Before I preview the Eastern Conference Finals for the NHL some thoughts on the controversial ending to the Kentucky Derby. The first ever disqualification of Kentucky Derby winner Maximum Security elicited an avalanche of opinions on whether the decision was correct. Trainer Bob Baffert and long time horse writer Andrew Beyer were some of the bigger voices stating the disqualification was wrong while many of the top horse racing writers like Mike Watchmaker thought the disqualification was 100% correct. As someone who follows horse racing pretty closely I agreed with the disqualification. Anytime a horse moves into the path of another horse and impedes his progress it is grounds for a DQ. Maximum Security impeded War of Will who then impeded Long Range Toddy. The decision neither helped or hurt my cause as I never used Country House in any of my tickets but it did cost people a lot of money who had Maximum Security who was one of the favorites. Some fair questions to ask though is why was there no inquiry sign? Haven't there been other Kentucky Derby's where horses have been bumped badly or impeded? Why did the decision take over 20 minutes? Didn't the media or general public deserve a better explanation or more transparency from the stewards? I don't care if it is a Maiden Claiming race for $7500.00 at Emerald Downs or the Kentucky Derby the same rules have to be applied and they were applied correctly. Sorry if you ended up losing money but as a veteran horse bettor I have lost many bets on disqualifications with some in my book being unfair. If you didn't like the decision my advice is learn more about the horse racing game by watching TVG or go bet the greyhounds. And if you are in Solana Beach in August I will be at Del Mar enjoying the sun and racing during Pacific Classic week hoping to cash a lot of tickets.
Now onto the NHL playoffs
The Carolina Hurricanes have had an amazing run as the 2nd wild card team in the Eastern Conference knocking off the defending Stanley Cup Champion Washington Capitols with a game 7 OT win on the road and sweeping the NY Islanders in round two. The "Bunch of Jerks" have relied on solid goaltending from both Petr Mrazek and Curtis McElhinney, their scoring depth, and staying perfect at home in the playoffs at 5-0. The Bruins had to go seven games in the 1st round to defeat the Toronto Maple Leafs and fought off a very pesky Columbus Blue Jackets squad to win that series in 6 games. What you have seen from the Bruins in the playoffs is what you saw in the regular season which is consistency in all three phases. Tuukka Rask in goal has not had a bad game in the playoffs and pitched the shutout in game 6 to close out Columbus. The usual suspects on offense Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak, David Krejci, and Patrice Bergeron have combined for 20 goals and 22 assists.
Positives for Carolina
When starting goalie Petr Mrazek went down with an injury during the NY Islanders series Curtis McElhinney stepped in and played brilliantly. McElhinney won all 3 games he appeared in only giving up 4 goals while Mrazek was solid with a 2.22 GAA and .913 save percentage. Mrazek is practicing and might be able to go in game 1 but if he can't the Canes have plenty of confidence in McElhinney who performed well in the back up role during the regular season.
Offensively Teuvo Teravainen has emerged in the playoffs with 6 goals and Warren Foegele who only had 10 goals during the regular season has scored 5 in the playoffs. Jacob Slavin is the 2nd leading scorer for defensemen in the playoffs with 11 assists and Dougie Hamilton has chipped in 3 goals with 4 assists from the blue line. Also having battled tested veterans like Justin Williams and Jordan Staal for scoring and leadership have been huge as well. Sebastian Aho, Nino Neiderreiter, and Andrei Svechnikov all are capable of getting hot in the series and scoring multiple goals.
Negatives for Carolina
Sometimes even having a a small break can kill a teams momentum. It will be 6 days since the Hurricanes wrapped up their series against the Islanders and we saw the NY Islanders who had a 10 day break for their 2nd round series get swept and the Columbus Blue Jackets who had a 9 day break lost their series to the Bruins.
The power play has been anemic in the playoffs only scoring at a 10.2% clip and the penalty kill hasn't been much better only killing off 75% of their opponents power plays.
If Mrazek can't go can McElhinney duplicate his performance in round 2? They will be facing a much more prolific offense unlike a NY Islanders team who struggled to score the entire season.
Positives for Boston
Goaltender Tuukaa Rask has been played every minute of every playoff game and has posted a 2.02 GAA and .938 save percentage.
Besides the production you expect from Marchand, Pastrnak, Krejci, and Bergeron, Charlie Coyle who was acquired from the Minnesota Wild in February has emerged with 5 goals in the playoffs after only scoring 12 goals during the regular season.
The Bruins have the #1 rated power play in the playoffs converting at a 28.6% clip and 2nd best percentage of shots per game at 35.7 per game.
Negatives for Boston
Defenseman Charlie McAvoy is suspended for game 1. He has led the Bruins in the playoffs with time on ice with close to 25 minutes per game and is 2nd for the Bruins in plus/minus at +8.
The Bruins have already played 13 playoff games and with the number of veterans that the Bruins have it could take a toll down the road as they will be playing a younger and fresher team in the Hurricanes.
The Carolina Hurricanes have a lot of momentum going into the Eastern Conference finals as they have won 5 in a row including a sweep in the 2nd round of the NY Islanders in the 2nd round. But the Boston Bruins are consistent and don't beat themselves. The Bruins will be playing in the Stanley Cup finals
Bruins in 6 games