It’s that time again after 2,460 Regular Season games, the NHL’s Greatest Showcase; The Stanley Cup Playoffs have arrived. Last year, we saw the Pittsburgh Penguins win the Stanley Cup for the 4th time in their history. They did the task in 24 games.
The 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs saw no Canadian teams in the postseason for the 1st time since 1970 and only the 2nd time ever. There were 91 playoff games needed to crown a champion. It was the 3rd most playoff games played in a Single-Postseason in NHL History.
Let’s start our 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs Preview by having a look at the Western Conference matchups in the 1st Round.
(C1)Chicago Blackhawks (50-23-9 = 109 points) vs (W2)Nashville Predators (41-29-12 = 94 points)
The Blackhawks enter the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs as the #1 seed in the Western Conference. This means they have home-ice advantage throughout the Western Conference Playoffs. The 2016-17 season saw Chicago win 50 games for only the 2nd time in their history, the other time was 2010 when they won 52 games and of course went on to win The Cup.
Chicago started the season 23-11-5, then hit a rough patch in January – winning only 7 of 13 games in the month. When they got to February they went on a 20-4-2 hot tear and rode it to the #1 seed and Home-Ice throughout.
The Nashville Predators enter the playoffs with a mark of 41-29-12. They started 2-5-1 in the season’s 1st month, then had a great month of November going 9-3-2. They then tailed off a bit in December going 5-6-3. They went 25-15-6 from January on and for the 2nd straight year enter as 1 of the 2 wildcard teams in the West.
Both these 2 are solidly balanced with playmakers up front and in the Back-end. Chicago has 7 players with 19 goals or more led by Patrick Kane and Artemi Panarin, Nashville 4 players with 18 goals or more led by Filip Forsberg and Viktor Arvidsson.
This is the 3rd time these 2 teams will meet in the postseason, all of them in Round #1, The Blackhawks have both series and 8 of the 12 games played. The last time they met was in the 2015 playoffs, The Hawks won it in 6 games.
(C2)Minnesota Wild (49-25-8 = 106 points) vs (C3)St Louis Blues (46-29-7 = 99 points)
The Minnesota Wild in their 1st year under Bruce Boudreau saw them start off slowly at 11-8-3, then they really took off. They went 30-6-3 from December 2nd to February 28th, were 41-14-6 on February 28th. After that, all of a sudden the Wild hit a cold drought losing 12 of 16 in March, and going 8-11-2 to finish the season.
The St. Louis Blues started out solidly 15-7-4, then suffered a 9-14-1 rut, stood 24-21-5 on January 31st and Ken Hitchcock was relieved of his duties as head coach. Mike Yeo took over the team, and it seems to have reinvigorated the hockey team as they win 7 of their 1st 8 games under Yeo. The Blues went on to finish 22-8-2 after the coaching change and here they are in the postseason.
Both teams have size and skill, and I think we’re gonna see an old-fashioned series. Right down the middle, that’s where this series will be decided.
And the way it suppose to be right down the middle the goalies are next;
Devan Dubnyk – 12-10-2 in his last 25 games coming into the postseason. We’ll see if it carries over.
Jake Allen – Has bounced back nicely after a 7-11 rough middle of the season. He’s 13-6-2 in his last 21 games.
Now, I know I’ve yet to mention maybe the best player in this series; Vladimir Tarasenko. You don’t need me to tell you that the Minnesota staff is aware that they CAN NOT let Tarasenko beat them and have a hot series.
The Blues know that just Tarasenko is not going to be enough. They need the other guys that I mentioned to step up and open things up for him.
(P1)Anaheim Ducks (46-23-13 = 105 points) vs (W1)Calgary Flames (45-33-4 = 94 points)
The Anaheim Ducks arguably are the hottest team heading into the playoffs in the West and in the league in general. Since March 3rd, the Ducks are 14-2-3 and have recorded 31 out of possible 38 points. They have a 14-Game point streak entering the postseason and haven’t lost a game in regulation since March 10th!!
The Calgary Flames were hot and cold through most of the season until they got to the end of February. From February 21st on, they went 13-7, including a 10 game winning streak and went from 29-26-4 to 45-33-4 and in the postseason.
Of course, The story around this series is stemming from a knee-to-knee hit by Matt Giordano on Cam Fowler in their last meeting. It has sparked a war of word between both teams and fanbases.
So you can expect Matt Giordano will get a LOT of attention from the Ducks players and fans alike. As a result, this could be something The Flames can take advantage of if the Ducks are too focused on seeking revenge on Giordano. We also have the 2 most penalized team in the league in this series.
Another headline is that Calgary is 9-41-6 All-Time in Anaheim and haven’t won in Anaheim since 2004.
Which team can maintain their emotions, composure, and discipline? Which team will avoid the careless penalties? The most composed and disciplined team will win this series to me.
(P2)Edmonton Oilers (47-26-9 = 103 points) vs (P3)San Jose Sharks (46-29-7 = 99 Points)
The Edmonton Oilers, one of the feel-good stories in the NHL this season. They are making their 1st postseason appearance since 2006 when they went to the final and lost in 7 to Carolina.
The Oilers this season finished with 103 points, their 1st 100 point season in 20 years in 1986-87, 47 wins – their most in an 82-Game season since 2007-08, 21 Games over .500 for the 1st time in 20 years, also 1986-87. Conor McDavid led the team with 100 points, becoming the 1st Oiler since Mark Messier in 1989-90 to post a 100 point season.
The San Jose Sharks, the runners-up a year ago as they got to the final but went 6-and-out to the Penguins. They led the Pacific Division for most of the season but hit a late-season skid. They were 38-18-7 on March 2nd, then proceeded to lose 8 of their last 11 games and the top spot in the division.
This series pits the size of the sharks against the speed and skill of the Oilers. The Sharks are the more experienced of the 2 when it comes to playoff experience, while for many of the Oilers this is their 1st taste of the postseason. Will this be a factor? I think it can be one.
That’s the Western Conference, We now move on to the Eastern Conference.
(A1)Montreal Canadiens (47-26-9 = 103 points) vs (W1)New York Rangers (48-28-6 = 102 points)
This playoff series pits 2 of the NHL’s Original 6 franchises, these 2 have played each other since their 1st meeting back in 1926. Altogether they’ve met 690 times, Montreal leads All-Time 371-223-96. This will be the 16th time they’ve played each other in a postseason series. The Canadiens own a 36-29-2 edge in the 67 playoff games they’ve played.
The Montreal Canadiens started the season 29-14-7 then all of a sudden started the month of February losing 6 of 7, and their head coach Michel Therrien was fired on Feb 14th. Former Boston Bruin coach Claude Julien took over and the Canadiens went 16-7-1 under their new coach to finish 47-26-9 and win the Atlantic Division.
The New York Rangers started off the season 26-12-1, went through the 1st 58 games of the season with only 1 OTL. They hit a rough patch in January losing 6 of 11, rebounded nicely in February, and finish 8-7-4 in the final 2 months of the year.
Both teams have 10 players with double-digit goals, Montreal is led by Max Pacioretty with 35 goals and The Rangers were led in goals by Chris Kreider with 28. Carey Price who was healthy for most of the season turned in a typical Carey Price season; 37-20-5, .923 Save% and a 2.23 GAA. On the other side, Henrik Lundqvist had a 31-20-4 record, .910 Save% and a 2.74 GAA – a somewhat down year by his standard.
These 2 teams are ready to add the 16th postseason series chapter in this historic rivalry that goes back to 1926.
(A2)Ottawa Senators (44-28-10 = 98 points) vs (A3)Boston Bruins (44-31-7 = 95 points)
The Ottawa Senators another of the surprise teams in the NHL this year. They too are under the leadership of a new head coach, Guy Boucher. The Boston Bruins are also led by a new coach in Bruce Cassidy.
Both teams have 9 double-digit goal scorers, Ottawa is led in goal scoring by Kyle Turris with 28, Boston is led by Brad Marchand with 39. the Bruins have the veteran experience and playoff experience with several players having lengthy track records of playoff experience.
Ottawa in the postseason for the 2nd time in 3 years, the Bruins are in for the 1st time in 2 years.
(M1)Washington Capitals (55-19-8 = 118 points) vs (W2)Toronto Maple Leafs (40-27-15 = 95 points)
The Washington Capitals, the 2-time President’s Trophy winners, and the #1 defensive team in the league get set for another run they hope to the cup. Last year, Washington won the President’s Trophy but when 6-and-out to The Penguins in the Conference Semis. The Capitals also have a history of falling short in postseason recently. Will that history repeat or will this team write a new history?
The Toronto Maple Leafs, yet another surprise team this year and by far the youngest of the 16 teams in this year’s playoff bracket. 18 players age 25 and under have played in games for the Leafs this season. Of their Top-12 scorers, 7 of them are range from age 19 in Auston Matthews, to age 25 in Nikita Zaitsev.
With the Leafs being so young, a lot of times young players try to do more than they are humanly capable of. The Leafs have to avoid this trap and take whatever the Caps are will to give them. However, Not many people are giving them a chance to win this series. As an underdog, they have the luxury of playing loose.
On the other Side, The Capitals are the favorites and are expected to win the Cup. Will they be uptight enough for the Leafs to make some noise? We will have to wait and see what develops.
(M2)Pittsburgh Penguins (50-21-11 = 111 points) vs (M3)Columbus Blue Jackets (50-24-8 = 108 points)
Perhaps of all the 1st round series in this year’s playoffs, this one is by far the most headline-driven. The Defending champions against a team in the Blue Jackets that no one expected to be this good.
The Pittsburgh Penguins started the season at a solid 13-7-3 in the season’s 1st 2 months. When they hit the month of December, that’s when they started to take off. They when 12-1-2 in the month and were 25-8-5 after 3 months. They’ve kept pace in the Metro division but lately, health is their big issue. They’ve sustained a number of injuries in the last few weeks leading to the end of the season.
The Columbus Blue Jackets, easily one of if not the biggest surprise in the NHL this season. They started out 11-5-4 in the 1st 2 months of the season, then is where things really turned out. The Blue Jackets then proceeded to go on a tear winning 16 games in a row, including going 14-0 in the month of December. Of course, they cooled off a bit in January, which was expected. But they’ve kept their footing and turned in their 1st ever 50 win season and 100 point season in franchise history.
This is the Blue Jackets 3rd ever playoff appearance and they could not have asked for a tougher welcome back to the playoffs than this.
The Jackets come in with not much playoff experience, The Penguins have that but also have been hit by injuries lately so what’s going to give? The Penguins Injury bug or The Jackets lack of experience.
There you have it a look at the 1st round playoff matchup. This figures to be a great postseason filled with big-time moments, spectacular plays, Clutch moments, and at the end 1 team will be crowned; Stanley Cup Champion!
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