If you haven’t already clued in, the next couple of weeks is going to be ALL hockey over here. Let’s start by getting some obligatory predictions out of the way, at least for the first round.
- Minnesota over St. Louis in 7. Yes, St. Louis is an excpetional team, but Minnesota has one of the hottest players in the league right now, and nothing spells success in playoffs like a hot goaltender. Devan Dubnyk has the Wild playing like a destiny team, which is something you’ll hear from me a couple more times. St. Louis also seems to be one of those teams that don’t do great in playoffs despite stellar regular season showings, and this year it’ll continue.
- Chicago over Nashville in 6. Nashville played terribly in the final third of the season, despite an unexpectedly good start to the season. Chicago has too much experience here, and enough talent to let them go through without too much trouble.
- Winnipeg over Anaheim in 7. Anaheim’s another team that doesn’t live up to the hype in playoffs regularly enough. And Winnipeg has been playing like a destiny team all year. If nothing else, the insane hype created by the fans will fuel them through the first round – seriously, it’s going to be crazy.
- Tampa Bay over Detroit in 7. Detroit is usually a team you’d be unwise to pick against in the playoffs, but Tampa Bay has simply too much explosive firepower to let the Red Wings hold them back.
- New York over Pittsburgh in 5. The Rangers are the best team in the league. The Penguins barely made the playoffs, have no offense beyond Crosby and Malkin, have Letang injured, and their starting goalie chokes every single time when it counts. If there is a sweep, it’ll be this series.
- Washington over New York in 7. Honestly, the Caps and the Islanders are two of the teams on which I have little to no knowledge. I do know that the Caps have Ovechkin, though, and he has proved himself to be one of the best goal scorers of all time. I think that’ll help significantly, if not altogether be enough to dispense of the Isles.
- Ottawa over Montreal in 7. The seven game series is my decision, but the sens winnins is the result of a coin toss. Montreal has had an exceptional season, yes, capped by Carey Price’s performance, which is one of the best goaltending performances in modern times. Astronomical numbers. But on the other side, Andrew Hammond has been a story of his own. The rookie goalie saved the Sens’ season by having an incredible stretch, and the Sens have been this year’s ultimate destiny team. Really, as Canada wins either way, I’ll take either team, but this is going to be one phenomenal series.
Best for last? Calgary over Vancouver in 7.
Being a Flames fan, I am obligated to pick them, but this could very well be a reality soon instead of mere fantasy. The Flames have had an outstanding season, with a plethora of great stories. In fact, for a long chunk of time, they were only one defeat behind the Canucks in the standings. Normally, the thought of the Sedins against the Flames would make me shiver, but Calgary now has the answers. A top-tier shutdown line centered by Mikael Backlund should be able to handle the Sedins, allowing the sensational line of Hudler-Monahan-Guadreau to thrive as they’ve thrived all year long. The defensive corps has been spectacular, with TJ Brodie, Dennis Wideman and Kris Russel stepping up big time to fill Mark Giordano’s shoes. Jonas Hiller is an experienced goaltender who plays a great game. The only thing that worries me is the lack of experience, but otherwise, the Flames have enough to take the Canucks.
No matter what happens, this has been an incredible season, one Flames fans will be proud of for years to come. With that being said, it’s time for the next chapter. Here’s to (hopefully) not shaving until june; bring on the Canucks, and Go Flames Go!!!