and was taken in the same draft as Miro Heiskanen and Jason Robertson, albeit Robertson’s goal scoring disappeared this series but what a draft for thst Dallas team. Wyatt got the game winner after Roope Hintz opened up with a fast break snipe. Oettinger was just 19 seconds away from a game 7 shutout as he looked incredible controlling rebounds and working with his defenseman to prevent quality shots as he only faced 23. Can’t say enough about Jamie Benn as he has 10 points in 13 postseason games while playing wing on the 3rd line with that stud Wyatt in the middle. What a mentor to have, as well as a 3rd line captain for a defensive minded team that can score at all angles. 

The Kraken were the better team on other nights but they couldn’t climb that final hurdle. I’m excited as hell for this team in the future and the fans look ECSTATIC by the home broadcasts. I honestly don’t know what you do in the off-season besides finding a young stud goalie to bolster this team for some postseason runs. Phillip Grubauer isn’t the answer as we see it, but they are ready on this roster for postseason play. Yanni Gourde on the 3rd line is my favorite piece of this roster. You have the penalty kill and strength part, now you gotta get some high-end talent around Matty Beniers and defenseman Vince Dunn. You have to love the Kraken’s Stanley Cup prospects in the future when they get meaner and sharper. 

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