As we have learned before in the playoffs, there seems to be an atmospheric effect on all the participants from playing in the mini-tournament that seems to change the way teams play—good and bad. What can we learn from this? Sometimes, the NHL's post-season is unpredictable. This year especially, where we've seen the league's best teams face significant struggles in the leading weeks to the yearly tournament, it should result in some entertaining, nail-biting hockey.
Nonetheless, there always are the dominant teams of the NHL, and this year is no different. Teams like the Vancouver Canucks, Washington Capitals and Detroit Red Wings are entering the postseason on high notes. In contrast, teams like the Chicago Blackhawks, New York Rangers and Los Angeles Kings are entering with question marks due to the way they qualified for the tournament.
However, like I mentioned above, the playoffs are, in fact, unpredictable. You can look no further than last year's tournament for evidence. Did you predict the eighth-seeded Montreal Canadiens would make it all the way to the Eastern Conference final, toppling the hockey giants the Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins were and still are?
What about the then-Philadelphia Flyers, who qualified for the postseason on the last regular season day and are sneaking in as a seventh seed? With their goaltending question marks, did you bet on them making it all the way to Game Six of the Stanley Cup final?
This proves the predictable sometimes becomes unpredictable. However, part of the entire fun process of the NHL's playoffs is, of course, attempting to predict the winners through each round. So, before we get to the predicting, let's just review the first round matchups:
WESTERN CONFERENCE MATCHUPS
Vancouver Canucks (No. 1) vs Chicago Blackhawks (No. 8)
San Jose Sharks (No. 2) vs Los Angeles Kings (No. 7)
Detroit Red Wings (No. 3) vs Phoenix Coyotes (No. 6)
Anaheim Ducks (No. 4) vs Nashville Predators (No. 5)
EASTERN CONFERENCE MATCHUPS
Washington Capitals (No. 1) vs New York Rangers (No. 8)
Philadelphia Flyers (No. 2) vs Buffalo Sabres (No. 7)
Boston Bruins (No. 3) vs Montreal Canadiens (No. 6)
Pittsburgh Penguins (No. 4) vs Tampa Bay Lightning (No. 5)