It’s that time of year again. As much as I love the NFL Playoffs, I can’t hang out and watch everyone else win. As a fan of the Philadelphia Eagles, I…
No, I’m not going to get into all of that. It’s time for the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Jack! I can sit through and watch all the games that are on at reasonable hours. It doesn’t matter if my team gets taken out, or doesn’t even make it in the playoffs. There’s nothing like watching the closing ceremonies to the Cup Final. Ah, to raise that Cup in front of a home crowd hungry for a championship. A crowd that has waited so bad since 1976 to win and…
Sorry. Let’s get on with MATTY’S UNREASONABLE 2016 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF PREDICTIONS PREVIEW POST.
WASHINGTON CAPITALS (1st Met. Div.) vs. PHILADELPHIA FLYERS (Wildcard #2) – Thursday April 14 @ 7pm – Season Series: 2-0-2, TIED
Due to my loyalties, this is undoubtedly the one series in the first round that I will be paying attention to the most. I’ve enjoyed this season almost as much as I enjoyed the 2009-10 season. All the Flyers needed to do was get in. They’re in.
(At least during this PHI/WSH series I don’t have to listen to Craig Laughlin yap about the “hot biscuits” Holtby eats. I’m from Virginia. The Capitals were the regional team I had to watch in the 90’s before “Full Ice” or whatever they call it now. They’re also my least favorite franchise in the NHL. I don’t like them at all. They’re stupid. So, yeah, I really want the Flyskis to win this series. Enough prefacing this playoff preview with my scorn for the Washington Capitals. “So, let’s get on with the countdown.”)
(“Number one!”) Outside of 2013-14, the Caps haven’t finished lower than 2nd in their division since 2007-08. How many times have they gotten to a conference final? Zero. The reason I point this out is because I grew up watching the Caps choke. There isn’t anything about this squad different from the previous nine teams.
Braden Holtby did not end the season on a “hot” note, in my opinion. The Flyers’ netminder, Steve Mason, didn’t either. Yeah, Holtby won a slew of games this season, but the Caps lost five out of their last seven. Holtby was in net for three. The Caps’ chances hinge on Holtby’s play because the Flyers match up so well against the Caps.
Alex Ovechkin sucks in the playoffs. Straight up. He needs to be the best sniper in the league, and not just in the regular season. Ovi has the playoff experience. Now he needs to play like it.
The Flyers’ chances ride on two things:
- Forget Mason, he’s going to give up the booty. If he were to get hot, watch out. The Flyers are going to have to score in order to get out of the quarterfinals. Claude Giroux, Wayne Simmonds, and Jake Voracek all need to score points nightly. They’re the leaders. Set the tone.
- The Flyers’ fourth line is dangerous if they get a lead early. As I mentioned, Mason’s going to give up goals, but it’s when the possibility arises where the Flyskis get out to a quick 2-0/2-1 scoring advantage that guys like Ryan White, Pierre Bellemare, and Chris VandeVelde are going to be the guys to stick goals 3, 4, and 5 on the board. Oh yeah, and Shayne Gostisbehere, Shayne Gostisbehere, Shayne Gostisbehere. The Caps don’t have anything close to him.
Sure, the Caps are the 2015-16 President’s Trophy winners (most wins), but this late season “break” started the night after the Caps locked up the award. Big deal, right? Depends on how you look at it.
If you’re a Caps fan, the grinders needed a little rest. Losing five of seven to close the year means jack. If you’re a Flyers fan (ahem), it was the Flyers that beat the Caps on the night after the Caps locked up the Pres’ Trophy. The Caps didn’t rest a soul and lost to the Flyers in a shoot out–a game people can point to as one of the reasons the Flyers are where they are now.
Oh yeah, there’s also the Ed Snider factor. PREDICTION: Flyers in 5 (partial)/Caps in 7 (impartial)
FLORIDA PANTHERS (1st Atlantic Div.) vs. NEW YORK ISLANDERS (Wildcard #1) – Thursday April 14 @ 8pm – Season Series: 2-1, Panthers
I found an awesome stat earlier today. Did you know that the Isles and the Panthers are the two NHL franchises that have gone the longest without winning a NHL playoff series? The Islanders last series victory was back in 1993. The last time the Panthers won a playoff series, they won the Stanley Cup.
You know who was still playing in the league back when the Islanders won their last playoff series in ’93? Jaromir Jagr. The Isles went to the Wales Conference Finals defeating Jagr along the way, ironically enough. You could argue Jagr for the Hart Trophy in 2016, much less 1993. He’s the Panthers’ MVP. Jagr has more tallies this season than he has in a decade. But what else do the Panthers have to bring to the table? Shawn Thornton won in Boston, and has brought that mentality and a veteran edge to the “South Beach Cats.” Roberto Luongo has a 32-31 playoff record. He was on some good teams in Vancouver, but when the playoffs rolled around, nope. Their faults weren’t all Luongo’s, but still.
Between Jaroslav Halak and Jean Berube, I’m not sure whom the Islanders want in net. Halak is hurt and likely done for the duration of the playoffs. Berube has done what he’s needed to do. The Isles can score for days. They shouldn’t worry about that. It’s the play in net that will be key for NYI to survive this series. If Berube, or Christopher Gibson can stand strong, the Islanders might not just win only one series in this postseason. PREDICTION: Islanders in 6
TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING (2nd Atlantic Div.) vs. DETROIT RED WINGS (3rd Atlantic) – Wednesday April 13 @ 7pm – Season Series: 2-2, TIED
The Lightning losing Steven Stamkos to a blood clot came at the worst time. Going into the playoffs, Tampa Bay seems like the one team that’s too banged up to advance. It’s not like they have a lot of injuries, but the losses of Stamkos and defenseman Anton Stralman are huge. The Bolts need to take the first two games of the series at home. If not, they’re in deep trouble. Tampa has played lackluster hockey for the past two months going from one of the top tier Eastern Conference teams to one that with another week of games, may not have made the playoffs at all.
The Detroit Red Wings were in a bit of flux a month ago. It didn’t seem like 25 straight playoff seasons was a big deal. Two days ago, Red Wing legend Pavel Datsyuk said this is it for him. He’s (finally) leaving the NHL at the end of the season to head back to Russia. The Red Wings have something to play for. Let’s see if they can bring one more home for “The Magic Man.” PREDICTION: Detroit in 5
PITTSBURGH PENGUINS (2nd Met. Div.) vs. NEW YORK RANGERS (3rd Met. Div.) – Wednesday April 13 @ 8pm – Season Series: 3-1, Pens
Ew. This series is going to be ugly. For one, I can’t stand either team. So, no, I won’t be watching this series unless a certain team from South Philly advances. I don’t even want to break down this series because of my distain for both clubs. However, I have to.
Let’s start with the bitchass Penguins. No Geno Malkin, or Marc-Andre Fleury, or back up goalie, Matt Murray. If I’m a Pens fan (which I will never be), I look at goalie Jeff Zatkoff getting the Game 1 start and follow that by saying, “Shit.” If Pittsburgh drops Games 1 or 2 at home, they’re done, son.
As for the douchenozzles out of The Big Apple, if Henrick Lundqvist is healthy, the Rangers can roll on his play because he’s one of the premiere goal stoppers in the league. The addition of Eric Staal at the trade deadline gave New York an added veteran to lead them into the playoffs. However, much like “Shittsburgh,” the Rangers have stars with nagging injuries like the aforementioned Lundqvist and Staal. You also have Mats Zuccarello, Viktor Stalberg, and Dan Girardi “probable” for Wednesday night.
This series should be interesting. It’s too bad I get physically ill watching either of these franchises play anyone else but my boys, and even then, still sick. PREDICTION: Who gives a crap? (NYR in 6)
DALLAS STARS (1st Central Div.) vs. MINNESOTA WILD (Wildcard #2) – Thursday April 14 @ 9:30pm – Season Series: 4-1, Stars
I’m geeking out over this series because it’s the real Minnesota North Stars versus the new “North Stars.” The Nordiques can’t play the Avalanche. The Whale can’t wrestle a Hurricane. This is the equivalent of the Cleveland Browns versus the Baltimore Ravens twice a year in the NFL. The only difference is that this “relocated franchise vs. new returning franchise” match up is more likely to happen in the NHL Playoffs than the NFL’s. The Browns suck. But I digress… I’m looking forward to this clash. It’s the first time the Wild and Stars have met in the postseason.
I was talking with my buddy Pete about the 2016 NHL Playoffs the other night and said, “I’m going to go out on the limb and pick the Dallas Stars to win it all.”
Pete’s response: “How is that going out on a limb? They’re the best in the West.”
I’m an idiot, but still, the Stars aren’t the “sexy pick” despite their consistent play all season and their #1 seed. If they get Tyler Seguin back for even Game 2 at home, that’s big. He’s got a “lacerated Achilles.” That sounds painful. Like, I’m sure a torn Achilles is probably the worst, but a lacerated Achilles tendon sounds equally, if not just as bad. The real question isn’t when but if the Stars get Seguin back in time for this series or even at all.
Since 2000, the Minnesota Wild have only won seven regular season games in Dallas. This season, the Wild lost every game to the Stars in Saint Paul. They need Zack Parise, straight up. It looks like he’s not going to be ready for Game 1. You got Mikko Koivu (love that name). Like most teams of the lower seeds, you have to look in the net. Devan Dubnyk and Darcy Kuempner both teamed up to lose the last five games for the Wild after winning five straight before that. What does that say about this club? They’re streaky. Again, if Parise throws some Icy-Hot on his back and gets out on the ice, the Wild have a better chance of winning this series than you think. PREDICTION: Dallas in 5
ANAHEIM DUCKS (1st Pacific Div.) vs. NASHVILLE PREDATORS (Wildcard #1) – Friday April 15 @ 10:30pm – Season Series: 2-1, Preds
I mentioned the “sexy pick” not being the Dallas Stars. Four months ago, no one thought the Anaheim Mighty Ducks would be in the 2016 NHL Playoffs. From January 20th until March 7th, the Ducks lost only two games. The run included a 10-game winning streak. From then on, the Ducks got it done and won their division. Ryan Getzlaf is ridiculous. Frederik Anderson and John Gibson both contributed with outstanding seasons minding the nets. If you’re a team rolling into April with two great goaltenders, the chances of your club making into the Conference Finals are very good. All that said, the Ducks unfortunately have a few keys players nicked up. The aforementioned Gibson has a lower-body injury. I think Anderson gets the start anyway. Ryan Kessler is limping into the series as well. I’m pretty sure both players will suit up and be ready for Friday.
In all of the coverage and articles I’ve perused over the past few weeks, many think the Nashville Predators are the “scariest” team in the Western Conference. Much like, Philadelphia, they’re the 8th seed and have young, dangerous talent. Filip Forsberg led the Preds in points and is one of the NHL’s rising stars. The problem I see with Nashville is their lack of consistency to finish the season. The Preds struggled in March and could have been a much higher seed. Pekka Rinne won 30+. The Predators also won the season series, but all of that means nothing now. He will need to be “on ‘p’” Friday night if they want to survive what could be a… PREDICTION: Ducks sweep.
ST. LOUIS BLUES (2nd Central Div.) vs. CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS (3rd Central Div.) – Wednesday April 13 @ 9:30pm – Season Series: 3-2, Blues
This might be the most interesting series in the first round of the NHL Playoffs. The Blues are due. The pressure is on Ken Hitchcock. I think if any team can stop the Stars from getting to the Cup Finals, it’s the Blues, not the defending Cup Champions.
Let’s talk “Bluhs.” Let’s talk Vladamir Tarasenko’s 74 points this season. Let’s talk about their goaltenders: Brian Elliott and Jake Allen. Two solid goalies; both have first names as their last names. Does the latter mean something? No. I just thought I should be not the first to point that out. It’s looking like Elliott will get the start as Allen deals with a nagging lower-body injury. That said, the Blues and the Blackhawks are fairly healthy to start their first round match-up.
How much of a factor will Duncan Keith’s Game 1 absence play into the series’ outcome? The ‘Hawks’ defenseman can really swing a stick, that’s for sure. What a bad time to lose your temper. The “X-factor” for Chicago is “The Breadman,” Artemi Panarin. This 24-year old rookie is the likely this year’s Calder Award recipient (ahem, Shayne Gostisbehere). This left-winger is nasty. Seems like just another scoring threat in this arsenal of talent. I’m not sleeping on the Blackhawks, however, there is something about this team that isn’t going to survive one of the first two rounds this season. PREDICTION: Blues in 7
LOS ANGELES KINGS (2nd Pacific Div.) vs. SAN JOSE SHARKS (3rd Pacific Div.) – Thursday April 14, @ 10:30pm – Season Series: 3-1-1, Sharks
You, like the rest of middle to eastern America, won’t be staying up to watch this series. I’m going to be looking out for the rating for the 2016 NHL Playoffs in general, but this series I’ll pay particular attention to. No one, outside of your Kings ands Sharks fans across the country (which, I’m sure there are some) will tune into more than a period of this not-very-sexy series. We’ll probably all regret not tuning the next morning too. Kind of like going to a strip joint 15 minutes before they close, tying one on for no reason other than boredom, then going home and passing out with untying your shoe. In that time you were getting plastered, you miss everything. What that “everything” entails is up to the imaginations of the guys and gals that frequent your local “Gold & Silver.” You get my point.
I’m now over seeing Jeff Carter in a Kings uniform. The guy produced in Philadelphia and has since won two Stanley Cups with L.A.–still producing, by the way. The Kings have a ton of experience. Drew Doughty is tough as shit and a great distributor. Vincent Lecavalier, who said this would be his last season, was traded before the deadline–from, you guessed it, the Flyers–and has since found the fountain of youth in Los Angeles leaving a lot of the experts wondering why he’s planning on retiring. Jonathan Quick is one of the five best goalies in the league. He’ll show up. The Kings just need to score.
Much like the Washington Capitals, I’ve always envisioned the San Jose Sharks are perennial choke artists. However, the Sharks are usually okay out of the gate, it’s the latter rounds that tend to jam them up. I’m talking about after the first round. Any Sharks fan will tell you, if you can find one. Patrick Marleau has been playing since I was in the tenth grade. That’s a long time–all with the Sharks. Now, this isn’t the 2009-10 left-winger, but he still contributes. Brent Burns is a tough defenseman and has the look to go with it. The Sharks’ hopes lie in Marty Jones’ glove. If he can stop the veteran assault of Carter, Anze Kopitar, and Milan Lucic, the Sharks might surprise everyone. PREDICTION: Kings in 5
So, what now? This sport is so hard to predict, especially the latter rounds of the playoffs. All I can do is imagine. So…
EASTERN CONFERENCE SEMIFINALS
Washington Capitals vs. New York Rangers – NYR in 6
New York Islanders vs. Detroit Red Wings – NYI in 5
WESTERN CONFERENCE SEMIFINALS
Dallas Stars vs. St. Louis Blues – DAL in 7
Anaheim Ducks vs. L.A. Kings – Ducks in 5
EASTERN CONFERENCE FINALS
New York Rangers vs. New York Islanders – NYR in 7
Dallas Stars vs. Anaheim Ducks – DAL in 6
2016 STANLEY CUP FINAL
New York Rangers vs. Dallas Stars – DAL in 5 – STANLEY CUP CHAMPIONS: DALLAS STARS
If I had it my way, you could replace the Captials, then the Rangers, with the Philadelphia Flyers. They don’t have the players that can initially cause people to think they have a shot, but it’s the NHL Playoffs. Anything can happen. I can’t wait to find out, can you?
Matt de Simone loves watching Playoff hockey, reading comic books, and filling out job applications because he’s almost done with college and needs to find a job writing fun shit. Check out the rest of mattyloves.com for more of Matt’s work.