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.
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
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
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
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
Labels: Graham Thurgood