NHL Playoff Preview Part II
Despite many of the Western Conference games being on after many people’s bedtimes back east, there was some very good hockey being played West of Chicago, and some exceptional individual seasons taking place as well. Including but not limited to the 100 Point Club in Edmonton getting a new member in Leon Draisaitl, now joins teammate/line mate Connor McDavid and the plethora of 80’s Oilers in this very exclusive club. The Calgary Flames put together a 107 point season and winning home ice advantage throughout the Western Conference playoffs, and possibly all the way through the Cup finals if somehow the entire Tampa team is abducted by UFO’s.
Anyway, let’s get to these four quality match-ups happening out west, and making me glad I do not report to work until noon these next few months.
Calgary Flames (P1)
Colorado Avalanche (W2)
The Avalanche have had one of the best lines in hockey until Mikko Rantanen got dinged up, and then the goals stopped coming in droves and exposed the Avalanche as a one trick pony, with one line doing all the damage. Calgary on the other hand has scoring in droves, and if Goaltender Mike Smith doesn’t show up like he disappeared during stretches during the regular season, back-up net minder David Rittich will step in and continue to anchor this tough Flames squad. Consistent goaltending has been the Achilles heel for Calgary all year, and now is not the time for it to rear its ugly head.
The tandem of Calgary net minders Smith (23-16-2) and Rittich (27-9-5) need to decide which one is taking over, and with Smith starting Game One, the burden falls on his padded shoulders. Calgary brought Smith in, from viewing his stellar play while in Arizona, and are expecting that same man to pick up his game now that the dance has begun. I will be in my living room with my Flames sweatshirt on and cheering along with the Sea of Red, which alone may scare the piss out of the Avalanche youngsters.
Calgary’s top two lines are not to be effed with as MC Breed once put it.
Polka’s Prediction: Get Out the Brooms, Calgary 4-0
Nashville Predators (M1)
Dallas Stars (WC1)
I know Nashville didn’t dazzle the world with a juggernaut offense this season and the goalie tandem of Pekka Rinne and Jussi Saros didn’t give the NHL world the idiot “Trump Wall” but I love the way the Preds play and this is the time of year, the Nashville line-up was made for now. Nashville knows this playoff song and dance, and are saving their “Dance Off” moves for the Conference Finals and hopefully Stanley Cup playoffs.
My pre-season prediction was Tampa beating Nashville in the Cup Finals and I’m sticking with it. Dallas has lots of offensive weapons at their disposal, but it’s their defense, or lack thereof that has me shoe shoeing them out of the first round.
The Dallas Stars were second in the NHL in goals against while Nashville was third, so the goalies here are not in question for me, and Ben Bishop is probably dying to get a chance to play the Lightning in the Cup Finals. First things first though, and that’s the Predators, and leading goal scorer and extremely underrated Viktor Arvidsson. While he was fourth on the Preds in points, he led them in goals and has played huge for Nashville in the last few seasons playoff push.
Nashville was sitting at 19 of 31 for goals for, while Dallas was at 29th of 31, and with Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn, and Alexander Radulov nobody else on Dallas has more than 15 goals.
And that is exactly the way Nashville will play this Dallas squad, go heavy on the top line and keep Dallas off the power play and this series is over.
Polka’s Prediction: Nashville over Dallas 4-1
Winnipeg Jets (M2)
St. Louis Blues (M3)
I really hope this series gets a lot of air time here in the U.S., it has to right? I mean Chicago, Philadelphia and the N.Y. Rangers aren’t in the playoffs and NBC Sports managed to pack all three teams dongs into their mouth and have them on it seem like every single regular season game regardless of what other great games were taking place in Canada.
Winnipeg is going to be introduced to a bunch of households in the U.S. who will soon agree with my NBC Sports biased opinion and lack of Canadian team coverage. The Jets have a very talented team in every aspect of the team concept. High end forwards, towering bruisers on defense and a Vezina nominated goalie in Conner Hellebyuck.
But its St. Louis rookie goalie who will be getting a lot of coverage as his stellar play and the Blues strangling defense that willed the St. Louis team to a great regular season under many people’s radars.
Binnington’s record on the 30 games he started this season is an outstanding 24-5-1 with a .927% Save Percentage and 1.89GAA Goals Against Average. He will be in the pipes for the Blues until he shows the playoffs are too much to handle, which most likely won’t happen, and the Blues drag this series to seven games and make the Jets fight for every inch of ice. Which is where the deep and big Jets offensive threats will matter. The last two years goal scoring Phenom rookie Patrik Laine is not scoring at a clip he’s happy with and right about now is where the entire Province of Manitoba would like to see him find that shot again. After potting 46 goals last year, Laine fell to a human 30 goals this year and the Jets still posted a 99 point season. Winnipeg won three of the four match-ups versus the Blues this season and pounded the snot out of St. Louis in those three wins by scoring 18 goals and then getting shut out 1-0 in the fourth and final meeting. This series is Winnipeg’s to lose, and I truly do not see the Jets losing this series, or even one game, but I’ll give the Blues at least a chance for a win.
As the Jets top two lines dismantle St. Louis and really wreaking havoc on the Blues goaltenders.
Polka’s Prediction: Winnipeg over St. Louis 4-1
San Jose Sharks (P2)
Las Vegas Knights (P3)
The Sharks seemed to be in the spotlight all off-season with the contract extension for league malcontent Evander Kane, and then trading with Ottawa and getting Mike Hoffman in the Bitter Wives of Ottawa sweepstakes, and then pulling a fast one, and trading Hoffman to Florida, and then plucked the Crowned Jewel of Ottawa Erik Karlsson from his lofty Norris Trophy winners perch. Adding Karlsson to the already lethal Sharks offense with high scoring defenseman/winger Brent Burns and the Joe Tandem really has the Sharks on the precipice of winning a Stanley Cup, and after being there a few years ago and losing, this team is making its final push in my eyes, as age is relevant on this roster.
Vegas didn’t sit by with idle hands though, by adding my favorite Wolverine Max Pacioretty to give the Knights a legit top line scoring machine, who potted 40+ goals for four years straight in Montreal. Vegas also added Paul Stastny in the summer’s free-agency after he spent the previous playoff losing with the Winnipeg Jets. Vegas can bring in the big fish of free agents and isn’t put behind the eight-ball of some Western Conference teams where weather goes as a strike against (Edmonton, Calgary), but Vegas sells itself with weather and attractions to bring in fans as well as players. Remember Mrs. Pronger forcing her Chrissy out of Edmonton after he led them to the Cup Finals and he didn’t put up a lick of a fight at home like he did in the rink.
This looks to be a great series and San Jose has the offense to keep our asses off the seats, scoring 289 goals this season, tied for second, while the Knights finished 10th in that category with 249 goals. If Martin Jones can play like we’ve all seen him play when it counts, Vegas is in for trouble, but I’m betting the boat in this series going seven games. These are the two of the last three Western Conference representatives in the Stanley Cup Finals, with Nashville losing to the Penguins two years back. San Jose has built this team for this time of year, and I’m thinking they have the top line and secondary scoring, and Norris rear guards to stop Vegas this year.
Polka’s Predictions: San Jose over Vegas in seven
You can reach me @PolkaPat to talk anything fantasy or if you’re just looking for a friend, I can set you up with Steve Rapin.