Well my first round picks weren’t too hot, but I’m not surprised. If you played them you’re a little less than even, and still have Rangers alive for the Eastern Conference and the Stanley Cup at +775 and +1300 respectively so don’t complain yet. Post season hockey is just an entirely different sport than the NHL regular season. You may think you know if a team is more physical, or faster, or more skilled, or more experienced, or whatever enough to handle their opponent in a series, but honestly you can throw what you thought you knew about each team in the regular season out the window. There’s a difference between a physical team in the regular season and a physical team in the postseason. Regular season physical means you give a little forearm to the ribs when you’re around the crease and shove a guy into the boards a little harder than you needed to. Playoff physical means every player on the opposing team needs their head on a swivel at all times or else there’s a good shot they’ll have to take an early exit from the game. The thing is that being a regular season physical team has no correlation to whether you’re a playoff physical team or not, and neither does being a playoff physical team the year before. I always trick myself into thinking I know which teams will come out hot and which won’t before the playoffs but it’s impossible.
Bottom line is that in round 1 I re-learned that if you’re up against a playoff physical team but your team doesn’t have what it’s in them to invoke that fear of being decapitated back to the opponent, then you’ll be taking an early exit from the playoffs. My round 2 predictions are pretty much solely based on this idea. So, I can see the picks going 1 of 2 ways. Physical teams stay dominant and I look like a genius, or physical teams from round 1 are already worn down so the teams that played through a soft series whoop up on them. Either way, here they are:
Rangers vs. Senators: The Rangers were outrageously physical in round 1. It was beautiful to see. Almost 100 hits between the two teams per game the whole series. This isn’t the most talented Rangers team I’ve seen in the last few years, but the remind me of the team that played in the finals in 2014. They have some balls. They stick up for each other. They don’t have a single player who’s afraid to drop the gloves (watching Vesey go at it with Pacioretty was the scariest/best moment of the playoffs for me so far). But most importantly, their physical and aggressive play leads to puck luck and goals at all the right times. On the other hand, Ottowa is definitely skilled, but their series with the Bruins was the only painful matchup to watch so far. They were both afraid to hit and so the Senators top line skill got them through. The Mets fan in me is already having nightmares of Brassard going off, maybe scoring 2 OT goals including one in game 7, but I just can’t really see the Senators winning this. If the Rangers play half as well as they did against the Canadiens, they’ll win it in 5. Rangers -145 lock it up.
Oilers vs. Ducks: This ones a toss up. I’ll admit I fell asleep watching their late games by the end of the first period more often than not. Simply based off the fact Anaheim has home ice and I think it will go 7 games, I’m taking the Ducks. Also, because their mascot is better. Oil on ice would be dangerous. The Mighty Ducks and the flying V kick ass in hockey. Anaheim -120.
Blues vs. Predators: Both teams surprised the hell out of me in round 1. Jake Allen and Pekka Rinne both out of their minds to win their series too. Definition of standing on your head. I expect that to continue in round 2 so we’ll see some low scoring and physical hockey. When the Rangers missed out on Shattenkirk, I was pissed, but it seems it may have been a good thing. Maybe he’s a cancer to a team. The guy who takes locker room talk too far and gets everyone uncomfortable. The Blues have turned into the best team in hockey since they got rid of him, and with their momentum I expect them to get through the Predators too. Again, it will be a close series and St. Louis will have home ice if a game 7 is needed which is always huge. Blues -105.
Capitals vs. Penguins: The penguins impressed the hell out of me. I thought they were limping down the stretch, about to get past by all the other horses, but they caught their second wind. The Blue Jackets played tough but the Penguins just got the best of them. The Capitals barely got by the goddamn Maple Leafs. I’m telling you, I think it has something to do with Shatty. This was the Capitals’ year. They didn’t even need Shattenkirk to remain the best team in the NHL, but as soon as they got him I thought we could just give them the cup. But they just aren’t clicking anymore. Maybe they just needed to shake some nerves out, regain some line chemistry, and will get their act together. Or maybe Shattenkirk is that hot girl who every guy wants to get with, but once you get with her you realize she sucks and is ruining your life. It takes a while to realize if you’re the one who’s with her, and takes even longer to see if you’re looking from the outside in. Can’t say for certain yet, but I’m pretty sure it’s the second option regarding Shatty so for now it’s enough to take the Penguins (ignore this paragraph if the Rangers get him this offseason). Penguins +115.
Image taken from: https://sportspress.co/2016/04/11/nhl-playoff-predictions/