It’s spring time once again and you know what that means – NHL playoffs, baby! The first round starts on Wednesday April, 13th (You can catch the puck drop on SiriusXM NHL Network Radio Ch. 91) so let’s take a quick lap through who will be competing to lift Lord Stanley’s Cup.
- Washington Capitals: Finished 11 points and six wins clear of next-best Dallas for the Presidents’ Trophy, that’s how great they were in 2015-16. No one had more success and better overall team health. Meaning no one is better poised to finish victoriously, of course, only 8 teams that have won the Trophy have also lifted the Stanley Cup in that season.
- Chicago Blackhawks: The defending champs are minus Duncan Keith in Game One via suspension, plus Marian Hossa, Artem Anisimov and Andrew Shaw due to injuries. Not to mention goalie Corey Crawford just recovered from a concussion. Patrick Kane and Co. are great but timing is everything.
- Dallas Stars: Finished with the best goal differential in the West, and third in the NHL. Their goal-scoring even salvaged an atrocious team save percentage of .904, easily the worst among playoff teams. You know what they say; the best defense is an offense that can’t stop scoring.
- Pittsburgh Penguins: Became the best possession team in the NHL when Mike Sullivan took over in December, and accumulated the second best goal differential in the league. Add in going 13-2-0 without Evgeni Malkin, and it’s clear these Penguins don’t care who you are.
- Anaheim Ducks: Anaheim found their groove in December and soared from the basement to their fourth straight Pacific division title, plus the Jennings Trophy for fewest goals allowed. A season after bowing out in the Conference Finals, the Ducks might be a “little motivated.”
- LA Kings: If there’s something the Kings can’t do, we haven’t found it. Forty-game winning goalie (Jonathan Quick), check; 30-goal scorer (Tyler Toffoli, 31), check; all-world defender (Drew Doughty), check; made Vincent Lecavalier look great, check. They won two of the last four Cups for a reason. Well, many reasons.
- San Jose Sharks: Finally, this may be the cast of merry men to properly complement future Hall of Famers Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau. More importantly, Martin Jones gets tougher as margins of error narrow.
- Florida Panthers: That’s right. They have the ideal mix between talented youths like Aleksander Barkov and Aaron Ekblad, and wildly productive veterans in Roberto Luongo (35 wins) and Jaromir Jagr – who led the team with 66 points in 79 games at age 43!
- St. Louis Blues: We’ve seen this before. In fact, this is the fifth time in recent years we’ve seen a powerhouse Blues team with all the ingredients. The difference this season is they’re healthy, Vladimir Tarasenko scored 40 goals, and they’re catching a banged-up Chicago.
- Tampa Bay Lighting: Ben Bishop is a Vezina Trophy candidate, posting a .934 even-strength save percentage. Ondrej Palat also returned to form after the All-Star break, posting 12 goals and 27 points in 33 games while pushing possession in the right direction at an elite level. Who are Steven Stamkos and Anton Stralman again?
- New York Rangers: Henrik Lundqvist can win series on his own. He posted a .934 even-strength save percentage this season at age 33, the second best mark of his career. Lundqvist also led the league in shots faced and saves made. Consider his career all-inclusive .923 save percentage through 111 playoff games and I’d like to redirect you to the first sentence.
- Detroit Red Wings: Jeff Blashill guided Detroit to their 25th consecutive post-season appearance. Combine Henrik Zetterberg’s “pride” and Pavel Datsyuk’s last hurrah as motivation and we may be set for a vintage Red Wings romp.
- New York Islanders: Thomas Greiss is just one of the Islanders who had career seasons in 2015-16, but he’s the only one who guards the crease. He ended the season on four-game winning streak with just seven goals against.
- Nashville Predators: When the Buffalo Sabres out-class you in save percentage (.915 to .905), there’s a problem. Thing is, these Predators can score and better than some teams higher up in the rankings.
- Minnesota Wild: John Torchetti galvanized them enough to go 15-11-1 down the stretch, but the Wild lost their final five games after clinching a playoff berth. When they’re hot, they’re unbeatable. Otherwise, it could be a short series for the State of Hockey.
- Philadelphia Flyers: Nothing can bring players together like the loss of a loved one. For everything fans of the other 29 teams would say, owner Ed Snider was absolutely beloved in Philadelphia. Do not underestimate a heartbroken team.
Matt Riegler is a freelance hockey writer. Wanna talk shop with him? Reach out via Twitter: @MattRiegler
Tags:chicago blackhawksdallas starsdetroit red wingsnew york islandersnew york rangersnhlnhl radiowashington capitals
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