Stanley Cup 2018, I: Place Your Bets

I – II – III – IV – V –

Ladies and gentlemen, we are gathered here to today to celebrate and to mourn, for we have come to the end of another long, yet exciting, yet miserable, NHL season.  The playoffs are here, which today will ring in one of my favorite times of the year.  As is tradition, I will go through the matchups and dissect them with my expert analysis and make a prediction on not only each series, but the tournament as a whole.

Hang on.  Predictions.  Why does that ring a bell…

Oh.  Right.  Before the season began, way back in September of 2017, I decided to put my prognostication prowess to the test and calculate out every single teams’ point projection and standings position.  What resulted was this image:

You know, it’s not half bad!  …in that it’s actually straight up half bad.  Let’s have a closer look.  I expected more from Dallas.  Edmonton, what the hell??  Chicago, it was going to happen eventually, but the year after winning the West?  Montréal — meh.  Carolina, I am so sorry.  New York Rangers, I predicted a slide, but not one this bad.

Now, I got the Jets as a playoff team right as a bit of a bold pick.  Nashville should have been higher, obviously.  The Lightning winning the East was right on, though it got hairy at the end of the season there and they didn’t win the Presidents’ Trophy.  Washington & Pittsburgh were perfect and easy, as were Toronto, Minnesota and San Jose.

Boldly, I chose St. Louis to miss the playoffs.  That was a close one.  Colorado, good on you.  Vancouver, that’s about right.  In the east, I correctly foresaw Ottawa’s slide, though severely underestimated it.  Boston is not even close, looking like perhaps the best team in the league right now.  Buffalo… sigh… congrats on being the first ever 31st place team in NHL history.

And that brings us to the elephant in the room: the Vegas Golden Knights.  I am absolutely willing to eat a whole buffet of crow, given that I called them to finish dead last disdainfully with, and I quote, “that roster.”  I am happy to be exceptionally wrong, as the Golden Knights have weaved one of the season’s most compelling stories and becoming the best expansion team in all of major league sports history.  As had been cheekily predicted by many, they were dominant at home, and having attended a game at T-Mobile Arena myself, I can attest to their definite strength on home ice, as well as their fantastically entertaining arena experience.  Additionally, the Golden Knights, despite being a hockey team in the desert, have a ubiquitous presence in and around the Strip.  Las Vegas is proud to have their team, and they’ve shown that it’s well deserved.

Diving a little deeper into the numbers: I correctly predicted the exact point totals for two teams: Philadelphia and St. Louis.  I was within 3 points with Washington, Pittsburgh, Minnesota, Detroit, Tampa Bay, and Vancouver.  I mentioned the playoff seeds I got correct above — strangely enough, I missed on all non-playoff seeding positions.  The worst predictions were Buffalo, Montréal, and Edmonton, all being off by exactly 30 points too many.  But of course, I was wrong on Vegas by 44 points too few.  On average, my predictions were off by 15 points.  Yikes.  It’s a good thing I’m not a professional hockey writer.

Naturally, after gambling on preseason picks and finishing quite a bit in the red, it makes complete sense to stay at the table and pray for Lady Luck to come around.  Same shooter.  Coming out:

Bringing the Cup back to Canada, eh?  Bold choice, especially against the Bruins, slayer of northern dreams.  Along the way we’ve got some choice matchups — Jets/Preds, Sharks/Kings, Penguins/Jackets, Bruins/Lightning — as well as upsets galore.  Fun and plausible!  Let’s take a look at the first round, shall we?

Stats herein (Power Play and Penalty Kill percentages, 5v5 Score-Adjusted Corsi [Shots on goal + missed shots + blocked shots, a decent measure of possession] & PDO [save percentage + shooting percentage, a decent measure of luck]) are measured from the trade deadline, February 26th, 2018, until the end of the regular season.  This is done in order to portray a more representative sample as teams trend toward their playoff forms.  All numbers are taken from NHL.com, hockey-reference.com, and Corsica.

 

A1. Tampa Bay Lightning vs M5. New Jersey Devils:  For the first time since I’ve been writing playoff predictions, the New Jersey Devils are in.  (Aside: that leaves only Arizona, Buffalo, and Carolina as the teams I’ve never written about on here…)  It’s been five long years, which is crazy since I grew up with the Devils being a playoff mainstay and multi-Cup winning team.  They face the Tampa Bay Lightning, reluctant winners of the Eastern Conference and most recently a playoff rival from back in 2007.  These are two speedy teams, lead by two late 2000s first overall draft picks in Steven Stamkos and Taylor Hall, respectively.  In fact, the Devils are basically just Taylor Hall and friends.  He put up 93 points this season, first on the team by a margin of 41 (!) points.  Holy crap.  Think they won the 2016 trade with Edmonton?  The Devils depth leaves a lot to be desired, and their goaltending tandem is shaky with former number one Cory Schneider performing horribly in limited starts since returning from injury.

Meanwhile, the Lightning, while still the best in the East, had fallen to Earth down the stretch (that negative goal differential since the deadline is a huge red flag).  This is  an incredibly deep team with superstars and solid youngsters, yet their goaltending of late has turned from Vezina quality to just about average.  If Andrei Vasilevskiy is fatigued as rumored, I don’t know that I trust him and Louis Domingue to handle a playoff workload successfully.  Still, their defense is solid, and goal scoring should come in spades given their overwhelming talent.  With the Devils having swept the season series (somehow), I can easily see this being an upset, however I think the Lightning will find a way to shut down Taylor Hall, and therefore, the Devils.  Lightning in six.  Truth be told, I don’t see my confidence in Tampa lasting longer than a round.

Record (P | W [ROW] – L – OTL – SOL | GD)
TBL: 113 | 54 [48] - 23 - 3 - 2 | +56
NJD:  97 | 44 [39] - 29 - 2 - 4 |  +3

Record Since Trade Deadline (P [Pts%] | W [ROW] – L – OTL – SOL | GD)
TBL: 26 [0.650] | 12 [ 9] - 6 - 2 - 0 | -2
NJD: 25 [0.625] | 12 [11] - 7 - 1 - 0 | +5

Power Play%
TBL: 20.7%, 14th
NJD: 28.8%,  4th

Penalty Kill%
TBL: 70.8%, 26th
NJD: 79.5%, 14th

5v5 Corsi, Score-Adjusted
TBL: 52.69%,  6th
NJD: 47.93%, 24th

PDO
TBL: 100.09, 17th
NJD: 100.86, 13th

Notable Injuries
TBL: Steven Stamkos
NJD: Marcus Johansson

Season Series
2017-10-17; TBL 4, NJD 4 S/O
2018-02-17; NJD 4, TBL 3
2018-03-24; TBL 1, NJD 2
TBL: 0-2-1 [0.167]
NJD: 3-0-0 [1.000]

 

A2. Boston Bruins vs A3. Toronto Maple Leafs:  Ohhhh baby this is what I’ve been hoping for ever since these two seeds were basically locked up back in… November.  Although the Sabres fan in me prefers that both teams missed the playoffs entirely, this will certainly do instead!

Everybody remembers 2013.  I was at a Sara Bareilles concert checking the scores on my phone before it started.  Toronto was up 4-1 in Game 7 and we know how that ended.  Six weeks later, I was in Boston the same night as the deciding game of the Cup Final… in Boston.  The Leafs imploded dramatically, bottoming out in 2016 to win the right to draft phenom Auston Matthews.  In 2014, the B’s won the Presidents’ Trophy, then imploded in a slightly less dramatic fashion over the subsequent two seasons.  Now we’ve got possibly the best matchup of the Eastern Conference, with both teams having something to prove and an age-old rivalry still burning hot.

These two have a lot in common; both are quick, young teams with a handful of incredible rookies, a smattering of dependable vets, and decades upon decades of history.  Toronto has arguably the better forward group, though Boston’s Brad Marchand eclipses all in points by a sizable margin.  Toronto has a higher scoring defensive core, but Boston has a better back end in general, including star goaltender Tuukka Rask, as well as boasting the best possession numbers in the league.  Honestly, I’m sensing a toss up here.  I hope it’s a brutal, seven game war of attrition, and I think that (gag) Boston triumphs over Toronto once again.  Bruins in seven.  It just feels like they’re peaking at the right time.

 Record (P | W [ROW] – L – OTL – SOL | GD)
BOS: 112 | 50 [47] - 20 - 9 - 3 | +56
TOR: 105 | 49 [42] - 26 - 5 - 2 | +40

Record Since Trade Deadline (P [Pts%] | W [ROW] – L – OTL – SOL | GD)
BOS: 30 [0.682] | 13 [13] - 5 - 3 - 1 | +13
TOR: 22 [0.611] | 10 [ 9] - 6 - 1 - 1 | +10

Power Play%
BOS: 33.3%, 2nd
TOR: 41.7%, 1st (!)

Penalty Kill%
BOS: 85.3%,  8th
TOR: 74.0%, 23rd

 5v5 Corsi, Score-Adjusted
BOS: 53.10%, 4th
TOR: 52.75%, 5th

 PDO
BOS: 100.26, 15th
TOR: 101.52, 10th

 Notable Injuries
BOS: Rick Nash, Brandon Carlo
TOR: None

 Season Series
2017-11-10; BOS 2, TOR 3 OT
2017-11-11; TOR 4, BOS 1
2018-02-03; TOR 1, BOS 4
2018-02-24; BOS 3, TOR 3
BOS: 1-2-1 [0.375]
TOR: 3-1-0 [0.750]

 

M1. Washington Capitals vs M4. Columbus Blue Jackets:  Welcome to the club of perennial playoff teams, Columbus.  It’s been a long time coming.  In your first back-to-back appearance, you’ve been rewarded with a team that’s not Pittsburgh.  Hooray!  And I didn’t realize at the time, but Columbus, despite the wild card finish, has been one of the hottest teams of late.  That should terrify the Capitals, who, while winning the division, have fallen noticeably backward since last year.  Perhaps the lack of Presidents’ Trophy pressure will relax Washington into winning three rounds this time around?  I’m not sure.  Alex Ovechkin is always a force, however Columbus too comes equipped this year with a bonafide offensive dynamo in Artemi Panarin.  The Jackets are quite a bit deeper than the top-heavy Capitals but they do stumble significantly on special teams.  On the goaltending front, it’s Braden Holtby versus Sergei Bobrovsky, two of the best in the league, yet both have a bit of a playoff choking reputation, both specifically against the Penguins, funnily enough.  Oy, I have no idea what’s going to happen, so I’m going to do what I promised to do last year: never pick the Capitals to win anything again.  Blue Jackets in five.  Oh yes, I’m going there.

…congrats on your series win, Washington…

 Record (P | W [ROW] – L – OTL – SOL | GD)
WSH: 105 | 49 [46] - 26 - 6 - 1 | +18
CBJ:  97 | 45 [39] - 30 - 3 - 4 | +10

Record Since Trade Deadline (P [Pts%] | W [ROW] – L – OTL – SOL | GD)
WSH: 28 [0.700] | 14 [14] - 6 - 0 - 0 | +10
CBJ: 30 [0.750] | 14 [14] - 4 - 2 - 0 | +23

Power Play%
WSH: 25.0%, T6th
CBJ: 25.0%, T6th

Penalty Kill%
WSH: 81.3%, 12th
CBJ: 74.5%, 22nd

 5v5 Corsi, Score-Adjusted
WSH: 48.50%, 22nd
CBJ: 52.47%,  7th

 PDO
WSH: 101.80, 9th
CBJ: 103.67, 3rd

 Notable Injuries
WSH: Jay Beagle
CBJ: Nick Foligno, Markus Nutivaara

 Season Series
2017-12-02; CBJ 3, WSH 4
2018-02-06; WSH 3, CBJ 2
2018-02-09; CBJ 2, WSH 4
2018-02-26; WSH 1, CBJ 5
WSH: 3-1-0 [0.750]
CBJ: 1-3-0 [0.250]

 

M2. Pittsburgh Penguins vs M3. Philadelphia Flyers: Awwwwww yes!  It seems the Penguins keep pulling in teams for series that I absolutely love to see, such as Columbus or Washington of late, but now we’re treated to the real Battle of Pennsylvania.  The last matchup in 2012 was a barnburner and a donnybrook, one of the most memorable series of the last decade, easily.  It featured scores like 8-5 and 10-3, 56 goals in total, and most notably, three suspensions and 258 PIMs in just Games 3 and 4.  So yeah, it was awesome.

Now we have the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions, led by the arguably best player in the game and the sidekick who’s flown under the radar with 98 points in Evgeni Malkin, as well as the enigmatic Phil Kessel with 92 of his own.  The defense leaves a little to be desired, but as we know that doesn’t seem to matter, given their success in last year’s playoffs.  Matt Murray is accustomed to winning Cups, having two to his name in his first two seasons — at some point he must come to Earth.  Meanwhile, Philadelphia is an enigma of their own.  Last year they had a ten game winning streak and missed the playoffs; this year, they went on a ten game losing streak and made the playoffs in a divisional spot.  Weird, but not entirely unexpected, given the resurgence of Claude Giroux who put up 102 points — his best year since, you guessed it, 2012.

I don’t think this is a particularly hard choice.  The Penguins have scored 5 goals in each of the four games with Philadelphia this year.  The Flyers’ penalty kill over the course of the season is next to second last, and Pittsburgh’s power play over that time is first.  That alone tips the scales heavily in favor of the Penguins.  Given their feisty history, there should be no shortage of special teams this series, so there’s a clear advantage here.  Penguins in six.  Honestly, it should probably be a sweep, but Philly will make it at least a little interesting.  I would prefer that this went seven though, for obvious reasons.

Notice how I set up a Pittsburgh – Columbus second round matchup?  Calculated.

 Record (P | W [ROW] – L – OTL – SOL | GD)
PIT: 100 | 47 [45] - 29 - 4 - 2 | +22
PHI:  98 | 42 [40] - 26 - 7 - 7 | +13

Record Since Trade Deadline (P [Pts%] | W [ROW] – L – OTL – SOL | GD)
PIT: 24 [0.632] | 11 [11] - 6 - 2 - 0 | +3
PHI: 22 [0.550] |  9 [ 8] - 7 - 2 - 2 |  0

Power Play%
PIT: 22.4%, 10th
PHI: 18.2%, 21st

Penalty Kill%
PIT: 69.6%, 28th
PHI: 78.3%, 17th

 5v5 Corsi, Score-Adjusted
PIT: 51.78%, 10th
PHI: 50.44%, 14th

 PDO
PIT: 99.31, 18th
PHI: 98.41, 25th

 Notable Injuries
PIT: Derrick Brassard
PHI: Johnny Oduya, Michal Neuvirth

 Season Series
2017-11-27; PHI 4, PIT 5 OT
2018-01-02; PIT 5, PHI 1
2018-03-07; PIT 5, PHI 2
2018-03-25; PHI 4, PIT 5 OT
PIT: 4-0-0 [1.000]
PHI: 0-2-2 [0.250]

 

C1. Nashville Predators vs C4. Colorado Avalanche:  Can you believe this?  The Colorado Avalanche made the playoffs the year after they set a modern record for futility in the regular season.  Well done.  You’ve been rewarded with a date with the best team in hockey, the Nashville Predators.  And you get to go up to seven games potentially without your best veteran defenseman and goaltender.  Welp.  At least Nashville doesn’t have the best D-corps and the Vezina frontrunner to contend with…  Whoops!  Just kidding.  Colorado, if you make it out of this series, I will be damn impressed.  Without even going into Nashville’s offense, which is stellar and balanced, by the way, I don’t see the Avalanche winning a game.  Indeed, in the season series they did not.  The only way the Predators don’t win this series is if they lose a key piece to injury — like a Ryan Johansen or Filip Forsberg.  Otherwise, yeah, not much else to say here.  Predators in four.

 Record (P | W [ROW] – L – OTL – SOL | GD)
NSH: 117 | 53 [47] - 18 - 4 - 7 | +57
COL:  95 | 43 [41] - 30 - 8 - 1 | +19

Record Since Trade Deadline (P [Pts%] | W [ROW] – L – OTL – SOL | GD)
NSH: 32 [0.762] | 15 [14] - 4 - 0 - 2 | +17
COL: 26 [0.619] | 11 [10] - 6 - 4 - 0 | +16

Power Play%
NSH: 15.6%, 28th
COL: 27.8%,  5th

Penalty Kill%
NSH: 79.5%, 15th
COL: 86.0%,  6th

 5v5 Corsi, Score-Adjusted
NSH: 51.91%,  9th
COL: 49.14%, 18th

 PDO
NSH: 102.28, 6th
COL: 103.70, 2nd

 Notable Injuries
NSH: Calle Jarnkrok, Yannick Weber
COL: Erik Johnson, Semyon Varlamov

 Season Series
2017-10-17; COL 1, NSH 4
2017-11-18; COL 2, NSH 5
2018-03-04; NSH 4, COL 3 OT
2018-03-16; NSH 4, COL 2
NSH: 4-0-0 [1.000]
COL: 0-3-1 [0.125]

 

C2. Winnipeg Jets vs C3. Minnesota Wild:  Since 2011, the Jets and Wild have been geographic rivals, sort of.  It wasn’t until 2013-14 that the Winnipeg Jets finally moved into the Central Division, and since then they’ve been to the playoffs just once, failing to win a single game.  Minnesota, meanwhile, has been in the show every year since 2013, so I guess it was only a matter of time before these two finally met to consummate their rivalry.  I don’t know what to expect out of this, honestly — I haven’t watched a ton of Wild games this year, and, while the opposite is true of the Jets, they’ve been outright dominant in just about every game I saw.  So, my bias is toward Winnipeg.  In fact, they win in every category below.

That said, Minnesota is a sneaky good team.  Eric Staal has had a hell of a good year, against expectations and recent history.  And for the Wild, that’s where the good news ends.  They’ll be without Ryan Suter, and their defense will suffer greatly as a result.  On the other hand, the Jets have had an outstanding season, blowing away their team records and capturing home ice in the playoffs for the first time (out of their three franchise appearances).  Jets captain Blake Wheeler has had a career year, phenom Patrik Laine continues to make a push for future Rocket Richard trophies, and the older kids, Ehlers and Connor, are alright.  Oh yeah, they have Tyler Myers too.  Remember him?  And they have the winningest American goaltender in Connor Hellebuyck, so that’s pretty nifty I would say.  Jets in five.  A low five — four would not surprise me in the least.  Then we get our perhaps de facto Western Conference Final in Nashville-Winnipeg in the second found.

 Record (P | W [ROW] – L – OTL – SOL | GD)
WPG: 114 | 52 [47] - 20 - 8 - 2 | +57
MIN: 101 | 45 [42] - 26 - 8 - 3 | +21

Record Since Trade Deadline (P [Pts%] | W [ROW] – L – OTL – SOL | GD)
WPG: 31 [0.775] | 15 [13] - 4 - 1 - 0 | +11
MIN: 24 [0.600] | 10 [10] - 6 - 3 - 1 |  +9

Power Play%
WPG: 19.3%, T17th
MIN: 19.3%, T17th

Penalty Kill%
WPG: 78.0%, 18th
MIN: 82.5%, 11th

 5v5 Corsi, Score-Adjusted
WPG: 53.90%,  3rd
MIN: 48.80%, 20th

 PDO
WPG: 101.92,  7th
MIN: 100.62, 14th

 Notable Injuries
WPG: Matt Hendricks, Toby Enstrom, Jacob Trouba
MIN: Jared Spurgeon, Ryan Suter

 Season Series
2017-10-20; MIN 2, WPG 4
2017-10-31; WPG 2, MIN 1
2017-11-27; MIN 2, WPG 7
2018-01-13; WPG 1, MIN 4
WPG: 3-1-0 [0.750]
MIN: 1-3-0 [0.250]

 

P1. Vegas Golden Knights vs P4. Los Angeles Kings:  Yeah, so about those Golden Knights.  They absolutely ran away with the Pacific Division, having led it since late December and finishing, albeit on a bit of slump, eight points up on second place.  The aforementioned game I attended was the night they clinched the division and it. was. awesome.  Now, the Los Angeles Kings are back in the playoffs after a brief hiatus.  I expected them to slide into mediocrity, but with a reborn Anze Kopitar putting up 92 points and the top defensive line in Cup-winning condition, they were right there fighting for the division all along.  The Golden Knights strength lies in their balance.  Due to the Expansion Draft providing no real superstars, the Knights instead have what amounts to a team of second and third liners.  Their weak spots are few, so opponents must compete against talent all game long.  They’ve also established deadly chemistry on offense, with William Karlsson’s unexpected 43 goal breakout demonstrating its effectiveness.

While Las Vegas will be pumped to host the playoffs for the first time, Los Angeles, the Knights’ de facto biggest rival, will be set on ruining their fun.  It is a new era for the Kings, but I learned not to underestimate this core a long time ago.  The Knights on the other hand have been underestimated consistently, yet they’ve always thrived against all odds.  At some point, they have to fall, right?  It’s true they’ve already been slumping for a few weeks (see their recent negative goal differential — thanks, Calgary), so I don’t really know what to expect with them.  The Golden Knights moving on the second round would be the best story, but I think it’s going to be the Kings in seven.  Los Angeles is used to winning, especially as a low seed, and the pressure is rising for Vegas.  Experience wins here.

 Record (P | W [ROW] – L – OTL – SOL | GD)
VGK: 109 | 51 [47] - 24 - 4 - 3 | +43
LAK:  98 | 45 [43] - 29 - 7 - 1 | +35

Record Since Trade Deadline (P [Pts%] | W [ROW] – L – OTL – SOL | GD)
VGK: 23 [0.548] | 10 [ 8] - 8 - 2 - 1 |  -7
LAK: 27 [0.675] | 12 [12] - 5 - 2 - 1 | +16

Power Play%
VGK: 20.0%, 15th
LAK: 22.6%,  9th

Penalty Kill%
VGK: 83.6%, T9th
LAK: 92.3%,  1st

 5v5 Corsi, Score-Adjusted
VGK: 49.20%, 17th
LAK: 50.05%, 15th

 PDO
VGK:  99.02, 19th
LAK: 101.87,  8th

 Notable Injuries
VGK: Luca Sbisa, David Perron
LAK: Jake Muzzin, Alex Iafallo

 Season Series
2017-11-19; LAK 2, VGK 4
2017-12-28; VGK 3, LAK 2 OT
2018-02-26; VGK 2, LAK 3 OT
2018-02-27; LAK 4, VGK 1
VGK: 2-1-1 [0.625]
LAK: 2-1-1 [0.625]

P2. Anaheim Ducks vs P3. San Jose Sharks:  Our final matchup of the first round is an old favorite.  The third leg of the Battle of California has been dormant since 2009, when the Ducks upset the Presidents’ Trophy winning Sharks in the first round.  In intrastate rivalries since then, the Ducks and Sharks have played the Kings in the playoffs one and four times, respectively, with the Kings winning three of five series (and two Cups).  That said, there’s never a dull moment between these two.  They really don’t like each other.  And how can you blame them?  The Ducks are horrible.  Just the worst.  They’ve been the bullies of the Western Conference for years and they just never seem to stop.  Unfortunately, they were able to secure home ice on the last day of the season due to the Sharks cooling off down the stretch.

But, seeding doesn’t matter, especially to the Ducks who are prone to losing Games Seven on home ice.  The Sharks, despite being a point behind in the standings, are simply the better team.  They score more, have better special teams, possession stats, and fewer wounded goaltenders.  I just can’t see the Ducks winning this series.  Sharks in six.  Get it done.

Regardless of any result in the Pacific, the second round is sure to be a bloodbath.

 Record (P | W [ROW] – L – OTL – SOL | GD)
ANA: 101 | 44 [40] - 25 - 6 - 7 | +22
SJS: 100 | 45 [40] - 27 - 7 - 3 | +21

Record Since Trade Deadline (P [Pts%] | W [ROW] – L – OTL – SOL | GD)
ANA: 27 [0.750] | 13 [13] - 4 - 1 - 0 | +21
SJS: 25 [0.658] | 12 [11] - 6 - 1 - 0 | +15

Power Play%
ANA: 17.5%, 22nd
SJS: 16.7%, 26th

Penalty Kill%
ANA: 86.7%, 5th
SJS: 87.5%, 4th

 5v5 Corsi, Score-Adjusted
ANA: 50.86%, 12th
SJS: 51.45%, 11th

 PDO
ANA: 104.19,  1st
SJS: 101.19, 11th

 Notable Injuries
ANA: John Gibson, Cam Fowler
SJS: Joe Thornton, Eric Fehr

 Season Series
2017-11-04; ANA 1, SJS 2 S/O
2017-11-20; ANA 3, SJS 2 S/O
2018-01-21; SJS 6, ANA 2
2018-02-11; SJS 3, ANA 2 S/O
ANA: 1-2-1 [0.375]
SJS: 3-0-1 [0.875]

We’ve got exactly as much turnover as last year, and somehow despite that, still only seven Cup virgins.  I guess bringing back New Jersey, Colorado, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and Tampa will do that.  The rivalries here though might just be the best of the divisional playoff system.  It’s guaranteed to be a good time in the first round.

One other related fun fact to note: not only are there only two Original Arbitrary Six teams in the first round, one of which is guaranteed to go home, but the last five expansion teams, those no older than twenty years, are all in the playoffs together for the first time.  Nashville, Winnipeg (formerly Atlanta), Minnesota, Columbus, and Vegas collectively outnumber their rivals from antiquity five to two.  Pretty neat.  Maybe one of them will win a Cup?

Fun Facts & Frivolity Field
Cup Virgins:  7 — CBJ, MIN, NSH, SJS, VGK, WSH, WPG
Cup Champions since 2006:  4 — ANA (’07), BOS (’11), LAK (’12, ’14), PIT (’09, ’16, ’17)
Longest Cup drought:  TOR — 49 seasons
Returning teams:  9 — ANA, BOS, CBJ, MIN, NSH, PIT, SJS, TOR, WSH
Fresh blood:  7 — COL, LAK, NJD, PHI, TBL, VGK, WPG

Only minor tweaks were made in the offseason — none of them particularly notable.  I like where I’m at with the bracket.  If anything changes, I’ll be sure to let you know when they happen.

Let’s go Sharks!

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Wishes for Adidas’ NHL Takeover

With Adidas being the parent company of Reebok, they’re set to assume production of all NHL jerseys for the 2017-18 season.  Last time this happened, when Reebok took over in the offseason of 2007, all NHL team jerseys were redesigned to fit the new Edge template.  With this change being forced upon each team, some took the opportunity to rebrand or refresh their looks.  Some overhauled completely (Dallas, Vancouver, and Washington for example).  Others made minor tweaks to their jerseys.  Some made basically none.

Some teams made mistakes.  A few of them, unfortunately, still live to this day.  I’ve taken it upon myself to present a few concept logo blocks with my vision for team primary logos and colors going forward.  If these changes don’t happen, I will be disappointed, but I won’t give up hope — I’ll continue adding to this collection when inspiration strikes, provided that my ideas don’t magically come to life before then.

First up, my Buffalo Sabres:

Buffalo SabresBuffalo Sabres (Away)

Ditch the silver lines, return to a real, vibrant blue, and voilà!  That’s all they need.  This look is clear, identifiable, and timeless.  If they’re going to hoist the Cup at some point, I desperately hope it’s in these.  With the Sabres scheduled to play as the home team at the 2018 Winter Classic, we may see this jersey appear as soon as then — hopefully they do the right thing and elevate it to primary duty afterward.  If not, the likely worst case scenario is it would become a full-time third in 2018-19.  If that happens, they will have earned my money.


Calgary Flames (Third)Calgary Flames (Fourth)

Fixing the Calgary Flames would be simple: return to the 1980s.  Get rid of the black.  Promote the existing third to primary and add a road counterpart.  You won the Cup in these jerseys; why wouldn’t you want to promote them?  ’nuff said.


Carolina Hurricanes (Third)Carolina Hurricanes (Fourth)

The Carolina Hurricanes need a uniform update, badly.  Their 2013 redesign was horrendous, but thankfully they kept their unique third in reserve.  I wouldn’t mind seeing them upgraded to full-time duty.  The flag logo is far better than the swirl, even though they did win the Cup in the latter, but there’s also the fact that I’m not a fan of black primaries.  What about red?  I think that looks damn hot, even if it is a (tropical) storm warning flag.


Colorado Avalanche (Third)Colorado Avalanche (Fourth)

The Colorado Avalanche have been using the 2007 Reebok transition look for a decade; they’re the last to maintain use of the “apron string” look.  It needs a change more than any other team.  Their current thirds are decent, but I’m not sold on them being a primary.  They’re just a bit too experimental, plus burgundy has always been the Avs’ color.  How about these?


Columbus Blue JacketsColumbus Blue Jackets (Away)

The Columbus Blue Jackets‘ third is a great, great look.  I love the jersey, the color scheme, and the logo.  It’s more distinct, compared to the Jacket’s current palette which features zero unique colors.  The only problem is that vintage white cannot be used as an away jersey base, so to solve I’ve made it white across the board.  Looking sharp!


Minnesota WildMinnesota Wild (Away)

The Minnesota Wild are rumored to be going forward with a green jersey, similar to their Stadium Series jersey from last season.  I’m for it.  I think they should keep their away white jerseys and use them template for the homes.  Easy.  I bet this is exactly what we see come Draft Day, more-or-less.


Ottawa Senators (Third)Ottawa Senators (Fourth)

The Ottawa Senators are in dire need of a new look, having used the same original Reebok template since 2007.  Luckily, they’ve already created a complete set that would do nicely.  The “O” logo ties the franchise back to its predecessor in Ottawa, while ditching the tired look of the three-quarter-profile cartoon centurion.  Same as with Columbus, the vintage white is normalized to pure white.  There was a rumor swirling earlier this year that something like this was in the works for the future.  It’s been quiet on that front recently, but I’d still imagine this has a very good chance of happening.

Alternatively, they’ve been sitting on this cleaner version of their original profiled Senator logo for awhile.  It’s not on their jerseys anywhere, for some reason.  If the classic look isn’t to be, why not revamp the jerseys with this badass logo on front?  Hell, I’d be okay with a return to the black primary if this is what it looks like.


San Jose SharksSan Jose Sharks (Away)San Jose Sharks2San Jose Sharks (Away2)

This is more of a thought than a hope.  The San Jose Sharks used the Reebok takeover to refresh their Shark-biting-stick logo in 2007; modernizing while maintaining the overall look.  It’s been a decade since then, and the franchise has matured to a point of ubiquity and success in the Bay Area.  It’s time to grow the logo to match.  We know it’s a hockey team, so there’s no need for a stick in the logo.  This past season the Sharks released a beautiful set of “future” secondary logos for marketing purposes, which went more-or-less unused: see the clean full-bodied shark above.  There’s also a variant with a more triangular shape and a subtle SJ at the vertex.  Either one I think would be a great primary look.


Washington CapitalsWashington Capitals (Away)

Last but not least, look at this.  The Washington Capitals have used this stunning secondary logo since their transformation in 2007.  How is it not the primary?  I get that the wordmark is an update of their original logo, but come on.  This would be an incredible primary logo.  It’s simple, easily reproduceable and identifiable, and it’s freaking brilliant.  It forms a “W.” It’s got the Capitol in negative space.  The angle in the neck invokes the Washington Monument.  It’s wonderful.  After their latest playoff failure, it might just be a decent time to re-brand.  Make this the primary now.


I have a few more wants that I’m not sure how (read: am not skilled enough) to express visually:

Los Angeles Kings

The Los Angeles Kings would do well to add purple back to their look.  I’m not sure if that requires a whole new logo or not — I’d lean toward the latter, given all of their success with their current setup.  Perhaps just a trim on the jersey?  The league needs more purple; ie any purple.


Vancouver Canucks

The Vancouver Canucks have a great set of uniforms, and it hurts to suggest changes because of their mixed history.  I like the orca logo, but the “Vancouver” wordmark needs to go.   Alternatively, promote the third to full time and go full 1970s.  Either way, that’s all I want, so there’s nothing really new to illustrate here.  The design of the jerseys and their colors are perfect already.

In conclusion, I’m surprised by how content I am with the look of the NHL these days.   Only a handful of teams need a redo on the logo, jersey, and/or colors.  For the rest, a few uniform tweaks here and there would be nice, but overall I think these aforementioned changes would be enough to make the league the best it could possibly look.  Now, if only we could make color versus color jerseys for games the norm, only then would we have perfection.

Stanley Cup 2017, I: Rivalries, Rivalries Everywhere (Sort Of)

I II III IV V

What a difference a year makes, eh?  One year ago I was dumbfounded by the lack of Canadian teams in the playoffs.  Flash forward to today, where we will see five for the first time since… 2015.  So it’s not that unusual (aside: back in the 1980s when there were seven Canadian teams, sixteen playoff teams and twenty-one teams in the league, it was exceptionally common), however, some of the featured teams sure are abnormal.  We’ve got Toronto back in, having last made the dance in 2013 and for only the second time since 2004.  But of course the real story is the end of the Edmonton Oilers’ decade long drought, having last appeared in the 2006 Stanley Cup Final.  This is also the first time since then that both Calgary and Edmonton are in the playoffs together.

Canada aside, we’ve got a lot of fresh blood in the tournament this year, which is always a welcome sight.  Most teams had only missed a year or two in their droughts.  On the other hand, those that are returning have been, for the most part, returning for awhile.  And, unfortunately for my entertainment, the best odds for winning the Cup rest with those teams that have won most recently.  Fun.

Also, what’s up Detroit?  Fancy not seeing you here.  Last time you missed, I was just a baby.  Weird.

I have a few issues with the current playoff format, some I get into below.  I cannot, however, fault the fact that we’ve got decent rivalries out the wazoo this first round.  Some have been long dormant; others are just budding.  There are some match-ups I wouldn’t really consider rivalries, but then I look a little closer, and sure enough, there’s playoff history in all series but one* (Thanks for failing to secure us of a Battle of Ontario, Toronto; and the Battles of Alberta and California, L.A.).  It’s quite incredible, really.  The first round is always the best of the playoffs, and I think we’re in for a treat again this year.

Now, to the bracket.  Will I pick one of the above unnamed favorites to win the Cup?  I suppose we don’t have to wait to see:

There’s an old saying in D.C. — I know it’s in Texas, probably in D.C. — that says, fool me once, shame on… shame on you. Fool me… you can’t get fooled again!

I’m a little concerned that I picked the Blues to come out of the West.  It’s foolish to always pick favorites because they rarely make it to the end together, so I’ve got a 2 and a 3 seed in the mix.  Will this work?  Probably not, but it’s worth a shot.

Stats herein (Power Play and Penalty Kill percentages, 5v5 Score-Adjusted Corsi [Shots on goal + missed shots + blocked shots, a decent measure of possession] & PDO [save percentage + shooting percentage, a decent measure of luck]) are measured from the trade deadline, March 1st, 2017, until the end of the regular season.  This is done in order to portray a more representative sample as teams trend toward their playoff forms.  All numbers are taken from NHL.com, hockey-reference.com, and Corsica.

A1. Montréal Canadiens vs M4. New York Rangers:  For the first time since the new playoff format debuted in 2014, the Eastern conference wildcards flip divisions.  I understand that it’s based on having the top team in the conference play the lower seeded wildcard (1 vs 8, more or less), but couldn’t they just put in a provision that if there is one wildcard team per division, they will play in that division’s bracket?  Seems reasonable, right?  We could have had Washington playing New York, and Montréal hosting Toronto!  Instead we have Boston playing for the Metropolitan Division championship, and New York competing for the Atlantic.  Okay.

But we’re stuck with this, and it’s not so bad.  Back in 2014, these two met in the Eastern Conference Final, which was a wild series featuring blowouts, barnburners, and an incident in which Chris Kreider took out Carey Price, torpedoing the Habs chances at a Cup Final berth.  Price has returned to being possibly the best goalie in the world (though there’s competition), and the Canadiens look very, very hot right now.

The New York Rangers are tough to grasp.  I have no faith in them.  Like at all.  They’re sitting above 100 points for the third straight season and are that far removed from a Presidents’ Trophy, but for some reason they’re one of those teams that never seems like a playoff threat.  That’s compounded by the fact that their window appears to be rapidly closing. That said, at one point this season, they were putting up nearly five goals a game, so there’s potential to ramp back into unsustainable territory.  I’m not sure.  I haven’t watched enough Rangers games to feel confident in my pick, but here goes:  Canadiens in five. I’m probably wrong to make the series this short, but between New York and Montréal this season, the Habs win on almost every category.

Record (P | W [ROW] – L – OTL – SOL | GD)
MTL: 103 | 47 [44] - 26 - 7 - 2 | +25
NYR: 102 | 48 [44] - 28 - 2 - 4 | +37

Record Since Trade Deadline (P | W [ROW] – L – OTL – SOL | GD)
MTL: 25 | 12 [11] - 5 - 1 - 0 | +10
NYR: 20 |  8 [ 8] - 7 - 2 - 2 |  +1

Power Play%
MTL: 10.5%, 29th
NYR: 26.5%,  5th

Penalty Kill%
MTL: 86.7%,   4th
NYR: 76.8%, T23rd

5v5 Corsi, Score-Adjusted
MTL: 52.41%,  4th
NYR: 48.27%, 27th

PDO
MTL: 100.60, 13th
NYR: 100.53, 15th

Notable Injuries
MTL: Shea Weber, Alexei Emelin
NYR: None

Season Series
2017-01-14; NYR 4, MTL 5
2017-02-21; MTL 3,NYR 2 S/O
2017-03-04; MTL 4, NYR 1
MTL: 3-0-0
NYR: 0-2-1

 

A2. Ottawa Senators vs A3. Boston Bruins:  Fun fact: this is only the second playoff meeting between the Ottawa Senators and the Boston Bruins.  What makes this fact fun?  The previous meeting was in the 1927 Stanley Cup Final, where the original Senators franchise defeated the Bruins two wins to zero in a four-game series.  Yeah, it was weird back then.  I don’t really think this counts as playoff history, but it’s more fun to think this rivalry goes back 90 years.  These two are, of course, division rivals, and have been every year since the Sens joined the league in 1993, so there’s definitely familiarity and animosity.  Perhaps this series will escalate their relationship into a rare new battle within the already tense Atlantic division’s northern teams?  I honestly don’t know.  Ottawa doesn’t seem like that pugnacious of a team (though they still employ Chris Neil for some reason), and Boston is in the middle of a transition, having missed the last two playoffs after winning the 2014 Presidents’ Trophy.

The Bruins are weird.  They’ve been middling under a bizarre new GM, they fired their veteran Cup-winning coach midseason, and, well, their recent underlying numbers are scary good.  Meanwhile, the Senators are grappling with a crippled defense core, though Erik Karlsson is likely to power his way through whatever injury he’s suffering.  Ottawa is an up and down streaky team, currently on the upswing.  That said, their negative goal differential sticks out like a sore thumb.  I don’t have any love for either of these teams as a Sabres fan, so it pains me to make this pick regardless.  My gut says Bruins in six.

 Record (P | W [ROW] – L – OTL – SOL | GD)
OTT: 98 | 44 [38] - 28 - 6 - 4 |  -4
BOS: 95 | 44 [42] - 31 - 4 - 3 | +23

Record Since Trade Deadline (P | W [ROW] – L – OTL – SOL | GD)
OTT: 26 | 11 [ 9] - 6 - 1 - 3 |  +1
BOS: 23 | 11 [11] - 7 - 0 - 1 | +14

Power Play%
OTT: 16.4%, 18th
BOS: 28.6%, T2nd

Penalty Kill%
OTT: 71.4%, 30th
BOS: 85.5%,  5th

 5v5 Corsi, Score-Adjusted
OTT: 49.81%, 18th
BOS: 53.84%,  3rd

 PDO
OTT: 101.08,  8th
BOS:  99.51, 19th

 Notable Injuries
OTT: Marc Methot, Erik Karlsson
BOS: Torey Krug, Brandon Carlo

 Season Series
2016-11-24; BOS 1, OTT 3
2017-03-06; BOS 2, OTT 4
2017-03-21; OTT 3, BOS 2
2017-04-06; OTT 2, BOS 1 S/O
OTT: 4-0-0
BOS: 0-3-1

M1. Washington Capitals vs A4. Toronto Maple Leafs:  Let’s talk about Toronto and Washington.  Of the sixteen playoff teams, only these two haven’t met in the playoffs in their history, if you count the aforementioned ancient Boston and Ottawa series.  There’s no real narrative here.  The Capitals are the beast of the east, and have been in the upper echelon in the league for decade (excusing a minor blip in 2014), but for some reason cannot seem to get out of the second round in its current iteration.  Alexander Ovechkin has yet to even play for a Conference championship, let alone a Cup.  These Caps, though.  Something about them feels different.  They’re so good, I find it hard to believe their playoff mediocrity can continue.

For now, they’ve drawn the Toronto Maple Leafs, the lower seeded wildcard team crossing over from the Atlantic.  The Leafs finished in last place last year, and thanks to Lady Luck, won the right to draft Auston Matthews, a rookie superstar with professional experience in the Swiss National League A, who has already notched a 40-goal season.  Combined with the support of William Nylander and Mitch Marner, the Leafs have a formidable trio of rookie talent up front.  They’re going to be monsters for years to come.  They are an exceptionally young team; most of their non-veterans were on the Marlies just last year.  I don’t expect much from them in the playoffs.  Don’t get me wrong, they’re a good team.  I just think Toronto is just happy to be there again, having wildly exceeded expectations.  Washington is going to deliver a beatdown; one that will probably teach the kids exactly what they need to win down the road.  Capitals in five.  I expect this to be a relatively tame, but fast and skilled series.  It should be fun to watch, and the arena environments in both cities will be rocking.

You know, this is one of those times it would be amazing to have a color versus color match-up on the ice.  Red versus blue in buildings full of those colors in the stands is a sight to behold.

 Record (P | W [ROW] – L – OTL – SOL | GD)
WSH: 118 | 55 [53] - 19 - 3 - 5 | +84
TOR:  95 | 40 [39] - 27 - 7 - 8 | +16

Record Since Trade Deadline (P | W [ROW] – L – OTL – SOL | GD)
WSH: 27 | 13 [12] - 6 - 1 - 0 | +6
TOR: 26 | 12 [12] - 6 - 1 - 1 | +6

Power Play%
WSH: 25.8%, 7th
TOR: 26.3%, 6th

Penalty Kill%
WSH: 82.8%, 13th
TOR: 78.4%, 19th

 5v5 Corsi, Score-Adjusted
WSH: 55.07%, 2nd
TOR: 51.15%, 9th

 PDO
WSH:  98.61, 22nd
TOR: 100.40, 16th

 Notable Injuries
WSH: John Carlson, Brett Connolly
TOR: Nikita Zaitsev, Roman Polak, Frederik Andersen

 Season Series
2016-11-26; WSH 2, TOR 4
2017-01-03; TOR 5, WSH 6 OT
2017-04-04; WSH 4, TOR 1
WSH: 2-1-0
TOR: 1-1-1

 

M2. Pittsburgh Penguins vs M3. Columbus Blue Jackets: Awwwwww yes!  This is easily my favorite up-and-coming rivalry, and luckily for the world, this is a revenge meeting for the Penguins’ dispatching of the Blue Jackets back in 2014.  In the middle of the season, the Jackets were lighting the league on fire with their win streak, while the Penguins were flying high after winning the Cup last year.  The Blue Jackets are a tough team to evaluate.  This year feels abnormal, given their basement finish last year, as well as their record of mediocrity since their inception.  However, this is far and away their best season as a franchise and it’s hard not to think they’ve finally arrived.

Meanwhile, Pittsburgh is as good as ever, and are in a decent position to repeat as champions — a feat still never accomplished in the cap era, though they were one of the two teams involved in the first repeat Final appearance.  I’m firmly on the Blue Jackets bandwagon.  I want them to finally win a round so badly, and to do it against the Pens would be satisfying (which is similar to the sentiment I had in 2014). It’s just… they’re the Penguins, man.  With Detroit out of the picture, they hold the longest playoff streak and have two Cups during that time.  It would be unwise to bet against them, even as my heart begs me to.  Penguins in seven.  Here’s hoping it goes the distance.  It’s a damn shame one of these two has to go home after one round, so let’s make it last.

 Record (P | W [ROW] – L – OTL – SOL | GD)
PIT: 111 | 50 [46] - 21 - 6 - 5 | +49
CBJ: 108 | 50 [48] - 24 - 6 - 2 | +54

Record Since Trade Deadline (P | W [ROW] – L – OTL – SOL | GD)
PIT: 27 | 12 [10] - 6 - 0 - 3 | +8
CBJ: 24 | 11 [11] - 8 - 1 - 1 | +3

Power Play%
PIT: 28.6%, T2nd
CBJ: 11.6%, 28th

Penalty Kill%
PIT: 77.8%, 21st
CBJ: 83.3%, 12th

 5v5 Corsi, Score-Adjusted
PIT: 49.17%, 22nd
CBJ: 49.79%, 19th

 PDO
PIT: 101.14,  7th
CBJ: 100.72, 12th

 Notable Injuries
PIT: Kris Letang, Olli Maatta, Carl Hagelin, Evgeni Malkin, Chris Kunitz
CBJ: Ryan Murray, Zach Werenski

 Season Series
2016-12-22; PIT 1, CBJ 7
2017-02-03; CBJ 3, PIT 4 OT
2017-02-17; PIT 1, CBJ 2 OT
2017-04-04; CBJ 1, PIT 4
PIT: 2-1-1
CBJ: 2-1-1

C1. Chicago Blackhawks vs C4. Nashville Predators:  Well look at this.  The Central isn’t the maelstrom it was just a few years ago, but the Hawks somehow cannot seem to find the end of their ascendancy.  They’ve been in the playoffs since 2009, have won three Cups, and show absolutely no sign of slowing down, despite conventional wisdom saying that it’s been inevitable for some time.  And it sucks, because I don’t want to have to pick them to win all the time, but they’re always the favorite and for good reason.  They’re healthy, they still have their core, and they’re the freakin’ Chicago Blackhawks.

And in this corner, the Nashville Predators, who’ve turned themselves into a playoff team more often than not.  Unlike the Hawks, the Preds had high expectations coming into the season in the aftermath of the P.K. Subban trade.  After a stumble out of the gate, they cemented themselves into a playoff spot and, it was too close, but they stayed in the Central Division to match with the Hawks.  These two haven’t played too often in the playoffs, having met twice in the last seven years; when they do, the Hawks win the series and then they win the Cup.  So, uh, that’s not quite a trend yet.  Nashville is intriguing because they seem to love to move around promising assets in exchange for similar levels of talent, resulting in seemingly little gain or loss.  Shea Weber was the foundation of the franchise, yet Subban has filled in nicely in his stead.  I would like to see how the top performers of last year’s run do — looking at you Colin Wilson.  If they’re in the form they showed against the Sharks, they’re in good shape.  If not, well, it will end badly.  I’m going with the Blackhawks in five.  The Preds can’t repel firepower of this magnitude.

 Record (P | W [ROW] – L – OTL – SOL | GD)
CHI: 109 | 50 [46] - 23 - 8 - 1 | +28
NSH:  94 | 41 [39] - 29 - 8 - 4 | +18

Record Since Trade Deadline (P | W [ROW] – L – OTL – SOL | GD)
CHI: 26 | 11 [9] - 5 - 4 - 0 | -1
NSH: 21 |  9 [9] - 7 - 2 - 1 | +7

Power Play%
CHI: 15.1%, 21st
NSH: 12.7%, 25th

Penalty Kill%
CHI: 82.6%, 14th
NSH: 77.5%, 22nd

 5v5 Corsi, Score-Adjusted
CHI: 49.86%, T16th
NSH: 51.68%,   6th

 PDO
CHI: 100.05, 18th
NSH: 101.72,  5th

 Notable Injuries
CHI: Michal Rozsival
NSH: Mike Fisher, Colin Wilson, Roman Josi

 Season Series
2016-10-14; CHI 2, NSH 3
2016-10-15; NSH 3, CHI 5
2016-12-29; CHI 3, NSH 2
2017-01-08; NSH 2, CHI 5
2017-03-04; CHI 5, NSH 3
CHI: 4-1-0
NSH: 1-4-0


C2. Minnesota Wild vs C3. St. Louis Blues:  For our second budding Central rivalrly, we have these two franchises.  They’ve been consistently overshadowed by the Blackhawks throughout the last few years, but recently there have been potential signs of a changing tide.  The Blues slayed the demon and advanced to the Western Conference Final last year.  This year, they fired their coach and, inexplicably, have been riding that to an incredible hot streak at season’s end.  A team some thought had a closed window has roared back into the playoff picture and, despite being a three-seed, I believe is the favorite here.  Back in 2015, the division champion Blues met the Wild and were upset in an unthinkable six-game series.  I have a hard time believing they will let this happen again.

In Minnesota, it’s been a roller coaster all season.  This team had a twelve game winning streak in December, broken only by the Columbus Blue Jackets, who were feeding a (longer) streak of their own.  But then they couldn’t win, allowing the Hawks to steal the division and set up a more difficult path for the Wild.  Bruce Boudreau is a fascinating playoff coach.  His tenure in Washington was marred by playoff disappointment; it went similarly in Anaheim, though he made it a bit farther.  Minnesota, somehow, has held by far the best possession numbers since February, and their percentages suggest there is still room for improvement.  That’s a nice thought, but it’s also the Wild.  I don’t expect anything from them, really.  They’re one of the few teams I would love to see get a Cup; it just doesn’t seems like they have “it.”  Basically, Rangers West.  Does that make sense?

I think St. Louis is rolling, and the only way for Minnesota to win is for the series to go fewer than seven.  Blues in six.

 Record (P | W [ROW] – L – OTL – SOL | GD)
MIN: 106 | 49 [46] - 25 - 6 - 2 | +57
STL:  99 | 46 [44] - 29 - 5 - 2 | +17

Record Since Trade Deadline (P | W [ROW] – L – OTL – SOL | GD)
MIN: 18 |  8 [ 8] - 11 - 2 - 0 |  -4
STL: 32 | 15 [14] -  3 - 1 - 1 | +23

Power Play%
MIN: 16.1%, 20th
STL: 18.9%, 15th

Penalty Kill%
MIN: 81.0%, 15th
STL: 87.7%,  3rd

 5v5 Corsi, Score-Adjusted
MIN: 55.23%,  1st
STL: 50.80%, 10th

 PDO
MIN:  97.73, 25th
STL: 103.92,  2nd

 Notable Injuries
MIN: Jared Spurgeon
STL: Robby Fabbri, Paul Stastny

 Season Series
2016-10-13; MIN 2, STL 3
2016-11-26; MIN 3, STL 4 S/O
2016-12-11; STL 1, MIN 3
2017-01-26; STL 1, MIN 5
2017-03-07; STL 2, MIN 1
MIN: 2-2-1
STL: 3-2-0

 

P1. Anaheim Ducks vs P4. Calgary Flames:  Another first for the new playoff system: the Pacific Division has finally sent a wild card team, and thankfully, unlike what happened above, they remain in their rightful bracket.  However, thanks to the Ducks being complete spoilers, we’re left with a pair of semi-rivalries in the Pacific instead of two full blown wars.  It’s not the worst thing: Anaheim and Calgary met only two years ago in the Division Finals, with Anaheim winning in five.

Calgary has had incredibly bad luck against the Ducks.  Their last win at Honda Center was in the 2006 playoffs — when the arena was known as Arrowhead Pond and the Ducks were Mighty — and their regular season drought goes back to 2004.  So, basically, the Flames are facing an impossible task not having home ice in this series.

Anaheim this season won their fifth straight division title, albeit under a new (old) coach many expected to negatively affect their standing.  Funny that: Randy Carlyle is viewed as an old-school grit and truculence style coach, yet the possession numbers show the Ducks in the top 25% of the league.  With a sky-high PDO since the deadline, it’s possible they’re over-performing, so I expect only a round or two out of them before they normalize (and are eliminated).  The Flames are a speedy young team with streaky goaltending; they’ll pose a decent challenge to the stalwart Ducks, but I’m not sure they’re good enough to overcome the difference in skill and depth.  Ducks in six.  Bonus prediction: the Flames will win one game at Honda Center.

 Record (P | W [ROW] – L – OTL – SOL | GD)
ANA: 105 | 46 [43] - 23 - 10 - 3 | +23
CGY:  94 | 45 [41] - 33 -  2 - 2 |  +3

Record Since Trade Deadline (P | W [ROW] – L – OTL – SOL | GD)
ANA: 31 | 14 [13] - 2 - 2 - 1 | +22
CGY: 22 | 11 [10] - 7 - 0 - 0 | +10

Power Play%
ANA: 17.5%,  17th
CGY: 22.6%, T10th

Penalty Kill%
ANA: 83.9%, 9th
CGY: 88.5%, 1st

 5v5 Corsi, Score-Adjusted
ANA: 51.37%,  7th
CGY: 50.37%, 14th

 PDO
ANA: 104.04, 1st
CGY: 101.48, 6th

 Notable Injuries
ANA: Hampus Lindholm, Cam Fowler
CGY: Chad Johnson

 Season Series
2016-11-06; CGY 1, ANA 4
2016-12-04; ANA 3, CGY 8
2016-12-29; ANA 3, CGY 1
2017-04-02; ANA 4, CGY 3
2017-04-04; CGY 1, ANA 3
ANA: 4-1-0
CGY: 1-4-0

 

P2. Edmonton Oilers vs P3. San Jose Sharks:  On the flipside of the split Battles of Alberta and California, we have this.  Like Anaheim and Calgary, these two have history dating back to 2006, where the underdog Oilers defeated the Sharks in the second round on their way to the Cup Final.  In fact, both of these teams’ most recent appearances in the playoffs were losing in the Cup Final!  Isn’t that mildly interesting?

Now here’s where I’m at: the Sharks recently have looked terrible.  They’re tired, banged up, and listless.  I may have to attribute this in part to the long season they played a year ago, but given teams like Chicago’s and Los Angeles’ recent winning ways, I’m not sure that’s the whole story.  In short, the Sharks should be better, but they’re not.

Meanwhile, the Oilers continue to impress.  It hurts watching the team who stole your lottery destiny succeed, especially when that team also employs Milan Lucic.  What doesn’t hurt is how fun the Oilers are.  Connor McDavid is amazing; his foot speed and stickhandling abilities are unmatched, and he’s only 20 years old.  I am supremely jealous.  With the defense looking decent-ish and the goaltending of Cam Talbot adding much needed stability on the backend, the Oilers may just go deep this year.  Assuming the Sharks haven’t suddenly traded for a bizarro-tandem of Andrew Ladd and Marc-Andre Bergeron

In the battle of San Jose and Edmonton, I think youth trumps age, and freshness beats fatigue.  Oilers in five.  I really want a Cup for Thornton and Marleau, but I have to say I wouldn’t be sad to see this “upset” happen.  The Sharks’ play of late has me super down on them, I guess.

 Record (P | W [ROW] – L – OTL – SOL | GD)
EDM: 103 | 47 [43] - 26 - 4 - 5 | +36
SJS:  99 | 46 [44] - 29 - 6 - 1 | +19

Record Since Trade Deadline (P | W [ROW] – L – OTL – SOL | GD)
EDM: 27 | 13 [13] -  4 - 0 - 1 | +21
SJS: 18 |  9 [ 9] - 11 - 0 - 0 |  -7

Power Play%
EDM: 27.1%,   4th
SJS: 14.3%, T22nd

Penalty Kill%
EDM: 85.4%,  6th
SJS: 78.2%, 20th

 5v5 Corsi, Score-Adjusted
EDM: 49.86%, T16th
SJS: 51.20%,   8th

 PDO
EDM: 102.51,  3rd
SJS:  99.36, 20th

 Notable Injuries
EDM: None
SJS: Logan Couture, Joe Thornton

 Season Series
2016-12-23; EDM 2, SJS 3 OT
2017-01-10; SJS 5, EDM 3
2017-01-26; EDM 4, SJS 1
2017-03-30; SJS 2, EDM 3
2017-04-06; EDM 4, SJS 2
EDM: 3-1-1
SJS: 2-3-0

I like this first round.  A lot of fresh faces.  Lots of colors.  Edmonton recently changed their primary jersey to orange, which is different.  Speaking of Canadian teams, none of the five here play each other, so it’s possible we see five left standing among the final eight.  That would be something.  And, as usual, aside from the Sharks, my rooting interest lies with the teams who’ve never won before.  Any of them could win a Cup and I’d be okay with that.  Even Ottawa.  I know, weird.

Fun Facts & Frivolity Field
Cup Virgins:  7 — CBJ, MIN, NSH, OTT, SJS, STL, WSH
Cup Champions since 2006:  4 — ANA (’07), BOS (’11), CHI (’10, ’13, ’15), PIT (’09, ’16)
Longest Cup drought:  STL, TOR — 48 seasons
Returning teams:  9 — ANA, CHI, MIN, NSH, NYR, PIT, SJS, STL, WSH
Fresh blood:  7 — BOS, CBJ, CGY, EDM, MTL, OTT, TOR

Would you look at that.  I updated my logo blocks again.  They’re featured in more detail above and the whole catalog is available on my Colors page.  This time the change is less subtle, and adds much needed clarity and modernization, as well as tweaks that make the logos look more physical.  That, and all of the colors are completely 100% perfect.  I’m looking forward to next season when Adidas changes everyone’s jersey designs and I get to do it all over again.