Quick Strikes: the Conference Finals are set to begin

Maple Leafs hire a General Manager.

The Bolts

The Conference Finals are here! Read our series preview for everything you need to know about the Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Washington Capitals matchup. [Raw Charge]

If we focus on 5v5 shot metrics, this series looks like a blowout. The Caps don’t even look like a playoff team. Washington was below average both offensively and defensively resulting in well below average shot and expected goal shares. Their expected goal numbers are especially bad and put them among the worst teams in the league by that measure.

Have you seen the signs that you’ve been watching too much hockey? I know the last few days have felt like withdrawal, but that all comes to an end tonight! [Raw Charge]

6. You see a headline that talks about “Islanders worry as Puerto Rican college students go elsewhere” and it takes you a minute to realize that the headline refers to the island of Puerto Rico and not the New York Islanders. Otherwise, you were wondering why the New York Islanders were concerned about this.

The matchup between Alex Ovechkin and Nikita Kucherov will be incredible to watch, especially because there is so much respect between the two players. [ABC News]

“When he came in the league, he was the best player, and I mean he’s still the best player,” Kucherov said.

”Everybody would talk about him, and I definitely wanted to be in his spot one day, scoring goals,” the Lightning star added. “He’s a great example for young kids and someone to look up to.”

The NHL writers have given their Conference Finals predictions, what’s yours? [NHL dot com]

NHL.com experts have made their predictions for the conference finals and the Tampa Bay Lightning and Winnipeg Jets are overwhelming favorites to advance to the Stanley Cup Final.

Of the 14 NHL.com staff members, 12 predicted the Lightning would defeat the Washington Capitals in the Eastern Conference Final and 12 picked the Jets to get past the Vegas Golden Knights in the Western Conference Final.

The Prospects

We have our official list of Black Aces that will be flying from Syracuse to Tampa bay to join the Lightning. [Raw Charge]

The rookies struggled to start the season, but once they got it figured out, they went on a tear for the rest of the season. Unfortunately, the lack of playoff experience for those young guns got them in the end. The Toronto Marlies are also an incredibly talented team and had a good amount of experience in the playoffs. The Crunch fought hard, but they just couldn’t get over the hump.

The Adirondack Thunder had a choppy start, but have since been sailing strong, writing a great story along their way. [Raw Charge]

After starting round 2 of the Kelly Cup Playoffs with a split of the first four games all on home ice, the Adirondack Thunder headed east to Manchester with hopes of taking two straight on the road and finishing off the Monarchs.

Despite missing several key players to injuries, the Red Army would pull it off, thanks in part to a cult hero stopping nearly everything in his crease, and a newly-minted captain finishing off the 9th longest game in ECHL history.

The Game

Pekka Rinne gave the Winnipeg Jets the early lead, and they never looked back, beating the Nashville Predators in Game 7 of their series by a score of 5-1. [Arctic Ice Hockey]

The Winnipeg Jets have finally done it. In the biggest game in franchise history, the Jets came out soaring. Against the vaunted, Cup-favorite Nashville Predators, the Jets put up a master-class offensive showing and shutdown the Nashville attack for 40 minutes, only bending-but-not-breaking in the third period. Winnipeg walked into a hostile, raucous environment and won it’s first game 7 for the Thrashers/Jets ever.

You can read the aftermath of the game, and what it could mean for Preds starter Rinne, who was pulled after giving up two goals on seven shots. [Sportsnet]

So, we could discuss the Winnipeg Jets’ superior puck battling the first time their season was on the brink. We could write (again) about the brilliance of Mark Scheifele, the do-it-all centreman with a record seven road goals. Or Paul Stastny, the best trade deadline pickup, and his 14 playoff points. Or the yeomen’s work of the Jets’ bottom six and a nasty, skilled defence that is gaining more respect by the day.

But the puck always stops with the men weighed down by the most pressure and the most equipment.

And some last-minute breaking news out of Toronto as I’m writing this...I am late for work. Just kidding, the actual news is that Kyle Dubas has been named GM of the Maple Leafs.

Highlight of the Night: I don’t mean to kick a man when he’s down, but...