So what do we have now that we have (mostly) reached the end of the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs?
Around mid-season, I posted some words of surprise–and a bit of caution–about the success then being enjoyed by Nashville and the Islanders. Well…the Preds never even made it to a Game 7, against the Blackhawks (admittedly, the worst possible draw they could have gotten in the first round, or any round for that matter), and New York came up stinkers against the hardly-covered-in-glory Capitals in their own Game 7. So much for regular season success.
All that’s left of the early round is Detroit at Tampa Bay tomorrow night, a match-up that feels like all of hockey history–literally–says should go to the Red Wings. I’m not so sure; Detroit was interestingly inconsistent this season, and my gut says that will play out in the Lightning’s favor. But I’m not running to a bookie with that vibe or anything like that.
As for the upcoming match-ups: Montreal is going to get the TB-Detroit survivor no matter what, coming off their relatively easy first round against Ottawa. They’re a good bet to make it to the Conference Finals and keep Canada’s hopes alive.
The Rangers have to be prohibitive favorites against Washington, just on records alone if not the Capitals’ choking dog playoff history. I’m not convinced by them beating the Islanders.
The other side of the Canadian aspirations thing is the Ducks-Flames series, and seriously, as much as I’d like to see Anaheim take one on the chin…I can’t see it happening.
Lastly, Minnesota versus Chicago. I’m very intrigued by this series. The Blackhawks are the Blackhawks, after all, but–the Wild had little trouble with the Blues, their record in the regular season was almost identical to Chicago’s, they’re division rivals…I’m smelling upset. That’s probably a classic “dead wrong in public” call, but I’m on the record: I think Minnesota advances.
Let’s stop there, before true madness sets in. However it plays out, the ice is about to get Interesting, with a capital ‘I’.