The Good Stuff From The First Round – Eastern Conference

If you needed a reminder that the playoffs are mostly a complete and total crapshoot, you needn’t look any further than what just transpired over the last few weeks. Boston, out. Chicago, out. Minnesota, out. The teams with the third, fourth, and fifth best records in the league are already done.

Still, though, the postseason has always been full of surprises, and this year was no different. From emotional comebacks, to the fall of a once great empire, to the emergence of new ones, round one of the 2017 NHL playoffs had it all. Here’s a look back at the East, series by series, at the two weeks that were.


If you don’t think this series was the best of the first round, you’re not paying attention.

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No one gave the Leafs a shot heading into this series, and for good reason. This is supposedly ‘Washington’s year’, and while the Leafs were a nice story, no one in their right mind picked them to win. The funny thing is, Toronto may have been the only team in the league with enough firepower to keep up with the Caps, and it showed. Washington ended up winning 4-2, with five of the six games going to overtime, and each game having been decided by one goal.

Here’s the best from this series:

Dart Guy

I mean, come on. At this point, Dart Guy may actually be the story of the playoffs. God damn, I love this guy. Enjoy this thread of the best Dart Guy edits.

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You’ll notice that eight of the 10 profiles who liked/retweeted this tweet all have the same profile picture. This was my only beef with the emergence of Dart Guy. I didn’t know who was who anymore.

My personal favourite…

Even Auston Matthews’ parents wanted to meet the legend.

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Dart Guy did a few interviews after his rise to fame and actually seems like a decent guy. I’m happy for him. You should too.

Tom Wilson’s emergence as an elite NHL goal scorer

Tom Wilson is a terrible, terrible NHL player. For some reason, though, players from Toronto always seem to perform well against the Leafs and that’s exactly what happened here. Check out this sick snipe from overtime in game one.

Then, check out the soft hands here from Wilson. A real goal scorer’s goal.

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Lastly, Wilson capped off his series with this goal after he totally should not have been called for charging after hitting Morgan Rielly.

Tom Wilson had three goals in this series. He has 21 regular season goals in his career… in 313 games. Of course.

The young Leafs’ play

As mentioned, this was by far the closest series of the first round. This was due more to Toronto playing well rather than Washington playing poorly. There are a few moments from Toronto’s perspective that stand out to me.

The first was ‘The Shift’.

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It’s game two, and the Leafs have spotted the Capitals a 2-0 lead. Things are looking bleak, and many are wondering if, at this point, Toronto’s going to be able to steal a game. Then, seemingly out of nowhere – The Shift. Kadri blows up Orpik twice, Komarov goes after Ovechkin, and Matthews gets his first career playoff goal. It’s beautiful.

The next moment came in the same game in the second period. Toronto was down 3-1, killed off two penalties, one of them a two-minute 5 on 3, before Connor Brown scored to make it a one-goal game. Then, just before the end of the second, Nylander scored to tie things up at 3.

Of course, this game ended on Tyler Bozak’s overtime winner, but it would have never gotten to that point without that unbelievable second period. One of my good friends, @djsannen, described the second period of game three the “gutsiest period in Leafs hockey in probably 15 years.” He’s not wrong.

All the overtime winners

As mentioned, 5/6 of this series’ games went to overtime. That’s insane. The Caps scored two more goals than the Leafs through all six games. That’s how close this thing was.

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Let’s take a moment to appreciate every overtime winner scored in this series except for Tom Wilson’s, because it’s been ‘appreciated’ already.

First, let’s take a look at Kasperi Kapanen’s first career overtime playoff goal, and what was his second of the game. What a pass from Brian Boyle. Also, does Kapanen ONLY score huge goals? My god. This one came in double overtime.

After that goal tied the series at ones, Tyler Bozak scored to give Toronto a 2-1 series lead, and the world a great Instagram picture.

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Then, two games later, who else but Justin freakin’ Williams gives Washington the 3-2 series lead.

And lastly, the winner. Marcus Johansson ends the series, setting up a Washington/Pittsburgh second round matchup.

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This was a seriously nasty series. I know there’s not much history between these two teams, but man, you could barely tell. Things came to a head when Nazem Kadri took a run at Washington’s captain, Alex Ovechkin.

There are two sides to this. One, people say Ovechkin was trying to sidestep the hit, which made it worse. The other side says that regardless of if Ovechkin sidestepped or not, Kadri should have never thrown the hit. I’m not a huge fan of hip checks and I think they’re super dangerous. I can’t say I loved seeing this hit from Kadri.

However, Ovechkin got his revenge a few games later.

This is really quite amazing when you think about it. Ovechkin literally picks up Kadri, who weighs nearly 200 pounds, using pretty much just his back. Then, he proceeds to body slam him to the ice. I’m a big Kadri fan but man, that was kinda funny to see.

This series was easily the best of round one – sad to see it end.


Many were wrong about how this series was going to unfold, including me. Ottawa, honestly, kinda sucks. They were the only team to qualify for the playoffs with a negative goal differential, and should not have even made it to round one. Alas, here we are.

Boston was the heavy favourite, especially from those in the stats community. They do well fancy stat-wise and have some elite players. Ottawa, meanwhile, has an AHL d-core being dragged along by Erik Karlsson, Mike Hoffman, and Mark Stone. How they’ve gotten to this point, we will never truly understand.

Regardless, here’s the best from this series:

‘The Pass’ & Karlsson somehow just now becoming elite

Erik Karlsson has been the NHL’s best defenseman for each of the last six seasons, and I don’t think the gap is relatively close. He’s a generational player, and the fact that he only has two Norris trophies to his name is disgraceful. He should go down as one of the best blueliners to ever play in the NHL.

This is why it absolutely blows my mind that just now Karlsson is getting the recognition that he’s deserved for years. This isn’t necessarily a hockey-specific gripe, but sports people, in general, put way, way, way too much weight on winning when evaluating a single player. It is quite possibly the dumbest train of thought you can have as a sports fan.

Erik Karlsson single-handedly beat the Boston Bruins. He had six assists in six games (one of which I’ll get to shortly) and LOOK AT THIS. Look at his TOI by game.


Anyways, to ‘The Pass’. As mentioned, Erik Karlsson had six assists during this series. Here’s the one that had everyone talking.

Like, this guy is absurdly good. Also, kudos to Mike Hoffman for the beautiful finish on the play, which made this sequence as a whole that much more impressive.

Clarke MacArthur’s comeback

NHL players get hurt all the time. Sometimes they come back, sometimes they don’t. It certainly looked like Clarke MacArthur was never going to play again after suffering what seemed like his 40th concussion during a two-year period during training camp. Everyone was pulling for him, but things looked bleak.

Then, just before the end of the regular season, word came that MacArthur was going to suit up for his first game since early on in the 2015/16 season. Honestly, I was scared for him. Who knows what another hit to the head could have done to him. We all talk about someday, someone getting killed on the ice. I was legitimately worried.

MacArthur suited up for four regular season games, going pointless. It wasn’t really about the production with him, it was more about him just being able to play hockey again.

Then came the playoffs.

In game two, MacArthur scored his first goal in over two years.

That, in itself, was a great moment. You can see it in his reaction just how pumped he was. It’s so easy to root for the guy. Who could imagine what would happen next?

It’s game 6, with the Senators ahead in the series 3-2. The Bruins were down in the game, but came back to force overtime. Just a few minutes in, David Pasternak takes a penalty, sending Ottawa to the powerplay. This is what happened next.

I mean, come on. This has to be one of the best feel-good stories in the NHL’s recent history. What a moment. Also, check out MacArthur celebrating and the goof Bruins fan giving him the finger. Priceless.

This is just the best.

Craig Anderson

Another emotional story this season for the Senators was that of Craig Anderson and his wife, Nicholle. Nicholle is battling a rare form of cancer, and, as one would expect, Craig took a large portion of the season off to be with his wife.

Anderson did return to the team in the regular season, playing 21 games down the stretch for Ottawa. He was also the team’s starting goaltender heading into the playoffs after posting a .926 SV% in his regular season duty.

Unfortunately, Nicholle was not always able to watch her husband play. Luckily, though, she was able to make it to game six, which prompted this after the game was over.

Leaf fan, Hab fan, Bruins fan – doesn’t matter. Good for Anderson and good for MacArthur.

Beach Ball

It’s always fun when you see something for the first time. This situation was exactly that.

I mean, the refs seem to turn a blind eye all playoffs… he couldn’t have just turned around and thrown it in the penalty box? I’m glad he didn’t. This is much more entertaining.


Okay, I’d be lying if I said that the way Montreal’s season has gone hasn’t been amusing. I mean, the whole Subban/Weber situation, their handling of Alex Galchenyuk, bringing in Claude Julien, the emergence of Alex Radulov… It’s been a fun ride.

New York’s had an interesting season as well. They got off to a fantastic start, had a goalie controversy, and somehow coaxed 27 goals out of Michael Grabner. This was a matchup between two teams who’s windows are quickly coming to an end.

Here’s the best from this series:

Fans want Carey Price gone

This was a fairly even matchup heading in, although I would say the majority of fans and media picked the Habs to win. That’s why, when they lost, Montreal fans reacted, well, exactly how you’d expect.

I mean, it’s not like Montreal has ever traded away one of their best players in a knee-jerk reaction to things not turning out the way they thought they would. Nope. Never. Look, even GM Marc Bergevin says they’re not going to trade him! I mean, he’s serious when he says Price isn’t going anywhere. Whoa. This guy’s a straight shooter.

Just for fun, though, if the Habs were to trade their franchise cornerstone, I wonder what kind of player they’d target in return?

Who’s a goalie that would fit that description? Ah, Jonathan Quick!

Haha. Oh man. It’s just too easy.

Shea Weber was, in fact, NOT the difference maker

What a perfect transition to our next topic, Shea Weber.

Did Shea Weber have a nice season in Montreal? Yes, he most certainly did (although Matt Hunwick had more 5v5 points than him this season). The argument was never that Shea Weber is bad, because he’s still a useful player. The argument was that Montreal significantly downgraded their defense by making the trade, which came true.

Would Montreal have made the playoffs with Subban playing those minutes instead of Weber? Yes, absolutely. Eight more years of a clearly declining Weber is not something I’d be looking forward to if I were a Habs fan.

Lundqvist found his form

Hank took a lot of crap this season. He was even relegated to backup duty for a portion of the year. The thing is, though, that he’s a hall of fame goalie who’s still got lots to give to the game.

Was Lundqvist’s .910 regular season SV% good enough? No, it wasn’t, and some of the flak he recieved was definitely warranted. This is a guy with a great playoff record, though, and he definitely turned it on when it counted.

Throwing this one in just for fun.

Hank was great and has reclaimed his status as ‘king’, at least for now. He and his .947 sv% are what won New York the series.

Pacioretty can’t score

Six games. One assist. Zero goals.


For as much hype as the Jackets received this season, they sure are a mediocre team. John Tortorella did not suddenly become a good coach – he sucks. They have some nice players, but overall, they’re a slightly above average roster. They overperformed big time.

On the other hand, Pittsburgh is an excellently constructed team which happens to include two of this generation’s best players in Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Yeah, they’re missing Kris Letang on the back end, but they’re still a vastly superior team than the Jackets. I don’t know why they bothered to play this series, to be honest.

But, they did, and things happened. Here are the highlights:

Columbus has THREE playoff wins in their franchise’s history

The Columbus Blue Jackets are one of sport’s saddest franchises. Does it look like they’re starting to turn things around? Yeah, it does, and they’ve got some nice pieces throughout the organization. As a whole, though, the Jackets’ resume is sad.

They have three playoff wins in their 17-year history. The team they broke into the league with, the Minnesota Wild, have more series wins (4) than the Jackets have won games.

Oh, yeah. Of those three wins, the one win they picked up this season was their first ever regulation playoff win. ‘Lumbus gonna ‘Lumbus.

Matt Calvert tried to kill Tom Kuhnhackl

I don’t really know what prompted this, but, it happened.

I’ll give you guys ONE guess as to how many games Calvert was suspended. Five? No, come on, it’s the department of ‘player safety’ we’re talking about here. Three? Nope, closer. Two? Nah, that’s too harsh. ONE GAME. Matt Calvert was given one game for trying to end Kuhnackl’s life.

Zach Werenski’s face

Poor Zach Werenski. His team got absolutely throttled in the playoffs, and so did his face. Here he is, defending Phil Kessel, when all hell breaks loose on his noggin.

He actually came back in the game, wearing a full face mask. Unsurprisingly, after the game, it was ruled that Weresnki would miss the rest of the playoffs. Don’t think it looks so bad on video? Take a look at the aftermath.

Pretty badass, right? I mean, yeah, it hurts, but you look cool as heck. Anyways, this random dude wanted to look just as cool, so he put Zach Werenski’s busted up face on a shirt and wore it to Columbus’ next home game.

That’s actually hilarious. I want to wear a shirt of this guy wearing a shirt of Werenski’s face. Now THAT would be a good time.

(Stay tuned. The West will be out tomorrow)

  • Redbird62

    Boston’s loss does not legitimately qualify as an upset anywhere close to Chicago being swept. That series was much closer to a pick ’em. Ottawa beat Boston 4 times during the regular season and finished ahead of them in the standings. Beating Boston in the playoffs just reinforced that they had the edge, even if that only comes from Karlsson.

  • O.C.

    Exceptional article, a little bit too much love for the Leafs nothwithstanding.

    Agreed on Karlsson, Doughty isn’t ahead of him anymore, Chara isn’t anymore, there’s but a few good ones out there who can be seen as cornerstones for their team, but none in the same light as Karlsson.

    Lots of feel good stories on Ottawa, and the New NHL (since Crosby was out with concussion problems basically) gives MacArthur a better than 50/50 chance to make it (my opinion only).

    Montreal. Back when Price was named as “the kid who would be the next great goalie”, people scoffed. The evidence was there. He has a great head on his shoulders to go with his quiet focus on technique. Dryden was a similar player and also a student of the game (a different player in a different era, sure).

    Thing is, this isn’t about Montreal so much as it is what NYR (okay Lundquist) accomplished. And given that, Montreal wasn’t going to win this series. If they hadn’t made the Weber trade, and Subban was there, Montreal would be calling for Subban’s head, not Price’s head. Montreal fans are just weird.

    Back to Toronto… some fun facts… First “Happy 50th Anniversary Toronto!!! You DID It!!!” Yep, 50 straight years without a cup now. But wait, it get’s better. Do you know that when Toronto last won the cup (1967 for those who are mathematically challenged), the Leafs 1) Played a 70 game Regular Season, 2) There were SIX TEAMS IN THE LEAGUE and 4 made the playoffs, 3) Toronto had a negative goal differential going into the playoffs (they beat the top seed Chicago), 4) They played 12 games in the playoffs. I.E. Total games for the year is less than current NHLers play in a season.

    Let’s not leave Toronto just yet. We have to call out Kadri, especially anyone who blogs he’s one of their favorite players, and also Don Cherry’s take while we are at it. First thing is that the hit on Ovy was absolute crap. A hit like that has every chance to knock one of the superstars out of the playoffs, and while we all like a good hit, we want to see the players on the ice.

    BUT, leaving that aside, there is no way in heaven that was anything but a dirty hit. What is this, “The Emperor’s New Clothes?” The slow-motion frame-by-frame (that even Don Cherry used!) clearly shows the first point of impact is the left leg of Kadri on the button of the kneecap of Ovechkin and that hyperextended back beyond centre, luckily not taking out every damn ligament in the process. Ovy was saved (if he was saved) only by the rest of his body (quad and hip) taking over the point of impact, stopping the further hyperextension of that knee.

    The hit was dirty, uncalled for, and Kadri is a piece of garbage in my book.

    Can’t leave on a bad note, so… keep up the good work! The writing and opinions and MSM material were excellent!!!

    • The Russian Rocket

      If you watch the full replay, Kadri sets himself for the hit (stops skating and braces himself) a good 10+ feet from Ovechkin. Ovi is on the boards and then banks the puck out and cuts to the middle, trying to dodge Kadri who is moving in the opposite direction (towards the boards).

      The hit ends up in the grey area, no doubt, but the same goes for the Orpik hit that broke Polak’s leg. If Polak hadn’t of tried to dodge it, it would have been a normal hit.

      In the end, it’s just a hockey play – two players moving at high speed colliding badly. It’s not good but it’s hard to call it dirty unless you just hate Kadri, which a lot of people do. To me, this is miles away from a ‘dirty’ play when you consider the crap Marchand has been doing this year.

    • Gary Empey

      Point of contact was the thigh….If it had of been as you say “on the button of the kneecap” Ovechkin would be recovering from surgery just like Polak.

  • btrain

    Since this was posted across the entire nation networks I want to point out how exceptionally biased it is. I get enough bias having to watch games filtered through Toronto media heads as it is, so forgive me if it gets a tad frustrating. Leafs did push the Caps further than any of us expected but at the end of the series they only won two more times then anyone expected. Leafs had a great year and not going to diminish that at all, but you can’t be a die hard Leafs fan and objectively compare this series to the rest that occurred in round 1 and say yours was the best. To also suggest Ottawa sucks and had no business being in playoffs when your team barely held on to eighth spot and played in the worst division in hockey is also unbelievably bold of you. Especially considering the Leafs have proven nothing more than the Avalanche did in 13/14. Except the Avs won 3 games in their series and finished the regular season with 112 points. I don’t have to tell you what has transpired in that organization since. Much to be hopeful and excited about in Leafs Nation but you have not earned enough respect to look down at any other franchise or boast across the nation network about your teams future. Keep it posted to Leafs Nation if you are going to post this level of bias please.

    • Evan Presement

      I get what you’re saying, but 1) I’m as much of a hockey fan as I am a Leafs fan and 2) The Leafs/Caps series was objectively the best series of the first round and it’s reeeeeally not even close. There were so many talking points from the series, it deserved the most play. I’ll hear your argument on Ottawa but what I won’t stand for is having the Leafs compared to the 23/14 Avs. Nope. I can’t let that happen. Please do not do that again. If you think this team is anywhere near what the Avs were then you’re not paying attention.

        • The Russian Rocket

          This series featured the best team in the league, had 5 overtimes in 6 games. Every game decided by 1 goal. I don’t know what else you want. Big hits, blood and broken bones? Had those too.

          The speed in the first 4 games was insane too. Just sprints back and forth. I didn’t watch every series but it had to be one of the most exciting, if not the most exciting.

      • btrain

        To your second point, keeping it Canadian, I think both the Oilers and Sens fans would argue with your notion that the Leafs/Caps series was the best. Not because they are necessarily right but because they are also biased and are therefore going to pay far more attention to their team then they are to anything else going on. It simply can’t be helped and therefore you cannot be a leafs fan and keep making this claim.

        As for the Avs comparison, tell me how the Leafs are so different? what am I missing? Except that the Avs had a much better regular season than the Leafs did this year. Statsny was the more veteran 20 goal scorer along with several young 20 goal scorers in Duchene, Landeskog, O’reilly, and 1st overall rookie sensation Nate McKinnon. They had a young puck moving D core (including Tyson Berry) that could chip in offensively but really had no established top pairing guy. They had Varmalov go from average to outstanding all season, allowing this young team to stay in games they probably shouldn’t have been in. Anyway, seems pretty similar from where I stand. I am not saying the Leafs will go down the same road but the comparison is not that far off. Optimism is most certainly warranted for this Leafs team and this is a season to celebrate no doubt. However save the high horse climbing for your own nations blog is all I am saying.

      • The Dave

        Dude – other people are paying attention, despite the fact you tell people otherwise without any knowledge of who they are. Toronto’s series was good. It was not great, it was not the best of the series. You had a lot of OT, but it was not the best hockey in the opening round. The fact that there is a shift with three hits and a goal and you guys call it “The Shift” as if it is “The Catch” shows how stuck up your own butt you are. Other series had crap like that in spades.

        The fact that you are writing an article on “The Best moments from half of the playoffs” and spend 2/3 of the article talking about the Leafs, and half of that talking about a mediocre internet meme in dart guy should tell you all you need to know. The hockey was good, not great. The speed was good, not great. The goaltending was average. The hits were average. You guys just have a playoff-grade team that has some skill and some speed, but not enough to win more than two games.

        Save some excitement for when the Leafs are actually able to beat a team.

      • Loyal To The Oil

        The problem is that you’re saying objectively the Leafs vs. Caps was the best series without a doubt. If your arguing the most overtimes then ya, the series was good. But if you’re talking about the closeness of games, the MTL vs. NYR series was either tied or withing a goal for 97% of the time. That seems good merit to say that series was the best. Overtime does not mean that series was the best. Sure the leafs had a fun run but, the best series is a subjective opinion. I can give you a thousand reasons why I thought the Sharks and Oilers series was the best. Does that mean I’m right? No.

  • Not a First Tier Fan


    Full-on Maple Leaf Masturbation. The effort at providing content is appreciated but someone should put a warning disclaimer at the start of this one.

    Also… People have been talking about Karlsson for years. Maybe this dude just poked his head out from Maple Leaf wonderland and realized the entire NHL envies the Sens for having Karlsson around, but pretty much everyone else respects the hell out of the guy.

    Didn’t read the whole article but just skimmed due to the overload of TO Love… might be some good stuff in there that I missed. ah well.

    • Evan Presement

      two of the highest event teams in the NHL played 6/6 games decided by 1 goal and 5/6 of those games went to OT. You guys must be big fans of New Jersey Devils hockey, huh?

      • The Dave

        Yes, because we don’t love the Leafs we must like boring hockey. Be honest with us: what games did you watch so far? I’m going to assume all 6 for the Leafs, but what other hockey did you watch? The Montreal/Rangers series might have been a snooze-fest but there was plenty of exciting hockey elsewhere. You’ve told everyone else they aren’t paying attention, and you’re the one throwing that shade – why not tell us all what you were paying attention to?

        • Evan Presement

          I mean, it’s literally my real life job to pay attention. I probably watched 35ish % of all games live and went back through and watched another 20% afterwards. There was no hockey that was as entertaining as this series. It’s insane that people hate the Leafs SO MUCH that they’re not even willing to admit their matchup was really damn fun.

          • Not a First Tier Fan

            Uhm – I know I already commented but you can’t say that you only watched 50% of the first round and then say that one or another of the series was better than all the others… You didnt even watch everything.

            The Leafs – Caps series was entertaining, yes. Had a lot going for it. The best of the first-round? That’s pretty subjective… Lots of good hockey throughout all of the other series. (The exception maybe being the Flames – Ducks, but that’s no fault of Anaheim.)

          • btrain

            From my perspective, I am not arguing that the Leafs series was anything but entertaining or exciting. My point is that as a Leafs fan, your bias cannot allow you to compare which series was best. You are simply to invested as a fan of the Leafs to not be more emotionally charged by their games. Sure you can appreciate the other series as a hockey fan but there is no way you pay as close attention to those games or feel the same level of excitement you get when watching your team showing they belong on the same rink as the Caps. It wouldn’t be right if you did. As an Oilers fan, I am going to obviously be more entertained by my teams series the most and I think the game 5 comeback game was one of the most entertaining and exciting games I have watched in a long time. But I am an Oilers fan and I don’t expect you to feel the same way.

          • The Dave

            Some of us hate the Leafs, some of us don’t. I think pretty much everyone hates hyperbolic BS though, and the Toronto media has been *terrible* for it this round, and is bad in general the rest of the time. You guys had a good playoff series, and lost (which doesn’t seem to upset anyone in Leafs Nation, which is also really weird). Quit making this out to be a glorious series that eclipsed the rest of the mortal teams, and quit this “any disagreement is ignorance” nonsense. We all get lots of chances to watch Leafs – it’s the only team CBC will put in the early slot on HNIC.

            I’m pretty sure most of the people trashing you are doing so because we hate hyperbole, especially when paired with the disclaimer “If you don’t agree, you weren’t paying attention” – you wrote the article and we read it – we know all about what you think and what you were paying attention to. You don’t know jack about any of us, so drop this “you weren’t paying attention” crap. If you want to be enthusiastic about the Leafs that’s fine, but maybe drink a bit less of the kool-aid, and don’t title your article as if it’s going to be a highlight reel of an entire conference when it is really a love letter to the Leafs.

            It doesn’t help when you open by reaching beyond the Eastern Conference and praising the Leafs series way too much, and then afterwards, when pressed, admit to only watching half of the games. Since I am a betting man, I am willing to bet that they were heavily skewed towards the Eastern Conference (I don’t blame you – some of these games would start at 10:30 pm, which is stupid, but a different issue). Don’t say “best of the playoffs” though, limit that down to “best of the East”, or better yet “Highly entertaining Series, and we won’t compare this series to the others because our series can still be enjoyable without having to win the entertainment olympics to compensate for our team only winning two games”.