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What you need to know about COVID-19: September 18, 2020
Picking the 12 seed in March Madness brackets has proven to be an astute move.
Since the NCAA tournament field expanded in 1985, it has a 50-90 record against the 5 seed in opening round matchups.
That’s a winning percentage of 35.71 for the “underdogs.”
That barely qualifies as an upset.
In the NHL play-ins, meanwhile, two 12s are on the verge of sending a couple of 5s home early. If the Montreal Canadiens and Chicago Blackhawks can convert the 2-1 leads they have in best-of-fives against the Pittsburgh Penguins and Edmonton Oilers, neither should be considered a huge shock.
Yes —even though neither the Habs or Hawks would have made the playoffs had coronavirus not cancelled the final few weeks of the season.
The Oilers have all that firepower and all that talent, and you have to think they’re going to pull it together at some point. But just look at the Blackhawks. They’ve won three Cups in the past decade and their core is still intact. If anything, the pandemic pause gave the old guys a chance to catch their breath for the post-season push.
And then there’s the fact the Oilers flipped a coin to decide which goalie would start the series. They were never going to win a Cup with the two they have. They may not win another game.
In Montreal, there was the cautious belief Carey Price could shut down the Penguins at least three out of five times. He singlehandedly did so once, but his 2.19 GAA and .937 save percentage are great numbers over a season, not a week.
But Pittsburgh’s problem has not been Price as much as it’s been their own Matt Murray, who has a 2.50 GAA and .914 save percentage in the three games. That’s not good enough in a short series. It’s not good enough in the playoffs.
Coach Mike Sullivan could very well try to shake things up Friday by giving Tristan Jarry his first playoff start. During the season, Jarry played 33 games to Murray’s 38, yet still won the same number of games (20-12-1) as Murray (20-11-5) while posting a much better GAA (2.43-2.87) and save percentage (.921-.899).
It may not matter in the end. The Habs have better goaltending no matter what the Penguins do. They also have momentum and, like the Hawks, that lucky No. 12 card.
STOPS AND STARTS : Claude Julien-coached teams (Boston twice, Montreal twice) had missed the playoffs four of the last five years heading into 2019-20, when the Habs were on path to make it five out of six with a 31-31-9 record at the time the league came to a screeching halt because of a pandemic that may have saved his job … If Montreal goes on to win the Stanley Cup, Julien will have done the best coaching job in the NHL this season. But of course, Jack Adams votes are already in and tabulated because tradition says they should be, before the playoffs. It’s just stupid … Only two teams are playing home games in this year’s playoffs – the Maple Leafs and the Oilers. All the rest are on the road. Something to consider: the Penguins had a significantly better record on home ice (23-8-4) than as a visitor (17-15-2) this season … The next reporter anywhere to ask an athlete “how good did it feel to contribute?” should be banned from taking part in interviews. It’s such a lazy question. How do you think it felt? …
OVER THE BOARDS: Booed out of his hometown by fans of Ottawa’s local NHL team (OLNHLT), Cody Ceci scored a big shorthanded goal for the Maple Leafs in the first period Thursday. Ottawa fans hate the Leafs so much they would have mad at Ceci for that too … Great trivia note from play-by-play guy Jim Hughson: Ceci was the first Leaf defenceman to score a shortie in the playoffs since Jim McKenny in 1972. An addendum, from yours truly: like Ceci, McKenny is also from Ottawa … Barry Trotz is in favour of the NHL adopting this 24-team playoff format on a full-time basis because of all the parity in the league. Another option is to go back to pre-COVID days, when just 16 teams qualified for the playoffs and the regular season maintained more meaning. I take b) unless there’s a c) that suggests the league cut ties with the teams that didn’t make the playoffs this season and go forward with a less-watered down 24-team league … Being in the bubble means sharing hotels with opposing teams. “The Rangers were on the (hotel) floor beneath us,” Hurricanes defenceman Haydn Fleury said, per TSN, “so there were a couple of awkward elevator rides.” … Scoreboard operator at Rogers Place showed off his weak sense of humour with a message during the Golden Knights-Blues meeting: “The wave is strictly prohibited at tonight’s game.”
ON THIS (Aug. 7) DATE : Exactly 28 years ago, in one of his last acts as Chicago Blackhawks GM, “Iron” Mike Keenan traded an unproven, 27-year old Dominik Hasek to the Buffalo Sabres for goalie Stephane Beauregard and a 1993 fourth round draft pick that his successor, Bob Pulford, used to select left winger Eric Daze. It was the second of four stints as Blackhawks GM for Pulford, who saved Chicago some face on the deal. Daze did have four 30-plus goal seasons during his decade-long career in Chicago. But he did not become one of the best players to play his position, like Hasek … Exactly 33 years ago at the Grace Maternity Hospital in Halifax, Trina and Troy Crosby welcomed into the world their first of two children, a bouncing baby boy they named Sidney. The date, 8/7/87 is why “The Kid” would later wear jersey number 87 and, in 2012, signed a 12-year extension with a cap hit of $8.7 million a year.
CLOSING TIME : There was a lot of cringing and head shaking when the Flyers signed Kevin Hayes to a 7-year, $50 million free agent contract last summer. In five previous seasons, the former New York Ranger had scored more than 20 goals once and had never reached the 50-point mark. But as the second line centre with the Flyers, the 6-foot-5, 216-pound Hayes has made a big impact. He had 23 goals and 41 points in 69 regular season games, and made strong plays on all three Philadelphia goals in their win over the Capitals. And now the Flyers, who don’t overwhelm anyone with the names they put on their nightly lineup sheet but have responded very well under new coach Alain Vigneault, will play Tampa on Saturday for the right to start the playoffs as the top seeded team in the East … At 20 years, 297 days, Quinn Hughes became the youngest Canucks defenceman to register a multi-point playoff game when he assisted on both his team’s goals Thursday. It’s almost a surprise he isn’t the only one. The highest scoring blue liner in Canucks franchise history (and number two isn’t even close) is Alexander Edler, who only twice in his 14 years with the team has exceeded the 40-point plateau and has never had as many as 50 … Not that it would do any good, but Brock Boeser should ask his Vancouver Canucks teammates for a new nickname. “Bozo” isn’t very flattering. On the other hand, the Hurricanes call themselves a bunch of jerks, and it’s working for them.
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