The ‘X-Factor’ in the First Round Matchups

The playoffs start on Wednesday April 13th with three series, followed by four on Thursday, and the Ducks and the Predators finally starting on Friday. That means it’s time for any and all to weigh in on who they think is going to go all the way and win the Stanley Cup.

While this article will give predictions for the winners of each round, it will also discuss the ‘X-Factor’, or the player who will make the most difference, for each team.

Washington vs Philadelphia
Capitals - With many previous playoff failures, though not necessarily his fault, Alex Ovechkin is the leader and captain of this team and ultimately the success, or lack thereof, of this team is squarely on his shoulders. He will have the weight of the world on his shoulders for the entirety of the playoffs, right up until the final buzzer sounds.
Flyers - Sean Couturier is a big, strong center that will be charged with playing an extremely large roll. His task will be to try to limit the line of Ovechkin, TJ Oshie, and Nicklas Backstrom to as few points as possible. Not an easy task.
Washington in 5

Florida vs New York Islanders
Panthers - Jaromir Jagr, the ageless wonder, will have to see if he can take his 44 year old body through the grind of a potentially long playoff run. He will have to keep up his great play from the regular season where he led the Panthers with 66 points.
Islanders - Top defenceman Travis Hamonic has been out since March 31 but has practised and should be ready to go. With number one goalie Jaroslav Halak out for the first round, the Islanders will need all the defensive help they can get.
Florida in 6

Pittsburgh vs New York Rangers
Penguins - Marc-Andre Fleury is supposedly ready to go for game 1 after sustaining his second concussion of the season on March 31. He is obviously their backbone on the defensive side and has a ton of playoff experience. The Penguins will need him healthy.
Rangers - Again, the goalie is the story if the Rangers want to win. Henrik Lundqvist is a world class goalie that is going to have to steal some games from the third highest scoring team in the league. The Rangers also have some key injuries on defence and their offence isn’t scoring nearly at the rate the Penguins are.
Pittsburgh in 6

Tampa Bay vs Detroit
Lightning - Ben Bishop will have to steal a few (maybe all) of the games for the Lightning if they want to win. With Stamkos out, the rest of the team will have to find a way to replace a lot of goals and if they can’t do it, then it will be up to Bishop.
Red Wings - Dylan Larkin has had an outstanding year for the Red Wings and led the team with 23 goals. He will need to score on Ben Bishop for the Red Wings to have a chance.
Tampa Bay in 7

Dallas vs Minnesota
Stars - Tyler Seguin will have to see if he can return to his regular season form after suffering an achilles injury and missing the final 10 games. However, he scored 73 points in his 72 regular season games, including 33 goals.
Minnesota - The Wild limped into the playoffs with losses in their final five games and two of their best forwards injured. This will leave most of the weight on goaltender Devan Dubnyk’s shoulders. He will have his hands full against the NHL’s highest scoring team.
Dallas in 5

Anaheim vs Nashville
Ducks - Ryan Getzlaf is in the same boat as Alex Ovechkin in that he is the captain of a team that is, and has been, expected to win it all. After Anaheim’s slow start they roared back to the top of the standings and are primed for a long run with the best powerplay and penalty kill in the league.
Predators - One of the best defencemen in the league for many years has been Shea Weber and he will have a huge workload with the big, strong forwards in Anaheim. Plus he will have to handle the Ducks’ top-ranked powerplay.
Anaheim in 6

St. Louis vs Chicago
Blues - Alexander Steen had 52 points in 67 games this season but only 17 goals. The Blues need secondary scoring behind Vladimir Tarasenko and will need more than Steen’s 6 playoff goals in 31 games.
Blackhawks - Corey Crawford was (is?) having a Vezina trophy season before being injured for 11 games at the end of the season, only to come back for the last game and allow five goals. With Duncan Keith out for game 1 and a depleted defence already, he needs to shake off the rust and play like he, and everyone else, knows he can.
Chicago in 7

Los Angeles vs San Jose
Kings - The Kings playoff success has been largely dependant on the play of goalie Jonathan Quick. If the Kings can put up just a few goals per game than they can usually rely on Quick to close it out. However, the Kings were outscored 12-4 in third periods during a 7 game stretch in late March, early April so they might need Quick even more this year.
Sharks - At the other end of the ice will be goalie Martin Jones, who has never started a playoff game and will be doing so against his former team. If Jones can keep his wits about him then the Sharks will have the confidence to execute their high scoring offence in front of him.

Los Angeles in 7