It’s a tough pill to swallow, watching from the outside as sixteen teams that aren’t the Leafs battle it out for the Stanley Cup. But it’s something I’ve grown used to in recent years, considering I haven’t actually been able to watch a Leafs playoff game since my high school graduating year.
Like many of you, I’m a die-hard fan of the blue and white, but I’m also a die-hard fan of the game of hockey in general. And this will become quite evident to those around me as I literally paste myself to the couch for the coming weeks and watch game upon game.
I’m the type of fan who wants the game to go into a marathon that enters four and five overtime periods. And the first round is probably my favorite, since hockey basically engulfs every daily conversation.
With everything getting underway on Wednesday night, let’s take a look at a few discussion items and see what everyone thinks about this year’s post-season ahead of time. It’s a good chance to toss a few ideas back and forth and let those in the MLHS community have their predictions heard.
Feel free to disagree and call me out. In fact, I encourage it. Consider this a thread to boast about your own predictions and rip on others (in good taste, of course).
(6) Montreal v. (3) Boston
As a Leafs fan, two of the teams I probably dislike the most. But as a hockey fan, the story lines running through this series make it the most intriguing of them all.
This series will be won or lost based on Carey Price. He’s blatantly good enough to give the Canadiens a chance in a series against a legitimate Cup contender in the Bruins. Whether he’s good enough to completely take over the series and leave his past playoff woes behind is obviously still up in the air.
I think the Bruins with home ice may just be too much to overcome, but this one should be close regardless.
Prediction: Boston in seven
(4) Pittsburgh v. (5) Tampa Bay
This series doesn’t have a lot on paper that has me really excited at this point. But I’m sure that will change as things unfold.
While everyone talks about the void left without Crosby and Malkin in the Penguins lineup, and the big point producers in St. Louis and Stamkos for Tampa, I think it could be the goaltenders who emerge with the biggest impact.
Roloson and Fleury both have potential to be the difference in this series, it just depends on which one steps up and delivers.
I’m finding it extremely tough to go against Bylsma in this one.
Prediction: Tampa Bay in six.Â Pittsburgh in seven
(1) Washington v. (8) New York
I’m not sure if Washington are good enough to win the Cup, but I think they’re good enough to beat the Rangers.
New York are a good team, capable of beating anyone (like much of the playoff participants) but I think the Capitals have tightened up their game enough to at least make a decent run this year.
Prediction: Washington in five.
(2) Philadelphia v. (7) Buffalo
For as long as I can remember, the Flyers have been haunted by shaky goaltending. While Bobrovsky has shown to be good enough to win, I’m not sure the youngster is good enough to win in the playoffs just yet. And I think the Boucher/Leighton thing has run it’s course.
Add to all of this the fact that Ryan Miller is at the other end of the rink, and you’ve got a recipe for upset. If Pronger returns, I’ll probably change my tune, but the Sabres have been red-hot since February. And the Flyers? Not so much.
Prediction: Buffalo in six.
(2) San Jose v. (7) Los Angeles
Another great series involving some exciting teams. Something about the way San Jose and Washington have (somewhat) flown under the radar this season leads me to believe they may finally be able to get it done. That’s hardly rational thinking, but gut feeling and the playoffs go hand in hand.
The Kings are also suffering from some key injuries, notably their most offensive producer in Anze Kopitar. San Jose surely has the edge in this one, but I think it’s going to be a fun series to watch.
Prediction: San Jose in six.
(3) Detroit v. (6) Phoenix
Phoenix are a good team, and Dave Tippet is basically a god amongst men. On paper this seems like a walkover for the Red Wings, especially if Henrik Zetterberg can return and perform Zetterberg-like.
However, the Coyotes have a major edge in goal and I’m banking on that.
Prediction: Coyotes in six.
(1) Vancouver v. (8) Chicago
Along with the Canadiens/Bruins series, this is a matchup you’ll hear about around the water cooler every morning for the next couple of weeks. Obviously there are a boatload of questions surrounding the Canucks and whether they’re for real. And I’m not sure if they can take home the mug, but they won’t go out in the first round.
As a Leafs fan, it pains me to say that the Canucks will knock off the Hawks, but I think they will.
Prediction: Canucks in six.
(4) Anaheim v. (5) Nashville
I really like this series because I really like the Ducks. They’ve been a favorite of mine (outside of the Leafs, of course) for some time now. The big trio of Perry, Ryan and Getzlaf are all great players that are fun to watch. Throw Teemu Selanne into the mix and you’ve got a who’s who of everyone’s favorite players (or at least mine).
But enough about that.
The Ducks have won in the playoffs. The Predators still have not. And until they do, I can’t favor them.
Prediction: Ducks in four straight (bold, I know, but I have to pick at least ONE sweep – don’t want to play it too safe)
Now, on to the Cup finalists predictions. But first off, I’d like to discuss what match-up would be the most intriguing for me as a fan.
My favorite possible Finalist match-up would have to be Washington and Anaheim.
Actual prediction: Boston and San Jose
Worst case scenario: Tampa, Montreal or Buffalo against Nashville or Phoenix. Yuck.
Goalie to potentially get red-hot (Halak style): Bryzgalov or Roloson
And, of course, the pre-playoff Stanley Cup winner prediction: The San Jose Sharks
Leave your favorite match-up, predictions, and worst possible outcome in the comments section, along with any other playoff issues you want to discuss. Enjoy the post-season everyone, and be sure to check out the MLHS playoff pool group.
The full first round broadcast schedule can be found here.