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From The Penalty Box: NHL Playoff Preview
by Greg Ratliff,posted Apr 12 2015 1:10AM
So after the entire NHL season, it of course would have to come down to the wire for the playoff matches to be decided. And I was most definitely wrong all week about the Penguins. But now begins perhaps the best part of the year……
IT’S TIME FOR THE PLAYOFFS!!!!!!!!!!
Now, this year’s playoffs are a little different than what pretty much every other sport is doing, in regards to playoff seeding. However, I think these changes are terrific and as the last couple weeks played out, led to some exciting hockey at the end of the regular season. And I’m going to make my FINAL pick for who’s winning the Stanley Cup now that we know who’s actually in the playoffs. Let’s get to the matchups and my first round predictions. Let’s start in the East first.
New York Rangers vs. Pittsburgh Penguins
The Penguins got the win they needed Saturday to get them into the playoffs, but this isn’t that same old Penguins team we’ve seen in the past. I didn’t see the Pens making the playoffs the last few weeks and I don’t see Pittsburgh beating the Presidents’ Trophy winning Rangers either. Winner: New York Rangers in 5
Washington Capitals vs. New York Islanders
I’ve been a big supporter of the Islanders all season and I’m not stopping now. I still don’t trust the Capitals in the playoffs. Holtby HAS been very strong in net for Washington, but I still give the edge to New York. Plus, I think the Islanders will have a HUGE home ice advantage at Nassau Coliseum, in its final season. Winner: New York Islanders in 6
Montreal Canadiens vs. Ottawa Senators
I feel bad for Montreal. After being up towards the top of the East all season, the Canadiens’ reward is…the hottest team in the NHL, the Ottawa Senators. From Bryan Murray’s courageous battle with colon cancer to the Hamburglar, the Senators have gone from a contender in the Connor McDavid sweepstakes in February to Stanley Cup contender in April. Sens keep rolling as Montreal suffers an early playoff exit. Winner: Ottawa Senators in 7
Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Detroit Red Wings
Anyone that’s been following along with me the last few weeks and months knows I’ve been picking Detroit to win the Cup pretty much all year. And now I’ve hit that brick wall of realizing that I probably was wrong about it. Dead wrong. It’s the Yzerman aspect that makes it that much more intriguing. Beating his former team with the team he built? Fantastic story. And Detroit? This could be the swan song for Mike Babcock. But before we debate where he may possibly go, he’s got a playoff series to win. I think this will be the only east series to end in a sweep. Winner: Tampa Bay Lightning in 4
So now we head to the Wild Wild West where playoff seeds don’t matter and cats and dogs are living together and black is white……Sorry got sidetracked there. The West is crazy good. Top to bottom. Let’s do this.
Anaheim Ducks vs. Winnipeg Jets
Bruce Boudreau has a pretty spotty resume in the playoffs. Bruce has TONS of regular season success that has never really carried over to the postseason, in either stop of his coaching career. Imagine what Mike Babcock could do with this team. But that’s for another time. Even with how strong Anaheim has looked in the regular season, I don’t see how it will carry over into this series. Winnipeg is going to give the Ducks trouble on both ends of the ice. And guys like Byfuglien and Ladd have proven to give teams fits in playoffs past. Ask any team that played Chicago in 2010. Winner: Winnipeg Jets in 6
Vancouver Canucks vs. Calgary Flames
This is probably the least talked about matchup in the playoffs. Which isn’t necessarily a BAD thing. The Flames have been a nice surprise this season. But I really don’t know what to think about this series. Could really go either way. I think the edge will ultimately go to Vancouver. I think their veteran leadership will guide their way into the next round. Winner: Vancouver Canucks in 6
St. Louis Blues vs. Minnesota Wild
Congrats St. Louis! You’ve played so well all season and to thank you, you get the Minnesota Wild in the first round! Yikes. Minnesota has been just about as hot as Ottawa the last couple months. And Devan Dubnyk has been a rock. And Minnesota will be ready for the Blues’ physical attack. This matchup is a great example of why the new playoff format is awesome and terrible all at once. This is a matchup that would have been great as a Conference Final. But we get it early. And should thank the hockey gods. The Blues' playoff inexperience will be their undoing here. Steve Ott can’t save you now. Winner: Minnesota Wild in 6
Nashville Predators vs. Chicago Blackhawks
This is another one of those bad matchups in the West. Bad for them but good for us. Chicago has had a lot of problems scoring goals lately. The loss of Patrick Kane’s scoring has seemed to trickle down through the rest of the team. But every season, Chicago seems to find a way to plug through and make a run in the playoffs. But I don’t know if the Hawks are strong enough to muscle around the Preds. Nashville can be amazing with they have good puck possession. Unfortunately, they’ve struggled against teams that try to just push them off the puck. Chicago just doesn’t strike me as a team that will do that to the Preds though. Do I have to pick a winner for this one?? Really?? Okay. Uhhhhhhhh………… Winner: Nashville Predators in 7
So where do we go from here??? I’ll breakdown the next round once the first is over. But I said I’d give you my pick for winning the Cup. As you read above, my pick all year to win, Detroit, will likely be eliminated. Of course, I could be wrong, but I need to make a new pick.
New York Islanders…..I almost picked you. But I’m going with Tampa Bay. I’m a believer now.
Send all critiques/questions/complaints to me on Twitter @GregRatliff or comment below.
Do you even watch hockey? Nashville has lost 6 in a row going into the playoffs and will get hammered by chicago....Anaheim is going to smoke winnipeg...the blues have 4 straight playoff appearances so what inexperience are u speaking of? Steve Ott is achecking line player you moron. Detroit has never been swept in a 1st round. Montreal will wax Ottawa...the only one you may have correct is the Rangers over Pittsburg.