The first time I ever wrote a playoff preview article was in Grade 6 for a group assignment about newspapers. Newspapers! What an inventive way of preparing us for the future.
I still remember doing a preview for a series between the Ottawa Senators and Philadelphia Flyers and including a picture of Daniel Alfredsson and Mark Recchi. It was one the first times that a school assignment didn’t feel like work.
With that in mind, here is my preview for the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Note: Predictions are silly, unless you’re right, so I’ll include predictions in this post for the fun of it. In my mind, I’m 100% correct, but in reality, the rest is still unwritten. What the heck did I just quote?
Note 2: I’m not going to go on a tangent about how ridiculous the playoff seeding in the NHL is. Just know that it’s ridiculous.
Note 3: I may never get to the actual previews if I keep doing these notes, but they’re important! I’m of the belief that the playoffs are 75% mental and 25% skill, while the regular season is 75% skill and 25% mental. The reason I say that is because every team that makes the playoffs has skill. They wouldn’t be there if they didn’t. What it comes down to is how each team handles the pressure, circumstance, and their opponent. Experience plays a factor in that.
Eastern Conference – Round 1
Tampa Bay Lightning (1) vs. New Jersey Devils (WC2)
I think the Tampa Bay Lightning are a hungry team that has been trying to get back to the Finals since 2015, but have been unable to due to the injuries sustained by Steven Stamkos. I think this team has a
potato chip on their shoulder and have a lot of frustration they’d like to turn into motivation.
As for the Devils, they made the playoffs on the backs of Taylor Hall and their backup goalie, Keith Kinkaid. Who saw that coming? I think they can win a game or two in this series, but that’s it. This is the season that wets their appetite for the future.
Prediction: Tampa Bay Lightning
Boston Bruins (2) vs. Toronto Maple Leafs (3)
On Easter, my grandfather and I were watching a game between Boston and Philadelphia. He kept saying how tough and physical Boston is. When it was made official that the Leafs would face the Bruins, my mom also mentioned how tough Boston is. Neither of them like this matchup for the Leafs.
The Leafs didn’t look overmatched last year when they faced the Capitals in the playoffs. They only won two games, but it was the first time this group had been there. It was a learning experience. They’re better this year and Mike Babcock knows how to get this team to play a certain way. As a Leafs fan, I’m not scared of the Bruins.
I might have a full blog post tomorrow just about the Leafs.
Prediction: Toronto Maple Leafs
Washington Capitals (1) vs. Columbus Blue Jackets (WC1)
Why should I take the Washington Capitals seriously? They never do anything in the playoffs and this year, they’re not even going with Braden Holtby in net since he’s been awful down the stretch. Stars have to align in order to win the Cup, I think the Capitals need a ruler just to keep them straight.
The Columbus Blue Jackets are the kid that is picked on over and over again, before they reach a breaking point and fight back. I think this is their year to fight back. I think they knock off the Capitals and go on to knock off the Penguins in the next round, too. I believe they’re in the right frame of mind to do that.
Prediction: Columbus Blue Jackets
Pittsburgh Penguins (2) vs. Philadelphia Flyers (3)
It’s hard to bet against the Pittsburgh Penguins, especially because they’ve won the Stanley Cup two years in a row. Eventually, you have to bet against them. They can’t win the Cup every year, this isn’t the NBA. I worry about their goaltending, but not in round one.
The Flyers looked terrible early in the season and many thought they’d fire their coach. All of a sudden they’re in the playoffs. However, not everything has changed. They still lack solid goaltending – something they haven’t had since Robert Esche in the early 2000s, and even then, he was a glorified backup. I’d love to see them win this series, but the Penguins are too much for them at this point.
Prediction: Pittsburgh Penguins
Western Conference – Round 1
Nashville Predators (1) vs. Colorado Avalanche (WC2)
The Nashville Predators breezed through the regular season like a team that knows this year is all about getting back to the Finals and winning the Stanley Cup. Mr.
Underwood Fisher came out of retirement near the end of the season, to help out, so that is this team’s “feel good” moment of the year and extra layer of motivation.
The Colorado Avalanche were caught up in an avalanche known as Matt Duchene’s trade request. Once they traded him to Ottawa, Nathan MacKinnon’s alarm clock went off and he turned into the superstar everyone thought he could be. I’d love to see them win this series, but I don’t think it’s going to happen. The Predators have too much on the line, while the Avalanche are just wetting their appetite, like the Devils.
Prediction: Nashville Predators
Winnipeg Jets (2) vs. Minnesota Wild (3)
I think people need to calm down with the Winnipeg Jets hype. I get it, they’re a really good team. But they haven’t won a playoff game since returning to Winnipeg, and the franchise as a whole (Atlanta Thrashers from 1999-2011) has never won a playoff series. The idea that they’re going to march all the way to a Stanley Cup is weird to me, just because I believe teams need to lose in the playoffs before they can win.
Minnesota is without a couple of defensemen and look like they could get steam rolled, but don’t be surprised if they sneak out a win in Game 1 in Winnipeg. I expect the Jets to be a bit over hyped for that game, which could be a negative.
Prediction: Winnipeg Jets
Vegas Golden Knights (1) vs. Los Angeles Kings (WC1)
The Golden Knights are the sweetheart of the NHL right now and for good reason. No expansion team has ever been so good. But this is the playoffs and that franchise has never been there before, and oh yeah, they’re going up against a team that has won two Cups since 2012.
If there is one team in the NHL that won’t be distracted by the allure of the night life of Las Vegas, it’s Los Angeles. You think they don’t know how to deal with distractions? Couple that with how much experience they have, and the fact that they have not won a playoff playoff round since their last Cup in 2014. I wouldn’t want to face them. They have too much to prove.
Prediction: Los Angeles Kings
Anaheim Ducks (2) vs. San Jose Sharks (3)
This was a toss up for me. The quack pack from Anaheim plays a heavy game and Randy Carlyle likes to match lines. The depth on his roster ensures that even when he doesn’t have the last change, he won’t be overmatched.
The Sharks are starting the playoffs without Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau for the first time since 1953 (or thereabouts). Thornton may come back, but Marleau is in Toronto, so the Sharks will need their younger players to step up. A lot of things have to go right for a team to win a playoff series and the fact that Thornton will miss at least one game doesn’t sit well with me. I think the Sharks are retooling and this isn’t their year.
Prediction: Anaheim Ducks
As far as the second round shakes down, I have the Leafs beating the Lightning, because I don’t fear the Lightning. I also have Columbus beating Pittsburgh because it’s time for them to stand up to the bully.
In the West, I have Nashville defeating Winnipeg because Nashville is on a mission, while the Jets could use some heartbreak as motivation for next year. Then I have the LA Kings defeating the Ducks because I think the Kings are rejuvenated this year and are out to prove a point to the rest of the Western Conference.
In the Eastern Conference Final, I have the Leafs defeating Columbus, which just feels wrong, I know, but that’s the way my bracket turned out. If I were smarter I’d have Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay in the Conference Final, but where’s the fun in that? Plus, I’m biased, even though I’ll deny it.
In the Western Conference Final, I have the Nashville Predators over the LA Kings. LA will have been through two very physical series and will feel the effects of it in this one.
In the Stanley Cup Final, I chose the Predators to defeat the Maple Leafs because it’s bad luck to pick you favourite team to win the Stanley Cup. Also, that whole Nashville is on a mission thing, while the Leafs are still too young to win it all. The Leafs will go into next season with a lot of optimism and then fall short of the Finals. I hate that I just wrote that, but sports are like that.
Alright, that is all!
I don’t expect many of these predictions to be correct, but I was able to justify them in my head, which is good enough for me.
Let me know what you think below!