Full Stanley Cup Playoffs preview
By Mitch Canzano
This year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs won’t include the defending champion Los Angeles Kings or the reigning Presidents’ Trophy winners, the Boston Bruins. Taking their place are teams that haven’t sniffed playoff success in years, like the Calgary Flames, and Winnipeg Jets. Let’s take a look at the conference quarterfinals matchups and preview who we think will be moving on.
A: Atlantic Division
M: Metropolitan Division
M1 New York Rangers vs. W2 Pittsburgh Penguins
The only intriguing part of this matchup is to see how the Presidents’ Trophy winners fare in the playoffs. The Penguins (43-27-12) had a very rough end to the season, but squeaked by as the 8th seed, with a win against the Buffalo Sabres on the last day of the season. The Rangers (53-22-7) have had an incredibly outlandish season, as King Henrik Lundqvist went down for weeks with various injuries. In his stead, backup goaltender Cam Talbot stepped in, and did he ever fill in well. He was a diamond in the rough for the Blue Shirts. Talbot produced astonishing numbers for a goalie of his caliber, with a 2.21 GAA and a .926 SV% while going 21-9-4 over the course of the season. The Rangers shouldn’t have any trouble handling the rattled penguins and will sweep them onto the golf course in no time.
Prediction: Rangers in four
A1 Montreal Canadiens vs. W1 Ottawa Senators
How can you not love these kids from Ottawa? “The Hamburglar Andrew Hammond is an absolutely awesome story. While filling in for the Senators after goalies Craig Anderson and Robin Lehner went down, Hammond posted an incredible 20-1-2 record with a 1.74 GAA and .941 SV%. It’s hard to root against them with that kind of story. However, Hammond is matched up against Vezina front runner Carey Price. Price leads the league in wins, shutouts, GAA, and SV%. This will be a very fun series to watch, and the Habs should be able to overcome Hammond’s magical run and advance to the conference semis in 6 games.
Prediction: Canadiens in six
A2 Tampa Bay Lightning vs. A3 Detroit Red Wings
Tampa Bay’s high powered offense will be fun to watch as they take on a Red Wings team making their 24th consecutive playoff appearance. The Red Wings aren’t a flashy team, but they’re a fundamentally sound, and with up-and-comer Peter Mrazek tending the net duties they can be very dangerous. Mrazek has played brilliantly this year after playing in the wake of Jimmy Howard’s pre-all-star break injury. He’s produced a 16-9-2 record with a 2.38 GAA and .918
SV%. However, Tampa Bay has been great on the offensive end all year and it’s hard to pick against them, as I think they’ll find the soft spots against Mrazek and expose him.
Prediction: Tampa Bay in six
M2 Washington Capitals vs. M3 New York Islanders
This will be one of the most fun series to watch, especially in the East. The Alexander Ovechkin-led Capitals boast a 45-26-11 record this year. Ovechkin again won the Maurice “Rocket” Richard scoring title again with a league leading 53 goals. Ovechkin had an outstanding season. However, on the opposing side is MVP candidate John Tavares. Tavares’ potential really broke through the roof this season, and with 38 G and 48 A in 82 GP, he’ll look to carry the Islanders past the Caps in this tight series. I think the Islanders will be able to limit the Caps opportunities by cutting down on penalties against the Caps elite power play, and will come away with a 4-2 series win.
Prediction: Islanders in six
C: Central Division
P: Pacific Division
P1 Anaheim Ducks vs. W2 Winnipeg Jets
Winnipeg who? That’s right, the Winnipeg Jets are back in the playoffs for the first time since moving back from Atlanta, and this surprise team squeaked past the Los Angeles Kings for the 8th and final spot in the Western Conference, only to come up against the mighty Anaheim Ducks. The Ducks are a great team because they’re responsible in both ends and with players like Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf, and Ryan Kesler, the Ducks are expected to win this series. However, that being said. I think the Jets win this series in upset fashion. Why? Because of their shot suppressing defense. The Jets are great at getting in shooting lanes on both the PK and at even strength, and with average goaltending, I think they can get past the Ducks. The Ducks’ inconsistent goaltending will be the bane of their playoff run, and I think the Jets win this series 6, yes 6, games.
Prediction: Jets in six
C1 St. Louis Blues vs. W1 Minnesota Wild
With Devan Dubynk stepping up massively, the Wild made an epic playoff push, and clinched a spot with just a few days remaining in the season. The Blues are a good team from top to bottom and should be able to easily handle the Zach Parise-led Wild. The young Blues goalie, Jake Allen, has played a big role in their success this year. However, he has his great defense to thank. Both Alex Pietrangelo and Kevin Shattenkirk are both elite defensemen who can do it all. Vladimir Tarasenko has had an outstanding year (37 G, 36 A) alongside TJ Oshie and David Backes, among others. The Blues shouldn’t drop any games this series, but I think the crowd in Minnesota will give the Wild enough energy to get 1 win from this series, but St. Louis gets by in 5 games.
Prediction: Blues in five
C2 Nashville Predators vs. C3 Chicago Blackhawks
Well, Patrick Kane is back. Those 5 words are enough to scare away almost any defense and goaltender. However, the Predators boast one of the best back 3 in the league, with Shea Weber and Roman Josi roaming the ice in front of Vezina Trophy Candidate Pekka Rinne. Roman Josi is having a standout year and Shea Weber is, well, Shea Weber. Perhaps the best defenseman in the league, Weber logs massive amounts of TOI while leading this finally playoff-bound Predators team. The Blackhawks high powered offense is back in the playoffs again, and after missing Patrick Kane since February 24th, they are primed for a deep playoff run. However, Pekka Rinne is simply too good. The Predators win this fantastic series in 7 game fashion.
Prediction: Predators in seven
P2 Vancouver Canucks vs. P3 Calgary Flames
This is going to be one fun series to watch, as the surprise Calgary Flames take on the battle tested Vancouver Canucks. The Flames biggest weakness is their goaltending, while the Canucks biggest strength is their goaltending. The Flames have a Norris Trophy candidate in Mike Giordano he’s having an incredible year, as well as Johnny “Hockey” Gaudreau having a great rookie year. The Canucks have the Sedin brothers as well as a solid defensive core. However, having lost Ryan Kesler in the offseason, I don’t see the ‘Nucks getting past the Flames, and I think the Flames will sweep this weak Vancouver team.
Prediction: Flames in four
These playoffs figure to be interesting as surprise teams reign supreme this year. There a few must watch series that’ll produce great entertainment. Check back in a few weeks for a conference semifinals preview…
Peter Santo contributed to this report, however he does not necessarily agree with these picks.