It is already been an NHL postseason of note, as the Detroit Red Wings have missed the playoffs for the first time in nearly 25 years. Additionally, there were 20 total overtime periods played in all of the series and a total of 28 of the 42 games played were decided by a single goal.
The Chicago Blackhawks have once again simultaneously agitated the Windy City and brightened the faces of everyone else by dipping out early, this time being swept in four games by the Nashville Predators. The Predators held the Blackhawks to only three goals in thirteen periods, providing strong backing for the notion that solid defense is needed in crunch time.
The Washington Capitals hope to avoid similar fate, as they finished the regular season with the NHL’s best record, at 55-19-8. They were able to hold off the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round, taking six games (and six overtime periods!) to win the best-of-seven series. Alex Ovechkin put in three of the Cap’s goals, while teammate and leading point-scorer Nicholas Backstrom scored two and assisted on four more through the round.
Washington will face the Pittsburgh Penguins in the second round, beginning Thursday, April 27. Pittsburgh had faced the Columbus Blue Jackets in the first round and did not appear to have too much trouble, winning in five.
The Ottawa Senators went up against the Boston Bruins and prevailed after a close six games featuring another five overtimes. They next took on the New York Rangers, who had beaten the Montreal Canadiens in an Original Six matchup that went to six games.
The Anaheim Ducks swept the Calgary Flames unexcitingly and await the Edmonton Oilers, victorious over the San Jose Sharks. Meanwhile, the Minnesota Wild predictably floundered against the St. Louis Blues, losing in five games. The Blues will face the aforementioned Predators.
I am predicting that history has a manner of repeating itself and the Capitals will not advance past the second round, as Ovechkin never has. Also in the Eastern Conference, the Rangers will take all seven games to get past the Senators. In the West, the Predators continue their hot-streak and beat the Blues in five, while the Ducks outlast the Oilers in a low-scoring seven to round out the Conference Finals matchups.
Like the Capitals, I expect Sidney Crosby’s Penguins to follow the fate they sent the Capitals to and come up just short to the Rangers in overtime of game six, while the Predators make quick work of the Ducks. I mean, the names say it all in that one. In the Stanley Cup, the Predators and Rangers go to seven games and it is a toss-up to pick the winner. I have flipped that coin and it came up Rangers. Marek Malik, eat your heart out.