April 30, 2013
The 2013 NHL playoffs promise to be as fast paced as the abbreviated season. The strike-shortened season was roughly only 100 days long and the league carries plenty of momentum into the “second season.”
The league began the season with a black eye but with a jammed packed schedule that went down to the wire, the NHL recovered nicely from a near catastrophe.
With fans back on board the playoffs will be as captivating as ever. The Pittsburgh Penguins and Chicago Blackhawks dominated their respective conferences this season, but that doesn’t mean they’re destined to meet in the Finals.
Remember, it was just last season when the Los Angeles Kings were the first team in history to win it all as a No. 8 seed.
If there’s one thing that’s for certain, expect the unexpected during the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The New York Rangers vs. Washington Capitals Will be the Best Round 1 Matchup
As a hockey fan, one can’t help but lose sleep over this series. Coming into the season this was an all-or-nothing type of season for both sides. After a poor start, both teams rebounded well to finish the season on a strong note.
Now, two teams under the microscope will duke it out in a series that screams seven games. The Capitals‘ Alex Ovechkin finished the year with a league-best 32 goals and needs to continue that trend if his team is to advance.
The Rangers spent a ton of money in the offseason only to be seller’s at the trade deadline. What’s done is done and the team found a way to manage the No. 6 seed in the Eastern Conference. New to New York, star Rick Nash led the team in goals with 21, now it’s his duty to lead his team to a Stanley Cup victory.
So, who will win the series?
Capitals in seven games
The Rangers may be facing an intense amount of pressure, but Ovechkin and the Capitals have their backs against the wall.
The Detroit Red Wings Will Upset the Anaheim Ducks in Round 1
The Detroit Red Wings didn’t play consistently good hockey until a week ago, but now they’re hot at the right time.
Spoiled by decades of success, Wings fans were looking lost until recently. The playoffs seemed like a mirage, but the good organizations always seem to get their way and the Wings are in as the No. 7 seed in the West.
Now, the Anaheim Ducks are the underdog in the series even though they are the No. 2 seed. The Wings took the season series 2-1 and have too much momentum right now for Corey Perry and company to stop. Wings stars Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg are carrying their team nicely right now.
The Wings won four straight games to make the playoffs and in that time Zetterberg notched 10 points.
Red Wings in six games
The Wings are too hot to lose in the first round but will run out of gas shortly after.
One Not So Bold Pick–Sidney Crosby Will be Sidney Crosby
The Pittsburgh Penguins have been without their captain Sydney Crosby since March 30 due to a broken jaw, but he’ll be on the ice in the playoffs.
He may have missed the final 12 games of the season, but he scored 56 points in just 36 games. The Penguins should be considered great without him and with his presence on the ice they are the most dangerous team in the league.
It may take a game or two to get back into the groove, but Crosby is the best all-around player in the league. Even with missing the final 12 games, Crosby only lost out on the Art Ross Trophy (most points/season) by four points. Tampa Bay Lightning star Martin St. Louis took the trophy with 60 points. St. Louis was then followed by teammate Steven Stamkos’ 57 and then Alexander Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby with 56.
Crosby makes everyone better and knowing that Penguins acquisition Jarome Iginla has only played a total of :50 seconds with Crosby, the best is yet to come.
Crosby tallies 17 playoff points—6 goals, 11 assist
The Toronto Maple Leafs Will Win Their Series against the Boston Bruins
These rivals won’t back down, but the Maple Leafs will surprise most when they survive and advance. The Maple Leafs haven’t made the playoffs since 2004 and although both teams stumbled to the finish line, the Leafs carry positive momentum because the city is buzzing.
The Bruins have looked incomplete of late and can’t seem to finish the game. They have dominated the series between the two of late, winning 9-of-10, but the tides will turn here.
The Leafs are well balanced across the score sheet. Expect Nazem Kadri, a 22-year-old center to get under the Bruins skin and light the lamp. In the end, the Bruins won’t know what hit them.
Maple Leafs in five games
Montreal Canadiens vs. Vancouver Canucks in the Finals
That’s correct, an all Canadian final is in store.
The Montreal Canadiens are almost forgotten about but the finished second in the Eastern Conference. The have a goalie in Carey Price who is made for these moments and a perfect blend of toughness and finesse. They are the team that doesn’t have a scoring sensation but rather a group of guys who pitch in at the right moment. A number of players could get hot and spell disaster for their opponents.
The Vancouver Canucks are playoff tested and feel disrespected. They’re almost forgotten about at the moment. Don’t make a mistake by overlooking them and consider them a “has been.” Remember, they have the Sedin twins. Last time I checked they have some weird twin thing going on that gets the puck to the back of the net with regularity. The Canucks X-factor is Ryan Kesler. He’s a world-class player coming off of injury. With only 17 games played this year, he’s seen just enough ice time to make a big difference in the playoffs.
This series will be a slugfest. Plenty of grit combined with a series littered with scrappy goals will make for a memorable final.
Canadiens in six games
Carey Price wins the Conn Smythe as playoff MVP
April 7, 2011
It’s time to elevate the noise meter at the rink, raise the roof, and pack the arena so full that fans are hanging from the rafters. The NHL post-season is nearly upon us! And, if you’re an NHL fan, you know that there is still a lot to be sorted out.
In other major American sports, the championship contenders are a little easier to predict. In baseball, for instance, you always expect the Red Sox and Yankees to be in the picture. In the NFL, the Patriots, Colts, and Steelers are likely to make a push come Playoff time. And in the NBA, it’s a surprise when the Lakers and Celtics aren’t listed as a possible Finals match-up.
Of course, the NHL has a few teams that consistently stand out. But, as the Montreal Canadians showed us in the 2010 Playoffs against the Presidents Trophy-winning Washington Capitals, seeds mean almost zilch! Nada. Nothing!
Every team has a good chance at advancing when the playoffs finally do arrive, so coaches will expect their teams to be mentally prepared and will look for any sense of momentum to carry them into the first round. Post-season experience is a huge asset, and good defense (led by strong goal-tending) is a must.
One additional factor that should not be overlooked, however, is the Wild Card Player. If a team is to go deep into the post-season, they will need a star performance from a player that wasn’t necessarily expected to perform like a star. Look at Dustin Byfuglien’s turn for the Blackhawks last year—the big-bodied, hard hitting utility player had no problem stepping up in the 2010 Playoffs against great defensemen like Chris Pronger. Or how about Jean-Sebastain Giguere’s play in the 2003 Playoffs for Anaheim? Yes, he had a pretty good regular season, but no one expected the lights-out performance he brought to the post-season. Five shutouts? While they didn’t win the Cup, Giguere led the Ducks right to the brink.
So who will the Wild Card Players be this year? Here are our predictions:
Ryan Kesler, Vancouver Canucks
Kesler uses his speed and hockey IQ to make sure that he is always in a position to help his team. And he’s having another career year. Led by the Sedin brothers and Luongo in net, the Canucks (with the best record in the NHL) are the favorite of most to win the Cup. With most opposing teams very aware of what the Sedins are capable of, however, less attention will be given to Kesler, which could prove to be a very costly oversight.
Joe Pavelski, San Jose Sharks
Old Joe, meet New Joe. Joe Thornton is having one of the least productive seasons of his career, so someone needs to pick it up. Joe Pavelski can be that guy. Prior to the 2010 Winter Olympics, many hockey fans had no idea who Pavelski was. Pavelski, however, had a terrific post-season last year and seems poised to be just as great this year. The Sharks are heading into the Playoffs as arguably the hottest team in the NHL, and they will need a player like Pavelski to keep them going strong.
The “Energy Line,” Boston Bruins
“Energy Line,” or the fourth line of the Boston Bruins, isn’t just one player, but a few. For the entire season the Bruins’ fourth line has been able to create momentum for, or maintain the momentum of, the other three lines. With Shawn Thornton, Gregory Campbell, and Daniel Paille, the Energy Line has even contributed on the point sheet. Although sometimes out-skilled, this line more than makes up for it with heart and a fighting will.