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The Student News Site of Loyola University Maryland

The Greyhound

Old rivalries, close match-ups highlight NHL Stanley Cup playoffs

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It truly is the most wonderful time of the year. We get the best of both worlds—sunshine and warm weather but also the thrilling culmination of the most exciting winter sport. If the final few weeks of the season with teams constantly jockeying for position were any indication of the intensity of this year’s playoffs, we’re in for a treat. With the matchups set to go for the first round, which begins Wednesday, April 15, we’re sure to see rivalries renewed and new ones formed. Buckle up, folks. It’s time for playoff hockey.


1 Montreal Canadiens vs. 4 Ottawa Senators

This is definitely one of the most difficult series to predict this season. Ottawa has gotten hot at the right time, with the help of Andrew “The Hamburglar” Hammond, who has posted an unbelievable 20-1-2 record. But at the other end of the ice will be Hart and Vezina Trophy favorite Carey Price, who led the NHL in goals against (1.96), save percentage (.933) and wins with 44, a new Canadiens record. But Carey Price has struggled against Ottawa this season, with a 3.03 GAA and .887 save percentage. The Senators have won their last three games against the Canadiens by a combined score of 13-5. While the Canadiens go into the series with the higher seed, Ottawa has developed a kind of swagger that will be difficult to match

Pick: Ottawa in five games


2 Tampa Bay Lightning vs. 3 Detroit Red Wings

Detroit has qualified for the playoffs for 24 straight seasons. That alone is a feat that should be applauded. Now, Steve Yzerman, who was such a large part of so many of those playoff appearances, will try to topple his former club from behind the Tampa Bay bench.

In this case, both teams will look to their big name to lead them: Steven Stamkos for the Bolts, and Pavel Datzyuk and Henrik Zetterberg for the Red Wings. Stamkos finished second in the league in goals behind Alexander Ovechkin, but Datsyuk and Zetterberg are known for being some of the best defensive forwards.

Detroit will be without left wing Erik Cole (spinal contusion) and also could be missing Justin Abdelkader (hand), who give the Red Wings most of their size. Datsyuk has also had some pesky lingering injuries over the past few seasons, so it’s always a question of whether he can stay healthy.

Tampa Bay’s fire power will ultimately win them the series.

Pick: Tampa Bay in six games


1 New York Rangers vs. 4 Pittsburgh Penguins

The Penguins just squeaked by the Boston Bruins for the last Wild Card spot. Meanwhile, after a slow start, the Rangers have been steamrolling over just about everyone, setting the franchise record for wins in a season.

Though Marc-Andre Fleury has had a banner season between the pipes for the Pens, he’s always a question mark at this time of year. Henrik Lundqvist has been solid since his return from injury, but Cam Talbot has proven to be a more-than-reliable backup if King Henrik falters.

Sidney Crosby has done his job up top, but the Penguins tend to rely too much on their high-power forwards. Meanwhile, the Blueshirts have been clicking on all cylinders of late. The Rangers have depth at forward—four strong lines that have all seen their share of playing time—and possibly the best top-six blue line core in the conference. The Rangers’ speed has been key in earning them the President’s Trophy and will be what they’ll rely on against the skidding Penguins. The Rangers also clearly have momentum on their side, and will probably not have much trouble taking this one.

Pick: Rangers in four games


2 Washington Capitals vs. 3 New York Islanders

While Washington holds the higher seed, home ice advantage is going to play a huge role in the series when the Islanders return to Nassau Coliseum for (at least) Games 3 and 4. This is the Isles’ final season at Fort NeverLose, so their hometown crowd is certainly going to bring new meaning to playoff atmosphere.

With that said, though, the Caps, behind league-leading scorer Alexander Ovechkin, have quietly made themselves a legitimate playoff team. First-year coach Barry Trotz has brought new life to the club from the nation’s capital, using his experience to change the culture and improve the team defensively without sacrificing offense. Braden Holtby has also been generally more impressive in net than Jarsolav Halak.

While the season series was split 2-2, with both teams winning both games on home ice, and while both teams play have a very similar style of puck possession, the Caps have just a little bit more going for them.

Pick: Washington Capitals in six games



1 St. Louis Blues vs. 4 Minnesota Wild

Both teams have had very strong ends to their season. The Blues won five of their last six games to clinch first in the division. The Wild, however, have gone 28-9-3 since Jan. 15 when Devan Dubnyk made his debut in net.

This series will certainly be a defensive battle because both teams were in the league’s top six for lowest goals and shots against per game, but the Wild have the goaltending advantage, as it’s still not clear if Brian Elliot or rookie Jake Allen have earned the starting spot for the Blues.

St. Louis however, has been one of the most balanced teams in the league, with four forwards with at least 20 goals and a consistent defense since the additions of Zbynek Michalek and Robert Bortuzzo at the trade deadline and the return of Kevin Shattenkirk from injury.

This will be a close one, but the Blues will pull it off.

Pick: St. Louis Blues in seven games


2 Nashville Predators vs. 3 Chicago Blackhawks

This will most likely be the most fun first-round series to watch, as the Predators are a team that led the league for a good portion of the season and Blackhawks are known for their playoff dominance.

The announcement that Patrick Kane is cleared to play in Game 1 could be a game-changer. It’s hard to ever say that the Blackhawks have “suffered,” but Kane’s absence was certainly felt. However, the Hawks have so much scoring depth that it wasn’t as big of a problem as it could have been. Captain Jonathon Toews did his part in providing the offensive spark this season and has led his team through several consecutive deep playoffs runs.

The Predators were dominant earlier in the season before slumping down the stretch. Rookie Filip Forsberg has been notably impressive up front, and Shea Weber has arguably the most feared shot from the point in the league while also being a consistent two-way defenseman.

Both clubs have All-Star goalies, with Pekka Rinne manning the net for the Predators, though he missed some time due to a knee injury, and co-Jennings Trophy-winner Corey Crawford between the pipes for the Blackhawks.

The teams play similar styles and both had stronger starts than finishes, but the Blackhawks’ signature playoff supremacy will carry them through to the next round.

Pick: Chicago Blackhawks in six games


1 Anaheim Ducks vs. 4 Winnipeg Jets     

Though it seems as though the Ducks will be the clear favorite, the Jets will make it a closer series than most people are probably expecting.

Winnipeg set a franchise record, earning 99 points, and are in the playoffs for the first time since returning to the land up north. Without a doubt, Jets’ center Bryan Little will give Ryan Getzlaf a run for his money in the middle. Blake Wheeler led the Jets in goals in March after moving to the second line. The Ducks won all three meetings this season, but one was in overtime and another was in a shootout.

The Jets’ question mark in net and their loss of Evander Kane and Zach Bogosian in trades with the Buffalo Sabres will ultimately hurt their chances, though, and the Ducks will prevail.

Pick: Anaheim Ducks in five games


2 Vancouver Canucks vs. 3 Calgary Flames

The Flames shocked just about everyone this year by actually being one of the league’s top teams after falling into obscurity for a few seasons, and the Canucks are back in the playoffs after missing them last year. Both teams haven’t had an easy go of it though, as they were both at the top of the league in wins in games when they gave up the first goal. So this will be a series between a pair of comeback kids.

Both teams have also suffered injuries to key players. Calgary lost defenseman Mark Giordano (biceps), who would’ve been a legitimate Norris Trophy winner, with 21 games remaining. Giordano had been the leading NHL defensemen with 48 points at the time of his injury. Vancouver lost Ryan Miller (knee) on Feb. 22. Miller had 28 wins and six shutouts. But the Flames were 12-6-3 without Giordano while the Canucks went 13-7-2 after Eddie Lack took over for the injured Miller. Further proof that not much will keep either of these teams down.

This is another close one to call, as the teams split the season series 2-2, with each winning one at home and one on the road. The Canucks held a slight lead in goals, outscoring the Flames 9-8 in the series. Without much of the advantage going either way, the Calgary Flames will eke out their first playoff series win since 2004.

Pick: Calgary Flames in seven games


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Old rivalries, close match-ups highlight NHL Stanley Cup playoffs