So all is good in the hockey world again with five -- count ‘em, five -- Canadian teams back in the Stanley Cup playoffs after nary a one made it last season. Original Six entries like the Maple Leafs and Canadiens ensure that hockey history is properly represented in these playoffs. The emergence of the Oilers and the Flames will introduce hockey fans to a bevy of talented young players like Connor McDavid, Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk. Not to mention Toronto's first-year power trio of Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and William Nylander.
Then there are the Ottawa Senators, who want to clog up the neutral zone and win games 1-0 on a counter-attack play off a neutral-zone turnover. Yawn.
In the interest of full disclosure, I am not very good at Stanley Cup previews. Last season I had both the Sharks and the Penguins out in the first round, and Alex Ovechkin winning a Conn Smythe on the way to the Washington Capitals hoisting the Cup.
Yeah, not so much.
With all that being said, here’s a quick Stanley Cup playoff preview of those that actually did qualify for the tournament:
EASTERN CONFERENCE FIRST ROUND
- Washington over Toronto in 6 – The Capitals will choke again, but it’s not going to be against the upstart Maple Leafs
- Pittsburgh over Columbus in 7 – John Tortorella can’t grind his way past Sidney Crosby and the Penguins, but the Blue Jackets will make Pittsburgh pay a heavy toll to get past them.
- Montreal over the Rangers in 6 – Claude Julien’s system, with Carey Price in goal. will prove to be unbeatable force against the Blueshirts even if the Habs are trying to win games 0-0.
- Boston over the Ottawa in 7 – Evil 1-3-1 trap genius Guy Boucher is going to do everything he can to suck the entertainment value out of the playoffs by clogging up the neutral zone, but it won’t be enough against a Bruins team buoyed by 19-year-old Charlie McAvoy.
EASTERN CONFERENCE SECOND ROUND
- Canadiens over Bruins in 6
- Capitals over Penguins in 7
EASTERN CONFERENCE FINALS
- Capitals over Canadiens in 5
WESTERN CONFERENCE FIRST ROUND
- Chicago over Nashville in 5 – It’s always nice to see PK Subban in the playoffs, but it won’t be a very long stay. Not against the likes of Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith, Marian Hossa and Brent Seabrook.
- St. Louis over Minnesota in 6 – The Postseason Curse of Bruce Boudreau moves to Minnesota, where the Wild will be upset by a Blues team that’s been pretty good under Mike Yeo in the second half of the season.
- Anaheim over Calgary in 7 – It’s never easy for the Ducks and this has the potential to be a really nasty series as it introduces Matthew Tkachuk to the playoffs.
- Edmonton over San Jose in 7 – The reigning Western Conference champs don’t go down without a fight, but it’s Connor McDavid’s time to ascend and show how good he can be in the postseason.
WESTERN CONFERENCE SECOND ROUND
- Blackhawks over Blues in 6
- Oilers over Ducks in 7
WESTERN CONFERENCE FINALS
- Blackhawks over Oilers in 5
STANLEY CUP FINALS
- Blackhawks over Capitals in 6
CONN SMYTHE TROPHY WINNER
- Jonathan Toews