Stanley Cup Playoffs First Round: Review

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photo courtesy of vimeo under a Creative Commons license

Dom Palombo, sports writer

EASTERN CONFERENCE  – METROPOLITAN DIVISION

  1. Washington Capitals vs. Wild Card 2. Philadelphia Flyers: prediction Capitals in 5
  • Capitals beat the Flyers in six games. Washington showed their ability to the rest of the NHL early on as they were up 3-0 but then got tested for a bit winning the series in six games. Maurice Richard Trophy winner, Capitals Right Winger Alex Ovechkin, scored three goals in the series, and his team outscored the Flyers 14-6 in six games.
  • Capitals are the favorite to win it all, and their season-long performance stands by the label. But their uneasiness over Games 4-6 in the series against the Flyers tested them and showed at times, an inconsistent power play and offense when Ovechkin was not scoring.
  1. Pittsburgh Penguins vs. 3. New York Rangers: prediction Rangers in 7
  • Penguins won in five games. This series had two teams going in opposite directions at the end of the regular season, but recent lack of success for the Penguins forced many like me to go with the 2014 Eastern Conference champion New York Rangers. The Rangers’ midseason pickup of Eric Staal did not prove impactful and Henrik Lundqvist was not enough in the net, as he was pulled two times in the series. The fast play of Pittsburgh will be a big test for the Capitals, and the recent play of Evgeni Malkin (7 pts. in 4 games) and Sidney Crosby (8 pts. in 5 games) only makes them more dangerous.

 

EASTERN CONFERENCE  – ATLANTIC DIVISION

  1. Florida Panthers vs. Wild Card 1. New York Islanders: prediction Florida in 7
  • Islanders beat the Panthers in six games. The difference makers in this series were unreal play from New York captain John Tavares and three overtime games (3, 5, 6) all going in the Islanders’ favor. Tavares’ effort, plus stellar play from backup goaltender Thomas Greiss, moves the Islanders into a second round matchup against a dangerous Lightning team.
  1. Tampa Bay Lightning vs. 3. Detroit Red Wings: prediction Red Wings in 7
  • Lightning beat the Red wings in five games. The reemergence of Jonathan Drouin and Tyler Johnson, plus continued great play from Nikita Kucherov, was key in the series and put the pressure on Detroit all five games. With captain Steven Stamkos and defenseman Anton Stralman possibly returning for the next round, the additions will only help Tampa Bay’s chances in their attempt to repeat as Eastern Conference Champions and then win the Stanley Cup in 2016.

 

WESTERN CONFERENCE – PACIFIC DIVISION

  1. Anaheim Ducks vs. Wild Card 1. Nashville Predators: prediction Ducks in 7
  • The Predators needed seven  games to knock out the Ducks. Nashville were up to the task of beating the Pacific Division champs after winning the first two in Anaheim, as well as the Game 7 clincher on the road. After Anaheim put Fredrick Anderson in goal for Game 3 following their 2-0 deficit, the Ducks won three straight while outscoring the Predators 12-3 in the three wins. Nashville captain, Shea Weber, came up big with five points in seven games as the Predators took Game 6 on their home ice, and then closed the Ducks out at their place.
  • Nashville proved to be a viable candidate to win the Stanley Cup after defeating a great Anaheim team and entering as the underdog in a tough matchup against the Sharks next round.
  1. Los Angeles Kings vs. 3. San Jose Sharks: prediction Sharks in 7
  • Sharks win in five games. Behind a great power play and performance from their best players, San Jose showed to be the better of the two teams. Drew Doughty, Jonathan Quick and the Kings defense was not enough to stop the Sharks firepower of Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski and Brent Burns. The Sharks’ matchup next round against the Predators will be as fun to watch as any.

 

WESTERN CONFERENCE – CENTRAL DIVISION

  1. Dallas Stars vs. Wild Card 2. Minnesota Wild: prediction Stars in 5
  • Stars win in six games. The Dallas firepower proved key and their defense proved to be up for the task despite giving up five goals in Game 3. Tyler Seguin returned in Game 2, but reportedly aggravated his injury and has no timetable to return. Seguin’s absence will be felt much more in the next series against a contender in the Blues. But the failure to take down the depleted Wild easily in Game 6 might be exposed against a better team next round.
  1. St. Louis Blues vs. 3. Chicago Blackhawks: prediction Hawks in 6
  • Blues beat the defending champion, the Blackhawks, in seven games. The better team won, to put it simply – but a Chicago squad that has reached at least the Conference Finals since 2013, wouldn’t go away after going down 3-1 in the series and in the first period of Game 6. The Blackhawks’ superstar forwards, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, didn’t show up when it counted overall in the series as they combined for one goal (Game 5 double-overtime winner from Kane). Added that Vladimir Tarasenko shined for the Blues, and Brian Elliott stood on his head all series long, the Blues’ depth and overall talent overwhelmed the defending champions.
  • The Blues haven’t been in the second round since 2012, so the expectations are varied against a Dallas team up next. They have the talent to win it all, and beating their rivals that had so much success over the last seven years, it could propel them to go far.