Even after a single day of playoff games, every series has a story already. I’m talking about Pittsburgh blowing a 3-0 lead, Shea Weber’s head smash and Vancouver’s discipline.
Tonight however, we progress to a new set of games.
#8 Ottawa vs. #1 New York Rangers
A mismatch on paper in nearly every single way. This was unfortunately the worst opponent for the Rangers. Among the possible first round matchups, the Senators are the one team who have had New York’s number. They are 3-1 against the Blue Shirts this season.
- Not many pucks get this view.
Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist had a magnificent regular season. He posted career bests in save percentage (.930) and goals against average (1.97). He is a heavy Vezina trophy favorite and he led the team to the number one seed in the East.
The Senators meanwhile have a high potent offense. They even have an offensive blue line led by defenseman Erik Karlsson who led the league at his position with 78 points.
This Rangers club is stacked with offense and goaltending, but can they stop the barrage of shots that the Senators will put on them? This will be a wake up call for the NYR. New York in 7.
#7 Washington vs. #2 Boston
The defending champion Bruins stumbled badly out of the gate this season, but nearly ran the table in November. They’ve been one of the most inconsistent teams in the league. They also have Tim Thomas who has stolen quite a few games this year. However, there is something about this team that doesn’t seem right.
Washington meanwhile saw its star, Alexander Ovechkin have a downright dreadful year in comparison to his past. The phrase “what have you done for me lately” comes into play here though. 10 goals in his final 13 games and a streaking Capitals team whose playoff hopes were nearly dashed 3 weeks ago. They’ll also be going with an unproven netminder in rookie Braden Holtby.
It is impossible to ignore the playoff stigma that the Capitals have had in the Ovechkin era. Peaking at the right time though is huge in sports. Going against the champs, a rookie in net, a history of failure…something’s gotta give…and it just might. There hasn’t been a repeat champion since Detroit in 1998 and this year will be no different. Washington in 6.
#7 San Jose vs. #2 St. Louis
What can you say about the St. Louis Blues? They’ve been simply amazing since hiring Ken Hitchcock as their head coach. It seems like nearly every time you see the nightly scores, the Blues had won. Quite often, they’d win via shutout. In fact, the Blues shutout the Sharks twice this season…and swept the 4 game series.
There’s no doubt the goaltending of the Blues has been a huge part of their success. Between Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott, the team never has an issue sending out the wrong goaltender. This could easily be the best duo of all time. Halak, who took the Montreal Canadiens deep into the playoff a couple years ago, will start game 1.
For the Sharks, this season was nearly a massive disappointment. A team who you can pencil into home ice advantage in the first round, barely made the playoffs. The fact is, they are getting old. But with age, comes experience. Don’t overlook players like Dan Boyle, Patrick Marleau, and Joe Thornton.
I gotta say if San Jose wins this series, it would be the biggest upset in round one no matter what happens with everyone else. The goaltending is too much and the Sharks simply don’t execute the way they used to. If they get lucky and catch Halak on a bad night, they’ll simply have to deal with Elliott. St. Louis in 5.
#6 Chicago vs. #3 Phoenix
Well someone had to win the Pacific division and get the 3 seed in the West. The Coyotes edged out fellow division foes Los Angeles and San Jose.
- This is how you do a proper “white out”
The big story with the Blackhawks is Jonathan Toews. He’s been out with concussion symptoms since mid-February but hopes to return tonight for game 1. This would be a huge boost to the high powered Hawks offense.
The Coyotes haven’t won a division since the team was in Winnipeg. They’ve also never won a playoff series. Home ice advantage means one of my favorite playoff traditions for the WPG/PHX franchise, and that is the White Out. I’ve always found it to be quite awesome that the tradition carried over when the team moved to the desert.
Mike Smith, goaltender for Phoenix, could mean the difference. He’s had an up and down season but has been as good as ever down the stretch. He boasted 3 consecutive shutouts, including a 57 save performance against Columbus. Playoffs are about goaltenders and if he can play up to that level, the Coyotes can go far.
Unfortunately, the Chicago offense may be too much to handle over a 7 game series. The Hawks are the better team who played in a much better division, and that will show as the series unfolds. Chicago in 6.