NHL Playoff Preview: Mission To 16, Round one

 

Tonight starts the best sports’ postseason in the world—the Stanley Cup playoffs. One trophy, the same one trophy for the last century that has been handed out to the team that can survive the next two months of grueling, mind numbing hockey.

For the next two months, expect pubs to be overcrowded, fans cheering and injuries hidden all for sports’ ultimate trophy the Stanley Cup.

Two months of pub food, mainly wings and a lot of Mike Milbury, Jeremy Roenick and company on screen.

We will get two months of blown calls, non-suspensions, trash talking and maybe some altercations as well.

It’s Christmas in April through June, it is the Stanley Cup playoffs and it’s what fans live and breathe for every season.

So starting the first round there are a few match ups to watch:

Western Conference:

Minnesota Wild vs. Colorado Avalanche

Wild_Zach_parise_2013Can Mike Yeo’s team finally get past the first round of the playoffs?  Can Patrick Roy bring his former success as a goalie into his coaching gig and keep the Jack Adams narrative alive?

 

Right now, both teams are in the bottom part of the league in terms of Corsi, or puck possession numbers. The Wild are at a 48.6 percent rating and the Avalanche even further down with a 46.8. It’s going to be either a one-sided blowout or a real sloppy series as the Avs have suspect defense at times and the Wild’s net minding isn’t all too secure.  It’s going to be a lackluster series to be honest with hardly any real rivalry and only Nathan MacKinnon as the media spotlight is on. Colorado will still win it.

Chicago Blackhawks vs. St. Louis Blues

Blackhawks_Jonathan_Toews_2013The Blackhawks are getting Jonathan Toews back and have a solid defensive pairing in Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook. The St. Louis Blues are a different story. They have so many different injuries that have caused them to go from first in the league to missing out on the President’s Trophy. It will be interesting to see if Ryan Miller can find his form, he has a .90 save percentage since joining the Blues. They will need him to show up if they want to have a deep playoff run. Some interesting stories in this matchup for sure.

 

Dallas Stars vs. Anaheim Ducks

Ryan_Getzlaf_Ducks_2013Everyone is waiting for the other shoe to drop on these two teams. The Stars haven’t exactly been known for closing out games and barely made it into the playoffs. While they seem giddy to be here in the playoffs, they still need to win their first series. On the other hand, the Ducks who like many teams in the West seemed poised to fight for the conference lead but have slacked off of late and did struggle.

Jonas Hiller has come down to earth now and it’s going to be tough as he is expected to get most of the starts. Also, do the Ducks have a second or third line of consistent scoring? If so, it’s going to need to show up.

San Jose Sharks vs. Los Angeles Kings

Joe_Thornton_Sharks_2013This is probably going to be the closest of the bunch. The San Jose Sharks, man, they are like that ex-girlfriend who wants to “work things out” and sucks you in to believing again and then she breaks your heart repeatedly. So every year, fans and media begin believing in the Sharks every year and every year they let them down. This year is going to be no different. Antti Niemi still gives up soft goals, even though many thought he played really well in last year’s playoffs. Don’t bet on the Sharks. The Kings seem like the exact opposite. They have the goaltending and play really well defensively but can they score?

Eastern Conference:

Let’s enjoy a little “East Coast bias” now, shall we?

Boston Bruins vs. Detroit Red Wings

APTOPIX Stanley Cup Blackhawks Bruins HockeyThis is probably one of the more interesting series. Detroit made the postseason for a 23rd consecutive time. Many have said, if Detroit gets in they will be dangerous and they will be.  They are also getting captain Henrik Zetterberg back.  The Bruins won the President’s trophy but have taken some injuries as Paille was hit hard during the last game of the season against Buffalo.  The Red Wings are going to put up a big fight and may pull out a win.

Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Columbus Blue Jackets

Bobrovsky_Columbus_2014Here we go, this is going to be what playoff hockey is about. Columbus needs this playoff series and it’s going to be a fun one. After getting rid of longtime captain Rick Nash, the Blue Jackets or #lumbus as they are lovingly known, is back in the postseason with a bunch of young kids and vets who are more akin to the island of misfit toys as they were casted off by former teams. Pittsburgh is all about the business and now they have to prove they can hold their own and get back to their Stanley Cup winning ways. It’s going to be good hockey and a lot of fun to watch.

Philadelphia Flyers vs. New York Rangers

Emery_Flyers_2014 Well it’s the battle of two mega TV audience clubs. New  York vs. Philly. The pizza vs. cheese steak. Who ya got? Seriously, this can be a fun series with a lot of scrums and fights as both teams will look to play each other tough. The only question is does Philly have a competent net minder for the playoffs? Mason got hurt and Emery replaced him but their goaltending hasn’t been a strength this year at all. New York has nothing but great goaltending in Henrik “the fashion model” Lundqvist and youngster Cam Talbot, who played a great game against the Montreal Canadiens , and the Rangers’ offense is starting to click a little better under Alain Vigneaut. Seems like Philly’s net minding will cost them a first round exit.

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Montreal Canadiens.

Tampa_Bay_Lightning_Group_2013Coach Jon Cooper has his boys focused and ready to go. The media is asking the same question over and over—how will Cooper match up his lines with a team similar to his? His answer, has been the same, guys need to show up and play. The Lightning are no strangers to adversity so they weren’t really surprised with the idea of Ben Bishop being out. Actually, they seemed to thrive off of it as a team as Anders Lindback is playing his best hockey of the year and the Bolts overall have been staying the course and playing “their game.” Montreal, on the other hand, has lost Alex Galchenyuk for the first round at minimum and were unable to score against the Rangers on Saturday, and needed a penalty shot in overtime to win it. If Tampa plays like they have played for the last few games, they will have this one in the bag and can look forward to a second round matchup.

NHL Playoff Preview: Mission To 16, Round one by