The NHL playoffs start tonight, and despite no Canadian teams to cheer for, this is still the most wonderful time of the year.
Anaheim Ducks vs Nashville Predators
MILESTONE: The #NHLDucks are the first team since the 1984-85 NYI to lead the league in both PP and PK percentages.
— Anaheim Ducks (@AnaheimDucks) April 11, 2016
Prediction: Ducks in 7
Reason: The Preds have been playing some good hockey and will be a tough out. I’d like to predict an upset but the Ducks are just playing too well right now. After going 12-15-6 before Christmas, the Ducks have been playing lights-out hockey for 4+ months, going 34-10-5.
Los Angeles Kings vs San Jose Sharks
— LA Kings (@LAKings) April 12, 2016
Prediction: Kings in 6
Reason: The Sharks are a good team, but let’s be real here. These are the Sharks and it’s playoff time. I’d give them a shot against a lot of teams, but not the Kings. LA is an elite team that plays a style that is tailor-made for playoff hockey.
Dallas Stars vs Minnesota Wild
Congrats @DallasStars on central division and western conference titles. Easy parts over.
— Mike Modano (@9modano) April 10, 2016
Prediction: Stars in 5
Reason: The Wild have been a favourite upset pick of mine in recent years, but not this year. This is one of the biggest mismatches in terms of Corsi-For percentage, with the Stars ranked 3rd and the Wild ranked 23rd this season.
Dallas’ wide-open style of play and suspect goaltending concerns me, but that will bite them in the next round, not in Round 1 against the Wild.
St. Louis Blues vs Chicago Blackhawks
— Sportsnet Stats (@SNstats) April 11, 2016
Prediction: Hawks in 7
Reason: I like the Blues, really I do. They’re a good team, they’re better positioned to do well in the playoffs than in recent years, and they’re due for a series victory. But these are the Hawks.
You don’t bet against the Hawks in the playoffs.
Washington Capitals vs Philadelphia Flyers
— EA SPORTS NHL (@EASPORTSNHL) April 12, 2016
Prediction: Capitals in 5
Reason: The Flyers have done well just to make the playoffs this year, after how far back they were a couple of months ago. Unfortunately for them, they’ve run into the class of the NHL this season.
The Caps had the Presidents’ Trophy locked up a long time ago, and they’re ready for the playoffs to begin. They’re also 100% healthy.
Pittsburgh Penguins vs New York Rangers
The room feels a bit more confident than it did in this situation last year. #Pens
— Wes Crosby (@OtherNHLCrosby) April 11, 2016
Prediction: Penguins in 6
Reason: The Penguins are red hot coming into the playoffs, and Sidney Crosby is playing great. They’re without Evgeni Malkin, but somehow that hasn’t seemed to matter for them.
On paper this seems close, but if you trust advanced stats – and I do – you’ll notice that this is the biggest Corsi mismatch in the first round. The Penguins are ranked 2nd, while the Rangers were 26th, slightly above the Canucks. Corsi doesn’t mean everything, but that kind of discrepancy should make you nervous.
Florida Panthers vs New York Islanders
— George Richards (@GeorgeRichards) April 11, 2016
Prediction: Islanders in 7
Reason: Look, I want to see Roberto Luongo and Jaromir Jagr go on a run too, but I don’t see it. The Panthers won arguably the weakest division in hockey, only finishing three points ahead of the Isles. Jaromir Jagr was their leading scorer and I think that’s a concern. The 44-year-old has just 1 goal in his last 33 playoff games.
Florida holds the edge in goal, but don’t discount Thomas Greiss, who has posted some eye-popping numbers this year. Greiss’ save percentage is better than Jaroslav Halak – the goalie he’s replacing – and it’s better than Luongo’s too.
Tampa Bay Lightning vs Detroit Red Wings
Datsyuk on retirement: "Everything is possible. It's not final decision 100 percent." pic.twitter.com/0zU7fePNEL
— Craig Custance (@CraigCustance) April 11, 2016
Prediction: Red Wings in 6
Reason: This would be a bit of a pick ’em if Tampa Bay was healthy, but unfortunately they’re not. No Steven Stamkos and no Anton Stralman is bad news for the Lightning. The Wings, who lost in 7 games to Tampa last season, will exact some revenge and prolong Pavel Datsyuk’s NHL career for at least another couple of weeks.