It’s funny how quickly the NHL regular season passes by each year. Every October/November I think “I have 7 more months until the Stanley Cup playoffs?”. Then, around the 50-60 game mark, the playoff race begins to shape up and I’m still thinking “I have another 2 months before I know the final 1st round matchups?”
Then out of nowhere, it’s mid-April, the weather’s getting warmer and the regular season has ended. Now I’m thinking “that went fast!”
Perhaps this year felt longer with my Ottawa Senators having their worst regular season in more than a decade. Seems weird that Saturday’s battle of Ontario was the last Sens game until next season. Dallas Stars fans probably feel the same way with their season.
Something good has come out of it though, we have some classic playoff battles set to begin – Boston/Montreal, Pittsburgh/Philadelphia – and some matchups we haven’t seen before (or in some time) – Detroit/Columbus, Vancouver/St. Louis, Chicago/Calgary.
If you rely on Stayclassy for your sporting news, here are the 1st round playoff match ups:
Boston Bruins (1) VS Montreal Canadiens (8).
Washington Capitals (2) VS New York Rangers (7).
New Jersey Devils (3) VS Carolina Hurricanes (6).
Pittsburgh Penguins (4) VS Philadelphia Flyers (5).
San Jose Sharks (1) VS Anaheim Ducks (8).
Detroit Red Wings (2) VS Columbus Blue Jackets (7).
Vancouver Canucks (3) VS St. Louis Blues (6).
Chicago Blackhawks (4) VS Calgary Flames (5).
I’m so excited both Columbus and St. Louis made the playoffs this year. The Blues had the best NHL record in the second half of the season and did this despite key injuries to Manny Legace, Erik Johnston, Paul Kariya and others. Blue’s coach Andy Murray and his resilient team deserve big kudos for this achievement. I’m not sure I’d want to be facing Blues, if I were Vancouver. Mind you, this series features arguably two of the hottest NHL teams in the last few months.
The Jacket’s deserve a lot of credit too. While Pascal LeClaire wasn’t able to help their playoff aspirations (hopefully he can for our Senators next season), soon-to-be rookie of the year, Steve Mason broke into the NHL with a league leading (and amazing) 10 shutouts, helping Columus secure a playoff position for the first time in franchise history. Columbus management made several key acquisitions last summer and this season and got into the playoffs despite losing key-cog Ron Hainsey to unrestricted free agency last summer (Atlanta Thrashers). I wonder how golfing in Atlanta compares to Columbus, Ron? With Mason’s stellar goaltending and coach Ken Hitchcock’s structured defensive systems, I’m not sure Detroit has the advantage in this series.
While this year’s playoffs could provide a few twists and turns for us, it will certainly be a memorable summer for hockey fans. I still believe the San Jose Sharks will win the Stanley Cup, but who knows? Beginning tomorrow, SC.net bloggers will make their first round predictions. We’d love to hear yours, too. We encourage disagreement.
Stay classy, NHL playoffs.