Stanley Cup Playoffs: Preview
So that’s that, an NHL ‘regular’ season is over and the playoffs will begin this week. While teams only played 48 games this season compared the usual 82 the 2012-2013 half season has yielded just as much drama and great hockey as the seasons before them. In this preview, we will be looking at each team and how they have been playing and how I think they will get on in the post-season.
Pittsburgh Penguins (36-12-0) – Winners of East Conference & Atlantic Division
The Pittsburgh Penguins have had an extremely strong season and finished 1st in the east conference this year. They managed to secure a perfect March with a 15 game win streak which highlighted the strength of their team. However due to the star player Sidney Crosby missing a quarter of the season due to a broken jaw the Penguins entered a slight slump in April losing more games than they would have liked to. Luckily for the Penguins Crosby looks set to return for the postseason. The Penguins’ first game is against the New York Islanders which they currently hold a 4-1 record against the Islanders and are favorites to progress.
Montreal Canadians (29-14-5) – Winners of the Northeast Division
Last year the Canadians finished last in the east but now round of the season in 2nd place. Under new management and coaching they have turned things around very quickly becoming a force to be reckoned with. In April they did experience a slight slump in April after clinching a playoff spot by conceding 25 goals in 5 games. However, this team can play well when it needs to and is a force to be reckoned with in the playoffs. They play the Ottawa Senators in the first round, which they currently hold a 2-2 record. While the Canadians are favorites to progress this round could see 7 matches played.
Washington Capitals (27-18-3) – Winners of the Southeast Division
Under the leadership of ‘world’s worst smile’ Alex Ovechkin the Caps managed to clinch the southeast from the Winnipeg Jets. Ovechkin had a killer of a season finishing as the top goal scorer with 32 goals. He has pretty much dragged his team through the season and into the final and he is looking for glory. The Caps square up against the New York Rangers who the currently have a 1-2 record with.
Boston Bruins (28-14-6) – 2nd Place Northeast Division
The Bruins have been looking dangerous this season with fierce competition between them and the Canadians lasting until the dying weeks. Perhaps the most memorable scene of the Bruins season was the sell out game against the Buffalo Sabers only 2 nights after the marathon bombings. This scene was seen again on the Saturday only 14 hours after the city was on lockdown. Under the leadership of human giant Zdeno Chara they are a formidable team physically, not scared to take hits or give them. They play the Toronto Maples Leafs and hold a 3-1 record against them. However these victories were narrow and thus this fixture will be a close one.
Toronto Maple Leafs (26-17-5) – 3rd Place Northeast Division
After a playoff drought extending since 2004 the Maple Leafs have finally made it to the post season. This makes them difficult to predict in race for the Stanley cup final. With a consistent team playing good hockey they are a team that could cause problems. While their record against Boston isn’t the best, they have been knows to give them a fight in every match this season making this playoff tie hard to predict.
New York Rangers (26-18-4) – 2nd Place Atlantic Division
Last season the Rangers finished top of the east so this slight fall from grace is a slight disappointment. After a strong set of games in April the Rangers managed to clinch a playoff spot. With an extremely strong defense and a magnificent goaltender it is safe to say that they will not allow any easy goals to be scored against them. While they have a 2-1 record against the Caps this season the tie could go either way. We will see the Ranger defense come face to face with the Caps offense.
Ottawa Senators (25-17-6) – 4th Place North East Division
The Senators have been plagued with injuries throughout the season and there was thoughts that they may not make it through to the playoffs. However this weakened team fought on and managed to make the cut. While the Senators are weak in the offense, being the weakest offensive team in the playoffs, they are solid defensively and have the best penalty killing team in league. They have some of their star players back from injury and are now more dangerous than they ever have been this season. With a 2-2 record against the Canadians this fixture will be close.
New York Islanders (24-17-7) – 3rd Place Atlantic Division
It has been since 2007 that the Islanders have made the playoffs and they have been seen as the surprise team to make it. After a lackluster start to the season the Islanders picked it up with a nice balanced team with some solid goaltending and shooting. While it will be extremely difficult for them to beat the Penguins they will certainly give it a go and take the fight to them.
Chicago Blackhawks (37-7-5) – Winner’s of President’s Trophy, Western Division & Central Division
The Blackhawks started the season with a 21-0-3 point streak record which quickly set them up as the team to beat this season. While this streak was broken by the Colorado Avalanche they still managed to end the season with 77 points leading the league and taking the president’s trophy. With a extremely strong team they are favorites to win the Stanley Cup. They meet Minnesota Wild in the first round and have a 2-1 record against them. However they are by far the favorites to progress into the next round.
Anaheim Ducks (30-12-6) – Winner of the Pacific Division
While the Blackhawks have been storming the West little attention has been given to the other teams. The Ducks have been also having a great season, coming close in overtaking the Blackhawks at one point but later slumping. The Ducks had a shocking April and will be hoping to bounce back in the post season. They play against the struggling Detroit Red Wings but they go into the game with a 1-2 record against them.
Vancouver Canucks (26-15-7) – Winner of the Northwest Division
This is the 5th season in a row that the Canucks have won the Northwest division and have had a strong season so far. With the extremely strong Sedin twins they are a team to be reckoned with. However, they will have a hard time against the San Jose Sharks as they have lost every game against them this season (0-3) so they will need to take the fight to them.
St. Louis Blues (29-17-2) – 2nd Place Central Division
St. Louis have been a pretty solid team this season. They have been disallowing other teams shooting chances but at the same time, severely lacking in the goal scoring area. However, they had a fantastic April losing only 2 of their 14 games thus letting them secure a tasty playoff position. However they are against the current champions the Los Angeles Kings and have a 0-3 record against them.
Los Angeles Kings (27-16-5) – 2nd Place Pacific Division
The Kings have improved their positioning from last year, finishing 5th in the conference rather than the 8th they achieved last year. Like St. Louis they are one of the better teams at reducing scoring chances. However they are also not the greatest offensive team in the league. Regardless, they have beaten St. Louis the last 8 times they have played them and hold a 3-0 record against them this season.
San Jose Sharks (25-17-7) – 3rd Place Pacific Division
The sharks are overall a solid team, they can save, defend and attack. However 6th place in the conference is a disappointment for them as they would have preferred to finish 4th to get home advantage. Luckily for them they play against the Canucks who they have a 3-0 record against, therefore they will be wanting and expecting to progress into the next round.
Detroit Red Wings (24-16-8) – 3rd Place Central Division
Thousands of Red Wings fans sigh with relief as the team dragged themselves into the playoffs. This is the 22 season in a row they have made the playoffs but they nearly didn’t make it. They have been playing relatively consistent hockey but you cannot underestimate the Red Wings. However, they have got a 2-1 record against the Ducks which means that this tie will be a close one.
Minnesota Wild (26-19-3) – 2nd Place Northwest Division
The Wild only just got into the postseason squeezing past the much better Columbus Blue Jackets in the table. The Wild have been a generally alright team with no major standout team member, they have been….okay. They have a the hardest first round against the Blackhawks. This season they have 1-2 record against them but they are defiantly the underdogs in this tie.
In conclusion, ITS GOING TO BE INTENSE.
Playoffs start on the 30th April.