I love playoff hockey. This opening paragraph could end here, but it won’t because I love love love playoff hockey. Best teams versus the best teams. Teams going all out because all the chips are down. Players leaving it all on the ice. Shooting, hitting, saves, scoring, blood, sweat, tears, emotion.
Yeah, there is shenanigans like the Habs diving and the Bruins being whining, crying jerks. But that makes it all the more exciting and infuriating.
Also, with no Vancouver Canucks this year, it’ll be totally stress and disappointment free!
By: Adam Pyde – @Adam_Pyde
So to prepare for the best two months of NHL hockey, why not make predictions? I mean, no one gets these right. Ever. TSN used to have a monkey spin a wheel and it nailed more correct outcomes than the “experts.” And I’m not an expert, nor am I a monkey which leaves me in between somewhere so obviously I know more than people who get paid.
Boston Bruins vs Detroit Red Wings
The Bruins are the top seed in the entire NHL. Meanwhile, the Detroit Red Wings have made the playoffs for the 23rd consecutive season. The last time they missed the playoffs I was not yet 1 year old. And none of this has anything to do with anything because its the playoffs.
I don’t know who would pick against the Bruins here. The team is just so complete. The best goaltender in the league with Tuuka Rask, the most dominant defenceman in the league with Zdeno Chara, and a set of forwards that features 12 time 30 goal scorer Jarome Iginla and Selke winner Patrice Bergeron. If there is anything to worry about with this team, it is that with Dennis Seidenberg out on defence things get awfully thin behind Chara. Guys like Krug, Bartkowski and Boychuk are all quality defenceman, but they aren’t going to give too much trouble to opposing forwards.
Detroit has a good team, but they’ve been so ravaged by injuries that its hard to get a good read on what this team really is. They have all the makings of a team that can make a run. Skilled, fast forwards to score like Pavel Datsyuk and Gustav Nyqvist, steady defence lead by Nik Kronwall, and terrific goaltending from Jimmy Howard. But again, they’re injured. Henrik Zetterberg is out, Johan Franzen is seemingly always a stride away from a hernia, Jonathon Ericsson is out, and so are a bucket full of other players.
Detroit will manage to take a couple games and put a scare into the Bruins, but unfortunately they don’t have enough. Any other opponent in the East though and they would’ve done some damage.
Pick: Bruins in 6 games
Tampa Bay Lightning vs Montreal Canadiens
What to make of coach Michel Therrien’s Canadiens? Its hard to say. They’re not exactly a great possession team, but they aren’t a tire fire either. They pack a surprising amount of scoring punch, but at times it seems they’re told not to score for whatever reason. The defence is good, but Therrien insists on hampering a Norris Trophy winner in PK Subban with a human anchor named Douglas Murray. At least they have Carey Price, who is one of the most outstanding goaltenders in the NHL, to lean on.
The Lightning are another team that is curious. This team overcame some adversity this season. It started with the best goalscorer, Steven Stamkos, on the planet breaking his leg and missing well over half the season, and somehow still finishing with 25 goals to finish 43rd in a 700+ player league. Then they traded team leading scorer Martin St.Louis to New York at the trade deadline. And to close the season, Vezina contender goaltender Ben Bishop was injured, and still is injured. But the team kept winning.
It’ll be interesting to see how Therrien plans to stop a very potent Tampa Bay attack led by Stamkos and Victor Hedman. It’ll also be interesting to see if Bishop plays in his first playoffs for Tampa. Lindback is bad at goaltending and will not be good enough to win.
I really wanted to pick Tampa but…
Pick: Canadiens in 6 games
Pittsburgh Penguins vs Columbus Blue Jackets
Normally a top seed versus a wild card would be a gimme, but not in this case. The Penguins coasted into the playoffs after stocking so many first half points in a terrible Metropolitan division. It was a good thing too, because they struggled in the second half of the season with mounting injuries (over 500 man games lost). Luckily, they employ the best player on the planet who dragged a depleted team through it.
Most of their key players, like Kris Letang and Evgeni Malkin, should be making a return for the playoffs. But the big question will be whether goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury can play well in the playoffs, where he’s been known to collapse and fail epicly in recent years. The team has no insurance policy behind him in net.
Columbus has first round upset-er written all over them. Ryan Johansen is having a fantastic season and there is a strong amount of supporting depth behind him in Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov and Cam Atkinson. The real test will be whether the defence lead by Jack Johnson and James Wisniewski can hold it together. Neither have really been known for their defensive play, despite playing the position. Columbus can’t afford to play fast and loose, despite having the better goaltender in Sergei Bobrovsky.
If Pittsburgh can stay on the powerplay this series would be easy pickings. But powerplays dry up in the playoffs because the referees don’t like to “decide” games by, you know, doing their job.
If there was a series that has upset written all over it, its this one.
Pick: Blue Jackets in 7 games
New York Rangers vs Philadelphia Flyers
The last series out east sees the Rangers take on the Flyers. Do the Rangers have things figured out this time? Do the Flyers know how to play defensively and do their goalies know how to make saves? There are a lot of question marks in this series.
New York has looked like a completely different team after some speedbumps in adjusting to new coach Alain Vigneault’s system. They play a much faster game than they used to and have the ability to dictate the play. The offence, if unspectacular, has a lot of balance and there is some depth in their bottom 6 forwards.
Ryan McDonaugh leads a strong blueline of defenders that also includes Marc Staal, John Moore and Dan Girardi, in front of all-world goaltender and handsome dude Herik Lundqvist. If there is an issue defensively, its that no one but McDonaugh can be relied upon to move the offence from the back.
Philadelphia is a strange team. They’re deep offensively up front lead by Claude Giroux, and on defence by Mark Streit. But the depth on defence isn’t terrific. One key injury could really derail that back end, which relies quite heavily on players like Andrew McDonald, Luke Schenn and Nick Grossmann to eat a lot of secondary and tertiary minutes. And that should be enough to hold the fort against the Rangers…
… but the goaltending. Steve Mason is an average goaltender who has seen his save percentage steadily drop over the season. Ray Emery is a mediocre backup. And right now, Emery is the starter due to Mason’s injury.
If Philly drew Pittsburgh or had healthy goaltending from day one, I might’ve been able to take them. But they got the Rangers, who are almost as safe a pick to come out of the Metropolitan division as you can get.
Pick: Rangers in 5 games
So what do you think? Am I crazy? Super crazy? Super right? Let me know, because I’m right.