(1) Chicago / (8) Nashville Nashville is a fun team to watch now? It’s weird even saying that, and, yes, you still have to get past the excruciatingly ugly home uniforms. But Forsberg, Arvidsson and Jarnkrok are exciting, skilled and hard-working. Also fun: saying Jarnkrok’s name over and over in your mind until you can’t stop and it no longer has any semblance of meaning. OK, I lied, that only seems fun before it actually happens to you. Still, I kind of expect Chicago will be able to pull out the series in the end. But I am not actually bound to give my true opinion here, so why not predict the upset? Maybe Pekka Rinne stands on his head for old time’s sake and it’s Preds in 7.
Conference III Grudgematch: Minnesota / St. Louis Charlie Coyle is a forward who wears number 3. For that alone, Minnesota is cursed and will lose. Do not toy with nature, Charlie Coyle. Also, have you seen how the teams’ goaltenders have been performing lately? The Wild’s Devan Dubnyk has fallen apart worse than things, while The Blues’ Jake Allen has been better at stopping pucks than this one guy Jake Allen who was in my welding blueprint reading class is at reading welding blueprints. Does that matter? Some people think that the playoffs are like a magical concussion that wipes away any unpleasant memories of the end of the regular season, and gives everyone a fresh start. But (hey, are you listening, NHL?) it’s not good to engage in magical thinking about concussions. St. Louis in 5
(2) Anaheim / (7) Calgary Of what I’ve seen, which is admittedly very very little, Anaheim has not impressed me much this year. Meanwhile, Calgary has not impressed me much during the entirety of my hockey-watching life (and also in any other way, to be honest). So, a tough series to call. Give it to the Ducks just for having Hampus Lindholm, who, in the words of Tyler Dellow, must surely be one of the greatest Hampuses of all time. Anaheim in 7
California Grudgematch: Edmonton / San Jose How sad is the Western conference is this year? So sad that this will be the only series I’ll be actually interested in. Sad! Still, this series should be very entertaining. My theory is that with Burns and Thornton’s enormous beards, everyone in San Jose assumed they’re still playing the 2016 playoffs, and they’re bound to get playoff fatigue. Whereas playoff fatigue is not an issue for the Oilers. They’re what they called “tanned, rested and ready” on that front. Plus, I bet McLellan knows just what to do to discombobulate his former team. Oilers in 6
(1) Washington / (8) Toronto It is with great sadness that I must admit Toronto will be a scary good team soon. Luckily, that time is not yet now. Meanwhile, Alex “Silver Fox” Ovechkin and the Capitals are scary good currently. Who controls the present, controls the (very near) future. Both teams rely heavily on the power play, which will hurt them in the coming season of “olde-timeye playoffe hockeye,” but since the disadvantage will be almost symmetrical, that won’t be enough to generate an upset. Sorry, Toronto. Caps in 5
(2) Montreal / (7) NYR There’s been a lot of ups and downs in cheering for Montreal lately. For instance, they hired the only available coach who manages to look more idiotic than Michel Therrien. (On the other hand, he is a lot better as a coach). And you can’t help thinking of what might have been had they kept Subban and acquired some goalscoring at the deadline instead of getting rid of it. Still, the sound goaltending fundamentals of Carey “Jesus” Price should be enough to see them through the first round. Montreal in 7
The Metro Still Sucks, Though Not By Any Objective Metric, Grudgematch: P-burgh / ‘Lumbus John Tortorella must die. Or if not die, at least lose in the first round of the playoffs. Comme-ci, comme-ça. Whatever. I’m vengeful, but easy to please. And I think I will be pleased here. Because, have you heard? Sidney Crosby is still really good. I don’t have anything else, so here’s a factoid: the two towns are only 185 miles by interstate away from each other. In between lies the true Heart of America, which it’s recommended to traverse at top speed, yelling “Truuuump!” as loudly as possible. Anyway. Pens in 6
Flortheast Grudgematch: Ottawa / Boston I’ve never understood it a single time that Ottawa made the playoffs. This year, it’s perhaps less weird than that time everyone on the team got injured, and the playoff Sens were led by Wercioch, Silfverberg and Zibanejad and the Ham-burglar was a thing. But it’s still weird. Ottawa is not a good team. True, they have Karlsson, but come on. Boston, on the other hand is a good possession team that’s been plagued by weird streaks. Maybe they should go to a doctor and have that checked out. For now, though, Boston in 5