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 Dustin Brown diving and the Sharks being a bunch of babies. 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.
Anaheim Ducks vs Dallas Stars
The first round opens with an old Pacific Division match-up. Anaheim reeks of paper tiger. Great forwards, a some-how competent defence, and good but not great goaltending. On the other hand, Dallas has a great first line, good defence and good goaltending.
Anaheim’s depth at forward is the real big different maker. Dallas doesn’t quite have the secondary scoring that Anaheim received this season with 10 players that scored at least 10 goals, with 2 more at 9. So basically the entire roster is able to score.
Dallas has a lot to like going forward, but they just don’t have the depth at forward to really compete if Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn don’t carry them. The defence also could use a stud like Stephane Robidas, who they traded to Anaheim this season.
Dallas big edge this series in net. I’ll take Kari Lehtonen over whichever one of three goalies Anaheim will play.
I don’t like Anaheim’s chances against an actual good team, but luckily for them Dallas isn’t quite a good team yet.
Pick: Ducks in 6 games
Colorado Avalanche vs Minnesota Wild
If the Wild were playing the Avalanche, they’d be a good pick for an upset. And lucky for them, they are. It’s really hard to call Minnesota the underdog in a series of two teams that are really not that great. You will never sell me on Colorado as a top team when they shoot at 10%, give up the most shots in the Western Conference, and relied on a .927 save percentage in net.
Minnesota has a lot of the right parts, but just a few things are missing. They have some excellent young players who need to mature and develop, but unfortunately Zach Parise is already on the downside of his career. Ryan Suter still has some good years left though, but he needs another player or two on defence to eat minutes with him.
The biggest wildcard in this series is goaltending. Can Semyon Varlamov keep his play up in the playoffs? Is Ilya Bryzgalov the guy for Minnesota?
I really don’t know who is going to win this series. Will Colorado’s luck run out? Will Minnesota’s revolving door of goaltending unrevolve and become reliable? When will Matt Duchene return for Colorado?
Pick: Avalanche in 6 games
San Jose Sharks vs Los Angeles Kings
Its a disservice to hockey fans that these guys are playing in the first round against each other instead of beating up on a couple of minnows like Colorado and Minnesota.
Both teams have depth up front. But the difference comes on defence where you have to give the Kings the edge., who have the best defenceman in the series in Doughty. I’m not sure if Vlasic and Boyle will be able to contain the Kings big forwards down low over a full series.
However, a lot of people would give the edge in goaltending to LA with Jonathon Quick, he hasn’t exactly shown himself as an elite goaltender since winning the Cup. He looks better than he is behind a Kings team that gives up only 20 shots a game. I’ll take the Sharks Antti Niemi over him.
It wouldn’t shock me if the winner of this series wins the Western Conference. And I have a feeling home ice will decide this.
Pick: Sharks in 7 games
St. Louis Blues vs Chicago Blackhawks
Another series that should not be happening in the first round. The defending Stanley Cup Champion Blackhawks versus the juggernaut Blues. This is going to be some great hockey.
I’ll take the ‘Hawks forwards over the Blues, but the Blues defence is a step above the ‘Hawks. So, surprise, this series will probably come down to goaltending, and that is why Chicago will win.
Ryan Miller was a great goalie and he should be great in St. Louis, unfortunately, he hasn’t quite been great by posting a .903 save percentage behind the best defensive team in the Western Conference. And for all of Corey Crawford’s faults, like being average and overpaid, I’d still take him in this series.
The real x-factor in this series though, is injuries. Both teams are heading into it with pretty banged up rosters. The Blues impressive depth looks somewhat depleted, especially with key injuries to olympic hero TJ Oshie and young sniper Vladimir Tarasenko. The Blackhawks are healthier, but you have to wonder if their two best players, Patrick Kane and Jonathon Toews, are fully healed from injuries that ended their regular season.
Pick: Blackhawks in 7 games.
So what do you think? Am I crazy? Super crazy? Super right? Let me know, because I’m right.