We’ve made it to the second round of the playoffs. That has created drama on and off the ice. In the past week, coaches have been fired and agents have posted controversial tweets, among other things. Keep reading to learn about the entertaining week that was in the NHL.
1. Reirden Ousted in Washington
After a disappointing first-round loss to the New York Islanders, the Capitals have fired head coach Todd Reirden. The Caps were one of the best teams in the league all year, finishing third in the Eastern Conference with 90 points in 69 games.
The Washington Capitals have relieved head coach Todd Reirden of his coaching duties, senior vice president and general manager Brian MacLellan announced today.https://t.co/vBpfQ8acbe
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) August 23, 2020
Although Reirden won two Metropolitan division titles in his two years with the Caps, they fell in the first round both years since they won it all back in 2018. Of course, Barry Trotz was the coach that led Washington to the Stanley Cup.
This is a shrewd move by the Caps. They have a wagon of a team and can’t waste any time trying to win with their aging core. I like the move if they think there is a coach out there that can have better success in the playoffs. They should have just given Barry Trotz a blank check when they had the chance. Of course, Trotz is the head coach that beat the Caps with the Islanders.
2. Vancouver Knocks Out Defending Champs
There will be a new Stanley Cup champion this year after the Vancouver Canucks beat the defending champion St. Louis Blues in six games. The Blues dominated all regular-season long finishing with the best points percentage in the Western Conference. That couldn’t help them against the Canucks.
The story of the series was the poor play by last season’s postseason hero, Jordan Binnington. He allowed 13 goals in the three games he played, finishing the series with an 0-3 record and a .800 sv %. Head coach Craig Berube replaced Binnington with Jake Allen who then won two games.
The Canucks’ stars all played well in this series. Elias Pettersson scored nine points in six games. J.T. Miller, Tyler Motte, and Bo Horvat all added four goals apiece. Goaltender Jacob Markstrom held his own, too. He finished the series with a 4-2 record and a .930 sv %.
That’s the beauty of playoff hockey. Nothing is guaranteed. I’m excited for the matchup between the Canucks and the Las Vegas Golden Knights. It should be a good one.
3. Nathan MacKinnon is an Electric Factory
Nathan MacKinnon is the most exciting player left in the playoffs. I’m not afraid of that take. If you need evidence of that, see the video below.
Nathan MacKinnon might be the strongest man alive pic.twitter.com/rWj4ayU04H
— Dimitri Filipovic (@DimFilipovic) August 18, 2020
MacKinnon dominated the Coyotes in the first round of the playoffs. He finished the series with 10 points (3 G, 7 A). He’s started off on the right foot against the Stars, too. He has four points in the series so far. MacKinnon continues to be one of the few players that can dominate a series with the drop of a hat. Whether that’s when he drops the gloves or motors across the blue line for a goal.
4. Fleury Stabbed in the Back
In one of the more interesting sagas of the playoffs, Marc-Andre Fleury is in hot water because of a Twitter post. On Saturday Fleury’s agent, Allan Walsh posted a controversial tweet that indicated Fleury would not be starting Game 1 against the Canucks. The tweet showed a picture of Fleury with a sword stabbing him in the back and coming out of his chest. The sword has head coach Pete DeBoer’s name engraved on it.
DeBoer has favored starting Robin Lehner instead of Fleury these playoffs. Lehner has started six of Vegas’ eight games before Sunday. He’s earned those starts as his numbers are much better than Fleury’s (see below).
Robin Lehner: 5-1, 2.44 GAA, .904 sv%.
Marc-Andre Fleury: 2-0, 2.50 GAA, .886 sv%.
I didn’t hear Fleury’s press conference where he was asked about the tweet. According to NBC Sports, he said this when asked about it:
“Regarding that picture that came up, Allan’s been my agent for a long time,” Fleury said. “I’ve known him since I was 15. We’re always very close. We always talk about hockey or other things in life. He always protects and cares a lot about his players, and cares a lot about me also. I really appreciate his passion for the game. I think this was maybe a way to defend me in this situation. But I’m here to win with my team. To have success. That’s what matters.”
I’m shocked that Fleury responded the way he did. First, Fleury has always been a team-first guy and one to avoid issues within the locker room. He didn’t do that here. He stood up for his agent instead of condemning him.
As I’ve said before, I’m all for player empowerment. But, I’m very surprised that Fleury reacted this way. He’s been in this situation before where he was benched in favor of another goalie in the playoffs. It happened with the Penguins during the 2016-17 playoffs when he battled Matt Murray for the starting role. I don’t remember Fleury saying anything then.
I actually wish Fleury had spoken up about him wanting to start. It’s like he sidestepped the entire issue. He defended his agent and tried to look like a team player. I’d rather he had been honest and said he is disappointed not to start but he would be ready if called upon. Regardless. it will be interesting if Lehner falters and Fleury is inserted into the starting lineup later in the series.
P.S. I freaking LOVE the audacity by Walsh to either pay someone to create that photo with Photoshop or do it himself. That took some effort. To think with all that time between the idea and posting the tweet the thought never occurred to him not to post it. Hilarious. Walsh did eventually delete the tweet.
5. Svechnikov Signs Re-Ups with Detroit
Many of you are probably unfamiliar with Evgeni Svechnikov, the older brother of Carolina’s Andrei Svechnikov. Evgeni was Detroit’s first-round pick back in 2015. Sadly, he hasn’t had the career path of his little brother. He’s struggled to crack the Red Wings and tore his ACL in October of 2018 and missed the entire 2018-19 season.
However, the Red Wings are giving him another shot and signed him to a one-year extension worth $874,125. In 20 NHL games, Svechnikov has four points. His last two seasons in Grand Rapids have been underwhelming. But, he was a key cog in the Griffins’ lineup when they won the Calder Cup during the 2016-17 season. That year Svechnikov finished the regular season with 20 goals and 51 points. He added another 12 points in 19 playoff games. Hopefully, he can make the Red Wings this coming season and help the Red Wings who need him desperately. ■