The Stanley Cup Playoffs start tomorrow night, sixteen National Hockey League Clubs will begin their quest for to engrave their names onto the “Greatest Trophy in North American Sports”. Notably absent from this tournament are the Detroit Red Wings, missing the playoffs for the first time since the 1989-1990 when the Soviet Union was still a country. There are seven teams in the playoffs this year that were not a part of this wonderful time of the hockey season last year, including five of the seven Canadian teams. Of these, the Edmonton Oilers’ qualification exorcises a record-tying streak of ten seasons without a postseason appearance. Returning contestants include the defending conference champions from both East (the Pittsburgh Penguins and West (the San Jose Sharks). Other notable teams include perennial favorites in the Chicago Blackhawks (with three championships this decade), as well as perennial underachievers in the two-time reigning President’s Trophy winner Washington Capitals who are seeking their first Conference Finals appearance since 1998 and their first championship ever.
The matchups are as follows along with my prediction for each series. The Stanley Cup Playoffs start Wednesday April 12th with each series being a best of seven, meaning the first team to four wins advance to the Conference Semifinals.
Washington Captials vs Toronto Maple Leafs: The Toronto Maple Leafs are led by three rookies below American drinking age; Auston Matthews, William Nylander, and Mitch Marner. Although these Leafs teams will probably back for the immediate future I don’t see them beating this Capitals team no matter how deeply their tendency for choking when it matters permeates their team soul: Washington in 5.
Pittsburgh Penguins vs Columbus Blue Jackets: This playoff matchup between the second and third best teams in the Eastern Conference only happens because of how screwy the National Hockey League structures the playoffs. Sidney Crosby and company may be struggling with injuries but Columbus’s offense has dried up as of late and while Sergei Bobrovsky has been Vezina worthy I don’t see this matchup favoring Columbus although it very well could: Pittsburgh in 7.
Montreal Canadeins vs New York Rangers: Star goaltender Henrik Lundqvist has absolutely rotten luck against the Canadeins on the road with a Goals Against Average of 3.87 and a Save Percentage of 87.7%. For reference his career averages are a 2.32 GAA and a 92.0% SV%. What’s worse is 8 Million dollar man Rick Nash totally ends up on a milk carton in the playoffs with his career goal per game average dipping from 0.421 Goals per Game to 0.185 Goals per Game. Montreal in 6.
Ottawa Senators vs Boston Bruins: Ottawa is the lone team in the playoffs who allowed more goals than they scored. Boston’s elite scorer and certified pest Brad Marchand is coming back from a 2 game suspension for spearing another player in the groin, which means unfortunately for Ottawa he’s well rested however. If the Senators do manage to win it will be on the back of inspired goaltender Craig Anderson who had to leave the Senators multiple times over the season to tend to his cancer-stricken wife. Boston in 7.
Chicago Blackhawks vs Nashville Predators: Chicago was the number one team in the Western Conference and Patrick Kane was tied for second in the NHL in points with 89, the Predators after shipping out Captain Shea Weber for P.K. Subban have struggled to play consistent hockey all year. I don’t like predicting sweeps but if one does happen this year, this is the series and it won’t be in the Predators favor. Chicago in 4
Minnesota Wild vs St. Louis Blues: Minnesota looked miserable in March going 4-10-2, The Blues by contrast have played well (22-8-2) since firing Ken Hitchcock in favor of Ex-Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo. St. Louis goalie Jake Allen has a worse GAA than Minnesota’s Devin Dubnyk (2.42 vs 2.25) so the question in this series is who you take, hot hand or body of work. I will be boring and take the body of work, even if Dubnyk does not have a Vladimir Tarasenko type playmaker on his team. Minnesota in 6.
Anaheim Ducks vs Calgary Flames: Calgary has lost 25 straight games in Anaheim’s building and the Ducks have not lost a game in regulation since March 5. Last time these two teams met in the playoffs was 2015 and the Ducks came out on top then, they should this time around as well. Anaheim in 5.
Edmonton Oilers vs San Jose Sharks: Full disclosure I am a diehard Edmonton Oilers fan so this pick is not made with an unbiased eye. Connor McDavid led the Oilers and the NHL with an even 100 points in the Regular season to nab an Art Ross Trophy at just 20 years old. The Sharks lost 9 of their last 13 games, key centres Joe Thornton and Logan Couture are injured so the defending conference champs may be in trouble. Edmonton in 6.
Featured image via Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain