Photo from hlntv.com
By David Sheridan
The Stanley Cup, the greatest trophy in all of sports, is back up for grabs as the NHL playoffs begin. With this year’s teams ready to go — without any Canadian teams — let’s get into what I want to see happen, and what will more like happen in round 1.
New York Islanders vs. Florida Panthers:
Head: The Islanders are riddled with injuries all around. They’re missing two goalies, several forwards and a couple of key defensemen. What they do have is John Tavares playing some of his best hockey of the year right now. Unfortunately, that won’t be enough to get past the seemingly ageless Jaromir Jagr and Roberto Luongo. Luongo had New York’s number this year and will probably continue that into the playoffs. Panthers in six.
Heart: If I’m being super biased, Islanders sweep the series and every series after to win the Stanley Cup. If I’m being a sports fan with a little bit of bias, Islanders win in seven because that would be a great series. The Panthers are too fun of a team to let them go out in only four games. Also, SPACEY. IN. SPAAAACE.
Detroit Red Wings vs Tampa Bay Lightning
Head: It’s hard to argue against the consistency that is the Red Wings, who have been in the playoffs every year since the 1989-90 season. They have the veteran experience of guys like Pavel Datsyuk who have won Cups before. Plus, Datsyuk is like a wizard with the way that he handles the puck.
Tampa Bay on the other hand has the experience to make it to the finals — they did it last year before they lost to the Chicago Blackhawks — but this year they would have to do it without their captain Steven Stamkos. Stamkos is out for the next few months due to blood clots in his arm and that loss will be too much for the Lightning to overcome. Red Wings take it in 5.
Heart: The Red Wings are my second favorite team behind the Islanders, and Pavel Datsyuk is one of my favorite players — see video above for explanation. I was really upset to hear that Datsyuk plans to retire after this season so I want to see him win another championship, but again this is a great series that could go seven games. I’m a fan of the Lighning as well, but my heart says Red Wing in seven.
Philadelphia Flyers vs Washington Capitals
Head: The Flyers were the last team in the East to earn a playoff spot beating out the Boston Bruins by three points. If they’re going to beat the Capitals, they’re going to need a very strong performance from their captain Claude Giroux. I really don’t think they have a chance of getting past the Capitals. Washington was the best team in the league for a very long time this year and Alexander Ovechkin is going to be too much for Philly to handle. Capitals in 5.
Heart: This one is hard. I’m still bitter about what happened last year in the playoffs between the Capitals and the Islanders, but at the same time I do not like the Flyers. Only by a slight margin do I want to see the Capitals win this series. I’m hoping for seven games just so they’re tired out.
New York Rangers vs Pittsburgh Penguins
Head: The Rangers are always a threat to win the Stanley Cup for one reason alone: Henrik Lundqvist. He is an outstanding goalie. I haven’t said that a goalie could carry a team to a championship since Martin Brodeur was still playing. The problem for the Rangers comes from whether or not their stars step up in the playoffs, especially Rick Nash. Nash has not performed well in the postseason in his years as a Ranger. On the other side of the ice, the Penguins are probably the hottest team heading into the playoffs. Even without Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh has been strong behind Sidney Crosby. They’re going to be hard to beat and that’s why they win the series in six games.
Heart: As hard as it was to pick the Flyers/Capitals series, this one is even harder. If I ranked all the teams by how much I like them, these two would be at the bottom. I have to hate the Rangers because I’m an Islander fan. I have to hate the Penguins because I’m a hockey fan who knows that Pittsburgh is a dirty team and is just full of cry-babies who don’t know how to take a loss-especially Crosby. And when they do lose, they turn to cheap hits to try and take down the other team.
…but I digress. The only player I enjoy in this series is Lundqvist because of how good he is. That’s why my heart says the Rangers win in-stop me if you heard this before-seven games. Again, just so they’re tired out.
Minnesota Wild vs Dallas Stars
Head: Minnesota has been a solid team for the last few seasons in the NHL. The additions of Ryan Suter and Zach Parise a few years ago revitalized this team into a perennial playoff contender. Unfortunately for them, they drew one of the most fun teams to watch in the Dallas Stars. Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin can light up a scoreboard and the addition of Patrick Sharp and Johnny Oduya this past off-season make them a heavy favorite to win it all. They’ll take this series in five.
Johnny Oduya miraculously scored the slowest-moving top-corner goal you're likely to see. #DALvsPIThttps://t.co/JX75BiyWZF
— #StanleyCup Playoffs (@NHL) October 23, 2015
Heart: I’ve enjoyed watching the Stars this year. They were a lot of fun because of how good they were. I also have negative feelings for the Wild because they have Thomas Vanek on the team. As an Islander fan, I can’t forget them trading my favorite player, Matt Moulson, to Buffalo for Vanek and then seeing him highly under-perform for the rest of that season. I want the Stars to sweep just because I’m still bitter.
Chicago Blackhawks vs St. Louis Blues
Head: The Blackhawks have been arguably the best team in the NHL over the past decade or so. This team has been built using their draft picks and building solid players in the minor leagues. Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Duncan Keith are the heart of this team and have led them through so many playoff series, and Corey Crawford is very reliable in net. The Blues finished the season hot and have, for a while now, been looking to make a deep playoff run. They have the ability to do so, but this won’t be the year. Duncan Keith is suspended for the first game of the series, but look for him to make a difference late in the series. Blackhawks in seven.
Heart: I have a lot of respect for what the Blackhawks have done to build this team up. I like this team because they didn’t go out and make a strong team through trades or free agent signings, but instead built a strong foundation from within. My heart want to see them sweep the series.
Nashville Predators vs Anaheim Ducks
Head: Nashville has a lot of talent. Their captain, Shea Weber, has the hardest slap shot in the league. With Pekka Rinne minding the net, they’re a threat to make some noise but not a legitimate contender for the Stanley Cup. The Ducks, on the other hand, have the talent and experience to challenge for a championship. What looked like a lost season in the beginning of the year turned into the Ducks being one of the best teams in the league. They’re hot and have been for a while. That will propel them to series win in six games.
Heart: My head and my heart are in agreement here. I like the Ducks and I don’t mind Nashville. Six games is good for this series. The Ducks go on to win the series, but the Predators are able to win a few games before being knocked out.
San Jose Sharks vs Los Angeles Kings
Head: The Sharks are always a good regular season team. Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski and Logan Couture solidify the offense. Brent Burns was one of the best defensemen in the league this year and has one of the best beards in the league.
Unfortunately for them, they are not a great playoff team. They’re pretty much known as a team that chokes in the postseason. This is not a good matchup for them because the Kings have been crazy good in the playoffs. Jonathan Quick is on the top of his game when he plays in the playoffs, helping lead the team to their first two Stanley Cups in the franchise. This will be a tight series, but the Kings will come out on top in seven games.
Heart: Again, my head and heart agree. What I want to see in this series is something that has already happened a few years ago: the Sharks will go up 3-0 in the series, but the Kings will come back to win it in seven.