No division champions advanced to the second round for the first time in NHL history. Three of the NHL’s top four in the overall standings are eliminated. Six of the league’s nine 100-point teams are gone. The 128-point Tampa Bay Lightning were swept. Sidney Crosby was swept. A Bunch of Jerks sent Alex Ovechkin and the defending champion Washington Capitals to the golf course.
Boston’s Brad Marchand (No. 5) and Colorado’s Nathan MacKinnon (No. 7) are the only top-15 scorers still alive in the post-season.
The 2019 NHL playoffs already qualify as one of the craziest in league history. Here is a capsule look, and a power ranking, of who’s left.
1. Boston Bruins (107 points, third overall in regular season): After the dominoes toppled in the first round, the Bruins were the best team still standing. In the regular season, they ranked third in goals-against average (2.59 per game) and had three players — Marchand, David Pastrnak and Patrice Bergeron — ranked in the top 10 in points per game. This franchise has won 51 playoff games since 2011.
2. San Jose Sharks (101 points, sixth): It’s as if we’ve forgotten the Sharks were in the Stanley Cup final in 2016. This is still a quality team, with plenty of offensive might, often triggered by the puck-moving ability of Brent Burns and Erik Karlsson. The Sharks’ concern is in net, where Martin Jones wasn’t seen as good enough. But in his final three games against Vegas, when the Sharks came back from a 3-1 series deficit, Jones stopped 122 of 129 shots.
3. New York Islanders (103 points, fifth): The defending champions are gone, but their former coach, Barry Trotz, is in the second round with the league’s best defensive team. The Islanders are dependent on goalie Robin Lehner. This is only the second time in the last 25 years that the team has been as far as the second round of the playoffs. One sad note: the rest of Islanders’ playoff games will be at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn instead of the Nassau Coliseum on Long Island.
4. Columbus Blue Jackets (98 points, 13th): This is the best rags-to-riches story in the playoffs. Now in their 18th NHL season, the Jackets had never won a playoff series before knocking off No. 1 seed Tampa Bay. Their playing style mirrors the personality of their coach, John Tortorella — feisty, combative and full of fight.
5. Carolina Hurricanes (99 points, 11th): Making their first playoff appearance in a decade, the Hurricanes are playing the role of the beloved underdog. Don Cherry referred to them as a “bunch of jerks” earlier this season because he didn’t like their post-game celebration routines. The name stuck. The keys on the ice: Sebastian Aho’s arrival as a star, Justin Williams’ leadership and Petr Mrazek’s goaltending.
6. St. Louis Blues (99 points, 12th): The Blues were last in the NHL overall standings on Jan. 2 and today no one would doubt they have a chance to win it all. The Blues are the seventh team since 1967 to qualify for the playoffs after ranking last after New Year’s Day. Interim coach Craig Berube deserves credit, as does rookie goaltender Jordan Binnington, 28-7-1 in the regular season and playoffs.
7. Dallas Stars (93 points, 15th): After Christmas, Stars president Jim Lites ripped stars Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn publicly for their poor play. Today, Seguin, Benn and Alexander Radulov form the most dangerous line in the post-season. But the strength of the Stars isn’t is goaltender Ben Bishop, who posted a 1.98 goals-against average in the regular season and is at 1.90 in these playoffs, accompanied by a .945 save percentage.
8. Colorado Avalanche (90 points, 17th): The Avs are trying to reach the conference final for the first time in 17 years. They haven’t won a game in a second-round series in 15 years. And they were swept the last two times (2006 and 2008) they reached the second round. But MacKinnon is one of the league’s top five offensive stars and can look as dynamic as Connor McDavid some nights.