By Matt Blittner, The New York Extra/TheNYExtra.com
At last! The playoffs are HERE! After a grueling and condensed regular-season the NHL’s Stanley Cup Playoffs are upon us and there’s a lot to look forward to. So, let’s dive right in with some predictions for the first-round matchups.
*Editor’s Note: These predictions were made prior to puck drop on Monday night.
PANTHERS VS. CAPITALS
The President’s Trophy winning Panthers have their work cut out for them. They had one of the most prolific offenses in the league but a series with the Capitals is never easy. Washington likes to hit, grind and inflict punishment on its opponents. The longer this series goes the more likely the Capitals are to pull off the upset as the war of attrition will become too much for the Panthers. However, if Florida can avoid wearing down too soon then the Panthers should be in the driver’s seat.
Prediction: Panthers in 6.
HURRICANES VS. BRUINS
Can Carolina exorcise its Boston demons? In both 2018-19 and 2019-20 the Hurricanes were dismissed from the playoffs by the Bruins. Can the seemingly ageless Bostonians do it again to one of the Eastern Conference’s powerhouses? Carolina has proven it has what it takes to dominate during the regular-season, but the playoffs are a different animal entirely. If there’s one series ripe for an upset it’s this one.
Prediction: Bruins in 7.
RANGERS VS. PENGUINS
The young, inexperienced Blueshirts versus the playoff tested Penguins. That’s what many think this series will boil down to. But I have news for you. With Tristian Jarry out for at least the beginning of the series, the only name Pittsburgh fans need to know is Igor Shesterkin. Just like with Henrik Lundqvist, the Rangers will only go as far as their new franchise goalie will take them. In Shesterkin’s case, that can be quite far. His historical season isn’t likely to end with his team hoisting The Cup, but a Round One exit isn’t in the cards.
Prediction: Rangers in 6.
MAPLE LEAFS VS. LIGHTNING
When was the last time the Leafs won a playoff series? You’d have to go back to the 2003-04 season to answer that one. Meanwhile, the Lightning are reigning two-time Cup champions. Toronto has been here before. A high powered offense. Questionable goaltending and a defense that knows how to move the puck are all traits the Maple Leafs have had for years. Yet that hasn’t led to any playoff series wins. And that won’t change this year.
Prediction: Lightning in 6.
AVALANCHE VS. PREDATORS
Juuse Saros is out at least the first two games for Nashhville. Even if he does manage to return in the middle of the series it may be too late. Nobody knows if Colorado can finally get over the playoff hump, but if the Avs fall short it won’t be to the Predators.
Prediction: Avalanche in 5.
FLAMES VS. STARS
The only thing consistent about Dallas’ hockey team is that it’s always a bubble playoff team. There was the run to the The Cup Final in 2019-20, but that was more of an aberration than a rule with this team. Besides, this is a Flames team that has been on a mission all season long. With a stout defense, stellar goaltending and a high-flying offense this is Calgary’s series all the way.
Prediction: Flames in 4.
WILD VS. BLUES
Who’s in goal for the Blues? Can Ville Husso do in 2022 what Jordan Binnington did in 2019? If he can’t and St. Louis is forced to go back to Binnington then this series could get ugly fast. On the other side, does Marc-Andre Fleury have one last magical run in him? Or will Cam Talbot force his way into the net? This is a true toss up series.
Prediction: Wild in 7.
OILERS VS. KINGS
Mike Smith has been good lately but there’s always a danger in relying on him too much. Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl can only do so much for the Oilers. If their goaltending doesn’t cooperate the Kings will have a legitimate chance at pulling off the upset.
Prediction: Oilers in 7.
NHLPA PREPARES TO DROP HAMMER ON FEHR
Don Fehr’s days as the Executive Director of the NHLPA are numbered. It’s been rumored for some time that Fehr was on the outs. Now that the Player Association’s Executive Board has convened a committee to find his replacement it’s just a waiting game until Fehr is officially shown the door. While it’s too early to tell who any of the leading candidates may be to replace Fehr there’s a fair amount of rumors that it won’t be Mathieu Schneider, who has been in a role of prominence with the PA for sometime.
It would be a mistake for the Executive Board to choose a current player agent like Allan Walsh, who, although he’s well versed in the CBA, would likely cause too much internal strife to be a good choice. Whoever gets the nod needs to know the eyes of the hockey world will be on them in the wake of how the NHLPA failed Kyle Beach and several others.
MIC’D UP FAREWELLS
Pat Foley, Rick Jeanneret and Dennis Beyak have all hung up their microphones. Each was the voice of their respective teams for generations and Blackhawks games, Sabres games and Jets games won’t be the same without this trio of golden voices. We wish them well in their respective retirements and hope they find some time to pop into the booth from time to time to say hello.
JAMIE DANIELS COMEDY NIGHT
Red Wing’s TV Play-by-Play broadcaster Ken Daniels is not just a terrific announcer. He’s also exceptionally busy in the community with his Jamie Daniels Foundation – named after his late son Jamie – as they try to “provide education, resources, guidance, and support to people battling Substance Use Disorder so that lives can be saved, and healing can be created within families.”
Sunday night the foundation held its Comedy Night of Hope and raised in the neighborhood of $55,000 to, “support an adolescent substance abuse treatment center that will care for youth regardless of insurance coverage or ability to self-pay.”
For more information about how you can get involved please visit: https://jamiedanielsfoundation.org/