Finally, we made it through the stale waters of sports after the Superbowl. March Madness was nice but that only lasted for a few days as something to watch during class/work. The NHL Playoffs are here, which means until mid-June the best kind of sport will be on display every night. Teams will battle to win 16 games to hoist the hardest championship to win in all of sports. Winning four-seven game series’ in a physical sport is the most demanding. The NFL playoffs are one-game series, so the physical hatred against the other team isn’t able to accumulate the same as a seven-game series. The NBA Finals and World Series do not demand the same physical trek.
The recent trend in championships has seen revenge. Clemson got their revenge on Alabama in a absolute thriller. Tom Brady and the Patriots saw their revenge against Roger Goodell and all of the deflategate conspirators. UNC Men’s basketball got their revenge on last years heartbreaking loss. Will the Sharks get revenge (probably not) and revenge last years loss in the Stanley Cup? Will Chicago get back on their dynasty train? Will Pittsburgh go back-to-back and solidify their reputation as a true dynasty? Will one of these young superstars (McDavid, Matthews, Gaudreau, etc), who were born after Jagr made his NHL debute, lead their respective teams to a title? Only time will tell, so lets get to it…
Montreal Canadiens vs. New York Rangers
So Carey Price is back for a full season, starts 62 games, which means the Canadiens are back in the playoffs landing atop the Atlantic Division with 103 points. The swap of P.K. Subban for Shea Weaber was not a home run (Subban was over 50 points last 3 years and Weber totaled 42 points), but they did allow 200 goals which is tied for 3rd lowest in the league. Typical Canadians year when Price is healthy. The addition of Andrew Shaw could be that spark plug they need late in low-scoring games. Since the all-star break, they have scored the 4th lowest in the league. The last three visits to the playoffs resulted in exits in each of the first three rounds. In those 12 losses they did not score more than 2 goals. Not being able to score is always the kryptonite to the Canadians and their superstar goalie. Typical Canadians 100+ point season resulting in a typical Canadians early exit?
Kind of a strange year for the Rangers, they weren’t the typical defensive juggernaut behind King Lundqvist. The superstar goalie was not himself and missed some time. However, they finished 4th in goals scored and 13th in goals allowed. Behind 4 players scoring 53+ points and 4 players scoring 22+ goals. The swap of Derek Brassard for a younger 23-year old Mika Zibanejad worked out. Zibanejab missed some time early, but ended up scoring 37 points in 56 games. The other young Ranger forwards matured this year with Miller, 23, scoring 56 points. Krieder, 25, scored 53. Hayes, 24, scored 49. However that offense has slowed down since the all-star break, finishing 17th. The last 10 games of the regular season the Rangers finished 3-4-3. They find themseleves over 100 points in the season but in the first wild card spot due to the brutality of the Metropolitan Division. Will Lundqvist return to form in the playoffs or will the young forwards have to carry the team?
The last time these two teams met in the playoffs it was the 2014 Eastern Conference Final. The Rangers won in 6. Both teams won via blowout and overtime. Last year the Canadians won the season series 2-1., This year the Canadians swept the season series, winning two games in regulation (4-1 & 5-4) and one in a shootout. The Canadians will have home ice advantage.
My Prediction: Two professional and consistent franchises usually clash to produce interesting series’. The Canadians have had the Rangers number past two years. Pacioretty has a league high in goals scored when trailing after the 2nd period. I think having Price back, plus the addition of Russian superstar Alexander Radulov is just enough to get past the Rangers. Canes in 6.
Ottawa Senators vs. Boston Bruins
The Senators are back to the playoffs for the 2nd time in the past 4 years, finishing with 98 points and 2nd in the Atlantic, even after losing 5-straight on a recent road trip to end the season. They had 4 players score 53+ points. Karlsson finshed 3rd in defensemen with 71 points. He has also led all defensemen in goals since the all-star break. However, the theme of the year has been supporting goalie Craig Anderson. His wife was diagnosed with cancer this year and the team the entire league has shown their support during this difficult time. If your not a hockey fan and do not know who to root for, choose the Senators or just Craig Anderson.
Change hit the Bruins this year with the team departing with Claude Julien. He was in his 10th year with Boston and was head coach when the team won the Cup in 2011. They missed the last two playoffs after making 7 straight appearances. They were 26-23-6 under him and at a stalemate this season. Since the firing, they are 18-8-1. This late season surge put them in 3rd in the Atlantic with 95 points. They had 5 players with 51+ points. Young superstar David Pastrnak is officially a stud after another great season finishing with 34 goals and 70 points. Brad Marchand made his case for MVP this year with 39 goals (4th) and 85 points (5th). They finished the season with a 4-game losing streak, 6-game winning streak then a 2-game losing streak. Which Bruins team will show up?
The Senators swept the season series with the Bruins this year winning all four games. Last year the senators went 3-1 against the Bruins. The last three games this year were in March and April. The last game was their 80th of 82. The Senators won in a shootout.
My Prediction: The Senators may have swept the season series but Playoffs are a different animal. Boston’s experience within their core players and their late season surge under new head coach Bruce Cassidy will edge the Senators. The Senators have struggled on the road to end the season finishing 1-6 (that one win was in Boston though so wtf do stats show). Marchand is playing on another level right now. Boston in 5.
Washington Capitals vs. Toronto Maple Leafs
Another year, another Capitals Presidents Trophy finishing with 113 points. Making it 7 first place finishes atop the Metropolitan division in the past 10 years. However, no Stanley Cup wins or appearances to show for it. (Kind of like Gonzaga! Similar Results this year?) The Caps let up the least amount of goals and scored the 3rd most. 5 players had 56+ points. 5 players score 20+ goals, and Kuznetzov had 19. They had a goal differential of +81, which was 23 higher than the next team. They were lights out at home going 32-7-2. Braden Holtby is 18-0-1 vs the Eastern Conference in calendar year 2017. Backstrom continues to show his legitimacy of being an elite level player finishing 4th in points with 86. Ovechkin had 33 goals and 69 🙂 points. The Capitals produced yet another impressive regular season. However, the fans cannot enjoy these successes with the haunting of terrible choke jobs in playoffs past. Will the Caps finally find their stride in the playoffs and be the team to beat?
The most exciting team in the playoffs might be the Toronto Maple Leafs who are LOADED with young talent. I mean its something out of a video game. 4 rookies score 36+ points and 3 of the top 4 scoring rookies in Matthews, Nylander and Marner. They had 5 61+ point scorers. This explosive young talent had the Leafs finish 5th in goals. They finished in the second wildcard spot. They were 1-8 in shootouts, so their seeding does not show their true ability with a few critical points lost there. With this young explosive talent comes some bad. They let up the 8th most goals. The Leafs ended the season going 1-3 on a home-stand. Can the young, dangerous and exciting young superstars of the Maple Leafs continue the trend of a low-seed knocking out the Caps early?
The Caps won the season series against the Leafs 2-1. The Caps won in Toronto 4-1 just a week ago. Last year the Caps swept the season series 3-0.
My Prediction: With all the young talent that Toronto has this series will be much closer than the series will show. The addition of Kevin Shattenkirk solidifies the Caps blue-line defense. Toronto has allowed the 5th most goals when leading after 2 periods, look for the depth of skilled forwards on Washington to continue that trend. Caps in 5.
Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Columbus Blue Jackets
Now that the Red Wings have snapped their playoff streak, the Penguins now have the longest active playoff streak with 11 straight. As reigning champs of last year and recent champs in 2009, another win this year will solidify them as a dynasty. The Penguins finish 2nd in the league and in the Metropolitan Division with 111 points. They led the league in goals this year. Mainly due to Crosby having another Crosby-type year by leading the league in goals, 44 and second in points with 89. Malkin had another great year scoring 72 points in 62 games. The Penguins have all of the talent but are hobbled by some critical injuries. Hagelin and Letang will not be available until late in the playoffs. Malkin and Kunitz are banged up as well. They did win last year without Kris Letang. The Penguins are without a doubt one of the most talented and experienced teams in the league, but will their injuries finally catch up to them?
The Columbus Blue Jackets return to the playoffs for the first time since 2014, finishing 4th in the NHL and 3rd in the Metro with 109 points. This is largely due to their 16 game winning streak. 5 players finished with 50+ points. The Blue Jackets are also loaded with young talent. 22-year old Zach Werenski finished 7th among rookies with 47 points. Sergei Bobrovsky has also been terrific this year. He finished 41-17-5 with 7 shutouts. The offense has slowed down since the all-star break landing in 20th in goals, but 4th in goals allowed. They had the 3rd best goal differential with +58. In the last 7 games of the regular season the Jackets finished 1-6. Can the Blue Jackets bring back their mid-season surge and turn it into a deep playoff run?
The past 2 years, the Penguins and Blue Jackets have split the season series 2-2. This year it was very even. Both teams won via a blow out and in overtime. The home team won every game. Pittsburgh won the most recent match up just a week ago.
My Prediction: Crosby and the Penguins are just too much for Columbus. Games will be close but having Crosby is that X-factor that wins close playoff games. Bobrovsky has never been good in the playoffs. Pens in 7.
Now onto the West, where three teams have been available to be beaten up on all year. Colorado, equivalent of the Browns this year, Arizona and Vancouver have been at the bottom on the league throughout the season. Since there are 2 less teams in the West, Dallas was also trash this year, that made the fight for the playoffs really 8 teams out of 10. The Stars and Kings are out from last year, and entering are the young Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames. Lets get to it….
Chicago Blackhawks vs. Nashville Predators
The Blackhawks are the definition of a modern-day dynasty, advancing to 9 straight playoff appearances with 3 Stanley Cup wins. They have built this dynasty around their core of Kane, Toews, Keith, Seabrook, Hjalmarsson and Crawford. Kane, Toews and Keith are all Conn Smythe winners. This year the Hawks finish atop the West with 109 points. Patrick Kane had another great year finishing tied with Crosby for 2nd in Points with 89. They had 6 20+ goal scorers. In the second half of the season the core guys began to pick up. Since the all-star break, Kane is 2nd in goals and points, Toews and Panarin had 30 points putting them in the top 15. Head Coach Joel Quenneville has assembled himself a young versatile lineup. 7 rookies totaled over 100 points this season. Last year, it was a weak defensive lineup that resulted in a first round exit to the Blues. Will this versatile lineup have enough steam to carry the Hawks to their 4th title in 8 years?
The Predators are back in the playoffs for the 3rd straight year, landing in the final wildcard spot with 94 points. They finished in the middle of the pack in goals, goals scored, power-play and penalty kill. They were dominate at home with a record of 24-9-8, but struggled on the road going 17-20-4. Since the all-star break, Viktor Arvidsson has heated up scoring 31 points putting him in the top-10. Nashville’s special teams has struggled in the last month of the season, finishing 20th in PP and 28th in PK. However, they did finish the season with the most short-handed goals. Nashville needs P.K. Subbann to be the spark plug he can be. Can Nashville get their revenge on Chicago from knocking the out in 2015?
Chicago won the season series 4-1 against the Preds, winning the last 4 meetings. Chicago scored 5 goals in 3 of the games. Chicago won the season series last year also 3-2. Chicago knocked Nashville out of the playoffs two years ago in 6 games. The two series-swinging games of that series were a double and triple-overtime game.
My Prediction: Hawks have had the Preds number in recent years. I see that trend continuing. I hope to see some more double and triple overtime games. Hawks in 5.
Minnesota Wild vs. St. Louis Blues
Landing in 2nd place of the Pacific with 106 points, the Minnesota Wild. This makes 5 straight appearances in the playoffs. A 12-game win streak during the season sat atop the West 5 points higher than anyone else. They finished the season 2nd in goals scored and 7th in goals allowed. After the all-star break, they have let up the 10th most goals. Not having the same lock-down defense they had during their streak. They had 4 20+ goal scorers on the season. Dubnyk had a great year winning 40 games. However, in the 6 games in the series loss vs the Stars in the playoffs last year, he surrendered 20 goals. For them to be successful and make a deep playoff run, Dubnyk needs to be better. After struggling through the last half of the season, the Wild won 4 straight to end the season. Which Minnesota team will show up, the 12-game win streak team or last years first round loss team.
The hottest team coming into the playoffs might be the St. Louis Blues. This is their 6th straight playoff appearance. Similar to the Bruins, the Blues were at a stand still with current head coach Ken Hitchcock (24-21-5). They replaced him with Mike Yeo and finished 22-8-2 and outscoring opponents 93-60 which is a league best goal differential. Tarasenko finished top-10 in points again with 75, 4th in goals with 39 and top-5 in goals scored since the all-star break. The Blues have allowed a league-low in goals since the all-star break and the highest penalty kill percentage. Last year the Blues were finally able to get past the Blackhawks who had been haunting them in the playoffs. Will the Blues be able to keep their hot-streak alive going deep into the playoffs?
This year, the Blues won the season series this year and last year 3-2 winning the last game in early March. The Wild knocked the Blues out of the Playoffs 2 years ago in the first round in 6 games.
My Prediction: There is nothing more imporant than momentum in the playoffs and especially in the first round. The Blues and Wild are heading in opposite directions. The Wild are stuggling and the Blues are red-hot. I see the Blues offense being to much for the Wild and revenging the series loss 2 years ago. Blues in 6.
Anaheim Ducks vs. Calgary Flames
For the fifth straight season, the Ducks finish atop the Pacific division. It has been 10 years since their last Cup win. They were 29-8-4 at home and 17-15-9 this year. They allowed the 4th least goals this season. Their power-play has struggled since the all-star break finishing with the 4th lowest conversion rate. Richard Rakell led the league with 10 game-winning-goals. Since the all-star break, veteran forward Ryan Getzlaf has been heating up finishing 6th in points and 3rd in points in the month of March. The third period is a critical period for Anaheim. When trailing after 2 periods, they are 22nd in goals. When tied after the 2nd period, they are 2nd in goals. When leading after 2 periods, they allow the 3rd least goals. Anaheim lost a heartbreaking Western Conference Final to Chicago 2 years ago. They were up 3-2 in the series then lost the final 2 games to be eliminated. Getzlaf and Perry are not getting any younger. Can Anaheim muster up one more playoff run with their veteran superstars?
The Flames are back in the playoffs for the 2nd time in 3 years. They finish in the first wildcard spot with 94 points. Gaudraeu and Monahan had another great year together scoring 61 and 58 points respectively. The Flames goal scoring has picked up after the all-star break placing them 10th and ending with a goal differential of +27 after the all-star break. The Flames ended the season going 4-6 in their last 10 games. There is no doubting the skill level the Flames’ young talent has. The Flames got a tough match up landing the Duck in the first round who they have not been successful against. Can the Flames avenge the loss to Anaheim two years ago and break their terrible trend against Anaheim?
The Ducks own the Flames. Simple as that. The Flames (0-20-5) haven’t won in the regular season in Anaheim since 2004. The Ducks swept the season series last year 5-0. The Ducks won the series 4-1 this year. Anaheim won both match ups late in April towards the end of the season. Two years ago in the second round, the Ducks won in 5.
My Prediction: I see the Ducks continuing their successes against the Flames. The Ducks are well experienced and the Flames are young. In the playoffs these trends are visible. I see the Ducks 3rd period successes being the x-factor. Ducks in 5.
San Jose Sharks vs. Edmonton Oilers
The runner-up of last years Stanley Cup are back in the playoffs for the 12th time in the past 13 years. They finished 3rd in the Pacific with 99 points. They posted a great home record of 26-11-4 this season. Last year they were dominate on the road during the regular season. Joe Thorton and Logan Couture are 2 critical pieces of San Jose’s success. They are banged up right now and their status for the playoffs is not certain. Pavelski and Burns had to carry them through the season. Burns continues to prove he is a premiere defender in the league finishing 1st in points (9th overall) and goals among defense men. San Jose may be one of the most playoff experienced teams in the league with 5 of their core players having 100+ playoff game experience. Will San Jose get past the young phenom Connor McDavid and revenge their Stanley Cup loss?
First thing that comes to mind when you think of the current Edmonton Oilers team is Connor McDavid. He led the league in points this year by being the only player with 100. When tied up going into the 3rd period, McDaivd has the most points. Trailing going into the 3rd period, he has the 2nd most. He ends the season on a 14 point streak. He is just 20 years old. His 21 year old line mate, Leon Draisaitl, also had a great year playing with him scoring 29 goals. They have become a dangerous top line to play against. The Oilers ended the season winning their last 3 and 8 of their last 10 games. Since the all-star break, the Oilers have given up the 10 least goals and and scored the 7th most. They had the 5th best power-play this season. Without a doubt, every hockey fan should be excited to see McDavid in the playoffs. As long as he stays healthy he will be one of the greatest. It is going to be very interesting to see him play against these veterans in San Jose. Will he be enough to help Edmonton make a Stanley Cup run?
This year, Edmonton lost the first two match ups against San Jose then won the final three. Their 81st game of the season was against each other while they were tied in points. The playoff atmosphere in San Jose led to a Edmonton victory 4-2. McDavid had a goal and Lucic had a hat trick.
My Prediction: In my opinion this is the most intriguing first round match up. Seeing McDavid in his first ever series against a team that is so experienced in the playoffs is going to be interesting. They are divisional foes and know each other well. I see McDavid and the young Oilers being to much for the beat up Sharks. Edmonton in 6.
https://bracketchallenge.nhl.com/ – here is a link to fill one out
Every series in the first round has something to look forward to. Whether its seeing how these young superstars perform in the big games, seeing the best in the world play, previous rematches that produced long overtime thrillers or just hard nosed hockey in general. I am hoping to see McDavid and the Oilers make it to the Western Final to play Chicago. I picked Chicago because it seems like they win the Cup on these years where they have deep versatile lineups. I see Crawford winning the Conn Smythe. The Capitals are going to mirror Gonzaga and finally make it to the finals but lose. But what does it matter what I think, lets just watch them play.
Here are some hype videos to get your hockey boner going