For the second straight year, the Minnesota Wild have unfortunately passed away after game five of the first round. Sixteen of the Wild’s last twenty playoff games have ended in a loss, and the team has now failed to move past the first round for three straight years.
Six seasons removed from making history as the first #8 seed to win the Stanley Cup, the L.A. Kings are in the record books once again. However, this year it’s for their unfortunate demise at the hands of the expansion Las Vegas Golden Knights, as the Kings failed to pick up a single win in their first-round series and become the first team to be swept by an expansion franchise. While only allowing seven goals all series, the squad from Los Angeles only found the scoresheet three times in the four-game sweep. Golden Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury was made to look like the second coming of a sturdily-built brick wall or a Shooter Tutor with no holes; he was simply unbeatable. The Kings popgun offence looked atrocious throughout the series, with only four forwards able to scratch the scoresheet.
Written by: Liam Horrobin & Ian Sheppard
Apparently, defence doesn’t exist in day four of the Stanley Cup playoffs with 27 goals being scored in the first three games and five in the final game of the night.
Tampa continued to buzz against the Devils, and Nashville nudged out the Avs while the Bruins dismantled the Leafs, and the Sharks outlasted and outmuscled the Ducks.
Here’s how they went:
The Columbus Blue Jackets are set to begin their first-round matchup against the Columbus Blue Jackets tonight and even though they’re the lower seed, there are a decent amount of experts and fans who are taking the Jackets to win this series.
After months of going back and forth, the Washington Capitals made the decision yesterday that Philipp Grubauer will be the teams #1 goalie when their playoff run begins tomorrow.
The 2017-18 season was a year full of surprises for some, and successful campaigns for others. The Eastern conference is currently stacked with a group of three or four elite powerhouse teams and a few underdog stories which when put together will create an exciting next three months of playoff hockey. Here’s a preview of the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Image via USA Today
In 2012, the Los Angeles Kings squirmed their way into the playoffs with 95 points, clinching a spot in their final two games against the San Jose Sharks with back-to-back losses. The Pacific Division was weak. The Coyotes won the crown with only two more points, and the Kings, loaded with talent yet unproductive for months, finished as the 8th seed. They awaited the President’s Trophy winning Vancouver Canucks who were as close as it gets to the Stanley Cup the season before and looked poised for another trip. Two months later, however, it was Los Angeles hoisting the Cup, shocking the hockey world.
The 2016-17 Nashville Predators are the most talented and dangerous 8th seed since those Kings.
The 2011-12 Los Angeles Kings were a wonky team and proved with their playoff run they were the most talented 8th seed in NHL history. A franchise center aged 24, Anze Kopitar, two former Flyers as the crux of a Stanley Cup participant two seasons prior, Mike Richards and Jeff Carter, a franchise defenseman, Drew Doughty, and a hot goaltender, Jonathan Quick, who already posted a sub-2.00 GAA in the regular season en route to a Conn Smythe trophy.
Many outlets picked the team to finish in the top four of the Western Conference during their regular season previews and although they weren’t necessarily bad for most of the season, the Kings just couldn’t score. They fired Terry Murray for Darryl Sutter and traded for Jeff Carter. The moves reinvigorated the team. A March record of 10-4-1 proved the Kings could push the right buttons when needed. Besides offensive prowess, the roster didn’t have any other glaring weaknesses.
The Predators looked like a sexy choice in the beginning of the season to go to the Stanley Cup Final. Their explosive upset of the perennial contender Anaheim Ducks last season coupled with a lightning rod trade for some guy named Pernell-Karl Sylvester and the hipsters licked their lips at this Preds team.
From a personnel perspective, this Preds team is bloody good. Their top four defensemen, Subban-Josi-Ekholm-Ellis are mobile and scary. They draft well. They trade well. *cough Erat for Forsberg cough* They skate well. They are well-coached. Peter Laviolette is a Stanley Cup champion who also won his 500th NHL game this year. They get solid goaltending from Pekka Rinne, a two-time Vezina runner-up. Rinne, despite his ridiculously high save percentage these playoffs, is their only spot of uncertainty.
Nashville’s average age is fourth youngest in the playoffs and their skill lies under that 27.4 age threshold. Including the previously mentioned defense corps, Johansen, Arvidsson, Forsberg, are all younger than the rearguards. The youth drives the offensive as only their ancient captain Mike Fisher, 36 years old, finished in the Preds top-ten scoring this season.
You don’t see 8th seeded teams this talented with the ability to match up this well with a three-time Stanley Cup winning core. And you definitely don’t see 8th seed teams slap the Blackhawks around the ice in a 4-0 sweep. Nobody had that. But few also had the Kings in five against the Canucks in 2012.
Since the 04-05 Lockout, there have been six 1 vs 8 upsets:
05-06 Edmonton Oilers (Detroit)
08-09 Anaheim Ducks (San Jose)
09-10 Montreal Canadiens (Washington)
11-12 Los Angeles Kings (Vancouver)
13-14 Minnesota Wild (Colorado)
16-17 Nashville Predators (Chicago)
Of those upsets, only two series are a “Cinderella” scenario. The 06′ Oilers and the 10′ Canadiens both were overmatched by better teams in the first round but found a way to win through tight defense and timely goaltending. The other teams either matched up well to their opponent or in Minnesota’s case, capitalized on a young team not ready to take a step forward in the Colorado Avalanche.
Looking back, the 2008-09 Anaheim Ducks are also strangely talented for a bottom seed. They upset the San Jose Sharks who had 26 more regular season points and were stacked to the teeth with talent. Similarly to the Preds, the Ducks had an extremely young top line Getzlaf-Perry-Ryan (23, 23, and 21 years-old) with the diabolical combination of veteran defenceman in Niedermeyer and Pronger, not to mention the Finnish Flash. It was the same core of a team who won the drink a mere two seasons before. This was the worst matchup for the Sharks to get that season.
taken from www.hockey-reference.com
Two of the most talented post-lockout 8-seeds didn’t even win a round. The 2010-11 Chicago Blackhawks, fresh after Stan Bowman’s salary cap blowout sale, boasted a top-heavy roster, not even a season removed from championship glory. In the thick of the Hawks-Canucks rivalry, the Blackhawks came back from down 0-3 to force a Game 7 before eventually losing.
The 2014-15 Pittsburgh Penguins were a weird team too. Injuries and an apparent disconnect between new coach Mike Johnston and the team were major reasons why the Pens slipped to 8th despite their star-laden roster. Still led by Crosby and Malkin, the Penguins backed their way into the playoffs losing five of their last six and never looked good in their series against the rival Rangers, who ousted them the year before coming back from down 3-1.
So if the Predators are this talented – why did they finish 8th? Inconsistency from Forsberg in the early going and depth players like Craig Smith, a 2-5-1 stumble out of the gates, and weak December seems to be the reason. Similar to the Kings, they didn’t quite have their team figured out until the thick of the winter grind.
In this Blues-Preds series, both teams are evenly matched. I think the toughest matchup in the west past the Central Division for Nashville is Anaheim, who also have mobile young defencemen and heavy forwards who can skate.
When fans look back at that Kings team they are seen as just the first of two Stanley Cup championships in three seasons and not an 8th seed. Don’t book the parade yet, but Nashville has the opportunity to do significant damage if their success continues.
Like the 2012 Kings, Nashville isn’t Cinderella: they are talented and dangerous.
(photo via nhl.com)
All-Star weekend has come and gone and as the unofficial halfway point of the NHL season, what better time than now to make some early predictions for how the 2017 playoffs could/should look.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the lack of Canadian content in last year’s postseason. All seven Canadian teams missed out, leading to the lowest rated NHL playoffs in a long, long time.
This season, thanks to a healthy Carey Price, two highly touted draft picks doing damage in their rookie seasons, and a couple pleasant surprises in the Western Conference, all seven Canadian teams are within a point of a playoff spot.
Here’s how the playoff picture would look if the postseason started tomorrow:
BTI back at it again, this time predicting round two of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Washington Capitals (1) vs Pittsburgh Penguins (2)
Tyler Yaremchuk: This one is going to be so tight. It’ll go the distance (6-7 games) and I really like both of these teams, whoever can escape here is my pick to win the cup. Holtby has been a monster in the playoffs and the Capitals have better offense in my mind. This Caps team also plays much better when the games get close, their Goals For % is 57.1% when the games are close. Ill take the Capitals in 7.
Taylor Paniccia: Sit back and sort of relax? This series is going deep. Crosby, Malkin, Kessel, hell even depth players for Pittsburgh are chipping in. Pittsburgh’s offense can’t be tamed and it won’t slow down this series. Washington had troubles against a weak Philadelphia offence and the Pittsburgh Penguins will now expose Washington’s lack of scoring from round 1. You can argue goaltending for the Washington Capitals but it doesn’t seem like Pittsburgh’s goaltending has blemished. Pittsburgh in 7!
Josh Goodings: This series is very hard to predict, but I’m confident that it very well might be the best series of the playoffs. I agree with Tyler, whoever takes this series will be my pick to take it all. The Pens have been on another level for months now, and looked amazing taking out the Rangers in 5, but the Caps have been at the top of the standings all year long for a reason. Each team has plenty of stars up front, Crosby-Malkin-Kessel, Ovi-Backstrom-Kuznetsov, but in terms of overall forward depth I like the Caps. Kris Letang is the best defenceman in the series, but once again I think the Caps take the edge in overall defence depth. Although they’re facing some of the best offensive players in the game, I think both Murray and Holtby will be impressive in this series, but I don’t think the rookie will outshine the soon to be Vezina winner. I’d love to see the Pens move on, but this is the Caps year, it’s their time. Capitals in 7.
Niti Krasniqi: It’s safe to predict it’ll be a long series (Can you imagine a sweep? That would be something). Even with Crosby, Malkin and Kessel I can see Holbty standing his ground. Over the past 2 playoff campaigns Holbty is sporting a .950 SV%. We did see that Washington had some trouble scoring against the Flyers, but, I think that will turn around. They’re facing Matt Murray, and Washington has enough fire power to rattle the rookie. Though, even if it was Fleury in net, I don’t think I would feel any different given Fleury’s history. I have Capitals in 7.
Consensus Pick: Capitals
Tampa Bay Lightning (6) vs New York Islanders (5)
Tyler Yaremchuk: On paper, this should be the Lightning easily. If Ben Bishop can play like the Vezina Finalist he is then Tampa should be going to their second straight Conference Finals. But it’s never that simple. Tavares and Greiss are giving the Islanders a lot of hope. If they can get a few players to contribute some secondary scoring (Lee, Nelson, Nielsen) then they could take this series. Although the Islanders finished higher in the standings, it will still be an upset if they win and I like upsets. Islanders in 6.
Taylor Paniccia: Tampa Bay’s roster is deeper and more experienced and you can’t leave out the fact that Greiss is going up against a Vezina finalist in Ben Bishop. While the Islanders did prove me wrong in round 1 it was a very tight series not very many mistakes were made. Look for this series to be a little more offensively open than the Islanders 1st round and Tampa will run away with their better transition game and high powered scoring offense. Tampa in 7.
Josh Goodings: This series shouldn’t be a problem for the Lighting, they have better forward depth, better defence, and a Vezina candidate between the pipes. Even without Steven Stamkos they’re the better team. But not so fast, John Tavares and Thomas Greiss were amazing in the first round and carried that over into Game 1 of this series, giving the Isles a 1-0 series lead and taking away home ice advantage from the Lightning. I still think the Bolts are the better team and will win this series but don’t count the Isles out. Tampa in 7.
Niti Krasniqi: Tampa Bay may be missing their best player, but, they’re still a deeper team with Vezina candidate goaltending, backed up by a very solid Vasilevskiy. The Islanders deserve more credit than they’re getting from the hockey world, but, they were outplayed a lot of the time during their first round match-up against the Panthers. However, John Tavares was outstanding for them in the first round and if he can keep it up this could be a long series. I’ll take Lightning in 6.
Consensus pick: Tampa
Dallas Stars (1) vs St. Louis Blues (2)
Tyler Yaremchuk: Dallas proved me wrong in round one, I dont think they can do it again against a much better St. Louis team. Elliot is too hot and they’re getting contributions from all parts of their lineup. A Seguin return may spark something but I don’t think it will be enough. Blues in 6.
Taylor Paniccia: Dallas simply can not fall asleep like they did at times against the Minnesota Wild. They are going up against a much better St. Louis team. Based on goaltending and how good Elliot has been I have the Blues taking this one quickly. Blues in 5.
Josh Goodings: The Blues biggest challenge in the west were the Chicago Blackhawks, and they conquered them. I think by beating the Hawks they proved they’re the top team in the Western conference, and I think it’s easy sailing to the west finals. Dallas did look impressive against Minnesota… at times, but that just won’t be enough to beat the Blues. Throw in a Tyler Seguin injury and a very hot Brian Elliot and I think this is an easy series for St.Louis. Blues in 5.
Niti Krasniqi: One of these teams is better all around than the other. Though, 3 of their 5 regular season matchup’s needed OT. The other 2 were 3-0 victories for each side. I can see the Dallas Stars putting up a fight and dragging this one out longer than they probably should. Stars obviously miss Tyler Seguin but his production in the post season is pretty poor in comparison to his regular season stats. (0.83 PPG vs. 0.42 PPG) – almost slashed in half. At the end of the day I don’t think Seguin’s absence will be the deciding factor in this series. Blues have the better team. Blues in 7.
Consensus pick: Blues
San Jose Sharks (6) vs Nashville Predators (7)
Tyler Yaremchuk: A battle of two strong possesion teams (both top 10 in CF%) and whoever can take this series is who I will be rooting for to win the Cup. Nashville played very well against Anaheim in round one, but I still look at that series as Anaheim loosing not Nashville winning. Rinne has been spectacular and Smashville’s defense is the best in the league, but this is San Jose’s year, I think beating the Kings gives this team so much confidence/momentum. Sharks in 5.
Taylor Paniccia: Wow did Nashville shock me. While they played well and shut down the Anaheim ducks they will not do that against a way heavier offense in the San Jose Sharks. The Sharks are high as ever coming off that big series win against the LA Kings and will take this series because Nashville will not be able to keep up with their scoring. Sharks in 6.
Josh Goodings: This will be an interesting series, both teams coming off of first round upsets looking to prove they’re not a one and done team. The Sharks finally got their redemption with the Kings, looking dominant and finishing them in 5 games. The Preds were up and down in their series with the Ducks, losing games 3, 4, and 5 in a row, but still taking the series in 7. I think these two teams match up quite evenly, but the likes of Pavelski, Thornton, Couture, and Marleau, will be too much for the Preds to handle. Sharks in 6.
Niti Krasniqi: Sharks have more ability on the offensive side of the game and I think they’re good enough defensively to top the Predators. Although Pekka Rinne had a very good first round, he’s been very unlike himself this season so it’s tough to predict which Pekka we will see this series. These two teams are Corsi Kings, but, the Sharks’ goal differential was +31, whereas the Preds was only +13. I think Jones is good enough to help them win this series, if not, they’ve got Reimer waiting. I have the Sharks in 6.
Consensus pick: Sharks