Semifinals Begin Tonight, Fuel Eliminated, A Double-Doink In Chicago's Favor, and Other Blackhawks Bullets

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Semifinals Begin Tonight, Fuel Eliminated, A Double-Doink In Chicago’s Favor, and Other Blackhawks Bullets

Chicago Blackhawks

It was a rough two days without it, but we finally get back to Stanley Cup Playoff action today.

The Stanley Cup Semifinals begin this afternoon as the Tampa Bay Lightning, defending Stanley Cup Champions, take on the the New York Islanders in a rematch from last year’s Eastern Conference Finals with a 2:00 p.m. CT puck drop. We will have to wait until tomorrow evening for the Vegas Golden Knights and the Montreal Canadiens to open their Stanley Cup Semifinal series.

•   As we’ve mentioned before, the Stanley Cup Semifinal round has no Divisional winners left, with the Canadiens and Islanders coming in as four-seeds. The Lightning and Golden Knights will have home-ice advantage in the third round of the postseason with Vegas being the highest seeded team left. If they Islanders and Canadiens would find their ways to the Stanley Cup Final, the Islanders would hold home-ice over the Canadiens, having finished with 71 points in the standings over Montreal’s 59.

•   While the Islanders have been playing perfect Stanley CupPlayoff-style hockey and are going to be a difficult out for the defending Champs, how do you pick against the Lightning?

•   Tampa Bay, at full strength in the postseason, is a team that would be highly illegal during the regular season due to being almost $20M over the cap. But rules are rules, and the Lightning did nothing wrong in handling their salary cap situation this season with injuries and LTIR. So here we are with an absolute juggernaut team that I still can’t see anyone defeating in a best-of-seven series.

•   Then again, these Islanders aren’t to be taken lightly. And neither is playing in the Nassau Coliseum.

•   Of the four remaining teams, the Islanders rank first in goals scored (43) and goals per game (3.58), but are last in penalty-kill percentage (61.5%) and shots allowed per game (37.7). Going against a Tampa Bay team that has a Norris and a Vezina nominee on it is not going to be easy to breakthrough and continue that high-scoring style.

•   In a run-and-gun series, give me Tampa Bay over just about everyone else in the NHL.

•   We are down to four teams vying for the Stanley Cup. The World is indeed watching…

•   Shifting to a postseason that doesn’t have as many eyes on it, no offense, bu the Kelly Cup Playoffs came to an end for the Indy Fuel in the ECHL last night.

•   Falling 3-2 to the Greenville Swamp Rabbits in Game Four of their opening round series, the Fuel were eliminated 3-1 in the best-of-five series.

•   This was the second time in the Fuel’s ECHL history that they had qualified for the Kelly Cup Playoffs, having been swept in the first round in 2018 previously. The silver-lining to this year’s postseason exit is that the Fuel won their first postseason game with a win Friday night in Game Three.

•   One thing that is now burned in my memory from the Indy Fuel’s run in the postseason is the fact that the Swamp Rabbits have an in-game fan cam that puts a bunny face on the fans, but keeps their human eyes and mouths. It’s…terrifying.

•   The loss officially ends any postseason play involving the Chicago Blackhawks organization from top to bottom.

•   But don’t let that sadness get you down. Remember the good days?

•   Six years ago today, the Blackhawks took on the Lightning in Game Five of the Stanley Cup Final and the Lightning provided the moment I knew that the Blackhawks were going to win the series. An innocent play, it seemed, with Victor Hedman going to retrieve a loos puck turned into a double-doink that went in Chicago’s favor as Ben Bishop and Hedman collided to give Patrick Sharp the easiest playoff goal of his career.

•   Not to be overlooked though, the game was not over at that point. It was Antoine Vermette scoring his fourth goal in that postseason, and third game-winning goal in the 2015 playoffs, that sealed the deal for Chicago in Game Five. Taking a 3-2 series lead in the Stanley Cup Final back to Chicago…more on that on Tuesday.

•   Speaking of short-term, former Blackhawks, a Happy Birthday to Radim Vrbata. The long-time Arizona Coyote and journeyman in the NHL turns 40-years-old today.

•   One last former Blackhawk today, Artemi Panarin is having a good time this offseason. And as Kane says here, he is truly cooler than all of us.

•   That HELMET.

•   As for future Blackhawks, at least possibly future Blackhawks, we dove into the third edition of NHL Draft targets that Chicago should be looking at in the second round yesterday. Go check it out!

•   While there has been no Stanley Cup Playoffs over the last two days, there still was some connections to the hockey world in other big sporting events. Last night at UFCn 263, Canadian megastar Justin Bieber showed up to the event with Toronto Maple Leafs Auston Matthews and Frederik Andersen.

•   (Andersen not pictured here)

•   Needless to say, the internet had a field day with Matthews and the Leafs and “One Round” puns and jokes. It was a good time had by all.

•   A reminder: make sure to send in your Monday Mailbag questions for our upcoming mailbag segment! Use the hashtag on Twitter #BNHawksMailbag or you can email your questions to me using Mario.Tirabassi at bleachernation dot com!

•   That will do it today for bullets. Have yourselves a great Sunday!

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Author: Mario Tirabassi

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