2017 NHL Opening-Round Post-Mortems
A brief look at what went wrong for the clubs that were first-round casualties in this year’s Stanley Cup playoffs.
Boston Bruins. Injuries decimated the Bruins’ blueline. Torey Krug and Brandon Carlo missed the series and Adam McQuaid played only one game. One of their best centers (David Krejci) also missed three of the six-game series. A popgun offense (2.17 goals-for per game) didn’t help. Regular season scoring lead Brad Marchand was held to one goal and his three assists came in the final two games.
Calgary Flames. Goaltending was the main reason why the Flames were swept by the Anaheim Ducks. Brian Elliott, who struggled with consistency throughout this season, failed to regain the stellar form that carried the St. Louis Blues to the 2016 Western Conference Final. Elliott finished this series with a bloated 3.89 goals-against average and .880 save percentage. He got the hook early in Game 4 and glumly watched his club’s elimination from the bench.
Chicago Blackhawks. The Nashville Predators out-skated, out-hit and out-played the Blackhawks to sweep the latter from the opening round. Time and the wear and tear of nine seasons of intense regular-season and playoff hockey seemed to catch up with core veterans such as Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook.
Columbus Blue Jackets. The Blue Jackets are loaded with promising young talent. However, they couldn’t match the experienced depth of the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins, falling in five games. It was a disappointing finish to their best regular season in franchise history. Thanks to rising stars such as Seth Jones, Zach Werenski, Brandon Saad and Alexander Wennberg, the Jackets have a bright future.
Minnesota Wild. Bringing in Bruce Boudreau as head coach did nothing to change the Wild’s culture of inconsistency and underachievement. While they finished the regular season among the NHL’s top-scoring clubs, their offense struggled down the stretch and all but dried up in their opening-round series defeat at the hands of the St. Louis Blues. A roster shakeup could be in store this summer.
Montreal Canadiens. An anemic offense and lack of depth at center was the Canadiens’ downfall in their first-round series exit against the New York Rangers. Regular season scoring leader Max Pacioretty failed to tally a goal. Disappointing young forward Alex Galchenyuk probably played his final game for Montreal.
San Jose Sharks. After marching to the Stanley Cup Final last season, this first-round exit is a bitter disappointment for the Sharks. Their scoring game against the Edmonton Oilers was hampered by injuries to Joe Thornton and Logan Couture, but their offense throughout the season lacked the powerful bite of a year ago.
Toronto Maple Leafs. The rebuilding Leafs exceeded expectations, reaching the playoffs and proving a handful for the Washington Capitals in their opening-round series. Despite pushing the heavily-favored Caps to six games (five of them going to overtime), the Leafs’ lack of experienced skill (especially on the blueline) proved their undoing. Still, this series provided invaluable lessons for their young players to build on for next season.