How Do You Beat The Lightning or Avalanche When They’re Playing on Easy Mode? And Other Blackhawks Bullets

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How Do You Beat The Lightning or Avalanche When They’re Playing on Easy Mode? And Other Blackhawks Bullets

Chicago Blackhawks

How is it already the end of May? Why does this year feel like it’s flying by?

Whatever the reason, I hope everyone out there is enjoying their holiday weekend and taking some time this weekend, and today, to remember why there is a Memorial Day in the first place. I wanted to take a moment to thank all of our military veterans who have served our country, and honor those who have died defending us. A heartfelt thank you to you and your families.

•   In every Stanley Cup Playoffs, there are always “upset-minded” teams entering the postseason. Then there are those that come in looking like world-beaters. In this year’s edition of the playoffs, there aren’t too many of the “upset-minded” teams that have much of a chance, in my view, against the world-beaters. After seeing the first round play out and taking in three Game One’s in the second round, I’ve come to the conclusion that until they face each other, no one is beating the Bruins, Lightning, or Avalanche in a best-of-seven series.

•   We already saw Boston handle the New York Islanders in Game One, thanks in-part to a David Pastrnak hat-trick. With Tuukka Rask playing at a top-tier level and Boston’s overall depth, I don’t see much hope for the Islanders in this series. Game Two is tonight.

•   As for the Lightning and Avalanche, last night put on display why then defending champions and the 2021 favorites look poised to make it to the final four and beyond.

•   The Lightning are so talented. If you focus on stopping Victor Hedman, here’s Steven Stamkos. But if you stop Stamkos, here’s Nikita Kucherov. If you stop Kucherov, ope, here’s Brayden Point. And so on down the entire lineup. Look at this power play in action:

•   And this isn’t a slight against the Carolina Hurricanes, they are monsters too. But it’s just going to be a very, very difficult series to get by the defending Cup champs while at full strength.

•   It also doesn’t help your cause when you’re giving up this type of goal:

•   That’s a shot from an angle that should never go in. Nedeljkovic loses his spacing in the crease, anticipating that his skate would hit the post to cover the bottom of the net, but missed the post and that’s the game. 2-1 Tampa Bay wins Game One to take a 1-0 series lead.

•   As for the Avalanche against the Golden Knights in Game One, much less sweat was required for the winning side. After taking a 2-0 lead in the opening period, it took just seconds in the second period for former Blackhawk Brandon Saad to really start pouring it on Vegas.

•   The Avalanche are a lot like the Lightning, in the sense that you cannot stop one player without opening the door for one or two or three more. Stop Gabriel Landeskog, here’s Mikko Rantanen. If you stop Rantanen, here’s Cale Makar. And if you stop Makar, here’s Nathan MacKinnon. Stop MacKinnon….well, actually, you can’t do that:

•   That’s serious NHL21 Beginner Mode energy right there. MacKinnon scored twice on the night and added an assist in the 7-1 win for the Avalanche and now has 12 points with eight goals in these playoffs through five games. Eight goals, five games. Incredible stuff.

•   Poor Robin Lehner. He gets the surprise start in Game One for Vegas and is thrown to the wolves in Colorado.

•   We talk about “Big Boy” hockey in these Bullets from time to time. This is what I mean by it. Also, the Avalanche have outscored opponents 27-8 in five games in the Stanley Cup Playoffs…like, how?

•   The Avalanche have been built as if you were, again, playing NHL21 on easy mode. But it’s Joe Sakic in real life.

•   This seems wrong:

•   Unfortunately last night, the storylines coming out of the game couldn’t solely focus on how much talent is on display in the series. Late in the game, Ryan Reaves gooned his way to a likely suspension:

•   Again, *likely* suspension. This is still the NHL Department of Player Safety we are talking about. But for a player like Reaves to shove Ryan Graves’ head into the ice and kneel on it, that’s psycho stuff. Shouldn’t be playing the rest of the series, in my eyes.

•   Alongside the Bruins and Islanders Game Two tonight, the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs will play Game Seven of their first-round series in Toronto. After Montreal forced Game Seven a few nights ago with an overtime winner in Game Six in front of fans for the first time in an arena in Canada since March of 2020, the Maple Leafs will now also have fans in the build for Game Seven.

•   It took some public shaming on social media, but Toronto will in fact have fully vaccinated healthcare workers in the building tonight to cheer on the Leafs and Canadiens, with the winner moving on to face the Winnipeg Jets in the next round.

•   Some good news this morning in Toronto as Maple Leafs Captain John Tavares took part in their practice this morning.

•   Tavares has been out since a nasty collision in Game One that looked like he had his postseason ended by an unfortunate hit to the head from Corey Perry. While Tavares will NOT be in the lineup for the Maple Leafs tonight in Game Seven, it is encouraging to see him back and could possibly return if Toronto is able to get by Montreal tonight.

•   In Blackhawks World today, away from the Stanley Cup Playoffs and in the IIHF World Championships, another player is returning to their team after taking a hit to the head.

•   While not as dramatic as Tavares’ return, it’s still great to see Reichel back in the lineup for Germany today after missing the last game after taking a hit to the head. Reichel has been a key contributor for the Germans in this tournament with five points in four games played.

•   Along with Reichel in action against Team USA this morning, Dominik Kubalík and the Czechs take on Denmark this morning and the Blackhawks Russian duo of Nikita Zadorov and Max Shalunov take on Sweden this afternoon.

•   In action this morning, Kubalík coming up big for the Czech Republic in the third period to tie the game at 1-1!

•   Heading into today’s action, five of the nine Blackhawks players and prospects would be moving on to the elimination stage of the tournament with Kubalík and the Czech Republic on the outside of Group A and the trio of Brandon Hagel, Nicolas Beaudin, and Brandon Pirri with Canada on the outside of Group B. The final day of group stage games is tomorrow.

•   On this day 11 years ago, Ben Eager hit Michael Leighton with a changeup…

•   I miss those days.

•   That will do it for today! Hope you all have a good Memorial Day Monday.



Author: Mario Tirabassi

Mario Tirabassi is a writer for Bleacher Nation. You can follow him on Twitter @Mario_Tirabassi.