The best time of year is here again. The Stanley Cup Playoffs begin tomorrow. And for once, because I have had a very different work schedule, I actually watched more hockey this season than I have in recent years. Mostly Hawks of course, and not as much Leafs as I’d have liked. I also did fantasy hockey for the first time so I’ve been pretty on top of all things Hawks, Leafs, Oilers, Blue Jackets, and Penguins, as most of my players came from these teams. It’s been a weird season in the NHL. The Oilers AND the Leafs and the Blue Jackets are in the playoffs, and two of them have 100 points or more. The Red Wings AREN’T in the playoffs. The Blue Jackets and the Wild both had really long winning streaks – Columbus was at 15 and Minnesota had 12 – and they faced each other – Columbus won. This is basically a sign of the world coming to an end – but given the current state of the government, well yeah it pretty much is. The Avalanche were so god awful that as of February 3rd, they could’ve played 82 full games at their current pace and had no other teams play AT ALL and they still wouldn’t make the playoffs. Anyways, let’s get into it.
(1) Washington Capitals vs. (WC2) Toronto Maple Leafs
The Washington Capitals won the President’s Trophy again with almost 120 points. And as long as they can make the Cup Finals, they’ve got a really good shot to finally win the Cup. And at this point, they almost have to – the longer it takes, the less chance they’ll have because they’re only getting older.
The Toronto Maple Leafs made the playoffs!!!!!!! WOOOOOOOOO! I’m more excited about this than anything going into the playoffs. They were the worst team in the league last year and now they’re the last team to clinch a playoff spot. Auston Matthews, William Nylander, and Mitch Marner broke basically ALL of the records that existed for Leafs rookies. If you didn’t realize, this team is basically the Blackhawks from ’08-’10ish in terms of where they are. They’re certainly not going to win the Cup this year, but they’re on the trajectory those Hawks were. (They also lose tons of multi-goal leads like the Blackhawks do.) It’s going to be more difficult for them to do it so quickly if their conference stays as it is now for a while, and they’re going to need to strengthen their defense quite a bit.
Obviously the Capitals are going to win, but don’t count the Leafs out. They were never supposed to even get to a game 7 with Boston and have a 4-1 lead before they blew that in 2013, and this team is most definitely better than that one. You can say the Capitals are better than those Bruins, but those Bruins made the Finals. And the Leafs have beaten the Caps this year. But, Caps in 6.
(2) Pittsburgh Penguins vs. (3) Columbus Blue Jackets
The Pittsburgh Penguins are here, and what else is new? Just don’t you dare call Jonathan Toews a generational talent or all the Crosby fans will come at you with pitchforks because somehow calling Toews one of the best hockey players in the world somehow makes Crosby not one of the best hockey players in the world. Calm the fuck down. If you don’t think Toews is one of the best players in the world your opinion is bad and you should feel bad.
The Columbus Blue Jackets are here and have more than a 100 points and had a 16 game winning streak this season. That’s what Brandon Saad, Zack Werenski, and Sergei Bobrovsky can do for you apparently. Unfortunately their cannon is coming with them.
This is one of the toughest series to call. Werenski is injured and I’m not sure if he’s going to be back. If that’s the case then it’s definitely the Penguins – but I think the Jackets will be a tough matchup for them.
(1) Montreal Canadiens vs. (WC1) New York Rangers
The Montreal Canadiens won their division despite the much maligned Subban for Weber trade over the offseason.
The New York Rangers have 103 points and a wild card team because the Metropolitan division is ridiculous.
Montreal to win – Rangers’ goaltending hasn’t been as good as it usually is, although they have 103 points in spite of that.
(2) Ottawa Senators vs. (3) Boston Bruins
The Ottawa Senators are here. Hurray? I feel like the Senators are the most ignored team in the league that makes the playoffs every now and then. They almost choked though.
The Boston Bruins have made the playoffs on the back of Brad Marchand whom apparently was in the scoring race for most of the season.
I feel like I could never pick Ottawa for anything so Bruins.
(1) Anaheim Ducks vs. (WC1) Calgary Flames
The Anaheim Ducks are still around although I’ve basically ignored them all season, but they won the division after the Sharks choked down the stretch.
The Calgary Flames have been pretty good now that they have their goalie situation figured out.
This is a tougher one for me to call. I’m saying Ducks but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Calgary win.
(2) Edmonton Oilers vs. (3) San Jose Sharks
The Edmonton Oilers are in the playoffs guys! A team that has been awful since my years as a serious hockey fan began and always in the basement is in the playoffs. Like, they’d been in the basement since 2008 when I started following the sport like I do now. It’s been almost a decade. They’re in the playoffs, they have 100 points, they’re second in their division. That’s Connor McDavid for you. (It’s why he was on my fantasy team too.) Also Leon Draisaitl and Milan Lucic and solid goaltending.
The San Jose Sharks would’ve been first in their division had they not choked down the stretch. Jones was the bane of my fantasy hockey existence.
Another tough one to call. McDavid is McDavid, but when he’s not on the ice the Oilers are noticeably not as good. But the Sharks haven’t been as good recently. I’m predicting the Sharks.
(2) Minnesota Wild vs. (3) St. Louis Blues
The Minnesota Wild fooled a lot of people into thinking they were one of the best teams in the league until they shit the bed and ended up in second instead.
The St. Louis Blues basically did the same thing as the Wild only their slump was in the middle of the season, and more recently they got back to normal.
This is tough to call too. I have to say Minnesota because they were the most consistent, but the Blues could easily beat them too.
(1) Chicago Blackhawks vs. (WC2) Nashville Predators
The Chicago Blackhawks quietly won the conference. And I say quietly because – well, was there really anything significant about this season? Kane had all those points last year, but did nothing close to it this year. It’s been more of a “winning-by-committee” kind of thing. There were a lot of injuries. Hossa’s had a pretty great season. Toews had an average first half but then picked it up. The defense is solid. The only thing is that there are a ton of rookies – the top two lines are great, but while the others have been good, it’s not something that makes the Hawks seem dangerous. Could they win? Depends who they play. If they made the finals and played anyone but the Capitals they got a shot. If they play the Capitals – I don’t like the odds.
The Nashville Predators are here, and well, we’re somewhat less bored. They do have PK Subban now and he’s awesome. But the rest are still boring, and their arena is still awful, and their fans are still trash.
Hawks in 6.
Now, as far as who I’m rooting for – well, I’m going for what I’m most excited for, in this order. Most of the ones who aren’t favorite teams are ones who has players I used in fantasy hockey.
Rooting for, in order:
1) Toronto. Second favorite team, hasn’t won since ’67, has only made the playoffs once since I started following. Matthews, Marner, Nylander, and Rielly were big for my fantasy team. I’m still upset about their loss to Boston in 2013 too. Also they’re not going to win, so fellow Hawks fans who are outraged at this for some reason, calm the hell down.
2) Chicago, obviously. But, 3 Cups since 2010 – I’m not an entitled douchebag who thinks it’s the end of the world if they fail. We’re not desperate for wins.
3) San Jose. Third favorite team.
4) Columbus. Brandon Saad! Also Saad and Werenski were big for my fantasy team too.
5) Edmonton. McDavid and Draisaitl on fantasy team.
6) Pittsburgh. Kessel, Murray, and Fleury on my fantasy team.
7) New York. Kreider on fantasy team.
8) Washington. They have to win sometime!
9) Boston. Why not?
The only teams that cannot win are the Blues, Wild, Ducks, and Predators. The Canadiens, Flames, and Senators I have no real feeling towards one way or the other.
Future predictions will come later.
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