Interesting Stories From Each Playoff Series, Pt. 1ShareThis
New Hockey Primetime: What trainers will jam into your body to make sure you don’t miss any playoff games
Puck Daddy Predictions: JB likey Canuckleheads.
There are a billion “preview” columns out there, so I’m just gonna touch on what I think is interesting from each series, starting with the five that kick-off tonight, and finishing up with the other three tomorrow.
(1) Washington Capitals vs. (8) New York Rangers
The most interesting story here, for my money, is whether all this talk about the Capitals changing their style of play was all a bunch of bluster because they were having trouble scoring, or if they seriously committed to a more North American style game.
They’ve obviously excelled as a team, as evidenced by the one seed, but if we see the same struggles in round one that we saw last year, it will be like Tiger Woods performance at the Masters – okay, “everything’s changed,” “everything’s different,” but the result ended up the same as the year before, so what’s the point? An early exit would mean bye bye Boudreau.
Underlying story: The Capitals goaltending. The Caps will carry the bulk of the play and outshoot the Rangers, that much I promise you. The Rangers will need Henrik Lundqvist to be huge, and if he is, they need a couple “maybe Neuvirth shoulda stopped that’s” at the other end. I’ve been a public doubter of the Caps/Flyers tenders for years.
(4) Pittsburgh Penguins vs. (5) Tampa Bay Lightning
On paper, there’s plenty of reasons to say this should be a win for the Lightning, aside from the fact that, like DJ Khaled, all the Pens do is win win win no matter what.
Dan Bylsma is a great coach, but I kind of feel like he’s squeezed every last drop of out Penguins, and at some point, all your left with is the husk. He’s willed a team with very little offensive potential to maintain home ice despite the loss of you know who and that other good player. I want to see if this team is for real, or if they just overachieved beyond all belief to grab that four seed.
Underlying story: The four fantastic Tampa Bay forwards are the key to the whole series. Pittsburgh’s job defending won’t be easy, but it’s black and white: shut them down. Can the Lightning forwards prevail despite the extra attention?
(1) Vancouver Canucks vs. (8) Chicago Blackhawks
The obvious story here is the history between the teams. But the bigger one for me?
The Blackhawks are better than just about everybody outside of Illinois wants to believe. Obviously, yes, they were better last year. But those kids that won a Cup gained a hell of a lot of experience along the way. To write off a team with Jonathan Toews, Marian Freaking Three Straight Cup Finals Appearances Hossa, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook etc, is foolish. Can they regain their form?
Underlying story: goaltending on both sides. Luongo badly needs to shed the “not a big game goalie” label, and Corey Crawford – while having a great rookie season – has never had a taste of the NHL’s post-season before. Just because Niemi rose to the occasion doesn’t mean he can.
(3) Detroit Red Wings vs. (6) Phoenix Coyotes
Is Detroit vulnerable?
The bottom five seeds in the West are basically interchangeable – they were separated by next-to-nothing in the standings, meaning the Coyotes could just as easily be a four seed. Don’t get it twisted – they’re a good hockey team; well-coached with solid goaltending and a team concept that’s going to make every game a battle in round one. I picked Detroit, because they’re Detroit, but I wouldn’t be shocked to see Phoenix push them to the brink, and maybe get the break or two they need.
Underlying story: At least, I hope it’s underlying: the Coyotes pending, possible move, which I badly don’t want to happen.
I feel like this is a Disney movie waiting to happen – if they could find a way to make a deep playoff run, I could see that having an effect on if they stay or go, which is crazy. The Mighty Coyotes!
(4) Anaheim Ducks vs. (5) Nashville Predators
First, how insane is it that Ducks are a four-seed with home ice? I feel like with a week or two to go in the regular season they were a near-lock to miss playoffs. Insane.
The biggest story here is that this a secretely interesting series – if I had to bet my life on a team, I wouldn’t know which way to go. We tend to simplify: Oh, Pekka Rinne. Oh, the big line on Anaheim. The truth is, this series is the only one that is 100% dependant on how the individuals play, how injuries unfold, how the coaches manage their bench. We could see five OT games.
I picked Nashville, but the more I think about it, the more I like Anaheim, if only for the fact that they’ve done it before, and playoff experience may help them in the nerves department.
Underlying story: Shea Weber is getting mad Norris love, Rinne Vezina love, and Suter might be one of the best in the NHL – that triangle will absolutely need to be at their best for Nashville to win. If they do – and I believe in those guys – it should elevate them to the next level on the NHL star scale.
Today’s the day folks! Goooooo NHL Playoffs!