The opening round of the NHL playoffs wrapped up on Wednesday with a Game 7 double overtime comeback victory by the Carolina Hurricanes against the Washington Capitals. It was a fitting conclusion to the madness of a first round that included the exit of just about every favorite and some of the wildest games in hockey history.
But maybe we should come to expect such craziness in the NHL playoffs?
Let’s quickly recap the first round, now that the defending champion Capitals are out and we’re on to the second round. We could spend pages and pages trying to highlight just how wacky things were.
All four division winners. Gone.
Three of the top four overall and seven of the top 10. Gone.
Six 100-point teams and a 99-point team. Gone.
East left: Seeds 2-4-7-8 (BOS-NYI-CAR-CBJ)
West left: Seeds 2-5-6-8 (SJ-STL-DAL-COL)
That was Round 1.
Just. Get. In. #StanleyCup
— Mike Harrington (@ByMHarrington) April 25, 2019
It was a bad time if you were a fan of a division winner or one of the top seeds. It was also a bad time if your team jumped out to a lead and you expected them to maintain it.
While watching the bonkers game that was Game 7 between the San Jose Sharks and Vegas Golden Knights, it became apparent that the NHL playoffs are their own animal. That’s always been a bit obvious, but this year felt like it completed a transition into a territory where any sense of normalcy goes out the window.
In case you haven’t seen it, take five minutes out of your day and relive the Sharks-Golden Knights game that turned logic and reason on its head.
How can you possibly predict or explain that outcome? The momentum shifts in the span of the third period were incredible, with the Golden Knights looking to coast to victory before one bad injury and four power play goals turned the table. On queue, the Golden Knights score in the final minute and overtime was needed to decide things. The game had it all.
That Game 7 between the Sharks and Golden Knights will be the focal point of a first round that defied reason. That’s saying something considering the Tampa Bay Lightning had a playoff collapse for the ages, the Pittsburgh Penguins were swept and some sort of wild turn of events marked just about every series.
No one could have predicted that the major players, big markets and most familiar faces would all be home watching the beginning of the second round. Take a look at the teams who are left standing to compete for the Stanley Cup. It’s not your usual cast of characters.
The 2019 Second Round opens with a doubleheader Thursday, in Boston and St. Louis.
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) April 25, 2019
Parity has reared its head in a big way in 2019. Whichever team lifts the Cup will do so for the first time in quite a while, or in the case of several teams, for the first time ever. There won’t be any dynasty discussions this year. The Cup will go to a home that at a minimum hasn’t seen it in eight years and at a maximum hasn’t seen it in its 52-year existence.
Remaining NHL teams, last Cup:
San Jose never
St. Louis never
— James Mirtle (@mirtle) April 25, 2019
Got all that? Summarized, the NHL playoffs had an extra dose of crazy this year and it’s difficult to imagine the remaining rounds living up to the standard set in the first matchups.
But, as we alluded to above, maybe this is what we should have expected. The NHL playoffs are arguably hockey at its finest, with just about every moment resulting in a pivotal play that can alter the course of a team’s playoff destiny. The unexpected happened so frequently in the first round that it might make more sense to expect the most outlandish outcomes because they seem to happen regularly.
The insanity of the NHL playoffs is an annual discussion. Some years might be a bit more off the wall than most, such is the case in 2019, but there’s almost always a bundle of “I can’t believe that just happened!” moments in every postseason.
Even when you’re bracing for the unexpected, such as the fact you could just feel the Sharks about to explode for a bundle of power play goals, it doesn’t take away from the excitement when it actually happens. You’ll still be yelling at your TV each and every time. The excitement doesn’t lessen any when insanity becomes the norm.
There’s a reason this tweet from 2014 is shared every time the playoffs roll around.
why watch overtime playoff hockey when you can simply snort cocaine and ride a motorcycle out of a helicopter
— Jon Bois (@jon_bois) April 17, 2014