April 12, 2017 marks the opening night of the Stanley Cup playoffs, with the hope that one of the 5 playoff bound Canadian teams will win the Cup.
Sadly – I’m not sure that it is going to happen.
Montreal(47-26-9, 103 points) vs. New York(48-28-6, 102 points)
The Rangers are one of the NHL’s highest scoring teams (253 goals, 4th in the league) and the Canadiens are one of the stingiest teams at (198 goals against or 4th best).
Montreal is lead by 29-year-old goalkeeper Carey Price whose season Goals Against Average, 2.23, and Save Percentage, .923, are better than his career averages. Price’s health, the trade of P.K. Subban for Shea Weber and the firing of Michel Therrien on February 14 and subsequent hiring of former Bruins coach Claude Julien have all led to Montreal’s success.
New York on the other hand, has seen goalkeeper Henrik Lundqvist, 35, struggle at times. His 2.74 Goals Against Average and .910 Save Percentage have left Rangers fans wondering if the King is showing weakness.
The King is a money goalkeeper in the playoffs but so too is Carey Price. These two have little to separate them but looking back to their March 4th match-up, the Canadiens won 4-1. I’d like to think the Rangers could take this series but Price and company are going to have more than Lundqvist can handle.
Ottawa(44-28-10,98 points) vs. Boston(44-31-7,95 points)
Between these two Boston has the best Penalty Kill percentage and the 7th best power play percentage. Boston is coming into the play-offs hot winning 5 of 7 in the two weeks leading up to the season finale that they lost at Washington. Included in that span is a loss to these same Senators.
Ottawa has beaten Boston the last three games the teams have played but they went 9-10 during that span struggling against non-playoff teams Tampa Bay, Winnipeg, Philadelphia and Detroit.
Ottawa’s struggles to score and defend will likely be their downfall – especially since Boston is hot. Ottawa’s 2.51 Goals For a game is 22 and their 2.56 Goals Against Average proves this team relies on getting timely goals and defense. To be fair that 2.56 GAA is 10th in the NHL.
Boston will eventually come out on top but it’s going to be tight.
Washington(55-19-8,118 points) vs Toronto(40-27-14, 95 points)
I want to pick the Maple Leafs – I do but I simply cannot. The Capitals are just that good and the Maple Leafs are in Year 2 of their rebuilding effort. As a Leafs fan, I didn’t expect them to make the playoffs but now it’s time to enjoy the fact that it’s the second week of April and they are still playing hockey in the ACC.
I don’t see the Leafs slowing down the Capitals for maybe more than 1 or 2 games but it may be the time to see Auston Matthews’ star shine.
Pittsburgh(50-21-11, 111 points) vs Columbus(50-24-8, 108 points)
It would normally be a pretty easy pick to say the Penguins would take the series however the loss of Kris Letang is devastating. Letang’s role in the Pens’ Cup run last season cannot be understated, his goal clinched the trophy for the skating birds.
On the other hand, Columbus brings a wild card in coach John Tortorella. Torts and Pens’ head coach Mike Sullivan are ironically friends. Torts brought immense changes to a team that under achieved in the prior season.
I think Pittsburgh have just enough to push past the Jackets.
2nd round – Montreal vs Ottawa
The battle of two Canadian hotbeds of hockey that will come down to goaltending – something that is always the story in the postseason.
The Canadiens are also built tougher and deeper to progress through the playoffs. Ottawa’s scoring from the blueline and struggles to score will be their downfall in this series.
Washington vs. Pittsburgh
The year that Ovi finally passes Crosby to get to the Eastern Conference Finals. The Capitals are going to find their way past the depleted Pens.
Eastern Conference Finals – Montreal vs. Washington
Washington not only has a great goalkeeper but they have strong defense and incredible scoring. While it may be a lengthy series, Ovi will get the monkey off his back and take his team to the Stanley Cup Finals.
Chicago(50-23-9,109 points) vs Nashville(41-29-12, 94 points)
The number 1 seed in the Western Conference takes on the team that just made it into the playoffs. That being said at the beginning of the season it was questionable whether Nashville would even have the chance to make it this far. The off-season trade of former Nashville captain Shea Weber to Montreal for P.K. Subban didn’t start off well for the Preds.
Once you put the Blackhawks in the playoffs they turn into a juggernaut. This season will be no different. As much as I’d like to think Subban will spark the Preds, the Blackhawks are led by arguably the most talented playoff duo in Kane and Toewes as well as the best coach in Quenneville.
Chicago will come out on top thanks to all of these factors.
Minnesota(49-25-8, 106 points) vs St. Louis(46-29-7, 99 points)
There is something to be said for a revenge win in a series and for coach Mike Yeo of the Blues there has to be some desire to beat the Wild after years of coaching there. Yeo says his focus is not on revenge but on the playoffs but I think he’ll have his team fired up.
I’m going with the Blues.
Anaheim(46-23-13,105 points) vs Calgary(45-33-4,94 points)
Every year it seems there is one team that falls apart in the playoffs and doesn’t live up to their ranking or expectations. For me, that team is Anaheim and the team that takes them out is Calgary. Of course I have a thing for Canadian teams so take it for what you will.
Edmonton(47-26-9,103 points) vs San Jose(46-29-7,99 points)
Welcome to the year that Connor McDavid wins the Hart Trophy and pulls the Oilers through the playoffs starting with the first round series win against San Jose. Edmonton buckle up, you are in for a long ride.
2nd round – Chicago vs St. Louis
An immense rivalry that Chicago will come out on top thanks to their stars – but don’t believe that it’s going to be easy.
Calgary vs Edmonton
This my friends will be a dandy. I can’t wait to see these two Western Canada teams play this series out. However for Calgary, Connor McDavid and company will be just too much.
Chicago vs Edmonton
Did I say Edmonton fans were in for a long ride? It’s going to keep getting longer after winning this series against the Blackhawks.
Stanley Cup Finals -Washington vs Edmonton
As much as I’d like to pick the Oil to be the Cinderella and win it all, Washington is just too much. Ovi will get over the hump and cement his legacy as one of the best players to ever suit up in the NHL.