We have reached the best part of every NHL regular season…the end. Postseason hockey is where it’s at. No loser points, no shootouts, no three on three, no surrender. It’s win four or go home. It’s the time of year where you’re up at 2 AM because it’s the third overtime and you’re not going to bed until somebody gets the puck into the net. It might not be your team , your postseason team or even one of your team’s rivals you’re watching, you’re there because It’s The Cup.
I’ve asked my hockey mentor Jeremy Lambert to join me in breaking down the first round series and making predictions because he knows more about this sport than I can ever hope to. Being a Colorado Avalanche fan has made this a pretty rough season for Jeremy, but he can at least say that he’s seen all of these teams at their best. I might sell somebody short because they were rubbish the one or two times I saw them, but everybody shined against the Avs this season.
We start out West because it’s the best.
Chicago Blackhawks (C1) vs Nashville Predators (WC2)
Steve Cook: As a Preds fan, my thoughts over the past few weeks have been “Anybody but Chicago in the 1st round”. As a Preds fan these are always my thoughts when it comes to the postseason. The Blackhawks have defeated the Preds in the first round of the playoffs two previous times, in 2010 & 2015. Both times, Chicago went on to lift the Stanley Cup. They hold a 4-1 record over Nashville in the 2016-17 season. The Blackhawks enter the playoffs as the best team in the Western Conference with the most playoff experience. To call them the favorite in the West is a given. To call them the favorite in this series is an understatement.
The question here isn’t who will win the series. That’s a given. The question is how many games the Predators can win. Nashville has been much improved in the second half of the season after a slow start. P.K. Subban has adjusted well to the Predator system and he’s been very good in the postseason throughout his career. Viktor Arvidsson emerged from out of nowhere to help lead my fantasy team to a championship. Filip Forsberg continues to work his way up the ladder. The Preds are a much more offensively gifted team than they have been in previous series against Chicago. They have more playoff experience now and nothing in this series will be something they haven’t seen before.
But Chicago will always have the edge. It’s like how the Yankees had the edge on the Red Sox for eight decades. Whenever these teams meet with it all on the line, you know how it’s going to end. I think the Predators can steal a game or two, and if they make it to Game 6 in Bridgestone Arena there’s a very good chance they can make it to Game 7 in the United Center.
Where they will lose.
Jeremy Lambert: I picked the Predators to be in the Cup Finals prior to the season. I also picked them to lose to the Tampa Bay Lightning, who didn’t make the playoffs. So, I’m pretty dumb. But I’m all in with Nashville. Never doubt a Forsberg.
Cook’s Prediction: Blackhawks in seven
Lambert’s Prediction: Predators in seven
Minnesota Wild (C2) vs St. Louis Blues (C3)
Steve Cook: The Wild got off to a really good start this season. They haven’t been as good since. I thought the Blues were giving up on this season when they fired their coach, then I thought they were giving up on this season when they traded Kevin Shattenkirk for a whole lot of nothing. They caught fire after doing these things. I have no explanation for it. The Blues are going up, the Wild are going down, and did I mention the Wild have Bruce Boudreau coaching? His teams have lost in a Game 7 each of the last four years. I think he dodges a bullet here and avoids having that trend continue, as the Blues will win four games before then.
Jeremy Lambert: Bruce Bourdreau in the playoffs? Bruce Boudreau in the playoffs with the Wild? This should be fun.
Cook’s Prediction: Blues in six
Lambert’s Prediction: Blues in five
Anaheim Ducks (P1) vs Calgary Flames (WC1)
Steve Cook: The Ducks typically don’t do well in the playoffs, but that might change now that the jinx that is Bruce Boudreau is in Minnesota. I’ve seen the Flames at some point this season and have no memory of them. I’ll take the Ducks to break through.
Jeremy Lambert: Now that they’ve gotten rid of Bruce Boudreau, the Ducks can finally achieve the success I’ve been predicting they would achieve for years.
Cook’s Prediction: Ducks in five
Lambert’s Prediction: Ducks in five
Edmonton Oilers (P2) vs San Jose Sharks ( P3)