A Breakdown Of The Best Round 1 Stanley Cup Playoff Matchups

          After a long and hard fought 82 game season, the 16 teams that will move on to hockey’s second season and fight for the right to hoist the Stanley Cup have been determined. Every series has the potential to spark a new rivalry or rekindle an old one, and no matter whether your team made the postseason or not, it’s hard not to get excited about the best time of the year. That said, of all the head-to-head matchups slated to get underway as early as this Wednesday, there are definitely some matchups that stand out above the rest.

          One such series features the Montreal Canadiens hosting the Ottawa Senators at the Bell Centre. The two teams took very different paths to earn their playoff spots to say the least. On the one hand, the Habs finished the season with the second most points in the NHL and played pretty consistently throughout the year, thanks in large part to a banner year by goaltender Carey Price, who set a new franchise record by recording 42 wins.

          On the other hand, the Sens made the playoffs on the last day of the season after topping the Philadelphia Flyers in a win-and-your-in scenario that was only made possible thanks to a remarkable run by goaltender Andrew Hammond, who finished the season with a 20-1-2 record in just 23 starts. The team’s success this year was as improbable as it was amazing, as most analysts predicted that the Senators were more than likely to have a losing year reflective of a team working through a full on rebuilding process. Instead, the club goes into its series against Montreal as perhaps the most feared team in the first round playoff bracket. No matter how this series shakes down it should be a good one.

          Over in the Western Conference, the series between the Vancouver Canucks and Calgary Flames will prove to be equally exciting. At times throughout the year, it was hard to know if the Canucks were indeed a playoff-bound team and well, almost nobody expected the Flames to be in the mix.

          In Vancouver’s case, it wasn’t a complete stretch to picture the team doing well, with goaltender Ryan Miller providing the team with a definitive number one option between the pipes, removing a distraction that had previously plagued the team for years. Outside of Miller the core of the team still featured the Sedin twins a supporting cast that could get the job done.

          As for the Flames, their run was almost as magical as the one the Senators put together in the East, the difference being that Calgary surprised people at the beginning, middle and end of the season. Nobody would have guessed going into the playoffs that the team would boast a player who finished top-10 in regular season scoring (Jiri Hudler), a veteran goaltender playing some of his best hockey ever after seemingly falling out of favour in Anahiem (Jonas Hiller) and a small, speedy forward not named Sam Bennett who would emerge as a future star (Johnny Gudreau).

          Regardless of how both clubs got to where they are now, it’s obvious that neither one is going down without a fight, which should make for a quite an entertaining series in Western Canada.

          As for the other matchups outside of the Great White North, there’s no doubt there are some good ones. Then again, who can resist the Hamburglar taking on Carey Price, and Johnny Hockey trying to lead the Flames past the Cancucks? Do yourself a favour, don’t resist…just watch the NHL in all its glory as the chase for the Stanley Cup heats up.