Well, it’s that time of year again. The best time of year. The Stanley Cup Playoffs. After last year I was in a hurry just to get here, because let’s face it – last year was bullshit. The Blackhawks missed a repeat Stanley Cup because of a goal. (Sorry Rangers. Kings killed you, if the Hawks beat the Kings they’d have done the same.) And they should have. Two 2 goal leads in a game 7, maybe even three – I don’t remember, I wasn’t watching it live because I was at a live WWE show – and they still lost to a fluky goal in OT. I didn’t even get to finish my three game Skillet music video thing I was doing on facebook because of it!! Lol. That was some bullshit.

And now that we’re here, I wish I could say “Oh, the Hawks are going to make up for that bogus loss last year!” But I really can’t do that. Well, I can’t guarantee they won’t do that, either, but I can’t say they will with confidence, either. In fact, looking at all sixteen teams in the playoffs this year – I couldn’t tell you with confidence who will win the Cup at all. None of them are perfect. The only team I would consider betting money on are the Rangers, but even then I make no real promises that that prediction will hold. I can probably tell you a few teams who WON’T win, but I can’t tell you which one WILL. This could be the most equal playoffs in a while.

I mention every year that I seem to get to watch less and less hockey every year, and that continues to be true. I watch what I can, but that’s still a minimal amount. And with how sick I’ve become of the Hawks’ radio broadcasters, I’ve basically stopped listening to the games completely unless I’m bored. (That also has to do with how the season has went.) I took to just putting it on to hear the anthem (Jim Cornelison, Best in the World), then turning it off. (Also they have a habit of losing when I listen so I’m trying to help.) And then I’d just sit and stare at the game center page on NHL.com and watch the clock tick away, and hope there was a Hawks goal every time the clock stopped. That or I’d listen to the Maple Leafs game earlier on in the season when they still had a shot at making the playoffs (like, before February), because I like them too and their radio broadcaster is good. (Or at least, I haven’t listened to him so much that he only annoys me, like most broadcasters these days. Like Eddie Olczyk is annoying to me now too.) (Though the Maple Leafs guy tends to look down upon advanced stats.) So I’ll try to make this as insightful as I can, but there will be many teams where I don’t have much to say about.

(1) New York Rangers vs. (WC2) Pittsburgh Penguins

The New York Rangers have won the President’s Trophy this year, doing so mainly on the backs of their goaltenders – Henrik Lundquist and Cam Talbot. Sadly that’s all I’ve really got to say – they are really good. (Does that help?)

The Pittsburgh Penguins barely made the playoffs. In fact, had their last game not been against Buffalo, they would have actually been in trouble. I don’t get to watch a lot of hockey as I mentioned, but I have noticed, either through staring at NHL.com a lot, or from Penguins people I follow on Twitter, the number of times the Pens had a lead but blew it. It seemed to happen all the time. It’s gotten to the point where, outside of Crosby and Malkin, what do the Penguins really have?

With how much the Penguins have struggled, it’s impossible for me to pick them over the Rangers. If Crosby and Malkin are their only offensive threats against the excellent goaltending the Rangers have gotten this season, the Penguins are in trouble. Last year they had a series and my prediction was the opposite, but it’s an easy one this time around. Pittsburgh really needs to start building around the two stars they have better.

(2) Washington Capitals vs. (3) New York Islanders

The Washington Capitals…..I got nothing. Outside of Alexander Ovechkin seemingly breaking a new record everyday or something – that’s what NHL Network seems to say – I don’t have much to say about them. Oh, Barry Trotz is their coach now. That’s about it.

The New York Islanders have made playoffs again, which is nice to see. The additions of Nick Leddy and Johnny Boychuk seems to have helped them a lot.

This should be an entertaining series – Tavares vs. Ovechkin. As far as who wins, it’s touch to say. I REALLY hope the Isles win – a Rangers/Isles series would be fun. But I question whether Jaroslav Halak is good enough in net to get them there. I suppose as long as he can stop Ovechkin they should have as good a chance to win. But, gun to head, if I had to pick I would predict Washington.

(1) Montreal Canadiens vs. (WC1) Ottawa Senators

The Montreal Canadiens have won 50 games this season and 44 of those wins are with Carey Price and I have nothing else to say about them. (A lot of it is because so many of the teams seem exactly the same as the year before.) Oh, and P.K. Subban is pretty awesome.

The Ottawa Senators made a big push for the playoffs on the back of rookie goaltender Andrew “The Hamburglar” Hammond. I assume he started to play due to injuries, but he won almost all of his starts. I think it was more than ten in a row, all of them less then 3 goals against which he tied someone for an NHL record, but he didn’t break it. One of the more recent goalies to win that many games to start his career was the Hawks’ backup goalie in 2008 or so, but I cannot recall his name at the moment. (Wikipedia reminds me that it was Patrick Lalime.) Anyways, congrats on making the playoffs, just please don’t throw a hamburger at me.

This is an interesting one. Both of them have gotten here because of their goaltending, so it comes down to who has the better offensive threats to break through it. And I’d have to go with Montreal based on that.

(2) Tampa Bay Lightning vs. (3) Detroit Red Wings

The Tampa Bay Lightning and the Detroit Red Wings are both really good teams I don’t have much to say about expect Steven Stamkos is pretty awesome and Red Wings fans probably still think their playoff streak thingy is more important than the Stanley Cup itself.

(I wish I was able to talk about more of these teams in depth. I swear when I started doing these I actually watched so many games that I had a decent enough knowledge of what the teams were to write about each one.)

Another tough one to call. I want to say Lightning all the way but that just may be the fact that they’re one of the non-Hawks teams I’m rooting for this year. (Teams I’m rooting for are Hawks, Jets, Lightning, Isles, Rangers, maybe Ducks, maybe Canadiens). I’d definitely say Tampa is better than they were last year, when they had a tough time against the Canadiens, but Detroit is probably better than the Canadiens were last year. This is probably the toughest or second toughest one to call in this round. Detroit vs. Montreal would be more fun though with an original six matchup, too. But – TAMPA.

(1) Anaheim Ducks vs. (WC2) Winnipeg Jets

The Anaheim Ducks are the best team in the Western Conference.

The Winnipeg Jets have finally made the playoffs and I am so happy about it. Like I’m more happy about this going into the playoffs than probably anything else. So many former Hawks get to finally go back to the playoffs, hurray. Byfuglien, Ladd, Frolik. Am I missing anyone? All of them won a Cup with the Hawks and got traded to Atlanta or Winnipeg in the offseason (Byfuglien/Ladd after 2010 Cup to ATL, Frolik after 2013 Cup to WPG). As much as I’ve hated playing them this year, they’re my number #2 team this year. (Also, Evander Kane….how you feeling right now?)

Okay, so I already think this series could be the most entertaining one of the first round. But think about this series. Then think about this series if Teemu Selanne stuck around for one more year. I really hope the Jets can win, but as much as I know they will beat the crap out of the Ducks, if Pavelec is in net and not Hutchison, then Ducks are my pick.

(2) Vancouver Canucks vs. (3) Calgary Flames

The Vancouver Canucks have gotten back into the playoffs, proving last year’s season was just a jumbled mess with the whole Tortorella thing, and Ryan Miller has helped them. (And if they were to win a Cup…..Sigh, at least Miller would have a ring.)

If you told me last year that game 81 of the regular season between the Calgary Flames and defending Stanley Cup Champion Los Angeles Kings would be important, I would have thought it would be because the Kings were trying to clinch their division – not that the Kings were desperate to make the playoffs and the Flames were able to clinch 3rd place. Like, one person in the hockey world predicted the Flames wouldn’t suck this year and they were right.

I wouldn’t have expected the Flames to get in, but hey – Canada has five of seven teams in this year, and four of them face each other – so at least two will make the second round.

Anyways, I have to pick the Canucks on this one.

(1) St. Louis Blues vs. (WC1) Minnesota Wild

The St. Louis Blues have won the Central Division because that’s basically all they know how to do.

The Minnesota Wild sucked for a long time before getting Devan Dubnyk in net and now all of a sudden they think they’re good because Devan Dubnyk is having consistent memory loss that he’s Devan Dubnyk and not some elite goaltender. This guy was on Edmonton for a long time – if he was this good, why was Edmonton continuously in the basement without knowing how to get out?

Blah. This series will be boring as hell. St. Louis is still St. Louis – douchebags with good defense and decent goaltending that try to injure everything that moves with not much offense outside of Terasenko. Their fans still cheer injuries to other teams like the morons they are. But, I think this is probably their best bet to make it out of the first round in years. (Not win the Cup, just win a round.) That being said, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Dubnyk’s memory loss continued and helped the Wild win. (Just need to make sure they don’t win the Cup so nothing dumb happens, like Dubnyk winning a Conn Smythe.)

(2) Nashville Predators vs. (3) Chicago Blackhawks

The Nashville Predators went from terrible to top of the division in a season, before choking in the last month or so and falling to second place, almost even third had the Hawks done their job. I guess suddenly not having Barry Trotz made them suddenly not boring and terrible.

The Chicago Blackhawks have had a very inconsistent season, at best. Sure, they have 48 wins and are in third place. Normally you’d think that’s pretty good. But is it, really? I mean – outside of that one long winning streak in December, have they really had any long stretches of being a dominant team? How many games were solid, sixty minute wins? Compare that to how many were nerve racking ones that were hard to watch. I can think of very few wins that I would say they looked dominant and like the Blackhawks we know and love. Both of the wins against the Ducks were strong games. Both of the wins against the Kings. A couple wins against St. Louis. The game against the Canucks last week, perhaps. (Don’t include the 7-1 slaughter of Edmonton, that is what is supposed to happen.)

Then think about that game against Nashville where they came down from 3-0 to tie, only for them to let up a goal almost immediately, before barely tying the game with a minute to go and winning in a shootout. Or that game against Dallas where they could seemingly never keep the game tied – Stars would score, Hawks would tie, only for the Stars to score again. They managed to tie and win, but still. Or that game they stole points from Edmonton. And Buffalo. Carolina.

And think of where the team could be if they won all of those games they definitely could have but didn’t. All of those 1-0 shutouts – Anaheim, Winnipeg, San Jose, Rangers. Or those losses to bad teams, like Columbus (who apparently decided they were good in March and won all but one game, so I’m not sure that counts), Philadelphia, EDMONTON, Toronto back in November, two other losses to Winnipeg. That overtime loss to Vancouver. That huge loss to Boston. That game they lost to Arizona isn’t their fault. Both games against Detroit. The other loss to Columbus. The first game against the Islanders. That bad loss to the Wild. The Avalanche. The Lightning. Both losses to the Capitals. Any of the last four games outside of game 82 which didn’t matter. SO MANY games they could have won but didn’t. They could have easily won the President’s Trophy this year had they won the games they were capable of winning.

The Blackhawks could just as easily win the Stanley Cup as they could lose in the first round. I know better than to count them out, but there’s just too many glaring problems this year to have confidence in saying they most certainly will. I had questions last year, but once they beat the Blues and the Avs were knocked out, that changed everything. Granted they didn’t win, but it was much easier to think that they could. This time they have to go through Nashville, then either St. Louis or Minnesota, which may prove too much.

I was already looking pretty down on things when Patrick Kane got injured. Then when that happened, my thoughts were “Well, what was the entire point of this season?” Then they started to win without him, and now they stopped. So it’s still “What was the point of this entire season?”

Yes, Patrick Kane being out is pretty big. But it really shouldn’t be. The Hawks have Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa, Patrick Sharp, and Brandon Saad too. Toews has done well. Hossa is doing better – he’s had a more quiet season until that one week where he scored all the time. Saad’s been good. Sharp, not so much. As much as I love Sharp, 16 goals I think it was, is not anywhere near enough. He is way better than that. (That being said, trading Sharp is, and always will be, unacceptable.) Also, Versteeg’s had a better year, but still, more. And Bryan Bickell is still not worth that contract. Brad Richards has been fine. He is better than Handzus.

So, we don’t know when Patrick Kane would be able to come back. Originally it was Stanley Cup Final, maybe Western Conference Final at best. Now some are saying second round. Crazy people think he can probably start in the first round, in the first game. (Now, if the Hawks went down 2-0, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him magically materialize, but I don’t think so.)

But, let’s make things perfectly clear. Patrick Kane being back would definitely help. I mean, he’s Patrick Kane. He will help. The offense.

Here’s what Patrick Kane being back will NOT help:

1) It will not make Andrew Shaw stop taking stupid penalties. The amount of times this happens basically at least once per game. I looked at my phone once, saw that the Coyotes had a power play, thought “was it Shaw?” And it was Shaw. Like, stop headbutting people for no reason and stop trying to kill the Blues players while the Hawks have a power play so they can try to extend their lead and not go on a PK. Either score goals like you did in 2012 or go watch in the press box. In short, Shaw + penalties = BENCH.

2) It will not make Bryan Bickell worth his contract. I mean, seriously, $4 million a year for what?

3) It will certainly, under no circumstances, make Michal Roszival anything more than a completely useless piece of garbage. The amount of times this piece of shit is on the ice is the proverbial too damn high. I don’t know how many times I’ve seen this guy on the ice when the Hawks have a power play, when the Hawks need a goal to tie the game with less than two minutes left, in overtime at all, in overtime while trying to kill a penalty. HE IS USELESS AND PATHETIC AND DOESN’T BELONG ON THIS TEAM. BENCH HIM FOREVER. Roszival on the ice is the same as Roszival in the penalty box – he is simply a power play for the other team.

4) It will not make the Hawks have more than three good defensemen. Because only Keith, Seabrook, and Hjalmarsson are really good. Oduya has his good days. The rest of them suck.

Those are the real problems of the team. Not the offense, although every team could always use more of that. And Kane would help with that, and perhaps help the power play. A little.

Anyways, could they beat the Predators? Sure. They could. They beat the Predators three of four times this season. One was a shootout, though, so it gets thrown out. All of them were close games though. And all of those games they did have Kane. That being said, the Predators haven’t been as good lately as they had been in most of the season, so it’s hard to say for sure. I will pick the Hawks, but that may just be hope talking.

As always, more predictions as the playoffs continue.

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