2019 NHL Playoffs: Oh, how the mighty have fallen

Ring around the Rosie
Pocket full of posies
Ashes, Ashes
We all fall down!

  • Ring Around the Rosie

I told you I ain’t a betting man and while I stood and fell with the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 2019 NHL playoffs, while ridicule was poured heavily on the franchise (by fans and general sports followers) for their exquisite failings… Well? The best of the best have failed.

All of them.

It took seven games and double overtime in the finale, but last night the Washington Capitals met the 2019 off-season by way or the Carolina Hurricanes and also became the fourth division-leading club of the 2018-19 NHL season to lose their Conference Quarterfinals series.

How the hell does this happen?! All four wild-card teams – the Columbus Blue Jackets, Carolina Hurricanes, Dallas Stars and Colorado Avalanche – advance to the Conference Semifinals. These are clubs that struggled to even make post-season berths! Columbus just barely made it, placing above the Montreal Canadiens. It was all of one win, two points, and a tie-breaker status if the franchises had finished tied in points.

Colorado? The Avs had only 90 points on the season! The Western Conference truly had a combative mediocrity as the likes of the Arizona Coyotes and Minnesota Wild were in playoff contention until mid-March. The Chicago Blackhawks struggled all season but were just outside of a wild card slot in the end (10th place in the conference with 84 points — ahead of Minnesota who had led them in the standings most of the season).

Barely making it or not, the Avs felled the team that was 2nd overall in the NHL standings in the Calgary Flames. While Bolts fans squirm with dissatisfaction toward being swept by the Blue Jackets, the Flames didn’t fare much better against the Avs: They were gone in five games!

The mighty fall, the mediocre stand tall. One quite literally in the Dallas Stars – how much does that club depend on “Big” Ben Bishop? A huge amount I’d think – the club struggled all season while Bishop battled injury, yet where are they now? Western Conference Semifinalists. If they don’t sing the Blues in this next round remains to be seen.

That club, St. Louis, is a story unto itself in the story of the 2018-19 NHL season – last place in the league as of January 2nd, 2019, and now playing for the Central Division crown versus the Stars. The Blues ended the flight of the Winnipeg Jets, who finished second in the Central, in six games  That’s one hell of a song.

I don’t expect Lightning fans to take comfort in the fact all top tier teams are out – everyone played beneath what they were known for in the 2018-19 regular season —  but it’d be wise to take some solace from that developed fact. It’s also a reminder – this is the Second Season, it all starts over again. That fact is proven via the Jackets, Hurricanes, Avalanche, and Stars. Who was to raise the Chalice of Lord Stanley at the end may have seemed a certainty with how the Bolts played in the regular season (…or the Flames or the Caps or the Predators) but the plague in the 2019 NHL playoffs has made things mysterious instead of a given.

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