Mick Kern looks at Round One of the 2017 NHL Playoffs

NHL

The Stanley Cup Playoffs get underway on Wednesday evening, and unlike last spring, Canadian NHL fans have something to cheer for.  The Maple Leafs, Canadiens, Senators, Oilers, and Flames are all involved in the chase for the Stanley Cup.  Can any of those aforementioned teams go deep this spring?

A number of pundits believe that this will finally be the year the perennially underachieving Washington Capitals hoists the big silver mug.  Will they get by the impressive Columbus Blue Jackets?

What about the defending Stanley Cup champion Penguins?  In the Western Conference, many expect the Chicago Blackhawks to be back in the Stanley Cup Final come June.  Which is why they play the games…which begin on Wednesday evening.

 

Wednesday, April 12th – Columbus Blue Jackets at Pittsburgh Penguins
7:30 PM Eastern – Sirius XM 221

The last time the Blue Jackets qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs (2014), they were on the short end of a 6 game first round loss to the Penguins.  During the regular season, only three points separated these two teams in the tough Metropolitan Division.  The two head coaches (John Tortorella for Columbus – Mike Sullivan for Pittsburgh) have worked with each other on a number of teams over the years, so this should be a close series.

 

Thursday, April 13th – Toronto Maple Leafs at Washington Capitals
7:00 PM Eastern – Sirius XM 91

Once again, the Capitals led the NHL during the regular season, but the only real measuring stick of true success is winning the Stanley Cup.  That’s sometimes the Caps have never done.  The franchise made it to the Stanley Cup Final back in 1998, while the Maple Leafs haven’t been there in 50 years.  All the pressure will be on Washington, as most didn’t expect the young Leafs to make the post-season this time around.

 

Friday, April 14th – New York Rangers at Montreal Canadiens
7:00 PM Eastern – Sirius XM 91

Flip a coin.  The Habs finished with 103 points; the Rangers finished with 102.  During the regular season, Montreal dominated as they swept the three game series.  But that momentum doesn’t always carry over into the post-season. The last time these two Original Six franchises butted heads in the playoffs was the 2014 Eastern Conference Final, and the Rangers took that in 6 games.  Flip a coin.

 

Saturday, April 15th – Boston Bruins at Ottawa Senators
3:00 PM Eastern – Sirius XM 91

During the NHL regular season, the Senators dominated the Bruins (winning all 4 meetings), and are hoping that trend continues in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.  Boston will have back forward Brad Marchand, who served a two game suspension for spearing, a suspension that kept him from reaching the 40 goal mark (he finished with 39).  Ottawa has super defenceman Erik Karlsson, who many believe is the Norris favourite for this season.  Both teams were stingy on defence this past season, though the Bruins scored more goals than the Sens (234 to 212).

 

Sunday, April 16th – Montreal Canadiens at New York Rangers
7:00 PM Eastern – Sirius XM 91

This opening round series switches to Manhattan, where future Hockey Hall of Fame goaltender Henrik Lundqvist has better success against the Canadiens.  The winner of this series goes on to face the victor in the Ottawa-Boston matchup.

 

Monday, April 17th – Washington Capitals at Toronto Maple Leafs
7:00 PM Eastern – Sirius XM 91

The series shifts to Toronto for Game Three.  During the regular season, the league leading Capitals were 23-12-and-6 on foreign ice.  The Maple Leafs were not pushovers at home, posting a 21-13-and- 7 record in front of the home fans.  The winner of this series will next take on the survivor of the Penguins-Blue Jackets battle.

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