THE USB NHL Postseason Preview

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.

Western Conference

Chicago Blackhawks (C1) vs Nashville Predators (WC2)

hawkspreds1

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)

Vladimir Tarasenko,Devan Dubnyk

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)

ducksflames

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)

oilerssharks

Steve Cook: I figured the Oilers would be good eventually. The NHL gave them enough overall #1 draft picks to make it happen, and one of them, Connor McDavid, looks to be the future of the league. We’ve got a young, inexperienced team playing good hockey against an old, experienced team stumbling their way into the playoffs. So obviously I’m going with the experienced team. The Oilers should make a deep run in the playoffs sooner rather than later, but this is where they sit under the learning tree.

Jeremy Lambert: Connor McDavid is going to make a statement in his first postseason action. The Oilers put veterans like Milan Lucic around him for this very reason. The Sharks are the defending champions in the West, but they had a long year last season and are only getting older. McDavid will lead the league in scoring after the first round and he’ll ensure new West champs.

Cook’s Prediction: Sharks in six
Lambert’s Prediction: Oilers in six
 
Eastern Conference

Montreal Canadiens (A1) vs New York Rangers (WC1)

weber2017

Steve Cook: I give Shea Weber all the credit in the world for the Canadiens going from missing the playoffs last season to winning the Atlantic Division this season. Montreal definitely won the Weber/Subban trade in Year 1, though Nashville is counting on winning the trade in later years and P.K. was pretty darn good when he was healthy. Weber was down in counting stats across the board this season, but his grittiness and leadership surely made a difference. I expect him to be the key factor in getting Montreal over a team that they swept during the regular season.

Jeremy Lambert: Oh shit, if the Canadiens win and the Bruins win, that means Claude Julien faces the team that fired him during the season in the second round. Yup. That’s happening.

Cook’s Prediction: Canadiens in five
Lambert’s Prediction: Canadiens in six

Ottawa Senators (A2) vs Boston Bruins (A3)

sensbruins

Steve Cook: I haven’t seen much of either of these teams. I know the Bruins fired their coach on the day of the Patriots’ Super Bowl Parade in a genius move to avoid fan discussion. They’re still here, so things seem to have worked out. Ottawa is still in the league, so that’s nice. Having seen the Senate in action, I have no idea why you would name your team the Senators. Maybe Canada’s actually does things, but I doubt it.

Jeremy Lambert:  I don’t trust either of these teams. I’m still confused as to how the Senators are good. Feels like karma will catch up to Boston for firing their coach on Patriot’s Day.

Cook’s Prediction: Bruins in six
Lambert’s Prediction: Somebody in seven

Washington Capitals (M1) vs Toronto Maple Leafs (WC2)

capsleafs

Steve Cook: There are reasons the Leafs could win this series:

1. Barry Trotz can’t be trusted in the postseason.
2. Alexander Ovechkin can’t be trusted in the postseason.
3. The NHL and their officials will be biased in favor of the Leafs.

I can’t see it happening. But if it does, those will be the reasons.

Jeremy Lambert:  The Leafs are going to give the Capitals a scare and Capitals fans are going to freak out big time. The speed and youth of the Leafs is a very dangerous thing, but the inexperience will be their downfall in this one. Mike Babcock is a great coach, but the Leafs don’t have the talent to matchup with the Capitals. But, Matthews and Nylander are going to go off in one game and Caps fans will lose their shit.

Cook’s Prediction: Capitals in fiveLambert’s Prediction: Capitals in six

Pittsburgh Penguins (M2) vs Columbus Blue Jackets (M3)

penguinbj

Steve Cook: We’re talking about a perennially tough team from Pittsburgh that’s won multiple championships against a team from Ohio that doesn’t make the playoffs very often. I feel like I’ve seen this movie before. Should be a tough series, but at the end of the day the evil team from Pittsburgh always wins in heart-breaking fashion before moving on to bigger and better things.

Jeremy Lambert: The Blue Jackets may have been the biggest surprise of the season, especially after John Tortorella’s World Cup debacle. But they’re facing the defending Cup champs and the best player in the league.

Cook’s Prediction: Penguins in seven
Lambert’s Prediction: Penguins in six

Enjoy the first round! Hopefully we’ll be back in a few weeks when the second round matchups are set.

pk

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