Stanley Cup 2017, III: Unlucky Sevens

I II III – IV – V –

Boy, I really am mediocre at predicting things, eh?  1-3 in the last round is worse than a coin flip.  Maybe I’ll go back to doing that next year.

For the first time this year, a series went to seven.  Two, in fact, and these games were played on the same night.  And, well, neither went the way I wanted.  Both were inconsistent in their narratives, which is annoying.   The Capitals, as is tradition, lost to the Penguins in the second round.  The Ducks, on the other hand, didn’t lose in Game 7 at home for the fifth straight year.  I’m really unhappy with the Capitals, but I’ll get into that below.  And what is this strange feeling: I’m sad the Oilers lost?  What?  The team that lucked its way into the best player in the world — the player who was supposed to end up on my hometown team?  The Oilers that I watched stifle my local Sharks to death in their own rink?  Why do I feel bad for them?  I shouldn’t!  Stop messing with my feelings!

Yeah, I need to change something about how I approach the playoffs.  Next year I’m either going full apathetic randomness, with a coin flip bracket, or full rooting interest, where I pick the teams I want to win only.  Rooting for a team I don’t care for and then feeling sad when they lose is making me uneasy.  Luckily, I still have a team to root for this round — and I think most of the remaining independent fans are with me on this one.

RIP Bracket 2017.  Gone too soon.  I picked relatively conservatively and I was punished.  And that’s the way it should be.  What’s bad for the bracket is good for the league.  Mostly.

So what happened?

Senators vs Rangers:  People have some funny ideas about the Senators.  Like they’re boring and slow and sit back on a lead.  *looks around accusingly*

I admit it.  I picked the wrong team here, again.  And of course, just when I feel like I was wrong not to have faith in the Rangers, they do this.  Whatever.  I really enjoyed this series.  Far more than I should have, especially considering I don’t really like either of these teams.  The Sabres played both in 2007 and there’s still some lizard-brain dislike at play here.  But yeah, holy cow this series.  Not once, but twice the Senators overcame a late deficit to win in OT/2OT, including a spectacular three-goal rally in Game 2, which I will affectionately call “The Pageau Show.”  JGP pulls off his playoff magic once again, captain Erik Karlsson is somehow a beast with a broken foot, and before you know it, the Rangers are done.  Did I mention there were a couple massive brawls in the middle of the series?  I love a good feisty playoff series — some matchups this year should have been powder-kegs (*cough*Jackets/Pens*cough*) yet the ones that were seemed most unlikely.  Who knew these two hated each other so much?  I sure didn’t expect this kind of animosity.

Poor Henrik Lundqvist.  I don’t know how many more times I can watch a montage of him being sad at the end of a Rangers’ playoff run.  Maybe he’ll win a Cup somewhere else.  I feel like New York’s window is slamming shut.  Then again, I feel like that’s said every year.

Playoff Series
2017-04-27; NYR 1, OTT 2
2017-04-29; NYR 5, OTT 6 2OT
2017-05-02; OTT 1, NYR 4
2017-05-04; OTT 1, NYR 4
2017-05-06; NYR 4, OTT 5 OT
2017-05-09; OTT 4, NYR 2
OTT defeats NYR: 4-2

Capitals vs Penguins:  Yep.  That was supposed to happen.  Of course the Penguins went out to a 2-0 series lead.  Of course they pushed the Caps to the brink after four, leading to a flurry of “here we go again” tweets and hot takes.  And, of course, the Capitals rallied just far enough to give DC some hope before they crapped it all away in Game 7.  Look, Capitals, I’m sorry to say I believed in you.  Why do you have to disappoint me, a loyal fan for three weeks, in this way?  Is this what it feels like to be a Capitals fan all the time??  I’m so sorry.  Here’s the thing: your team is rotten.  It’s clearly the best regular season team two seasons running, but you can’t do it in the playoffs, especially against Pittsburgh.  They’re your kryptonite, and if you couldn’t be them this year, when they’re beat up, tired after a long season last year, and you’re even better than before, there’s no hope.  Sorry, but the Capitals are over.  Pittsburgh, go win another Stanley Cup, since it’s clearly your destiny.  Nothing can stop them, it seems.  Except, perhaps, one team…

Playoff Series
2017-04-27; PIT 3, WSH 2
2017-04-29; PIT 6, WSH 2
2017-05-01; WSH 3, PIT 2 OT
2017-05-03; WSH 2, PIT 3
2017-05-06; PIT 2, WSH 4
2017-05-08; WSH 5, PIT 2
2017-05-10; PIT 2, WSH 0
PIT defeats WSH: 4-3

Blues vs. Predators:  I actually don’t have a lot to say about this series.  The Preds looked incredible.  They overwhelmed the Blues with their incredible depth and stunning goaltending.  Jake Allen, the keeper that carried the Blues past the Wild, didn’t do quite as well, but he wasn’t bad.  I think a two series run for the Blues is about right, maybe even above local expectations.  I had them in the Final, but I’m a dumb-dumb.  Many saw the Predators being this team early on, even before the season.  I’m trusting their gut now; I’m solidly on the Preds bandwagon from here until the end.  Hopefully I don’t have to root for the Ducks, Penguins, or Senators at any point in the next five weeks.  Welcome to the Conference Final, Nashville.  I hope you make the most of your stay.  Your fans deserve it — holy cow is your home crowd terrific.  And you know what?  Those gold helmets are growing on me.  Don’t ever change Nashville.  You’re doing you and it’s working wonderfully.

Playoff Series
2017-04-26; NSH 4, STL 3
2017-04-28; NSH 2, STL 3
2017-04-30; STL 1, NSH 3
2017-05-02; STL 1, NSH 2
2017-05-05; NSH 1, STL 2
2017-05-07; STL 1, NSH 3
NSH defeats STL: 4-2

Ducks vs. Oilers:  Anaheim completes the sweep through Alberta, dispatching the resurgent Death Valley in 11 games total.  They’ve also, as mentioned, exorcised the demon of Game 7, albeit barely.  I’m unreasonably upset at the Oilers misfortune here.  They lost two games in which there was a questionable unchallenged non-call, both in overtime, and the second after a third period three-goal meltdown with three minutes to go.  Granted, the Ducks had their own meltdown in Game 6, but the Oilers were unable to capitalize on that momentum and closeout the series.  I guess the kids just needed to be shown how to win, or something.  I was very impressed with Edmonton throughout these playoffs.  They’ve got a very bright future.  I mean, obviously.  McDavid’s gonna win a Cup or two or five before he gets traded to Toronto.

Playoff Series
2017-04-26; EDM 5, ANA 3
2017-04-28; EDM 2, ANA 1
2017-04-30; ANA 6, EDM 3
2017-05-03; ANA 4, EDM 3 OT
2017-05-05; EDM 3, ANA 4 2OT
2017-05-07; ANA 1, EDM 7
2017-05-10; EDM 1, ANA 2
ANA defeats EDM: 4-3

I’m glad we’ve got another 75% turnover in the final four.  If this happens every year, we’ll  get a new team a Cup eventually.


Advanced stats herein are taken from March 1st through the end of the second round, with the rankings being among the four teams remaining.

 

M2. Pittsburgh Penguins vs A2. Ottawa Senators:  This is not ideal.  I’m already sick of the Penguins and, while it doesn’t burn with the fiery passion of a handful of quasars anymore, it would not take a lot to rekindle my dislike of the Ottawa Senators.  These two are meeting for the fourth time since the Great Lockout — Ottawa took the series in 2007, which was Sidney Crosby’s first playoff series, while the Pens took the next three, most recently in 2013.  In some ways, these teams are the inverse of each other.  The Senators are carried on the back of their star defenseman and their top heavy offense, while the Pens have relied heavily on depth scoring and miraculous goaltending.  The Penguins have offensive stars, obviously, and the Senators grounded, solid goaltending as well.  Given the injuries to Pittsburgh, one would have expected them to fold earlier, yet here they are.  It just kind of feels like they’re supposed to win.  On the other hand, there are few who gave the Senators a chance, even in the first round (myself included), yet here they are too.  They keep chugging along, finding ways to pull out wins, especially in OT where they’re 5-1.  It pains me to say it, but I want the Senators to win this series.  I can’t hate Erik Karlsson.  I just can’t.  My brain, however, can’t see these Penguins collapsing.  Not after crushing the hopes of the Capitals.  These guys just know how to win and, well, they’re just better than Ottawa.  Penguins in seven.  I wouldn’t be surprised if the “pesky” Senators make it a series.  I didn’t give them enough credit before and I hope they don’t burn me for giving them a long series now.

Power Play%
PIT: 25.8%, 1st
OTT: 15.7%, 3rd

Penalty Kill%
PIT: 78.7%, 2nd
OTT: 78.1%, 3rd

5v5 Corsi, Score-Adjusted
PIT: 47.00%, 4th
OTT: 50.31%, 3rd

PDO
PIT: 101.61, 3rd
OTT: 100.53, 4th

Notable Injuries
PIT: Kris Letang, Trevor Daley
OTT: Erik Karlsson, Mark Borowiecki

Season Series
2016-12-05; OTT 5, PIT 8
2017-01-12; PIT 1, OTT 4
2017-03-23; PIT 1. OTT 2 S/O
PIT: 1-1-1
OTT: 2-1-0

 

P1. Anaheim Ducks vs C4. Nashville Predators:  I am excited for this.  The wildcard Nashville Predators stunned the Pacific division champion Anaheim Ducks in the first round last year.  The Preds were one win away from where they are now, while the Ducks suffered another Game 7 at home collapse.  That narrative is dead, yet the initial condition remains.  For the 12th time in the last 14 seasons, California is represented in the Western Conference Final.  Shame it’s the Ducks, though.  For the first time, Nashville is here.  They’ve been getting closer ever since 2011, and this time it only took them 10 games to do it.  I would argue the Predators are a better team than they were last year — this seems to be common wisdom among insiders — yet I’m feeling like the Ducks aren’t, despite the deeper run.  They swept the Flames, albeit closely, and looked downright awful against the Oilers at times.  Meanwhile, Nashville has been consistently good, losing only close games to an overperforming Blues team.  Last round I mentioned that the Ducks should expect a correction to their luck.  I’m still waiting.  It must be close.  Right?  My gut says the Predators are the better team.  They won last year and they’ll do it again.  Predators in six.  Nashville to the Cup Final.  While it’s still possible to see a repeat of the 2007 Final, I’m expecting the opposite.

Power Play%
ANA: 16.1%, 2nd
NSH: 15.0%, 4th

Penalty Kill%
ANA: 77.9%, 4th
NSH: 80.8%, 1st

5v5 Corsi, Score-Adjusted
ANA: 51.83%, 1st
NSH: 51.75%, 2nd

PDO
ANA: 103.15, 1st
NSH: 102.75, 2nd

Notable Injuries
ANA: Kevin Bieksa, Patrick Eaves
NSH: Kevin Fiala

Season Series
2016-10-26; NSH 1, ANA 6
2016-11-12; ANA 0, NSH 5
2017-03-07; NSH 3, ANA 4 S/O
ANA: 2-1-0
NSH: 1-1-1

As I mentioned above, this is a different final four, to be sure.  Nashville’s here for the first time.  Ottawa hasn’t been here since 2007.  The Ducks are back after a year hiatus, and of course the Penguins are returning.  I’m still waiting for a Cup champion who’s not black or red (Nashville, you’re my only hope), however each of the final four teams does wear some variant of gold/yellow.

Final Four Fun Facts & Frivolity Field
Cup Virgins:  2 — NSH, OTT, WSH
Cup Champions since 2006:  2 — ANA (’07), PIT (’09, ’16)
Longest Cup drought:  OTT — 23 seasons
Returning teams (to the third round):  1 — PIT
Fresh blood (in the third round):  3 — ANA, NSH, OTT

I thought it would be fun to add some brooms to the swept teams.  Sorry guys 😛

Stanley Cup 2017, II: Hand Shoes and Horse Grenades

I II III – IV – V –

This first round was kind of weird.  Like I said in the first post, there were teams like Edmonton and Toronto involved for the first time in a few years.  There were great teams like Minnesota and Columbus, both of whom set franchise record win streaks in the middle of the regular season, both losing with a whimper in five games.  The semi-dynasty Blackhawks: swept.  The 2016 Western Conference Champions: out in six to a team previously without a single playoff appearance in the last decade.  The Presidents’ Trophy winning Capitals: pushed hard by a young upstart Toronto team.

But the weird part is, it wasn’t entirely unexpected.  I thought the Wild were overrated.  I knew the Sharks were toast.  My faith in the Jackets wasn’t strong.  A lot of people were already previously on the Preds’ bandwagon.  Delusional Leafs fans and pessimistic Caps fans aside, there were a few who knew Toronto was, in fact, that good.  I don’t know, it all leaves me with this weird feeling inside.  Maybe I should go with my gut more often.

Still looking alright, at least in comparison to the rest of my family in our league.  I feel nervous about St. Louis: see more below.

Canadiens vs Rangers:  Well okay.  The New York Rangers pulled off what their cross-town rivals did last year: defeat the Atlantic division champion in round one, then move on to play for the playoff championship of a division they’re not even in.  I didn’t really watch this series too much, since there were often other games on at the same time, and I don’t have a lot to say first-hand.  What happened to Carey Price?  Were the Rangers just that much better?  Was my lack of faith in the Rangers’ misplaced?  I don’t know.  I’m going to have to take a far closer look at New York going into the next round.  No comment on how the P.K. Subban trade is playing out.

Playoff Series
2017-04-12; NYR 2, MTL 0
2017-04-14; NYR 3, MTL 4 OT
2017-04-16; MTL 3, NYR 1
2017-04-18; MTL 1, NYR 2
2017-04-20; NYR 3, MTL 2 OT
2017-04-22; MTL 1, NYR 3
NYR defeats MTL: 4-2

Senators vs. Bruins:  There are a few things that happened that I didn’t see coming: the complete decimation of the Bruins’ blue line, though that did in fact begin before the series started, and the complete, utter domination of Erik Karlsson.  What I would give to have a defenseman star like that on my team’s blue line… It was a very close series in a first round completely full of them, hence the subtitle of this post.  Four games in OT, one of them in double OT.  A few bounces here and there and the Bruins are headed to Broadway.  Boston had a lot of youngsters up in the mix, which bodes well for their future, even as their stars of yore continue to age.  The Sens just keep chugging along though, despite not being all that exciting.  Clarke MacArthur is a great story, as is Craig Anderson.  I’d be happy to see their success continue.

Playoff Series
2017-04-12; BOS 2, OTT 1
2017-04-15; BOS 3, OTT 4 OT
2017-04-17; OTT 4, BOS 3 OT
2017-04-19; OTT 1, BOS 0
2017-04-21; BOS 3, OTT 2 2OT
2017-04-23; OTT 3, BOS 2 OT
OTT defeats BOS: 4-2

Capitals vs. Maple Leafs:  My goodness!  Did anyone see this coming?  The Presidents’ Trophy winning Capitals were supposed to smite the Leafs in a walk.  And yet, the Leafs fought back, taking a quick lead in Game One to set the tone for what ended up being the closest series in what must be years.  Coyotes/Hawks in 2012 comes close, but that one featured a 4-0 blowout in addition to five OT games, whereas these were all one goal games with 4 OTs and a 2OT.  Insanity.  I’m exceptionally jealous of the young Leafs and all of their talent — three of their top 5 scorers in the regular season were rookies — and if they can take this defeat and learn from it, look out NHL.  The future in Toronto is extremely bright.  Meanwhile, as the Leafs took a brief series lead after Three, panic bells rung out in Washington.  Obviously this team has a history of choking, and when faced with this kind of “here we go again” feeling, they often collapse, despite their overwhelming talent.  Well, so far so good.  Thank goodness for the clutch-ness of Justin Williams and Marcus Johansson, eh?  The Caps live to fight another day.

Playoff Series
2017-04-13; TOR 2, WSH 3 OT
2017-04-15; TOR 4, WSH 3 2OT
2017-04-17; WSH 3, TOR 4 OT
2017-04-19; WSH 5, TOR 4
2017-04-21; TOR 1, WSH 2 OT
2017-04-23; WSH 2, TOR 1 OT
WSH defeats TOR: 4-2

Penguins vs. Blue Jackets:  Well, this was a letdown.  I picked the Penguins to win … and then Matt Murray went down in the opening warmups and I thought, well, maybe the Blue Jackets have a chance of stealing the series from an already banged up Pens squad.  But no, that’s not how this works.  The steady defense and goaltending of Columbus turned porous, letting in 3 goals or more every game.  Evgeni Malkin switched into beast mode — the kind that led him to a Conn Smythe win — and the Jackets were toast.  At least they won a game in their own building, which has a terrific atmosphere in the playoffs, but even that was nearly a blown lead.  Maybe next year Columbus, but for all I know, you’ll be a basement dweller again because this team makes no sense.  Pittsburgh?  I have no love for returning champions, so I hope this is the only success you see this year.

Playoff Series
2017-04-12; CBJ 1, PIT 3
2017-04-14; CBJ 1, PIT 4
2017-04-16; PIT 5, CBJ 4 OT
2017-04-18; PIT 4, CBJ 5
2017-04-20; CBJ 2, PIT 5
PIT defeats CBJ: 4-1

Blackhawks vs. Predators:  HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.  Good grief, this was a fun series to watch.  Even though I picked Chicago to win, I don’t regret anything.  The “freakin’ Chicago Blackhawks” were held to a total of three goals this series, shut down by the superior defense of the Nashville Predators and their brick wall of a goalie, Pekka Rinne.  Meanwhile, the Preds top line of Forsberg, Arvidsson, and Johansen has been an absolute killer, putting up 15 points in a four game sweep.  This team is scary good, like many expected them to be even as long ago as the offseason.  I’ve got St. Louis in the Cup Final on my bracket, but with this Preds team in the picture, I may regret that.  Meanwhile, Chicago, what the hell?  What uninspired, lackluster, mediocre nonsense was this?  No goals on home ice?  Coughing up a 2-goal lead in Game Three?  This isn’t the Hawks that won 3 in 6.  Maybe next year, you won’t even make the playoffs and spare yourselves another first round exit.  I keep saying it, but I really hope this is the year the team finally falls back to toiling on the edge of the playoff bubble or even dropping out entirely  Then, maybe the NHL and NBC can stop talking about them like they’re God’s gift to hockey.

Playoff Series
2017-04-13; NSH 1, CHI 0
2017-04-15; NSH 5, CHI 0
2017-04-17; CHI 2, NSH 3 OT
2017-04-20; CHI 1, NSH 4
NSH defeats CHI: 4-0

Wild vs. Blues:  Meanwhile, across/on the Mississippi, we had this scrappy series, hopefully the first of many between these clubs.  Minnesota was the favorite, for some reason, and I, in no uncertain terms, picked against them.  I had no faith in the Wild; somehow they exceeded that lack of faith and lost even sooner than I predicted.  What happened?  Jake Allen happened.  The Wild didn’t play badly.  In fact, I’d say they were the better team in most of their losses.  They just couldn’t beat the exceptionally hot goaltending of the Blues.  It was a very low scoring series overall, as Devan Dubnyk held his own on the other end, for the most part.  A pair of long OT games could have flipped the series to Minnesota, but they didn’t.  I put most of my prediction stock in the hotness of these two heading into the playoffs, and looking at what went down, it certainly played out as a continuation of that.  What’s next for Minnesota?  Is Boudreau’s honeymoon over?  Will they achieve greater, less unsustainable success next year?  Are they finally shedding those awful red uniforms for the greens they wear in the playoffs?  We’ll find out soon enough.

Playoff Series
2017-04-12; STL 2, MIN 1 OT
2017-04-14; STL 2, MIN 1
2017-04-16; MIN 1, STL 3
2017-04-19; MIN 2, STL 0
2017-04-22; STL 4, MIN 3 OT
STL defeats MIN: 4-1

Ducks vs. Flames:  Yeah, so, the Flames can’t win in Anaheim.  ’nuff said.

But seriously, this series was far closer than the final count would lead one to believe.  Each game was decided by one goal, save for a late empty-netter in Game Four.  Two of the late game-winning goals, including the OT winner, were fluky bounces.  This was a very even series.  Even flipping four coins, you’re going to get a sweep one way or the other in 1/16 of the results.  This one just happened to favor the Ducks.  These two aren’t really the most convenient or obvious rivalry, but this was probably the most brutal, feisty, and fun-to-watch series from that standpoint.  It helps that both teams are chock full of agitators (Kesler & Tkachuk, to name just two) and had not only recent playoff history, but a controversial regular season series as well.  Calgary: your future is bright.  Don’t do anything stupid this off-season as a response to the sweep.

Playoff Series
2017-04-13; CGY 2, ANA 3
2017-04-15; CGY 2, ANA 3
2017-04-17; ANA 5, CGY 4 OT
2017-04-19; ANA 3, CGY 1
ANA defeats CGY: 4-0

Oilers vs. Sharks:  Welp.  I picked the Oilers to win.  I had no doubt before the series began, and had no doubt after they tied Game Five.  In the middle was a total cluster.  The Sharks improbably won Game One, coming back from a 0-2 deficit to win in OT.  Then Cam Talbot shut down San Jose for two games.  Then San Jose dismantled Edmonton at home in what was the most entertaining (for me) game of the playoffs so far.  After the Sharks coughed up their lead in Game Five, I knew it was over, even before OT started.  I bought a ticket to Game Six before this happened, and I was optimistically expecting the Sharks to have a chance to close-out the series at home.  Instead, I entered the building knowing the Sharks were getting eliminated that night.  It was a slog of a game where the Oilers scored on two breakaways a minute apart in the second.  It got good late in the third after a Sharks goal, but a McDavid empty-netter with 0.3 seconds to go sealed the deal for Edmonton.  It was certainly a new experience getting to see the handshakes live — they’re far more anti-climactic than they appear on TV.  San Jose has an uncertain future.  I hope they retain their greybeards for a few more shots at a Cup, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they walk.  That would certainly be the end of an era — and I can say that I was at their last game as a Shark.

Playoff Series
2017-04-13; SJS 3, EDM 2 OT
2017-04-15; SJS 0, EDM 2
2017-04-17; EDM 1, SJS 0
2017-04-19; EDM 0, SJS 7
2017-04-21; SJS 3, EDM 4 OT
2017-04-23; EDM 3, SJS 1
EDM defeats SJS: 4-2

Not a bad first round.  I’m only really disappointed in Columbus.  Also the Battle of Alberta that we missed out on twice.  It featured the most OT in the first round, ever, as well as a pair of sweeps after an entire postseason without any.  My real rooting interest is gone, so I’m going to have to pick a bandwagon from one of the eight teams remaining to hop onto…


Advanced stats herein are taken from March 1st through the end of the first round, with the rankings being among the eight teams remaining.

 

A2. Ottawa Senators vs M4. New York Rangers:  And, like last year, the New York team from the wrong division will meet the 2nd seed in the Atlantic.  These two have, surprisingly, met once in the playoffs, and not too long ago, when the 1-seeded New York Rangers defeated the Ottawa Senators in 7 games in 2012.  I don’t remember that series at all, hence the surprise.  And now I’m left with assessing two teams I’ve barely paid any attention to at all this year…

On the goaltending front, they’re pretty even.  Lundqvist looks good, but he’s on the down-slope of his career; Anderson has been solid, playing well enough to steal a few games from Boston.  Up front, the Rangers have speed and decent depth, whereas the Senators are more heavy up top, but they’ve had more production from unexpected places — Derick Brassard is leading the team in scoring.  Did you know that?  I didn’t.  The key, I believe, to this series is going to be defense.  Guy Boucher is the guy who infamously deployed the 1-3-1 system in Tampa, and the Senators are again the kind of team who can get a lead and sit on it as the game slowly expires.  Add in a superstar defenseman like Erik Karlsson, who has been outstanding this postseason, and New York suddenly looks like they might be in trouble.  Then again, Montréal had a very similar set of skills and that didn’t quite work for them.   I had neither of these teams advancing in my bracket so it really doesn’t matter who I pick.  I’m leaning toward New York, and I think it will be in six.  That means, for the first time in the current playoff format, a team will win a division it’s not even in.

Power Play%
OTT: 17.9%, 6th
NYR: 21.9%, 4th

Penalty Kill%
OTT: 73.6%, 8th
NYR: 78.9%, 5th

5v5 Corsi, Score-Adjusted
OTT: 50.20%, 5th
NYR: 48.28%, 8th

PDO
OTT: 101.11, 6th
NYR: 100.85, 7th

Notable Injuries
OTT: Mark Borowiecki
NYR: none

Season Series
2016-11-27; OTT 2, NYR 0
2016-12-27; OTT 3, NYR 4
2017-04-08; NYR 1, OTT 3
OTT: 2-1-0
NYR: 1-2-0

 

M1. Washington Capitals vs M2. Pittsburgh Penguins:  For the second year in a row, we’ve got Caps-Pens in the second round.  What more can be said that hasn’t been said already?  The Caps are the perennial playoff disappointment.  The Pens are one the league’s darling franchises, and now they’re the defending champs.  Conventional wisdom this year says that if the Capitals are to win the Cup, they have to go through Pittsburgh to do it.  They’ve yet to beat them in a playoff series in the Ovechkin/Crosby era; hell, they’ve yet to win a second round series either.  I decided the Caps were my Cup pick, probably foolishly, yet I’ve found no reason to unstick myself from it.  I had this matchup in my prediction and went with Washington.  The Pens are banged up; they may still be without their star rookie goaltender.  The Caps are not, yet took what felt like an eternity to beat the kids in Toronto.  Maybe they’re more driven next round.  Maybe they’re somehow not that good.  I don’t know.  I’m still in an “anyone but Pittsburgh” place, so Washington it is.  Capitals in seven.  I don’t want to pick another six game series.  Five would be a surprise either way.  Four is right out!

By the way, this is the last straw.  If this Washington Capitals core doesn’t win this series, I am done picking them to win anything.  Period.

Power Play%
WSH: 26.5%, 2nd
PIT: 29.6%, 1st

Penalty Kill%
WSH: 81.1%, 3rd
PIT: 78.8%, 6th

5v5 Corsi, Score-Adjusted
WSH: 54.14%, 1st
PIT: 48.71%, 7th

PDO
WSH:  98.86, 8th
PIT: 101.59, 5th

Notable Injuries
WSH: Karl Alzner
PIT: Matt Murray, Kris Letang, Chris Kunitz, Carl Hagelin

Season Series
2016-10-13; WSH 2, PIT 3 S/O
2016-11-16; PIT 1, WSH 7
2017-01-11; PIT 2, WSH 5
2017-01-16; WSH 7, PIT 8 OT
ANA: 2-1-2
EDM: 3-2-0

C3. St. Louis Blues vs C4. Nashville Predators:  This will be fun.  In fact, I am planning to make this my most-watched series of the second round.  Both teams are red hot, dispatching their previous challengers in five or fewer.  Their goaltending has been unbelievable.  Nashville has the advantage on top offensive and defensive talent, while St. Louis is more evenly spread across their lines.  The Preds are so fun to watch, while the Blues are boring and steady, but also my Western Conference Champion.  Neither team has met in the playoffs before, so we might be seeing the beginning of another great rivalry, especially given their relative geographic proximity.  Here’s the deal: I have to pick against my bracket and go with my gut and my heart.  I want the Predators to win this series, almost more than any other team left standing.  Given the last few weeks’ results, I think they can.  Predators in seven.  The Blues will give them a fair fight, but Nashville’s just better in nearly every way.  Sure their special teams are worse, but those numbers are so low, I’d expect improvement.  That’s how this works, right?

Power Play%
STL: 16.2%, 7th
NSH: 12.7%, 8th

Penalty Kill%
STL: 86.7%, 1st
NSH: 77.6%, 7th

5v5 Corsi, Score-Adjusted
STL: 48.82%, 6th
NSH: 51.85%, 2nd

PDO
STL: 104.16, 2nd
NSH: 103.12, 3rd

Notable Injuries
STL: Robby Fabbri
NSH: Colin Wilson, Craig Smith

Season Series
2016-11-10; STL 1, NSH 3
2016-11-19; NSH 1, STL 3
2016-12-13; STL 3, NSH 6
2016-12-30; NSH 4, STL 0
2017-04-02; NSH 1, STL 4
STL: 2-3-0
NSH: 3-2-1

P1. Anaheim Ducks vs P2. Edmonton Oilers:  This is interesting.  In 2006, the Mighty Ducks defeated the Calgary Flames in the first round.  Then the Edmonton Oilers defeated the San Jose Sharks in the second, as the Ducks advanced against Colorado.  These two then met in the Conference Finals, and obviously this is all happening a round earlier this year.  The longer this 2006 repeat goes in the Pacific, the more convinced I am that the Oilers will advance again.  You could say that the under-performing Sharks gave Edmonton more of a challenge than they should have, but you could say the same about Calgary, despite the sweep.  Somehow, both Anaheim and Edmonton look simultaneously powerful and weak, with Anaheim getting the gut advantage.  However, I don’t think this series is as lopsided as these two franchises’ histories suggest.  Thankfully, I predicted this matchup correctly on my bracket, so I will retain my initial pick.  Edmonton will advance in six against the Ducks.  The power of McDavid will carry the Oilers far.  For whatever reason, I just can’t see the Ducks going any further.

Power Play%
ANA: 18.6%, 5th
EDM: 24.0%, 3rd

Penalty Kill%
ANA: 79.5%, 4th
EDM: 83.6%, 2nd

5v5 Corsi, Score-Adjusted
ANA: 51.04%, 3rd
EDM: 50.50%, 4th

PDO
ANA: 104.72, 1st
EDM: 101.72, 3rd

Notable Injuries
ANA: Cam Fowler
EDM: None

Season Series
2016-11-15; EDM 1, ANA 4
2016-12-03; ANA 2, EDM 3 OT
2017-01-25; EDM 4, ANA 0
2017-03-22; EDM 3, ANA 4
2017-04-01; ANA 2, EDM 3 OT
ANA: 2-1-2
EDM: 3-2-0

It’s a bit more even this year — the number of teams we’ve seen again in the second round recently versus those who are new to winning a series.  I like that Nashville and St. Louis are becoming regulars here.  In the east, we’re down to only one team left that I would root for, and somehow that’s Washington?  Four Cup virgins left and we’re guaranteed to lose one.  If three can make it to the Final Four, I’ll be very happy.

Fun Facts & Frivolity Field
Cup Virgins:  4 — CBJ, MIN, NSH, OTT, SJS, STL, WSH
Cup Champions since 2006:  2 — ANA (’07), BOS (’11), CHI (’10, ’13, ’15), PIT (’09, ’16)
Longest Cup drought:  STL — 48 seasons
Returning teams (to the second round):  4 — NSH, PIT, STL, WSH
Fresh blood (in the second round):  4 — ANA, EDM, NYR, OTT

I’m just along for the ride.  Entertain me!

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.