It’s playoff time in the NHL and that means the intensity is about to go nuclear. The Boston Bruins were extremely destructive all season as they set an NHL Record for wins and points in a season. The biggest worry for Bruins fans is if this team will waste that regular season success by choking in the playoffs. The Bruins secured the President’s Trophy on Christmas or it just seems that way. For those unaware, this is awarded to the team with the best regular season record. This trophy was created at the start of the 1985-86 campaign. Only 8 of the previous 36 winners of the trophy have survived the Stanley Cup Playoffs to hoist the Cup. The last team to win the double was the 2012-13 Chicago Blackhawks. What is even more peculiar is that only 1 of the last 9 President’s Trophy winners have advanced past the 2nd Round and the one that did (2014-15 NY Rangers), lost in the Eastern Conference Finals.
The Back to Back to Back Eastern Conference Champion Tampa Bay Lightning are geared up to go to their 4th straight Stanley Cup Finals. Their biggest question is really focused on the depth and if this veteran squad can stay health and step up their play. The Toronto Maple Leafs had another 100 point season, but they still haven’t won a playoff series in years. They almost broke through last year, but they choked against Tampa Bay, the same foe they face this year. The Carolina Hurricanes won the ultra-competitive Metropolitan Division and get to face the New York Islanders in the First Round. The biggest surprise in the Eastern Conference has been the New Jersey Devils. They went from the 5th worst team in the NHL last season and a 100 campaign this year. A remarkable turn around and this team might be a year ahead of schedule, which is exciting for New Jersey. They will be facing the loaded New York Rangers in the First Round. If Shesterkin plays like he did in the playoffs last year, this could be very exciting in Madison Square Garden. The Eastern Conference is a loaded conference and these playoffs will be jaw breaking and you should expect the unexpected. One weird thing is that for the first time ever, we will not see Sidney Crosby or Alexander Ovechkin participating.
Lets’s skate through the Playoff matchups and give my predictions on who will advance / survive.
#8 SEED FLORIDA PANTHERS VS #1 SEED BOSTON BRUINS:
- BRUINS OWNED THE NHL WITH 65 WINS AND 135 POINTS, BOTH SINGLE SEASON RECORDS.
- THE BRUINS HAD A GOAL DIFFERENTIAL OF +128, THE NEXT IN LINE IS THE DALLAS STARS AT + 67
- PASTRNAK, BERGERON, MARCHAND, ZACHA, DeBRUSK, COYLE AND TAYLOR HALL FORM A LETHAL SET OF OFFENSIVE TALENT ON THE ICE
- HOW LONG WILL KREJCI BE OUT AND WHAT IMPACT WILL THAT HAVE?
- LINUS ULLMARK HAS BEEN FANTASTIC BETWEEN THE PIPES ALL SEASON, POSTING A 39-6-1 RECORD AND ALLOWING 1.89 GOALS A GAME. HIS SAVE % IS .938
- THE PANTHERS HAD AN AMAZING 2021-22 REGULAR SEASON BUT DIDN’T ADVANCE PAST THE SECOND ROUND, CAN THIS TEAM GET REVENGE FOR THAT EARLY EXIT
- THE PANTHERS ARE SURGING, THEY WENT 6-1-1 IN THEIR FINAL EIGHT GAMES TO SECURE THE FINAL SPOT
- MATTHEW TKACHUCK LED THE CATS WITH 109 POINTS
- THE PANTHERS HAVE A POWER TRIO OF TKACHUCK, BARKOV, AND VERHAEGHE WHO MUST BE LOCKED IN AGAINST BOSTON
- SERGEI BOBROVSKY WENT 24-20-3 WHILE ALLOWING 3.07 GOALS A GAME AND A SAVE % OF .901. HE’LL NEED TO BE MUCH MUCH BETTER IN THIS SERIES.
- THE BRUINS AND PANTHERS SPLIT THEIR SEASON SERIES 2-2
- PREDICTION: BRUINS SWEEP FLORIDA
ATLANTIC #2 SEED TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS VS ATLANTIC #3 TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING:
- TORONTO STILL LOOKING TO FINALLY WIN A PLAYOFF SERIES AGAIN
- BLEW THEIR SERIES LEAD AND LOST AT HOME IN GAME 7 LAST YEAR TO….THE TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING.
- TAMPA BAY HAS BEEN TO 3 STRAIGHT STANLEY CUP FINALS INCLUDING CAPTURING LORD STANLEY’S CUP IN 2020 & 2021.
- CAN THE BOLTS MUSTER THE FOCUS, ENERGY, AND INTENSITY FOR ANOTHER DEEP STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF RUN
- KEY FOR THE BOLTS ARE STAMKOS, KUCHEROV, POINT, HEDMAN, HAGEL, KILLORN AND SERGACHEV TO BE LOCKED IN FROM THE INITIAL PUCK DROP
- VASILEVSKIY HAS BEEN MAGNIFICENT IN PLAYOFFS PAST, CAN HE FIND THAT FORM AGAIN IN 2023?
- KEY FOR THE LEAFS …..DON’T GIVE TAMPA ANY HOPE
- AUSTIN MATTHEWS, MARNER, TAVARES AND NYLANDER HAD GREAT REGULAR SEASONS, BUT NOW….CAN THEY PRODUCE WHEN IT MATTERS
- CAN THE LEAFS DEFENSEMEN PUT TOGETHER CLEAN SHIFTS CONSISTENTLY
- 5 GOALIES STARTED FOR TORONTO DURING THE SEASON, BUT THEY WILL RELY ON ILYA SAMSONOV AND MATT MURRAY TO STAND TALL
- PREDICTION: TORONTO WINS IN 6 GAMES
#7 SEED NEW YORK ISLANDERS VS #2 SEED CAROLINA HURRICANES:
- BATTLE OF SEBASTIAN AHO’S…YES, BOTH TEAMS HAVE A PLAYER WITH THE SAME NAME: CAROLINA’S CENTER (#20) WAS BORN ON 7/26/97 IN RAUMA, FINLAND. NEW YORK’S DEFENSEMAN (#25) WAS BORN 2/17/96 IN UMEA, SWEDEN
- THE HURRICANES WON THE METROPOLITAN DIVISION WHERE 3 TEAMS HAD AT LEAST 107 POINTS
- THE CANES FAILED TO REACH THE EASTERN CONFERENCE FINALS LAST YEAR AFTER STRUGGLING WITH THE RANGERS….CAN THEY TAKE THE NEXT STEP
- CAROLINA DOESN’T HAVE A 90 PLUS POINT SCORER, BUT THEY WILL NEED MARTIN NECAS, AHO, ANDREI SVECHNIKOV AND OTHERS TO PLAY THEIR BEST GOING FORWARD.
- THE CANES DID HAVE 15 PLAYERS PRODUCE 22 OR MORE POINTS DURING THE SEASON
- THE HURRICANES HAD A TRIO OF NET MINDERS DURING THE SEASON. FREDERICK ANDERSON, ANTTI RAANTA AND PYOTR KOCHETKOV ALL STARTED AT LEAST 20 GAMES AND ALLOWED 2.48 GOALS A GAME OR BETTER.
- THE ISLANDERS ARE A VETERAN PLAYOFF TEAM AND WILL NEED BROCK NELSON, MATTHEW BARZAL, ANDRES LEE AND OTHERS TO STEP IT UP AND PLAY LIKE PLAYOFFS PAST
- THEY HAVE COME CLOSE TO PULLING OFF UPSETS IN THE PAST….CAN THIS BE THE YEAR
- CAROLINA TOOK 3 OF 4 DURING THE REGULAR SEASON
- PREDICTION: HURRICANES WIN IN 6 GAMES
METRO #2 SEED NEW JERSEY DEVILS VS METRO #3 SEED NEW YORK RANGERS:
- THE DEVILS ARE ONE OF THE BIGGEST SURPRISES OF THE YEAR, MAYBE THE BIGGEST…..TOTALING 112 POINTS A YEAR AFTER THEY WERE THE 3RD WORST IN THE EASTERN CONFERENCE WITH 63 POINTS….A REMARKABLE 49 POINT IMPROVEMENT
- NEW JERSEY TOOK 3 OF 4 FROM THE RANGERS DURING THE SEASON
- JACK HUGHES SET A FRANCHISE SINGLE SEASON RECORD FOR POINTS WITH 97 (43 GOALS & 54 ASSISTS)….HE’S ONLY 21
- CAN THE COLLECTIVE UNIT IN NEW JERSEY CONTINUE TO SURGE FORWARD NOW THE PLAYOFF INTENSITY IS A DIFFERENT MONSTER
- HUGHES WILL NEED HELP AND THAT NEEDS TO COME FROM NICO HISCHIER, JESPER BRATT, TOMAS TATAR AND DAWSON MERCER
- GOALIE VITEK VANECEK HAS BEEN RELIABLE ALL SEASON (33-11-4) AND ALLOWED 2.45 GOALS A GAME. HIS SAVE % WAS .911…HE WILL NEED TO BE MUCH BETTER ALONG WITH HIS DEFENSEMEN DOUGIE HAMILTON, DAMON SEVERSON AND OTHERS
- THE RANGERS FINISHED WITH WELL OVER 100 POINTS
- THRY WERE A FORCE IN THE PLAYOFFS LAST YEAR, WINNING 3 STRAIGHT TO BEAT PITTSBURGH, WON 4 OF THE LAST 5 TO UPSET CAROLINA AND HAD A 2-0 LEAD ON TAMPA BAY.
- THE KEY TO THE RANGERS IS IGOR SHESTERKIN IN GOAL
- THE BLUE SHIRTS WILL NEED PANARIN, ZIBANEJAD, KREIDER, TROCHECK AND SUPER STAR PATRICK KANE TO BE LOCKED IN…
- THE RANGERS DIDN’T PRODUCE A 100 PLUS POINT SEASON BY ACCIDENT…..NOW THEY NEED TO TURN THAT INTO PLAYOFF SUCCESS
- PREDICTION: RANGERS WIN IN 6 GAMES
If these predictions ring true, then we’ll have the following matchups in the 2nd Round.
TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS VS BOSTON BRUINS:
- AN ORIGINAL 6 MATCHUP AND NO LOVE LOST BETWEEN THESE DIVISION RIVALS
- THE BRUINS TOOK 3 OF THE 4 REGULAR SEASON MATCHUPS
- WILL THE BRUINS REMAIN HUNGRY AND FOCUSED AFTER A WALK OVER SERIES VS FLORIDA?
- CAN THE LEAFS, LED BY MATTHEWS PLAY LOOSER NOW THAT THE BURDEN OF WINNING A PLAYOFF SERIES IS LIFTED
- WE HAVE SEEN THE BRUINS COME UP SHORT IN THE PAST AND WHEN YOU ADD IN THE PRESIDENTS CUP CURSE, CAN THEY OVERCOME THESE BARRIERS
- THE BRUINS POWER PLAY AND PENALTY KILLING “SPECIAL TEAM” PAIRINGS MUST BE ON POINT.
- PREDICTION: BRUINS ADVANCE IN 6 GAMES
NEW YORK RANGERS VS CAROLINA HURRICANES:
- THESE CLUBS MET IN THE SECOND ROUND LAST SEASON
- THAT SERIES WENT 7 GAMES….THIS WILL TOO
- THE CANES JUMPED OUT TO A 2-0 SERIES LEAD, BUT THE BOYS IN BLUE REGROUPED AND DOWNGRADED THE HURRICANES, WINNING 4 OF THE LAST 5 IN THE SERIES
- DO THE HURRICANES HAVE ENOUGH OFFENSIVELY AND ESPECIALLY ON THE POWER PLAY?
- THE RANGERS HAVE A LETHAL POWER PLAY, SO THE CANES MUST BE PHYSICAL BUT SMART
- PREDICTION: RANGERS WIN IN 7 GAMES
EASTERN CONFERENCE FINALS:
NEW YORK RANGERS VS BOSTON BRUINS:
- YOU DON’T SET WINS AND POINTS RECORDS ON ACCIDENT
- ANOTHER BOSTON TEAM HAD TO BEAT A TEAM FROM NEW YORK ON THEIR JOURNEY TO BREAK A TITLE CURSE
- CAN SHESTERKIN TAKE HIS GAME TO ANOTHER LEVEL IN THIS SERIES
- CAN THE RANGERS CREATE CHAOS DEFENSIVELY TO KEEP BOSTON OFF BALANCE
- PREDICTION: BRUINS WIN IN 6 GAMES
Stay tuned to Spinnable Sports because our Western Conference preview is coming soon. Who do we have facing the Bruins in the Stanley Cup Finals? How far will the defending champion Colorado Avalanche skate?