It is the best time of year for sports. Baseball has begun. College basketball has ended (nobody cares about the rigged NBA). Golf is in full swing. And playoff hockey is here!
The Stanley Cup playoffs are easily the most entertaining postseason event of the four major sports. The intensity and passion blows everything else away. But not only that, the tradition in which the players and fans handle themselves is second to none. The rowdiness, the gamesmanship, the post series handshake line. All of it makes for one incredible show for the next two months.
Last year featured no teams from Canada in the playoffs. A big black eye for America’s hat. This year, that was fixed big time. 5 of the 7 Canadian teams made it in, including Toronto and Edmonton, two bottom feeders the better part of the last decade.
The way the NHL has set up the first round match ups seems to be thoughtless and somewhat unfair to every team. Teams are seeded based on their division, which is unbalanced, instead of the conference as a whole. This has paired teams with amazing records against each other and rewarded other teams with favorable draws they did not necessarily earn in the regular season.
Montreal Canadiens (47-26-9, 103 points) vs New York Rangers (48-28-6, 102 points)
Ottawa Senators (44-28-10, 98 points) vs Boston Bruins (44-31-7, 95 points)
Washington Capitals (55-19-8, 118 points) vs Toronto Maple Leafs (40-27-15, 95 points)
Pittsburgh Penguins (50-21-11, 111 points) vs Columbus Blue Jackets (50-24-8, 108 points)
Anaheim Ducks (46-23-13, 105 points) vs Calgary Flames (45-33-4, 94 points)
Edmonton Oilers (47-26-9, 103 points) vs San Jose Sharks (46-29-7, 99 points)
Chicago Blackhawks (50-23-9, 109 points) vs Nashville Predators (41-29-12, 94 points)
Minnesota Wild (49-25-8, 106 points) vs St. Louis Blues (46-29-7, 99 points)
As you can see, some of the match ups make no sense. Having Montreal and New York and Pittsburgh and Columbus play with enormous point totals while Ottawa and Boston get to play with mediocre records seems unfair. Pittsburgh and Columbus were the best two teams all year in the East and one of them is going home after the first round. Team should be seeded 1-8 in each conference and that is that. Pittsburgh and Columbus should be playing towards a meeting in Eastern Conference Final, not shaking hands in mid April.
My first round predictions:
Rangers in 6
Bruins in 5
Capitals in 5
Penguins in 7
Ducks in 5
Sharks in 6
Blackhawks in 4
Wild in 7
Rangers vs Bruins (Bruins in 6)
Capitals vs Penguins (Penguins in 5. Caps annual playoff collapse!)
Ducks vs Sharks (Ducks in 7)
Blackhawks vs Wild (Blackhawks in 7)
Bruins vs Penguins (Penguins in 7)
Ducks vs Blackhawks (Blackhawks in 6)
Stanley Cup Finals:
Blackhawks vs Penguins (Blackhawks in 7)