Looking for shockers in the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs
April 11, 2018 8:20 AM
by Nick Pellegrino
Starting with last Saturday’s NCAA Frozen Four victory by Minn.-Duluth over favored Notre Dame, we can all cheer: Playoff Hockey is Here!
Last season, I posted a solid 12-3 record is predicting the winner of each series – including some of the upsets – so let’s find some more shockers in the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Here are capsules on each series, but let’s face it, everyone wants to know where the upsets will occur – that’s just the way life runs in the National Hockey League.
If I took “my” Los Angeles Kings over “our” Vegas Golden Knights, the next time anyone would see me is when they dig up my bones in the desert prior to building a housing development on ocean-front property after the “big one” sinks California.
As listed in Tuesday’s Ice Cubes column in GamingToday, I surmised on VEGAS in 7.
Philly coach Dave Hakstol promoted RW Michael Raffl to the No. 1 line with Hart Trophy (MVP) candidate Claude Giroux (career high 102 points) last week, allowing the Flyers to close the season with points in 10-of-11 contests to finish a mere two points behind second-place Pittsburgh.
Sean Couturier should be among the finalists for the Selke Trophy, annually awarded to the NHL’s best defensive forward. Couturier owns a +24 mark and with 76 points, posted a career year. Flyers also mark the return of G Brian Elliott since mid-February. He did not look good, but then shut out the N.Y. Rangers.
Then again, the goalie battle may be even. Penguins G Matt Murray (27-16-3, 2.92 GAA, .907S%) did not have a great season checkered with injuries since inheriting the job from Vegas’ Marc-Andre Fleury. Plus, the star-studded Pens may be running low on gas following a pair of long Cup runs.
Philadelphia may play down to the level of its opponent on (more-than-one) occasion, but they’re meeting an in-state rival and 2X Cup winner. If they can’t be competitive here, Pittsburgh will either sweep them (like they did in the regular season), or... FLYERS in 6.
In their first playoff appearance since 2012, don’t expect New Jersey to be happy just to be here thanks to All-Star left wing Taylor Hall, the leading candidate for Hart Trophy (MVP). Head coach John Hynes, a Frozen Four national champ at Boston Univ., guided the Devils to the best start (9-2-0) in franchise history.
With former Hobey Baker Award winner Will Butcher, Kyle Palmieri and Jesper Pratt, the Devils have a solid nucleus for years to come. Plus, traveling south for the playoffs beats crossing the border into the Canadian cold any day.,, Devils in 6.
Both clubs can be asked the same question: When will you get over that hurdle. How many scoring titles can Alex Ovechkin win (now at 7) before he can hoist the Cup? When will Columbus ever win any sort of SC playoff series (0-3)?
Currently, Caps G Braden Holtby is playing better than the Jackets’ Sergei Bobrovsky. That’s good enough for... Capitals in 6.
An Original Six pairing provides a team that (intentionally?) tanked on the final day of the regular season, playing a club which gave up weeks ago knowing it was locked in to finish third.
Both sides are good, especially Boston with the addition of eight skaters which turned an old roster into a speedy one.
The difference may be in front of Boston G Tuukka Rask, who is having a career year. The return of D Charlie McAvoy, paired with 7-footer (on skates) Zdeno Chara have looked solid. Meanwhile, the Leafs still need a year or two to properly foment (for you wine lovers).
Boston in 7 because home ice can matter.
It’s the third major Cup run (not second) for Nashville, who thinks they blew it to San Jose two seasons ago before falling to the Penguins in the SC Final last spring.
The Preds are the most physical team in the NHL, yet stay out of the penalty box, too. They also have an elite, world-class goalie in Pekka Rinne and a large, mobile defensive unit.
Colorado limps into the playoffs only because they barely skipped past St. Louis and should be on the first tee by next weekend. Preds in 4.
Last week’s review stated Winnipeg in 5. But changes have occurred.
Half of the Jets defensive corps – Toby Enstrom, Dmitry Kulikov and Jacob Trouba – are day-to-day, giving the Wild a chance to steal a game in Manitoba, where the Jets have a 9-game home-ice win streak.
Of course, the Wild will miss D Ryan Suter (right ankle) snd id done, but Jared Spurgeon is now probable.
It’s still Winnipeg’s series to win, but it may take additional games.
Ducks: Is G Josh Miller at 100 percent or will Ryan Miller be called upon? Can Anaheim find any second-line scoring, which is why management brought in Adam Henrique from New Jersey.
San Jose: Is G Martin Jones actually better than both of the Ducks goalies? Can D Brent Burns, who should be headed for retirement, be able to play mistake-free for the next month.
Be smart: Just take the Under is every game. Otherwise, Ducks in 6, based on their impressive 5-game road win streak.