It’s playoffs time! Every hockey fans rejoice this time of year when there is fantastic, high-stakes hockey on just about every night of the week. It’s been a great season and hopefully you’re getting the chance to cheer on your favourite team in the post-season. There’s so much up in the air in terms of how it will all shake out but here are some bold (yet well-thought out) predictions for the big moments of 2017 NHL Playoffs.
Ottawa, Calgary and Toronto will be out in the first round.
This year is looking a lot better for Canadians. After the very disappointing last season when every single Canadian team as shut out of the playoffs, we have five teams representing out nation in Canada’s game. But just how successful will they be? The last time a Canadian team won was when the Habs took it in 1993. Alas, for many of the teams, making it to the playoffs will have to be reward enough. Ottawa is a solid team and they go through the typical ebbs and flows. They have a good shot being matched up with Boston in the first round but Boston was coming into the playoffs ready while Ottawa looked to be slowing down. Boston is seasoned at this level of hockey and they’ll take the first round. Calgary has had a good year but they’re not ready to go seven games with Anaheim. They’ll duck out early as well. And Toronto. Poor Toronto. Under Coach Babcock, they have had one of the most amazing turn around this season and their rookies prove the team has a very bright future. Many Leafs fans were saying if they made it into the playoffs they’d have a good chance. They stopped saying that after they matched with Washington in the first round. Toronto can score but their blue line is no match for the Capitals.
Montreal will go the furthest out of Canadian teams.
So two Canadian teams make it to the second round. Edmonton can handle San Jose, but they’ll then fall to Anaheim. That leaves only Montreal to represent. With goaltender Carey Price, Montreal has become arguably Canada’s best NHL team. Many critics of the team would suggest the team would never reach these heights without Price and that’s certainly a valid argument. After starting last season with an amazing run, Price was injured and the team fell apart without him. This season, after swapping coach Terrien for Julien, the team made enormous progress and had a great end of season run. They still have issues with scoring, but with Pacioretty becoming one of the leagues top goal scorers and players like Gallagher and Galchenyuk coming out of their slumps, things are looking up. It also helps that Montreal has a relatively kind bracket. They seem to have New York’s number and moving from there to the Bruins is a manageable series. Price is on a mission to get the Cup and while he might not make it this years, the conference finals is not bad either.
Pittsburgh upsets Washington.
Everyone has been talking about how this is finally Washington’s year. Such an exceptional player as Ovechkin, a player who at a time was the greatest hockey player in the NHL, surely must win the Cup at some point in his career. And judging by the season they’ve had, it’s not hard to see why people have them as the favourites to win it all. But they’ve been in this position before. Washington is a great team but they stumble in the playoffs. They had an amazing season, but as we neared the end, those pro playoff teams like Pittsburgh and Chicago have been creeping up. Washington will have to face Crosby and the Penguins before making it to the finals and it seems only fitting, if not predictable, that Ovie’s old rival will spoil his fun.
Chicago and Pittsburgh meet in the finals.
It’s hard to argue with a match-up like this. Sometimes you see a Stanley Cup finals and wonder how one of them managed to make it that far (looking at you Tampa). But Chicago and Pittsburgh are two of the very best NHL teams today and they know playoff hockey in a way few other teams do. Chicago is a stacked team to the point that it doesn’t seem fair sometimes. Keith, Kane, Crawford, Toews—few teams have the talent to match-up with a squad like that. Pittsburgh admittedly has a harder road ahead of them. None of their match-ups are a breeze but having the best played in the NHL leading the team has to count for something. Crosby is not just an incredible goal-scorer, puck-handler and speed-skater, he’s a coach on the ice. He sets up plays, knows where everyone needs to be and executes. It will make for a beauty of a finals.
Chicago wins lucky number 7.
Pittsburgh has a real shot at the Cup this year, but repeating is no easy feat and, as said before, they have a tough road to get there. Chicago on the other hand will have an easier road to the finals. Putting these two champs against one another will make for good hockey, no doubt, but Chicago’s elite squad will overpower Crosby, Malkin and Kessel leading to Chicago taking their seventh Cup and Patrick Kane taking home the Conn Smythe Trophy.