NHL Playoff Round One Recap

Western Conference

Central Division

(1) Chicago Blackhawks 0 vs (WC2) Nashville Predators 4

  • My Prediction: I predicted that the Blackhawks would win in 7 games
  • Thoughts: The idea that I thought that this series would go 7 games shows how close I expected this series to be.  Ultimately, I thought that Chicago’s playoff experience and the high-end playmaking abilities of Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa, and Artemi Panarin would carry them through Nashville.  What I didn’t allow for was the complete freezing of Chicago’s offense, scoring just three goals in the series.  Nashville was able to eliminate the Blackhawks through spectacular goaltending from Pekka Rinne and a top line that accounted for five of the team’s 13 goals and 15 points overall.  It also helps that they arguably have the best defensive group in the NHL.

(2) Minnesota Wild 1 vs (3) St. Louis Blues 4

  • My Prediction: I projected the Wild to win in 6 games
  • Thoughts: I felt that the Wild were going to be able to overcome their lackluster play down the stretch of the regular season and oust the Blues.  Instead, the Blues were able to carry their hot streak into the playoffs and shut down the Wild.  Blues’ goaltender Jake Allen was amazing in the series despite not playing overly well in the regular season.  He ended the series with a .956 save percentage and a 1.47 goals against average, telling me that goaltending coach Marty Brodeur has done wonders for Allen’s game.  The Wild were also snakebitten this series, shooting just 3.4%, despite tying or outshooting the Blues in every game.  Lastly, it also doesn’t help that Wild goalie Deven Dubnyk let in several bad goals in this series, something that can’t happen in a series that close.

Pacific Division

(1) Anaheim Ducks 4 vs (WC1) Calgary Flames 0

  • My Prediction: I projected that Calgary would win in 6 games
  • Thoughts: I never thought that Anaheim would end up sweeping Calgary but believed that they were capable of winning the series.  I think the biggest difference maker in this series was the playoff experience on the Ducks roster as opposed to that of the Flames.  Calgary struggled staying disciplined in the series and lacked forward depth in the bottom two lines.  Anaheim’s defensive depth was also better than Calgary’s, helping to shut down the Flames top six for the most part.  This seems like just the first dip into the playoffs for a Flames roster that should be right back here next season.

(2) Edmonton Oilers 4 vs (3) San Jose Sharks 2

  • My Prediction: I picked San Jose to win the series in 5 games
  • Thoughts: I felt confident that Edmonton was going to be a team that needed to feel the sting of a playoff loss before being able to advance and be true Stanley Cup contenders.  That’s what Pittsburgh, the Kings, and Boston all had to experience.  I thought that Edmonton’s weakness on defense, especially on their third pairing, was going to be exposed by a veteran team like the Sharks.  I also thought that the extreme playing time goalie Cam Talbot received in the regular season would be the downfall for Edmonton and that he would just get too tired in the playoffs. Talbot ended up not being spectacular in this series and Edmonton actually had a negative goal differential in their six games.  However, he made the key saves when he needed to and generally held San Jose in check except for game four when the Oilers lost 7-0.  The Oilers were also able to insulate their third pairing defensemen by skating their top four hard, all averaging over 20 minutes a game.  Edmonton’s young, skilled forwards proved to be just too much for San Jose’s defense and often times it looked like the Oilers were skating around Sharks players who were standing still.  Finally,  the Oilers have Connor McDavid and the Sharks couldn’t contain him.  Despite facing the Sharks top defenseman, Marc-Edouard Vlasic nearly every shift, McDavid was able to be productive, leading the Oilers in points.  For the Sharks, their loss seems to be the product of their age, leading to their inability to keep pace with the Oilers, and the injuries faced by key members of their top six.  Not having a healthy Joe Thornton or Logan Couture makes it really difficult for the Sharks to win a playoff series.

Eastern Conference

Metropolitan Division

(1) Washington Capitals 4 vs (WC2) Toronto Maple Leafs 2

  • My Prediction: I predicted that Washington would win the series in 6 games
  • Thoughts: I correctly predicted this series outcome, picking the Capitals to win the series 4-2. My reasoning for this was that Toronto’s youth and speed at forward could give Washington’s defense some issues and that’s exactly what happened.  Toronto goaltender Frederik Andersen was stellar in this series before ultimately being beat by the more talented team in six hard-fought games, five of which went to overtime.  Those overtime games could have gone either way but Washington got the job done as they are supposed to do.  I think a lot of people underestimated the abilities of Toronto to be able to give the Capitals a serious run and the Maple Leafs should be right back in the playoffs again next season.

(2) Pittsburgh Penguins 4 vs (3) Columbus Blue Jackets 1

  • My Prediction: I projected that the Penguins would win the series in 7 games
  • Thoughts: I thought that the Penguins would be significantly impacted by the loss of Kris Letang but were still talented enough to beat the Blue Jackets, just that it would go the distance.  What I didn’t expect to happen was for Columbus to completely implode in on itself and for them to revert back to their scrappy playing style, the opposite of the style they played this season when they were winning.  It’s as if head coach John Tortorella can’t help himself when playing Pittsburgh and has to try and beat them up.  The difference now is that the Penguins are finally mature and don’t give into said antics.  The Penguins were lucky that they still have Marc-Andre Fleury for the playoffs as Matt Murray missed the series with an injury. Fleury didn’t play great but did enough to keep the team in games.  The biggest difference maker in this series was the Penguins offense, which is so consistent and so deep.  They are at the point now where teams can’t just work at shutting down Crosby or Malkin’s lines because the third line features Phil Kessel and the fourth line is full of gritty players who go after the puck and wear down the opposing team.  It also helped that Malkin once again proved that he plays his best at the biggest moments, accounting for 11 points in just five games.  Their blueline also wasn’t tested as much by the Blue Jackets forwards as they will be by other teams going forward, helping the Penguins to not feel the loss of Letang that much.

Atlantic Division

(1) Montreal Canadiens 2 vs (WC1) New York Rangers

  • My  Prediction: I picked Montreal to win this series 4 games to 1
  • Thoughts: I predicted that the Canadiens were going to win this series because I placed a lot of faith in their top two forward lines and the goaltending of Carey Price.  I also thought that they had a much better defense group than that of the Rangers.  With the way that Rangers’ goaltender Henrik Lundqvist played for much of the regular season, I never thought that he could play as well as, if not better than, Carey Price.  The biggest reason that the Canadiens lost this series was because they couldn’t score goals, a problem they had all season long.  Their bottom six, which wasn’t great in the regular season, was equally as questionable in the playoffs. Captain Max Pacioretty, who had 35 goals in the regular season, had no goals and just one assist in the series.  A team that already struggles to scores has to get production from those who have proven themselves to be reliable.  It also doesn’t help that at the trade deadline the team decided to bring in gritty forwards to play on their fourth line rather than address that deficit in scoring goals.  New York, on the other hand, was able to cover up their issues on the blueline and was quick to get the puck out of their zone to their speedy forwards.

(2) Ottawa Senators 4 vs (3) Boston Bruins 2

  • My Prediction: I predicted that Boston would win the series 4-2
  • Thoughts: Despite no one really understanding how Ottawa has won as many games this season as they have, they continue to excel.  I wrote that this was probably going to be a low scoring matchup as neither team have had much offense in the regular season.  The Senators got goals from somewhat surprising players including Bobby Ryan and Clarke MacArthur as well as excellent goaltending from Craig Anderson.  Boston’s downfall was on defense where they asked a lot from first year players Brandon Carlo and Charlie McAvoy.

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