NHL Playoffs: One day away from the opening of the GREATEST PLAYOFFS IN ALL OF SPORTS (for the record, this is a fact and therefore is not up for debate)
Here are my (Jim’s) predictions for how round 1 will shape up and who I think will be raising Lord Stanley’s Cup in a few months.
(1) Washington Capitals vs (WC2) Toronto Maple Leafs: The Leafs are young, fast and hungry but are not battle tested enough to get past this Capitals team. CAPS IN 5
(2) Pittsburgh Penguins vs (3) Columbus Blue Jackets: One of the most surprising teams this season was the Blue Jackets who gave Washington & Pittsburgh a run for their money in the Metro division. Pittsburgh comes into this postseason banged up, but still impressive. This is a bold call I know. BLUE JACKETS IN 7
(1) Montreal Canadiens vs (WC1) New York Rangers: Who doesn’t love an original 6 matchup in the playoffs?!? These two teams had very different regular seasons but ended with almost the same number of points. The Rangers come in a battle-tested squad who is trying to capture the elusive Cup. Montreal hopes Claude Julien has another Cup run in him as a head coach. CANADIENS IN 6
(2) Ottawa Senators vs (3) Boston Bruins: A team I thought could make some noise this year was Ottawa and these Senators did just that. Boston made a bold move earlier this season firing the above-mentioned Claude Julien and made an impressive turnaround since then. BRUINS IN 6
(1) Chicago Blackhawks vs (WC2) Nashville Predators: I don’t know if you could have 2 teams that are on opposite ends of the playoff spectrum. The Blackhawks are arguably the most tested team in this postseason, while Nashville is that young team who is on the cusp of greatness. Sorry, Nashville, experience rules here. BLACKHAWKS IN 5
(2) Minnesota Wild v (3) St. Louis Blues: The Blues were floundering under the final year leadership of Ken Hitchcock. Since his firing earlier in the season, this team has been sparked with new life. Minnesota was one of the best teams in the league for most of the season but fell apart late. Looks like the “Boudreau playoff dip” started early in Minnesota. Unfortunately for the Wild, it won’t stop. BLUES IN 5
(1) Anaheim Ducks vs (WC1) Calgary Flames: The Ducks are a fast skating, a hard hitting team who seemingly is afraid of nothing. The Flames are a tremendous feel good story this year after a rough year last season (side note: After ZERO Canadian teams in the playoffs last year, isn’t it great to see 5 chasing the Cup this year?) Back to this series. The Flames are a great story, but I don’t think they have enough to knock off Anaheim. DUCKS IN 6
(2) Edmonton Oilers vs (3) San Jose Sharks: Wasn’t I just talking about feel-good stories? How about the Edmonton Oilers? Fantastic work for all that young talent from years of #1 draft picks FINALLY paying off. I’ve always said the Sharks were one of those teams who looks great before the dance but just can’t pull it off on the biggest stage. This year is no different. OILERS IN 7
Reminder: The Capitals won the President’s Trophy and would have home ice throughout the playoffs. The Blackhawks won the Western Conference and would have home ice through the Western Conference Finals
Now, from where I sit today (I will most likely have to amend this prediction later rounds) but this is my prediction for the Stanley Cup Finals:
Washington Capitals come out of the Eastern Conference
I know many call them the “chokers” of the East, but to be honest this is the best team they have had in the “new era” of Washington hockey (and maybe ever). With injuries to Pittsburgh and a lot of playoff inexperience in the Eastern Conference, it almost seems like the stars are aligning for the Capitals to make their run.
Chicago Blackhawks win the Western Conference
I hate to say it. I’m tired of seeing the same old-same old teams every year, but it’s hard to argue against the history that this Blackhawks team and coaching staff has. They’ll be tested in a tough conference, but ultimately will stand tall.
Washington Capitals vs Chicago Blackhawks in the Cup Finals
Although the Capitals are untested in the deep playoff waters, and the playoffs are a much different beast than the regular season…the Caps won both matchups with Chicago in the regular season including a 6-0 drubbing of them back in January. I know I am likely setting myself up for heartbreak here but I think there’s something in the air…..WASHINGTON CAPITALS WIN THEIR 1 ST EVER STANLEY CUP IN 6 GAMES