NHL Playoffs: 15 Things That Will Happen
Last year, the Pittsburgh Penguins hoisted Lord Stanley's mug in June, defeating the Detroit Red Wings in a thrilling series that saw Evgeni Malkin walk away with the Conn Smythe Trophy as the Playoff MVP.
We also got to see the young Chicago Blackhawks take a major step forward, Roberto Luongo get humiliated, Marian Hossa come out on the wrong end again in the Finals, and of course, Sid vs. Ovie.
What can we expect to see this season? Well, let's take a quick rundown of 15 things I expect to happen in this year's playoffs, which will kick off on Wednesday.
The San Jose Sharks...
...will not be a factor in the playoffs once again. As of this writing, it was still up in the air which team the Sharks would face in the playoffs.
However, it really doesn't matter, because the Sharks are the best regular season team of the last five years that never does anything in the playoffs.
Whether it be Detroit, Los Angeles, or Colorado, it wouldn't be all that surprising if San Jose once again gets knocked out in the first round.
Anything short of a Stanley Cup would be a failure for Doug Wilson and his gang, and I don't think the Sharks even sniff the Finals, let alone win anything.
The Phoenix Coyotes...
...will advance past the first round of the playoffs.
The club has easily been the most surprising team of the year, and with all four lines rolling, the blueliners playing solid, and Ilya Bryzgalov in net, the Cinderella season will continue for the Desert Dawgs.
A Valuable Player...
...will go down in the first round.
It happens every season. A player that is key to a team's success gets unexpectedly hurt, and it causes a ripple effect throughout the roster.
With the way this season has gone, would it really be surprising if one of the big names got hurt within a week's time?
Alex Kovalev is already out of the equation, while the status of Matt Duchene and Peter Mueller is up in the air, and Evgeni Malkin has not been himself for a while now.
...will continue to play well in the playoffs.
Both brothers, especially Henrik, have been amazing this season, and a majority still consider the twins as "soft" players that can't handle the pressure of playoff hockey.
But for whatever reason, this year seems different. It won't be the same old Sedins...they will produce for the Canucks.
A New Goaltending Hero...
...will emerge in the playoffs.
A few years ago it was Cam Ward, while last season it was Semyon Varlamov.
Every year, there is one goaltender who either comes out of nowhere to take the No. 1 job and lead his team, or a goalie that is considered good but not great elevates his game to a whole new level.
Who will it be this year? There are a lot of candidates, but I think Jimmy Howard will be the guy to do it this postseason.
Detroit and Chicago...
..will meet in the playoffs, at one point or another.
It just seems inevitable. The Red Wings are finally healthy and are the hottest team in the league. The Blackhawks are turning the corner, as they establish themselves as the new Western Conference power for the long haul.
It just seems so natural that they will both meet, doesn't it? They just have to.
Sid vs. Ovie II
After the display that these two superstars put on last year, does anybody not think these two aren't going to meet up somewhere during the playoff season this year?
Right now, Ovechkin has all of the individual accolades, while Crosby has gotten to the last two Stanley Cup Finals, including winning last season.
Everybody knows that the road to the Finals this year will go through Washington or Pittsburgh at some point.
...will be a factor in the playoffs.
The former captain of the Thrashers has only been to the big dance once, and he didn't do much then, as the Rangers swept Atlanta in four straight back in 2007.
This time around, the Russian sniper is not only playing on a more talented Devils squad, but he's playing for a big contract in the offseason.
Look for Kovy to leave a lasting impression on fans well into April, and maybe even May.
...will NOT be a factor in the playoffs.
He never has been, and there is nothing that says he will be this year, either.
I think he'll have a better performance than in previous years, but it still will not be enough for a player who is consistently one of the top scorers in the regular season, year in and year out.
The Longest Overtime Game...
...will be two periods and a bit.
Every year, there is always one game that has great action, but the goaltenders are absolutely brilliant, and it ends up going to extra time.
There, time just goes by as the goalies just do not want to give anything to any one. You will eventually catch somebody, just like Patric Hornqvist above, wondering how much time has gone by, and when will it ever end.
Eventually, a winner will be crowned in the third overtime period, and chances are that it will be a Western Conference tilt.
...is going to emerge as this season's playoff hero.
Every year, there is always a player or two that doesn't seem that relevant during the regular season, but takes his game to a whole new level in the playoffs.
Right now, my pick for that role is Darren Helm. The swift skating forward has a knack for scoring at the most important times, so it wouldn't a stretch to watch him post 10 goals in only a month, as he helps the Wings get deep in the postseason once again.
A New Quote...
...will come out of the mouth of either New York Rangers Head Coach John Tortorella or Leafs GM Brian Burke.
Both have a tendency to say too much, and it won't be the least bit surprising to see either one of them have something interesting to say over the course of the next two months that will make you sit up and go "huh?"
The Washington Capitals...
...will not win the Stanley Cup.
Yes, the awesome quartet of Alexander Ovechkin, Mike Green, Nicklas Backstrom, and Alexander Semin will put on a scoring clinic in some games, but will eventually get shut down in others, as that is just the way playoff hockey is.
You can't just score five goals every game and think you are going to win, as the Capitals will find that out really quick after getting out of the first round.
The Stanley Cup...
...will go to the Chicago Blackhawks.
Despite a tough playoff run, which will include a hard-fought battle with the rival Red Wings, Chicago will come out on top and pick up the city's first Stanley Cup championship since 1961.
Brian Campbell will eventually return by the end of May and provide a big boost on the back end, while Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, and Patrick Sharp will provide a big lift offensively.
Antti Niemi will emerge as a true No. 1 starter in the league and will help knock off the New Jersey Devils in a thrilling six-game series.
...will be the Conn Smythe winner as the Playoff MVP this season.
The captain of the Blackhawks has a lot of offensive support around him obviously, but will raise his level of play once the playoffs start and become an even more important cog in the Chicago juggernaut.
He'll be the key contributor for the Hawks through April, May, and June.