[Author's note: Power rankings are usually three things: Bad, wrong, and boring. You typically know just as well as the authors which teams won what games against who and what it all means, so our moving the Red Wings up four spots or whatever really doesn't tell you anything you didn't know. Who's hot, who's not, who cares? For this reason, we're doing a power ranking of things that are usually not teams. You'll see what I mean.]
6. Holding Onto a 3-0 Series Lead
Because the San Jose Sharks felt as though they just hadn't done enough to get everyone to label them as big losing chokers who do nothing but choke and lose, they have decided in their infinite wisdom to get it handed to them in three straight games after winning Games 1-3 of their opening-round series with the Los Angeles Kings.
And, oh, the way they've done it!
Holy moly these big zeroes are really a tale of two teams, right guys? They win the first three games by a combined score of 17-8, then lose the next three 13-7? I mean, what is that?
It's almost -- and I don't want to talk too much out of school here -- as though Jonathan Quick isn't bad enough to keep giving up almost six goals a game, and the Kings' offense isn't going to be held to less than three. I don't know. It seems to me almost like neither team should really be bad enough to both lose three straight games to anyone. But look at that! They did it! Wow what a world. Hockey is such a crazy sport I guess. We'll never figure it out.
If you're up three games to none on the Kings, I don't care how good they are you need to beat them again at some point in the next four games to close out the series, and the Sharks just haven't done it. What's that? The series isn't over? But I just heard all these people talking about how this series is over. Like, the whole last two days. Sharks dead and buried, someone has to pay for this. That sort of thing.
They get a whole other game to try to win? I wonder if they have a chance to win it. Probably not, I guess, but maybe Todd McLellan won't panic and start his backup goalie this time. You never know.
5. Washington Management
Well, you had to see this coming. And for all of Alex Ovechkin's claims that he wanted Adam Oates to stay on as bench boss, there was a general sentiment you got from talking to people that one of the greatest playmakers of all time was not particularly good at being an NHL head coach, and doesn't appear to have been particularly well-liked either.
At least, that's what Alan May seems to think:
As for George McPhee, well, you have to throw the baby out with the bathwater to some extent. After all, if he put together a better D corps (and kept Oates from putting Jay Beagle on the top line), Ovechkin's plus-minus would have been a lot better.
4. Taking Things in Stride
The great thing about this league is how much sportsmanship is always on display, and that's very evident when only three coaches or teams have cried to the media about goals they didn't think should have counted against their teams.
The first was obviously Jon Cooper boohooing about the goal in Game 3 that set Ron MacLean off. The second was a bunch of people on the Wild (save for Mike Yeo, weirdly) talking about what a shame it was that the game got decided that way with a guy six miles offside. The third -- brought to you by a desperate, flailing coach -- was McLellan whining about the second goal of four his team gave up in a Game 6 loss.
Yeo at least had the decency to play the “it's the playoffs and not everything goes your way” card, while conveniently avoiding the “maybe we should stop giving up last-minute goals” card. You make your own luck, they say.
I can't imagine why anyone is surprised at all that: a) The Chicago Blackhawks beat anyone, let alone a team with little to no forward depth like the Blues, in a playoff series, and b) Ryan Miller wasn't very good for St. Louis.
Seemed fairly self-evident that all of this would happen. That thing where Jonathan Toews texted a few guys on the Blues and said they should have won the series? That's like when you beat a first-grader in basketball and tell him he had a good game. The Blues won two overtime games, which often wind up being more or less coin flips. The Blues weren't good enough. Never were. These are the plain facts.
2. A Chance to Prove Yourself
Blue Jackets fans got a lot of praise during their team's deep run to Game 6 of the first round for being loud and dedicated in a way that the hockey world hadn't seen from Columbus supporters before (i.e. “at all”).
What great fans, waited all night in the rain, etc.
We have heard that song and dance in bad hockey markets before, of course. They sometimes sell out playoff games in Glendale. No one sits around saying, “Well maybe Arizona's the Next Great Hockey Market.” Because we know better. But there's this strange idealism about Columbus and what it could be, and those who think it's a good hockey market waiting to happen pointed to these games, with the Fifth Line, and said, “Yes, this is what we were talking about.”
Now, the question is whether they can keep it up. It's all well and good to show up for the stretch run, but the real test of any market is if the rink is selling out — not all the time, but fairly regularly — for mid-week games against, like, Florida in November. And not have thousands of Pens fans come to town and make a lot of noise. It's that simple.
Of course, it's on more than just those people. They got their taste of even a modicum of success for the first time in forever — remember, that time they got swept in the first round, they barely dragged themselves past the 82-game finish line — and the team this year needs to be able to perform at least as well next season, or even do a little better, if they want to keep people interested.
Maybe Columbus can be a good market for the league. They're getting the All-Star Game, and that won't hurt. But it takes more than a few thousand diehards to fill a rink every night, and maybe if the team's lucky enough to be this good again next year (I'm not yet convinced they can be) they're going to stick around.
Until then, let's not go around calling this anything.
1. Still Spearing, Apparently
This moves up from No. 2 to No. 1 this week, and for good reason. What have there been? Five, six spearing incidents in just the first round of these playoffs alone? And what have there been? Two fines for it?
This is, without exaggeration, becoming an epidemic, and the reason why is obvious. Spear whoever you want right in the balls, and the league will, at most, request that you cut them a check for a few thousand dollars. That's it. To millionaires, or even guys making “just” a few hundred thousand a year, that's nothing.
Maybe the thing the league should do so that by this time next year half its players haven't become eunuchs is start acting like spearing someone like this isn't a no-big-deal thing.
Start handing out suspensions.
It's usually not injurious but it sure is dirty, and the kind of stuff that has no place at all in this sport. Or at least shouldn't.
Guys need to realize they're not allowed to do this, but realistically nothing will happen to them. Because it's the Cup. So make sure you wear yours.
(Not ranked this week: Bad advice.
Maybe you've noticed, or maybe you haven't, that Brad Marchand is playing pretty well this season and, on top of that, has not tried to end anyone's career in a while. This is a pretty positive step forward for the Bruins winger, who previously made his living both playing well and regularly trying to end opponents' careers. Or at least, he didn't try not to. Important distinction, that.
But nonetheless, Marchand has been a good boy this year. For the most part. The Old Marchand reared his head a little bit in that game against Vancouver when he lifted an imaginary Cup and kissed an imaginary ring, but no one's hurt by that. And then in this Red Wings series, he took a couple of bad penalties as a means of keeping himself emotionally engaged, which is something we're always told the Bruins need need need to do to be successful.
However, the Red Wings were lightweights and now the Bruins face their biggest rival: The Montreal Canadiens. Marchand won't be able to put his team on the PK with such play and not expect to pay for it. The Bruins, after all, have a bit of a history of losing to the Habs because they get too emotional and violent. As such, the Boston media has some advice for Marchand. This, I swear to you, is real:
“Marchand said during the Detroit series that all the extracurricular activities were a way for him to get 'emotionally involved' in the games. Instead, he should take a page from teammates Milan Lucic and Shawn Thornton’s books. Those guys get themselves going by finishing their checks and the thriving off the contact and the roar (or boo) of the crowd. They take part in their share of post-whistle scrums, but mostly they’re the reactors not the aggressors.”
Yes, Brad Marchand should take a page out of the books of genuinely nice guys , like Milan Lucic, who's on two spearing incidents in a month, one of which was in the playoffs and the other was — gasp! — against Montreal. You know, that guy who got fined like a week and a half ago. Or like Shawn Thornton, a mostly-useless goon who was only suspended for 15 games this season after slewfooting, brutally attacking, and concussing an opponent. Those are much better guys after which to model one's play.
Can't be taking costly minor penalties, so spear guys away from the play or really go for it and pick up a major. That makes a lot of sense.)