The NHL playoffs never disappoint, and this year is just another example of that. Just about every series thus far has been tightly contested, and even those that have been one-sided have provided a few excellent games.
We've got a long way to go, it seems, before the second round is upon us, but that doesn't mean we can't drop a few predictions based on how the series have gone thus far.
|Boston Bruins vs. Detroit Red Wings||Bruins|
|Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Columbus Blue Jackets||Penguins|
|New York Rangers vs. Philadelphia Flyers||Flyers|
|Colorado Avalanche vs. Minnesota Wild||Avalanche|
|St. Louis Blues vs. Chicago Blackhawks||Blues|
|Anaheim Ducks vs. Dallas Stars||Ducks|
|San Jose Sharks vs. Los Angeles Kings||Sharks|
There has been plenty of madness and excitement thus far in the first round of the NHL playoffs, but nothing has been as wild and crazy as the series between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Columbus Blue Jackets. The series is now tied at two games apiece and every single game has been decided by a 4-3 score.
That's just wacky. And it gets even odder, per ESPN Stats and Info:
In each of the first 4 games of the Penguins-Blue Jackets series, losing team has blown a lead of at least 2 goals— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) April 24, 2014
At this point, trying to predict which team will prevail in this series is about as predictable as Warren Buffet's perfect bracket challenge. On paper, at least, the Penguins appear to be the more talented team, so we'll stick with them, but there isn't another series crazier than this one.
Of course, the three series continuing on Friday are all quite tight. The Philadelphia Flyers find themselves in almost a must-win position at this point, needing a home win to even the series. And if you ask Claude Giroux, well, the Flyers are going to get that win.
From Adam Kimelman of NHL.com:
Claude Giroux: "We'll be ready for Game 4. We're going to tie up this series and go back to New York."— Adam Kimelman (@NHLAdamK) April 23, 2014
Claude Giroux: "I personally thing we did a lot of good things [last night] and if we play the same way we're going to win here Friday."— Adam Kimelman (@NHLAdamK) April 23, 2014
The Rangers are no pushovers, of course, but the return of Steve Mason in net could be just what the doctor ordered for Philly the rest of the way in this series. And he's certainly ready to go, as he told Flyers TV (via the team's official Twitter account):
See what Steve Mason had to say today about starting Game 4: http://t.co/GDHbiMsZlT— Philadelphia Flyers (@NHLFlyers) April 24, 2014
And then there are the two series tied 2-2 out West that will each play a pivotal Game 5 on Friday, with the St. Louis Blues facing the Chicago Blackhawks and the Dallas Stars taking on the Anaheim Ducks. The Ducks have to be kicking themselves right now, having led the series 2-0 and leading Game 4 2-0 before the Stars came roaring back, scoring four unanswered goals.
So why pick the Ducks to ultimately prevail?
Well, because momentum is the next day's starting pitcher—er, in this case, the next day's goalie—and, more importantly, because the Ducks still have home-ice advantage.
It's essentially the same argument for St. Louis, as it won both of its games in this series at home (albeit in overtime) in a wild series that has required extra time for three of the games. If the Pittsburgh and Columbus series has been the craziest, the Blues and Blackhawks have been embroiled in the longest one.
Neither of these teams deserves to lose. Unfortunately for Chicago, it will.