Sage playoff hockey pool advice
By Ian Cobb
The above is an example of how the media blatantly lies like howling click bait swines.
If you clicked into this story in the hopes of gleaning sage advice about how to go about selecting your 2016 NHL playoff pool roster, I’d like to tell you that you will click away satisfied and ready to win big bucks.
But you won’t.
Odds are you will lose and lose badly and you shouldn’t even embark on such a journey. Believe me; THAT I know.
Picking a winning playoff pool is like bagging a trifecta at your nearest downs. A myriad of intangibles occur that stickhandle teams to the final series, which is the teams you want your playoff pool players to be on.
Being able to correctly connect the dots on those intangibles all the way to the finals, a time when most hockey fans have abandoned the couch in the basement for (insert your favourite summertime activity here) is the key. Seeing as how not one of Canada’s seven NHL clubs managed to make the playoffs, it is quite possible that the broadcasters in Canada and the USA will see a marked drop off in viewership as fringe puckheads refuse to try and board a bandwagon.
You see how none of the above blah blah has anything to do with sage advice? Rat bastard Internet click bait SOBs!
And now the gold… a guess at the first round.
The opening eight series may deliver the best of the playoffs, as there are a couple of titanic clashes slated.
Detroit Red Wings vs Tampa Bay Lightning
Launching the playoffs this evening is the Detroit Red Wings heading to Tampa Bay to take on the Lightning again. The Lightning knocked the Wings out last year in the first round.
The almost Dead Things squeaked into the playoffs for a 25th straight year and appear to be first round fodder against the Bolts, a cup finalist one year ago. But the Bolts are heading into battle without franchise face Steven Stamkos and top two blueliner Anton Stralman, and a few other key players are banged up.
All eyes are on Jonathan Drouin to emerge after being a sulking tool most of the season; don’t bet on it. He might not even play. He might take his sticks and go home.
The Wings are led by two elder statesmen in Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg and a smokin’ rookie in Dylan Larkin. Jimmy Howard appears to have found his 2010 stride in goal and the Wings are relatively healthy.
Series winner: The biggest ‘upset’ of the first round – the Wings win in seven games.
New York Rangers Vs. Pittsburgh Penguins
This Rangers and Penguins series should be a delight to watch, with plenty of skill on display.
The Penguins have been red-hot heading into the playoffs, with number one goalie MA Fleury and number two centre Evgeni Malkin in sickbay. The Penguins may want Malkin to stay down as Sidney (no longer the kid) Crosby has been playing some of the finest hockey of his storied career.
The Rangers have Henrik Lundqvist in goal and that alone could be enough to carry them past the Pens but New York has a couple of key defensive cogs out with injury, in captain Ryan McDonogh and Dan Girardi.
Series winner: Sid will be too much and the Rangers losses on the backend will hurt. Penguins in six games.
Chicago Blackhawks Vs. St. Louis Blues
This is the titanic series I was referring too above. Thanks to the wild card thing, these two top tier teams have to go at it. It will be a series that smacks of the losing team ripping the stuffing out of the winning team and ruining them for the rest of the playoffs.
The Blues are healthy for the first time all season. That may be a weird thing to them and throw them off their ‘us against the GD injury bug’ jag that has made them a hard load to move. The Blues are deep up front, have a disgustingly deep blueline and run two-headed goalie monster in Jake Allen and Brian Elliott. This is a do-or-die playoffs for head coach Ken Hitchcock and some of the team’s core players. They will be motivated. The Blues also won the season series three games to two.
The Hawks are led by runaway league scoring champ Patrick Kane – the first Yankee to ever win a scoring title. They also have Captain Serious – Jonathan Toews – perhaps the best all-around player in the world. Captain Hack, Duncan Keith, will be back for game two, freed from suspension jail. Brent Seabrook has been a beast all season and netminder Cory Crawford is a proven winner. The Hawks appear to be mostly healthy in their bid to defend the title.
Series winner: Poor Ken Hitchcock; no cup for you. Hawks’ experience and added beef from the trade deadline help push them to a seven game series win.
Philadelphia Flyers Vs. Washington Capitals
The Washington Capitals will be the team, when the playoff pool picks are complete, that has guys in the bottom 10 in scoring on the team selected. It’ll be a frenzy as guys opt for Jay Beagle in the fifth round over the likes of Andrew Ladd. The President’s Cup winners always get that attention.
This time it will make perfect sense to load up with Caps. They’re a beast.
Alexander Ovechkin willed his way to another 50-goal season, scoring a hattie in game 82. And he’s second in scoring on the team behind breakout whiz Evgeni Kuznetsov.
The Caps are loaded up front, with some quality role players, they have a rock solid blueline and likely the 2015/16 Vezina Trophy winner in Braden Holtby. There is a great sense they are due for a long run; Ovechkin’s storied career calls out for this chapter.
The Flyers have been a plucky ‘can-do’ squad this year. Many pundits didn’t believe they would make the playoffs. Claude Giroux has been a dominant force and the hockey gods have been kind to Philadelphia.
Series winner: Capitals in five. Move aside Philly.
New York Islanders Vs. Florida Panthers
When Canada’s teams are clearing out their lockers, the Florida-freakin’-Panthers are barnstorming into the playoffs, led by 44-year-old Jaromir Jagr, one of the best feel-good stories of the NHL year.
Years of being really shitty, and having a shrewd GM in Dale Tallon (who pulled Chicago from the sewer), has paid major dividends for the Cats. They have a number of quality, dangerous forwards, and added some experience to that cast at the trade deadline. Roberto Luongo is playing some of the finest hockey of his career and a young, talented blueline is quality from one to six.
The Islanders are led by John Tavares and a number of other former high draft picks now in their early prime years. Travis (I need to go home) Hamonic appears to be almost ready to return to the blueline and that is about all I can say that borders on optimistic. The Isles appear to be ripe for a beating. Key injuries and poor play down the stretch don’t bode well for them.
Series winner: Florida in five games.
Minnesota Wild Vs. Dallas Stars
The Dallas Stars were one of the breakout teams of this season, finally getting all the elements of the game to click, aside from just offence. The team is led by a quality horse in second overall scoring leader Jamie Benn, and has some excellent secondary scoring in Jason Spezza and company. Sadly, rising stud scorer Tyler Seguin is on the shelf with an Achilles injury.
The Minnesota Wild barely made it into the playoffs – like Indiana Jones, they just managed to snatch their hat and get under the falling stone door. They are heading into the second season sans scoring leader Zac Parise and enigmatic, overpaid shlub Tomas Vanek. With Devon Dubnyk in goal – and in one of those zones he can enter – and with Ryan Suter and a decent D pushing a depleted forward group, the Wild might manage to win a game or two.
Series winner: The Stars will outgun the Wild in six games.
San Jose Sharks Vs. LA Kings
Here’s the other titanic series.
The San Jose Sharks have been one of the better teams down the stretch and the LA Kings appear to hitting their heavy, obnoxious stride.
Most pundits can’t stop gushing about the Kings and it’s easy to see why. They have perhaps the best all-around defender in the game in Drew Doughty, one the best goalies in the league in Jonathan Quick and a deep, diverse forward group that leans hard on opponents.
The Sharks have displayed a lethal offence that has gotten better as the season progressed. Big Joe Thornton has turned back the clock a few seasons and is his puck possessing/dishing best again, while Joe Pavelksi has been lights out. On the backend, Brent Burns should have been in on the Norris Trophy nomination discussion and the blueline is better than it looks on paper. James Reimer, free of the strangulating yoke in the circus that is Toronto, has been spot on in goal and young Martin Jones has been one of the best in the league this year.
This is going to be a fun series to watch.
Series winner: This will probably be my undoing in my pool, but I believe the Sharks are going to exorcise some recent playoff demons and wriggle past the Kings in a heated seven game series.
Nashville Predators Vs. Anaheim Ducks
The moody Anaheim Ducks, featuring Cranbrook’s own Scott Niedermayer as an assistant coach, have been one wild and crazy team this year. Favoured by many to be a team taking another step forward into the elite category, the Ducks opened the season by completely pooping the bed. Dead last for a stretch, it looked like everything was going up in smoke, like the way things went for ALL the Canadian teams. But a determined bunch emerged after about 20 silly games and the Ducks became mighty again. The team was again led by the daring duo of Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf, (who was asleep the first dozen games or so) and a decent group of forwards, some puck moving demons on D and steady goaltending. A potential harbinger of doom for the Ducks is the spate of recent injuries to their forwards.
Nashville also struggled out of the gate but righted things heading into the all-star break. The addition of Ryan Johansson from Columbus bolstered the club’s top six forwards and Filip Forsberg continues to blossom into a scoring threat every shift. Former KIJHL player Shea Weber still anchors one of the deepest bluelines in the league and Pekke Rinne can be a series stealer in goal.
This is the hardest series of the lot for me to pick a winner from. I really can see the Preds pulling off an upset. I can also see the Ducks waddling their big, heavy butts right to the finals. Flip dee coin!
Series winner: Ducks in seven games.
Cup finals prediction: Washington Vs. San Jose. Capitals win their first Stanley Cup.
Good luck poolies! And see ya tonight!