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NHL Playoffs: Brackets have been busted

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It’s been tough for Pittsburgh fans, but overall hockey is going to be re-energized by all these unexpected markets tasting playoff success

Vegas Golden Knights v San Jose Sharks - Game Seven Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

So, uh, how’s your NHL playoff bracket looking? Probably not too great on a morning like this, with one more Game 7 to go tonight.

But don’t feel bad, I’ll put a hand up and take ownership of some nasty predictions. I’m just 1-6 so far and the only one I got right (St. Louis) was the one I was least confident about. Both of my Stanley Cup Final predicted teams (Tampa and Vegas) are out in the first round. I could be 2-6 tonight if Washington wins, but truthfully I don’t want to be in hopes of a Caps loss and something good happening for Jordan Staal. As always, it’s a thin line between winning and losing this time of year, but man, it’s been a lot of chaos and losing when it comes to trying to build a bracket this year where three — and possibly all four — division winners are upset in the opening round.

More than other years, I feel like the losers are left really empty and looking for answers. Tampa was going to go on a long run and they’re left wondering what happened. Same thing in places like Nashville and Pittsburgh, two teams used to winning at least one round lately that were unceremoniously dumped this year and now have more questions than answers. Toronto hasn’t had the playoff success lately but they always have the expectations and now have to think about losing a 3-2 series lead.

Poor Vegas fans now really know what it’s like to be in the NHL — blowing a 3-1 series lead and getting a really tough call against to lead to a Game 7 collapse and another blown lead, capped off with an overtime goal against. Ouch. Welcome to the league, Golden Knights fans, it’s not all fun and joy and magical rides like you got to enjoy last year.

Where there’s sorrow, there’s also joy. Columbus fans finally now know what it’s like to win a playoff series. The Islanders have gotten better results already than probably anyone could have dreamed after last summer, and are positioned to possibly do more. Same with Colorado who have such an exciting young, fast team to watch. St. Louis and Dallas haven’t seemed relevant in years and both are getting the goaltending to make either one legitimate contenders.

For all of those markets - many of them dormant or at least not having a lot to cheer for in the last 10+ years, this spring has been a welcomed turn of events. Ditto Carolina if they can keep the party going with a win tonight, that definitely would fit the theme of the 2019 Stanley Cup playoffs so far. Only two of the nine teams still alive (Boston and Washington) have won a Cup in the recent past, which is making for a lot of thrilling opportunities for markets that aren’t usually involved this time of year.

It’s been one of tremendously shocking upsets and new teams stepping into the forefront. Which probably isn’t great when you remember you’re a Penguins’ fan, but otherwise for the state of hockey in general, it’s been a refreshing and completely unpredictable spring so far. Long may it continue.