I know this is going up after the playoffs have already started, but I wrote this up before the games started, just was busy and forget to post it up sooner. I did not change any opinions based on the results of the first few days. Scout’s honor. So, without further ado, here are my thoughts.
1 Capitals vs 4 Flyers
The Capitals had an outstanding regular season, winning the Presidents trophy handily. However, they were on cruise control to finish the season, so the Flyers and their late-season momentum could prove worrisome. But in the end, the Caps just have too much talent and depth to lose 4 times to a young Philly team.
Capitals in 5
2 Penguins vs 3 Rangers
The Penguins entered the playoffs as the hottest team in the league, winning 14 of their last 16 games. Their hot streak was mostly without Malkin, who should return sometime this series, could give this team a boost or drag them down a bit. Also, Marc-Andre Fleury is battling a concussion, so it will be interesting to see when he plays. However, the Rangers also have a key player injured. That key player is captain Ryan McDonagh, perhaps the league’s best shutdown defenseman. It will be a tall task stopping this offense without him, especially if Malkin comes back sooner rather than later, but the Rangers are deep and battle-tested and I will be able to handle it.
Rangers in 6
1 Panthers vs 4 Islanders
The Islanders tanked their season to get this matchup and this much easier group. Kind of embarrassing if you ask me, but hey, the NHL rewards losers, so why not? I covered this here and talk about how the NHL playoffs completely negates the regular season. The Islanders are a good team, but don’t have the goaltending or defensive work to get past the Panthers, who are young and inexperienced, but they play with such a tenacity that will get them through here. Also, don’t we all want to see Jaromir Jagr move on?
Panthers in 6
2 Lightning vs 3 Red Wings
What a gift the struggling Lightning got here. Not only did they finish with the 6th best record in the East. They get to play the 8th best team in the first round. The Red Wings had a solid start to the season with Petr Mrázek and breakout rookie speedster Dylan Larkin. However, Mrázek struggled mightily to end the season, and was eventually replaced by Jimmy Howard, and Larkin hit the rookie wall. The Lightning are without star Steven Stamkos with a blood clot issue, but they beat this team last year and still have the experience of last year’s playoff run.
Lightning in 5
1 Stars vs 4 Wild
The Dallas Stars ended the regular season with the best record in the West. Pretty impressive. They can thank Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn for being awesome, again. The biggest difference between this year and last year is their defense. Most notably, the acquisition of Johnny Oduya, who brought his playoff experience to town. The Minnesota Wild had a streaky regular season. At times, they looked threatening and others they looked mediocre. This inconsistency led to coach Mike Teo being fired midseason. If the good Wild show up, this could be a tough series, but either way I don’t think they have the offensive firepower to get past the Stars.
Stars in 6
2 Blues vs 3 Blackhawks
Another year in the playoffs, another year where we think maybe this is the year where the Blues finally get to the second round. They finished with the 2nd best record in the West. Vladimir Tarasenko is a stud. Brian Elliot and Jake Allen can both be leaned on to win. They can play physical and they can score. Unfortunately they drew the reigning champion Blackhawks in the first round. What do I need to say here? We all know what the Hawks are. They are the epitome of champions.
Blackhawks in 7
1 Ducks vs 4 Predators
When this season started, it was hard to imagine the Ducks winning the Pacific division for the 4th straight season. But they turned it around, mostly due to the league’s lowest goals against average. They struggle to score still, but their hard-hitting style and great two-way play makes this a dangerous team. The Predators are a faster team, that can also play physical. Midseason acquisition Ryan Johansen the a genuine playmaker that this desperately needed team and Filip Forsberg is a dynamic scorer. This squad will give the Ducks a world of trouble and I will be pulling for them, but ultimately think they will fall just short.
Ducks in 7
2 Kings vs 3 Sharks
The Kings are back in the playoffs after a sluggish season last year. They are probably the toughest out in the entire league. They have so much size, but also so much speed. Playmakers everywhere and Jonathan Quick, when on is game, is among the league’s best. The Sharks did not have the high expectations coming into this year, but have shown that they will be a tough out. They finished in the top ten in both goals for and goals against. They have 3 of the league’s top 11 scorers, including the beard wonder Brent Burns. San Jose also boasts the league’s best road record. Honestly, the more I talk, the more I think San Jose can knock this team off. And I am sure these guys remember blowing a 3-0 series lead to the Kings two years ago in the opening round. In the end, I’ll take the team that I know can close out a series.
Kings in 7