The NHL Playoffs and the best stretch of the sports calendar reaches its apex with the first round of hockey playoffs starting tonight. The hockey playoffs are without a doubt the best of the professional sport playoffs. Why? They contain the upsets that are absent from the NBA playoffs (good luck next week Portland Trail Blazers!), the gauntlet of four 7-game series to reach the title (unlike the MLB playoffs), and the yearly rivalries and weeklong action (unlike the NFL playoffs).
The revised playoff system enters its fourth year and the changes are starting to pay dividends. The Central Division features two rematches from the 2015 playoffs in the Blues v. Wild and the Blackhawks v. Predators. On a recent podcast with Bill Simmons, P.K. Subban stated that he believed that the Hawks & Predators was the best rivalry in hockey from a player’s perspective, and he spent many years in Montreal playing in the Canadians rivalries with the Leafs & Senators.
Now this is wild, Nashville has actually instituted many ticketing rules in attempts to keep Hawks fans out of Bridgestone Arena. My opinion, Hawks fans just got to learn how to get past security. You gotta make sure that you just have a lovely lady on your arm and no one will ask any questions.
Quick Water Cooler Shots – Most Important Player of Each Series
Blues v. Wild – Jake Allen: Allen was the number one goaltender in the month of March with an eye-popping .953 Save Percentage & a measly 1.35 Goal Against Average. This was all after it appeared that they had thrown in the towel by trading away an all-star level defenseman, Kevin Shattenkirk, to the Capitals. Allen has been as good as the brick wall from Wayne Gretzky 3D Hockey… if he keeps this up, it may be another early exit for the Wild.
Hawks v. Preds – Patrick Kane: No question about this one. Yes, the reports are true – Kane is ditching the mullet this year and going beard only. All the Chicago fans are hoping this does not curse his playoff performance. Because as Kane goes, so do the Hawks. The Hawks have made the conference finals in 5 of the past 8 years including hoisting the cup three times, during those runs Kane has had 47 goals in 103 games (0.46 goals per game). In the Hawks three first round exits he has a mere 2 goals in 20 games (0.1 goals per game). Yes, this statistic suffers from small sample size error, but I don’t care. The Hawks excellence rests on Kane putting the biscuit in the basket.
Sharks v. Oilers – Logan Couture: Logan was out the last game seven games of the season and without him in the lineup, the Sharks may be headed for an early exit for this year’s playoffs. Last year during the Sharks run to the Stanley Cup Finals, Couture led the team in points with 10 goals and 20 dimes. They will not survive against The Regulators from Edmonton led by Leon Draisaitl & Connor McDavid. McDavid, the leading goal scorer and potentially fastest man on skates in the league, can take Emilio Estevez’s role as “Billy the Kid” while Leon Draistal could reprise Charlie Sheen’s character.
Ducks v. Flames – Troy Brouwer, Michael Frolik, and Kris Versteeg: The trio of ex-Hawks bring five rings to the upstart Flames and just about the only playoff experience on the roster. Calgary has to thank Gary Bettman (for the NHL’s hard salary cap without any exemptions and a meager cap growth) for this trio leaving Chicago and accounting for 45 goals in Calgary this year. If these third stringers can put in some goals than the Flames got a chance against the Ducks.
Enjoy the First Games Tonight & Eastern Conference Preview will Follow,