The month of May will deliver the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs and its subsequent and traditional 16-team, four-round postseason. The Cup champion is slated to skate with professional sports' most authentic trophy in early to mid-July.
Let's drop the WaFd Bank Weekly Warmup puck:
Countdown to Clinches
Ten NHL squads have qualified for the playoffs going into Monday's games: Pittsburgh, Washington and the New York Islanders in the East division; Vegas, Colorado and Minnesota in the West; Toronto in the North (all-Canada) grouping and Carolina, Tampa Bay and Florida in the Central. Last Monday, only three teams have clinched.
Going Forth and 'Fourth'
Four NHL teams are in two-way battles to win the fourth-place spot and final postseason spot in their division: St. Louis and Arizona in the West and Dallas tussling with Nashville in the Central.
After an early-season uneven performance, St. Louis is looking more like the 2019 Cup champion roster from two seasons ago. The Blues are three standings points ahead of the Coyotes with three games in hand. Arizona has just four games remaining.
Nashville is up by three points in the Central showdown with Dallas having a game in hand. Nashville's 1-0 overtime home win Saturday was the final matchup of the season between the two contenders.
The fourth-place Predators finish the year with two road games at Columbus and three at home against division-leading Carolina. Dallas plays Florida Monday, then complete the regular season with a six-game road trip, three at Tampa Bay and three at Chicago. A solid team is going to miss the playoffs in any case.
Celebrating Asians in Hockey
May is Asian-American Pacific Islander Heritage Month and the Kraken will be marking it with profile stories of Kraken personnel plus a special Zoom panel discussion about Asians in hockey among other coverage. Check back to nhl.com/Kraken in the coming days for details.
WaFd Weekly Warmup is happy to start the proceedings. Consider Dallas forward Jason Robertson, who is making a late run at rookie-of-the-year honors. Calder Cup frontrunner Kirill Kaprizov of the Minnesota Wild has a rookie-high 23 goals and 20 assists in 50 games while Robertson has notched 15 goals and a rookie-high 25 assists in 46 games. Of note: Kaprizov is 24 years old and Robertson is 21.
Robertson is just the third NHL player of Filipino descent drafted into the league. His mother was born in Manila before moving to California as a youngster. Robertson's brother, Nick, who plays for Toronto, is the second Filipino player on record and Minnesota defenseman Matt Dumba was the first with Filipino heritage.
The Robertsons were born in Los Angeles and fell in love with the sport because their father and grandfather had season tickets for the Los Angeles Kings.
"Nick and I certainly are excited for the opportunity to be role models -- not just for the Asian community, but for anyone from different backgrounds, or anyone trying to get into the game of hockey," Jason Robertson told ESPN national hockey writer Emily Kaplan. "Nick and I, and our whole family to be honest, have always been welcomed at rinks. We've never had to deal with any racism or any of that stuff, which is fortunate because there really shouldn't be any room for that in the world, it's unacceptable."
Figuring the Canadian and Canadien Math
While Vancouver has 11 games remaining due to COVID-19 pandemic repercussions-most teams have five or six left-the Kraken's instant rivals don't look to be making any miracle push to the playoffs. The Canucks are 14 points out of a playoff spot with five games in hand compared to fourth-place Montreal.
In fact, the Canadiens are what appears to be solid postseason shape with a six-point lead over Calgary with both teams having six games left going into Monday's action. Along with the aforementioned clinching Toronto Maple Leafs, who Montreal with likely face in the first round, the North will be represented by Edmonton and Winnipeg (with EDM in the drivers seat for home ice advantage in that series).
Games to Watch This Week
Monday and Wednesday: Nashville plays a pair against Columbus, whose wheels fell off a few weeks back and now are without goalie Joonas Korpisalo, out with a season-ending injury. The Predators need load up now to stay the postseason course; they finish with three home games against division leader Carolina, vying to keep that spot for at least two rounds of home-ice advantage and maybe more.