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Photo Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Tuesday Thoughts…

The line between winning “Parent of the Day”  or “Failed Parent of the Day” can be very thin. We just returned from a family trip to Canmore. We planned a few hikes, and on Saturday got an impromptu invitation from our neighbours, who happened to be in Canmore as well, to join them on a bike ride. We had just finished the hike at Grassi Lake, which I highly recommend. It isn’t too long, but the scenery is beautiful and I recommend taking the “more difficult” path if you can handle a few short, steep sections.

We were going home for lunch when we got the invite to meet them at 1 p.m. for the bike ride. We agreed, without asking many questions, and showed up at Goat Creek Trail at 1 p.m.

Turns out the trail is 19KM though the mountains to Banff. I left my son’s raincoat in the backseat, and we didn’t have much food or water. Also, I didn’t bring any spare tubes in case of a flat tire. But thankfully the trail was more downhill, with a few steep inclines where the kids, and some parents, had to walk their bike up. It turned out to be a wonderful adventure and I highly recommend it. You need a mountain bike as the path is rocky, but it is worth it.

We biked there, had lunch in downtown Banff, and then rode the Legacy Trail (on side of the highway) back to Canmore. Full trip was 45KM, and our seven-year-old son loved it. It helped that his best buddy, also seven, and his two older sisters were also there. The boys raced most of the way, and on the trails I had to get ahead of them so they wouldn’t go too fast down on the steep parts.

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Luckily it never rained, as the clouds circled up most of the way, or we’d have easily won the Failed Parent of the Day award. Without risk there is no reward, even in parenting. If you are an outdoorsy type, I highly recommend Goat Creek trail. If you want a real challenge, start in Banff, as you will face more inclines going that direction. Maybe in a few years when our son is 12 we will go that way.

The fine line between winning and losing in parenthood is often similar to NHL teams in the playoffs. One bad decision, or unlucky break, and suddenly things don’t go your way.

— I’ve seen a bit of talk about Dave Tippett getting outcoached and that is why Edmonton lost to Winnipeg. I can see the argument to say he could have called a timeout in game three when the Jets made it 4-3. Maybe that would have stopped their momentum, but Edmonton outshot and out-chanced the Jets in the series. Winnipeg led for a total of 19:52. Edmonton led for 56:12.

The other 224:07 of playing time the game was tied. I didn’t see many egregious matchups by Tippett that cost the Oilers the series. They scored one goal in the first two games on home ice and some questioned why he would change his lines. If he doesn’t and they don’t score, then the same people would complain that he kept the lines together. Playing Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl together to start game three paid off. Edmonton led 4-1 and was in complete control of the game. They also led entering the third period in game four. Changing the lines worked as their offence got going. But untimely giveaways really bit them in games three and four.

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I also saw some questioning his use of four defenceman for much of the third period and overtime. I could see that argument if the D-men cost them the game, but in both instances, it was his best player who had a turnover that led to the goal. After the non-timeout in game three, Connor McDavid fired the puck needlessly around the boards and the Jets tied the game. In overtime of game four, McDavid had clear possession, which is why Ethan Bear went to change, and the NHL’s leader in controlled zone entries had his pass knocked down by the Jets. They quickly turned it up ice and Kyle Connor won the game. I don’t see anyone blaming McDavid, nor should they, but I think frustration can lead to the blame game.

If you want to say Tippett’s non-timeout was a potential factor, that is fair. But there were many player factors as well. A timeout might have helped, but the Oilers’ glaring giveaways in games three and four by players who normally don’t do that, Bear and McDavid, were major factors as well. Connor Hellebuyck standing on his head was probably the main reason Edmonton lost.

— Tippett’s impact on the Oilers defensively has been quite noticeable the past two seasons. They’ve improved a lot defensively and they can still improve. I’d argue his ability to get this team to play better defensively is a main reason they have been a playoff team the past two seasons. I don’t blame the coach when he doesn’t have much scoring depth. He can’t magically make players more skilled offensively. If the Oilers add more scoring depth this off-season and they have a first round exit next season, then I think it will be fair to ask the question about Tippett’s future.

— How about this for an odd stat? You to go back to 1999 to find the last time we saw a team that swept a series, then won the next round against an opponent who won their previous series in seven games. I know that is confusing description, but the Winnipeg Jets became the last victim to sweep a series, but then lose their next series to an opponent (Montreal) who won its previous series in seven games.

The last team to win in this scenario was the 1999 Dallas Stars. They swept Edmonton and then defeated Arizona, who needed seven games to beat St. Louis.

The 2003 Anaheim Ducks, 2009 Boston Bruins, 2019 New York Islanders and the 2021 Jets were also unable to win after sweeping their previous round and facing a supposedly fatigued team that won in seven games.

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— Will the Colorado Avalanche become the first team in 22 years to do it, or will they join the Jets? Colorado swept St. Louis in the opening round and looked unbeatable, while Vegas defeated Minnesota in seven games. Vegas has won two straight and could have easily won game two against Colorado. It is now a best-of-three and we’ll see if Colorado can end this odd losing streak.

— The 1993 Montreal Canadiens, 1988 Edmonton Oilers, 1975 Philadelphia Flyers and 1952 Detroit Red Wings all won the Stanley Cup. They also matched the 1999 Stars by sweeping a series, then winning the next round over an opponent that had won its previous series in seven games. The only team in NHL history to do this, but not win the Stanley Cup, was the 1969 St. Louis Blues. They won their first series 4-0, then swept the Los Angeles Kings 4-0, after the Kings had defeated the Oakland Seals in seven games. The Blues then lost the Stanley Cup Final 4-0 to Montreal.  So if the Avs manage to defeat Vegas the odds are good they will make it to the Stanley Cup Finals. The other six teams all made it to the Stanley Cup Final and five of them won it.

— If you are a Montreal Canadiens fan and believe in streaks, you probably want Vegas or Colorado to win the series in six games, just to avoid being part of this odd-stat group.

— NHL playoffs are a wild ride. Nathan MacKinnon had 8-4-12 in the Avs’ first five playoff games. He picked up one assist in game two, but was held pointless in games three and four and the past three games Vegas has nullified him along with Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog at 5×5. If that continues Vegas will have an excellent chance of facing the Canadiens. Vegas has dominated this series at 5×5. Only two Colorado players have an xGF% of over 40%: Andre Burakovsky (44.3%) and Connor Timmins (41.3%). That is crazy. No Avalanche player has a shots for higher than 46%.

Brandon Saad is playing his way into a good payday. His playoff production overall is very similar to his regular season production in terms of goals and points per game, and he’s having a great playoffs this year with six goals in eight games, including three in the series against Vegas. He would be a good target for the Oilers. He has proven he can play and produce when playing with elite players, and he has a lots of playoff experience. He turns 29 in October and has been a very consistent goal scorer. He isn’t a big playmaker, but he can score and he goes to the dirty areas.

— It looks like I underestimated the New York Islanders…again. They aren’t flashy, but they know how to win tight games. Also a polite reminder to never get too excited, positively or negatively, over one playoff years. Jordan Eberle only had two assists in 13 playoff games in 2017. Many said he was too soft and couldn’t score in the playoffs. In the past three seasons, he has played 41 games for the Islanders and has scored 12 goals and 31 points. He is third on the Islanders in goals, assists and points in those years and fourth among forwards in TOI/game. He’s been what he has always been: a player who knows how to score and produce consistently. One 13-game stretch never changed that.

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— If I had to pick one player to build an NBA team around for the next there seasons, I’d take Kevin Durant. He tore his ACL in the 2019 Championship series, needed a year to rehab, and has come back and is dominating. He can beat you on the dribble, on a mid-range jumper or drain a three-pointer. Who would you pick?

— The NHL appeal process is laughable. It is a waste of time to appeal to Gary Bettman. He will never go against an NHL employee’s ruling, so just skip Bettman and go directly to an independant arbitrator. Nazem Kadri’s eight-game suspension was upheld by the arbitrator today, which was the right decision, but appealing to Bettman first is simply a waste of time and is only there to delay the appeal process.

— Not very bold, but I’d take Tampa Bay to win the Stanley Cup. They are the best team by a large margin in my eyes. They have too many weapons, and if they have an average night then Andrei Vasilevskiy can win the game on his own. Do you see a team that could beat them?

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