The best playoffs in sports are about to begin. The final 16 teams survived injuries, loads of back to back day games and strange travel hours to make it into the post season. Throw the seeds out. Hockey playoffs are all about match ups. Home ice is nice but can be neutralized by fast skating and bruising defense. And of course at least one goalie will get hot and carry his team further then they would normally get. I am going to try and evaluate all the variables and predicted the 2013 NHL Playoffs and Awards. Also, I’ll adhere to Superhero week here at State-Lines.
*Reminder! To those who don’t know, the NHL playoffs are not traditional seeding match ups with the winner of 1 vs 8 always playing the winner of 4 vs 5. Instead the highest seed to advance will always play the lowest seed to advance. So if the 8 beats the 1 they will play the highest seed remaining not the winner of 4 vs 5 automatically.
1. Chicago Blackhawks (Heroes) In 5 Games Over 8. Minnesota Wild (Villains)
The Blackhawks are the most complete team in the NHL. They made their huge run to start the season that rocketed them out in front of everybody in the West. They have been in cruise control for the last couple weeks while fine tuning for the playoffs. The Blackhawks will role and out gun the Wild who bought their way into the playoffs with the huge free agency signings of LW Zach Parise and D Ryan Suter.
5. Los Angeles Kings (Villains) In 6 Games Over 4. St. Louis Blues (Heroes)
I am an admitted die-hard Blues fan. I want to be wrong on this so badly. The team gathered the third most wins and points in the Western Conference. But they face their kryptonite in the Kings. The Kings are an enigma to the Blues and until the team actually beats them, the Kings should be picked over them.
2. Anaheim Ducks (Heroes) In 5 Games Over 7. Red Wings (Villains)
These two teams have battled in some epic series this past decade but this one should only go five games. The Ducks are a great blend of youth and veterans with players like Ryan Getxlaf, Saku Koivu and Teemu Selanne. They should take care of an aging Red Wings team that barely made the playoffs.
3. Vancouver Canucks (Villains) In 5 Games Over 6. San Jose Sharks (Heroes)
The Sharks swept Vancouver in the regular season but playoff hockey is a whole different animal. The Sharks were beaten up and blitzed last year by the Blues and brought back the same team to this postseason. The Sedin Brothers of Vancouver should dazzle and elevate their game like they always seem to do for the post season.
1. Chicago Blackhawks (Heroes) In 6 Games Over 5. Los Angeles Kings (Villains)
The Kings will try to bully and beat on the Blackhawks. They are the less talented team who will try and neutralize the Blackhawks skill advantage and mucking up the game. The series will be a battle of American players with RW Patrick Kane testing G Jonathan Quick. The X-factor in this series is Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews.
3. Vancouver Canucks (Villains) In 7 Games Over 2. Anaheim Ducks (Heroes)
This series will be a fantastic match up. The Sedins are the most hated dynamic duo in hockey. They should lead the charge in being able to out score Anaheim. Anaheim will play team oriented hockey but I think Vancouver can manufacture more goals with better skill guys.
1. Chicago Blackhawks (Heroes) In 5 Games Over 3. Vancouver Canucks
The Blackhawks are a better version of Anaheim and younger. The skill, size, and speed will be to much for the Canucks. Patrick Kane’s goal scoring ability can neutralize the Sedins’ and Chicago plays tougher defense. That defense will be stingy and feed off the hometown crowd as the ‘Hawks stack wins up and wrap up the series in five games.
1. Pittsburgh Penguins (Villains) In 4 Games Over 8. New York Islanders (Heroes)
Pittsburg is the most talented team in hockey. The Islanders injection of youth over performed and played above themselves. Pittsburg should roll over the Islanders young core.
4. Boston Bruins (Villains) In 6 Games Over 5. Toronto Maple Leafs (Heroes)
Boston is a great team and the Maple Leafs are gutsy team. I’ll take the talented team who has more playoff experience. The Bruins should win in six. The Maple Leafs should be proud to earn a 5th seed but not a lot of guys on their roster know what it’s like to handle playoff pressure and “Boston Strong” crowds on the road.
7. Ottawa Senators (Heroes) In 6 Games Over 2. Montreal Canadiens (Villains)
Montreal played above themselves and benefited from the shortened season. They have one of the league’s biggest villains on their team in D P.K. Subban. Subban is a brash player whose the opposite of humble. He rubs everybody in the league the wrong way. His gritty play won’t be enough to top this years best goalie Craig Anderson of the Senators.
6. New York Rangers (Villains) In 7 Games Over 3. Washington D.C. Capitals (Heroes)
The Capitals turned it on down the stretch, slid into the playoffs and won their division. That division win gave them the 3rd seed. The Caps have die-hard hockey fans’ favorite player and hero LW Alexander Ovechkin. Ovechkin should be great but I predict the Rangers will continue their solid play from April into May. They will take note from G Henry Lundqvist. Lundqvist should get hot and become nearly unstoppable between the pipes.
1. Pittsburg Penguins (Villains) In 5 Games Over 7. Ottawa Senators (Heroes)
Pittsburg will play five close games against Ottawa. G Anderson will keep the games close but his team around him will fail him like like they have most of the season. Ottawa should have been a higher seed if Anderson’s teammates would have matched his play.
6. New York Rangers (Villains) In 6 Games Over 4. Boston Bruins (Villains)
“King” Henry’s streak will continue as Boston struggles to solve him. The Rangers strong core will feed off their goalie’s excellent play. They should slip past Boston in a great six game series. Expect some high intensity as the classic New York vs Boston hatred comes into play.
1. Pittsburg Penguins (Villains) In 6 Games Over 6. New York Rangers (Villains)
Pittsburg at this point will have the hated Sidney Crosby back at full force. His charge to an already loaded team should boost them over the Rangers. It won’t be easy and this series should give the Penguins their biggest challenge in the Eastern Conference.
Stanley Cup Finals
1. Chicago Blackhawks (Heroes) In 7 Games Over 1. Pittsburg Penguins (Villains)
This series will be epic. I’m expecting the league’s two best teams to be playing for the cup in the end. It features stars from four countries and teams with great hockey tradition. This Stanley Cup Finals will be one of the best ever in Stanley Cup history. It will be great for the league and provide fans with seven games of heart bonding entertainment. Chicago, I think pulls it out with being able to play game seven in the ‘Windy City’.
1. Chicago Blackhawks
2. Pittsburgh Penguins
3. Boston Bruins
4. Los Angeles Kings
Hart Memorial Trophy (MVP)- Alex Ovechkin Washington Capitials
Vezina Trophy (Top Goaltender)- Craig Anderson Ottawa Senators
Calder Memorial Trophy (Rookie of the Year)- Brendan Gallagher Montreal Canadians