Tuesday, April 10, 2018

2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs Preview - Eastern/Western Conference Quarterfinals

Image result for malkin crosby back to back

The best time of the year: Stanley Cup Playoffs! A ton of storylines heading into the playoffs this year, whether that's the expansion Vegas Golden Knights winning the Pacific Division, the Avs going from 48 points last year to 95 points and a playoff spot this year, or the Devils going from picking 1st in the NHL draft last summer to the playoffs this year. With that being said, here's a look at the Eastern/Western Quarterfinals match ups and how I predict they will play out:

Image result for nhl eastern conference

#1 Tampa Bay Lightning vs. WC #2 New Jersey Devils

Season Series: Devils won the season series 3-0-0

October 17, 2017: New Jersey Devils 5, Tampa Bay Lightning 4 (SO)

February 17, 2018: New Jersey Devils 4, Tampa Bay Lightning 3
March 24, 2018: New Jersey Devils 2, Tampa Bay Lightning 1

Players to Watch:

Tampa Bay: Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos, Victor Hedman, Brayden Point, Tyler Johnson, JT Miller

New Jersey: Taylor Hall, Kyle Palmieri, Nico Hischier, Will Butcher, Keith Kinkaid, Brian Boyle


Tampa Bay: Nikita Kucherov

New Jersey: Taylor Hall

Team Leaders:

Goals: Taylor Hall (NJD) - 39, Nikita Kucherov (TBL) - 39
Assists: Nikita Kucherov (TBL) - 61, Taylor Hall (NJD) - 54
Points: Nikita Kucherov (TBL) - 100, Taylor Hall (NJD) - 93
Wins: Andrei Vasilevskiy (TBL) - 44, Keith Kinkaid (NJD) - 26
Goals Against Average: Andrei Vasilevskiy (TBL) - 2.62, Keith Kinkaid (NJD) - 2.77
Save Percentage: Andrei Vasilevskiy (TBL) - .926, Keith Kinkaid (NJD) - .913

Prediction: Despite a breakout season from Taylor Hall and their 1st playoff appearance since 2012, the Devils face an extremely tough task at beating the Lightning in this series. Tampa Bay will overpower them with ease and roll on the 2nd round.


#1 Washington Capitals vs. WC #1 Columbus Blue Jackets

Season Series: Capitals won the season series 3-1-0

December 2, 2017: Washington Capitals 4, Columbus Blue Jackets 3

February 6, 2018: Washington Capitals 3, Columbus Blue Jackets 2
February 9, 2018: Washington Capitals 4, Columbus Blue Jackets 2
February 26, 2018: Columbus Blue Jackets 5, Washington Capitals 1

Players to Watch:

Washington: Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Evgeny Kuznetsov, John Carlson, TJ Oshie, 

Columbus: Artemi Panarin, Sergei Bobrovsky, Seth Jones, Zach Werenski, Pierre-Luc Dubois, Thomas Vanek


Washington: Alex Ovechkin

Columbus: Sergei Bobrovsky

Team Leaders:

Goals: Alex Ovechkin (WSH) - 49, Artemi Panarin (CBJ) - 27
Assists: Evgeny Kuznetsov (WSH) - 56, Artemi Panarin (CBJ) - 55
Points: Alex Ovechkin (WSH) - 87, Artemi Panarin (CBJ) - 82
Wins: Sergei Bobrovsky (CBJ) - 37, Braden Holtby (WSH) - 34
Goals Against Average: Philipp Grubauer (WSH) - 2.35, Sergei Bobrovsky (CBJ) - 2.42
Save Percentage: Philipp Grubauer (WSH) - .923, Sergei Bobrovsky (CBJ) - .921

Prediction: Is this finally the year for Ovie and the Caps? They are in tough in round 1 against the feisty Blue Jackets, this series could truly go either way. I give the slight edge to the Capitals and see them moving on to round 2.


#2 Boston Bruins vs. #3 Toronto Maple Leafs

Season Series: Maple Leafs won the season series 3-1-0
November 10, 2017: Toronto Maple Leafs 3, Boston Bruins 2 (OT)
November 11, 2017: Toronto Maple Leafs 4, Boston Bruins 1
February 3, 2018: Boston Bruins 4, Toronto Maple Leafs 1
February 24, 2018: Toronto Maple Leafs 4, Boston Bruins 3

Players to Watch:

Boston: Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, David Pastrnak, Tuukka Rask, Charlie McAvoy, Ryan Donato

Toronto: Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander, Frederik Andersen, James van Riemsdyk, Jake Gardiner


Boston: Auston Matthews

Toronto: Tuukka Rask

Team Leaders:

Goals: James van Riemsdyk (TOR) - 36, David Pastrnak (BOS) - 35
Assists: Brad Marchand (BOS) - 51, Mitch Marner/Jake Gardiner (TOR) - 47
Points: Brad Marchand (BOS) - 85, Mitch Marner (TOR) - 69
Wins: Frederik Andersen (TOR) - 38, Tuukka Rask (BOS) - 34
Goals Against Average: Tuukka Rask (BOS) - 2.36, Frederik Andersen (TOR) - 2.81
Save Percentage: Frederik Andersen (TOR) - .918, Tuukka Rask (BOS) - .917

Prediction: A rematch of the fantastic 2013 1st round series, the Bruins and Leafs renew the rivalry and this has the potential to be a very high-scoring series. While I certainly think this can go either way, the Bruins look like the more complete team and will move on to round 2.


#2 Pittsburgh Penguins vs. #3 Philadelphia Flyers

Season Series: Penguins won the season series 4-0-0
November 27, 2017: Pittsburgh Penguins 5, Philadelphia Flyers 4 (OT)
January 2, 2018: Pittsburgh Penguins 5, Philadelphia Flyers 1
March 7, 2018: Pittsburgh Penguins 5, Philadelphia Flyers 2
March 25, 2018: Pittsburgh Penguins 5, Philadelphia Flyers 4 (OT)

Players to Watch:

Pittsburgh: Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel, Kris Letang, Bryan Rust, Jake Guentzel

Philadelphia: Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek, Sean Couturier, Wayne Simmonds, Shayne Gostisbehere, Ivan Provorov 


Pittsburgh: Sidney Crosby 

Philadelphia: Claude Giroux

Team Leaders:

Goals: Evgeni Malkin (PIT) - 42, Claude Giroux (PHI) - 34
Assists: Claude Giroux (PHI) - 68, Sidney Crosby (PHI) - 60
Points: Claude Giroux (PHI) - 102, Evgeni Malkin (PIT) - 98
Wins: Matt Murray (PIT) - 27, Brian Elliott (PHI) - 23
Goals Against Average: Brian Elliott (PHI) - 2.66, Matt Murray (PIT) - 2.92
Save Percentage: Brian Elliott (PHI) - .909, Matt Murray (PIT) - .907

Prediction: When the Flyers and Penguins faced off the 1st round in 2012, that was one of the best playoff series I have ever witnessed in my 27 years on this planet. The battle of Pennsylvania round 2 has the Flyers attempting to knock off the 2-time defending champs, and this series is going to be very close. However, I think the Penguins are chasing history and will fight off their rivals and move on to round 2


This would have Tampa Bay, Washington, Boston and Pittsburgh advancing to the next round. The match ups would be as follows:

#1 Tampa Bay Lightning vs. #2 Boston Bruins
#1 Washington Capitals vs. #2 Pittsburgh Penguins

Image result for western conference logo nhl

#1 Nashville Predators vs WC #2 Colorado Avalanche

Season Series: Predators won the season series 4-0-0
October 17, 2017: Nashville Predators 4, Colorado Avalanche 1
November 18, 2017: Nashville Predators 5, Colorado Avalanche 2
March 4, 2018: Nashville Predators 4, Colorado Avalanche 3 (OT)
March 16, 2018: Nashville Predators 4, Colorado Avalanche 2

Players to Watch:

Nashville: Filip Forsberg, Ryan Johansen, PK Subban, Roman Josi Viktor Arvidsson, Pekka Rinne

Colorado: Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, Gabriel Landeskog, Tyson Barrie, Tyson Jost, Nikita Zadorov


Nashville: Pekka Rinne

Colorado: Nathan MacKinnon

Team Leaders:

Goals: Nathan MacKinnon (COL) - 39, Viktor Arvidsson (NSH) - 29
Assists: Nathan MacKinnon (COL) - 58, PK Subban (NSH) - 43
Points: Nathan MacKinnon (COL) - 97, Filip Forsberg (NSH) - 64
Wins: Pekka Rinne (NSH) - 42, Semyon Varlamov (COL) - 24
Goals Against Average: Pekka Rinne (NSH) - 2.31, Semyon Varlamov - 2.68
Save Percentage: Pekka Rinne (NSH) - .927, Semyon Varlamov (COL) - .920

Prediction: As a die-hard Avalanche fan the past 12 months have been strange, very strange. From the lowest of the low last season, to making the playoffs now, it's just a stunning turnaround lead by MVP-candidate Nathan MacKinnon. While I recognize the Avs are outmatched and will probably be bested by the Predators, I have to pick my team in their 1st playoffs since 2014.


#1 Vegas Golden Knights vs WC #1 Los Angeles Kings

Season Series: Season series tied 2-1-1

November 19, 2017: Vegas Golden Knights 4, Los Angeles Kings 2
December 28, 2017: Vegas Golden Knights 3, Los Angeles Kings 2 (OT)
February 26, 2018: Los Angeles Kings 3, Vegas Golden Knights 2 (OT)
February 27, 2018: Los Angeles Kings 4, Vegas Golden Knights 1

Players to Watch:

Vegas: William Karlsson, James Neal, Jonathan Marchessault, Marc-Andre Fleury, Reilly Smith, Shea Theodore

Los Angeles: Anze Kopitar, Drew Doughty, Jonathan Quick, Dustin Brown, Tyler Toffoli, Jake Muzzin


Vegas: Marc-Andre Fleury

Los Angeles: Jonathan Quick 

Team Leaders:

Goals: William Karlsson (VGK) - 43, Anze Kopitar (LAK) - 35
Assists: Anze Kopitar (LAK) - 57, David Perron (VGK) - 50
Points: Anze Kopitar (LAK) - 92, William Karlsson (VGK) - 78
Wins: Jonathan Quick (LAK) - 33, Marc-Andre Fleury (VGK) - 29
Goals Against Average: Marc-Andre Fleury (VGK) - 2.24, Jonathan Quick (LAK) - 2.40
Save Percentage: Marc-Andre Fleury (VGK) - .927, Jonathan Quick (LAK) - .921

Prediction: The toast of the NHL this season has been the NHL's newest team: the Vegas Golden Knights. After putting up the best season in expansion draft history, the Golden Knights won the Pacific Division and home ice in round 1. However, they have a tough task at hand in the LA Kings, Cup winners in 2012 and 2014 with much of the same core still here. While everyone is rooting for Vegas, I think the Kings are too strong and will ultimately win this series on experience.


#2 Winnipeg Jets vs #3 Minnesota Wild

Season Series: Jets won the season series 3-1-0
October 20, 2017: Winnipeg Jets 4, Minnesota Wild 3
October 31, 2017: Winnipeg Jets 2, Minnesota Wild 1
November 27, 2017: Winnipeg Jets 7, Minnesota Wild 2
January 13, 2018: Minnesota Wild 4, Winnipeg Jets 1

Players to Watch:

Winnipeg: Patrik Laine, Blake Wheeler, Mark Scheifele, Connor Hellebuyck, Dustin Byfuglien, Paul Stastny

Minnesota: Eric Staal, Devan Dubnyk, Zach Parise, Jason Zucker, Matt Dumba, Mikael Granlund 


Winnipeg: Blake Wheeler 

Minnesota: Devan Dubnyk

Team Leaders:

Goals: Patrik Laine (WPG) - 44, Eric Staal (MIN) - 42
Assists: Blake Wheeler (WPG) - 68, Mikael Granlund (MIN) - 46
Points: Blake Wheeler (WPG) - 91, Eric Staal (MIN) - 76
Wins: Connor Hellebuyck (WPG) - 44, Devan Dubnyk (MIN) - 35
Goals Against Average: Connor Hellebuyk (WPG) - 2.36, Devan Dubnyk (MIN) - 2.52
Save Percentage: Connor Hellebuyck (WPG) - .924, Devan Dubnyk (MIN) - .918

Prediction: The Jets return to the playoffs for the first time since 2015, and the White Out will be in full force trying to lead them deep into the playoffs. While I think the Wild will put up a fight in this series, the loss of #1 D Ryan Suter is too much to overcome and the Jets will march on.


#2 Anaheim Ducks vs #3 San Jose Sharks

Season Series: Sharks won the season series 3-0-1

November 4, 2017: San Jose Sharks 2, Anaheim Ducks 1 (SO)
November 20, 2017: Anaheim Ducks 3, San Jose Sharks 2 (SO)
January 21, 2018: San Jose Sharks 6, Anaheim Ducks 2
February 11, 2018: San Jose Sharks 3, Anaheim Ducks 2 (SO)

Players to Watch:

Anaheim: Ryan Getzlaf, Rickard Rakell, Corey Perry, Ryan Kesler, Jakob Silfverberg, Hampus Lindholm

San Jose: Joe Pavelski, Logan Couture, Brent Burns, Joe Thornton, Evander Kane, Tomas Hertl


Anaheim: Ryan Getzlaf

San Jose: Joe Pavelski

Team Leaders:

Goals: Rickard Rakell (ANA) - 34, Logan Couture (SJS) - 34
Assists: Brent Burns (SJS) - 55, Ryan Getzlaf (ANA) - 50
Points: Rickard Rakell (ANA) - 69, Brent Burns (SJS) - 67
Wins: John Gibson (ANA) - 31, Martin Jones (SJS) - 30
Goals Against Average: Ryan Miller (ANA) - 2.35, Martin Jones (SJS) - 2.55
Save Percentage: Ryan Miller (ANA) - .928, Martin Jones (SJS) - .915

Prediction: The SoCal rivals meet in the 1st round and this series has the potential to be one of the most exciting in the 1st round. Both these teams are big, strong but skilled teams and match up very well against each other. While I think either team is capable of winning the series, I will side with the home team and give the Ducks the slight edge.


This would have Colorado, Los Angeles, Winnipeg and Anaheim advancing to the next round. The match ups would be as follows:

#2 Winnipeg Jets vs. WC #2 Colorado Avalanche
#2 Anaheim Ducks vs WC #1 Los Angeles Kings

The playoffs kick off tomorrow night in Winnipeg! Who is going to hoist Lord Stanley this year? Time will tell...

-Joel Forman - The Forman Faceoff

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