Stephen’s Kneejerk Playoff Reactions: 2016 Edition, Round One

I am not all that good at predicting sports, as my perennial failings in all thing fantasy sports can attest. If you need more proof, check out my March Madness bracket from this year. But this is the Internet, and you can say whatever you want without need for competence or qualifications. So here are my playoff predictions…

(1) Dallas Mavericks vs. (WC2) Minnesota Wild

The season series was close, and the Stars squad is fairly green when it comes to playoff experience, but the Wild are also the team with the lowest point total to make the playoffs from either conference and are coming off a five-game losing streak. Despite young gun Seguin being questionable, the Stars are simply too much of an offensive powerhouse for me to think the Wild have any serious shot, barring some Cinderella magic from new coach Mike Yeo. Sorry, Minnesota…

Stars in 5

(2) St. Louis Blues vs. (3) Chicago Blackhawks

A highly touted St. Louis team facing a downward trending Hawks squad. Where have we seen this before…? St. Louis has a lot going for it, but playoff consistency is not among their strengths. Chicago has strongman Duncan Keith coming off a league-mandated rest period suspension for attempted murder a questionable slash and just generally seems to make impossible things happen in the postseason. Granted, they are 0-8-4 against fellow Western Conference playoff teams since a February 6 win over Dallas. But at this point, stats don’t matter. Freaking Hawks…

Hawks in 7

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Oh God, not again…

(1) Anaheim Ducks vs. (WC1) Nashville Predators

I liked the Ducks in my preseason predictions and that applies here, too. The Predators have been making some solid postseason pushes in recent years, and Boudreau has a knack for playoff chokes, but I think the Ducks are too good of a squad for another early round exit. I’m sticking with my gut: this is the Year of the Duck.

Ducks in 4

(2) Los Angeles Kings vs. (3) San Jose Sharks

Even-year Kings versus the reigning champions of playoff underperformance? Do I even need to respond? Quick has gotten some solid ROI on the whole “selling his soul” deal.

Kings in 6

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Please God, let it be someone new…

(1) Florida Panthers vs. (WC1) New York Islanders

The Panthers have taken the league by storm this year, led by the perennially talented, perennially sexy Jaromir Jagr. The Islanders, meanwhile, are coming off an exciting race to the bottom with their fellow New York team (which I insist stemmed from a latent fear on the Penguins). That said, the Islanders have played the spoiler role before and if any East Coast wild card team has a shot to move on, it’s the Islanders. So let’s make this my bold prediction!

Islanders in 7

(2) Tampa Bay Lightning vs. (3) Detroit Red Wings

The Lightning are essentially a triage unit on skates at this point, missing, among others, Stamkos and Stralman. Meanwhile, the Wings rallied to make this their 25th straight playoff appearance, and are trying their damnedest to win one last Cup for Pavel Datsyuk, who has made it clear he’s gone after this year. The Lightning have made it clear they’re rallying around their injured teammates, and if this were a Disney-produced sports movie, they’d probably go all the way. However, this is real life.

Wings in 5

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Hey, look! It’s Stamkos and his new wingers!

(1) Washington Capitals vs. (WC2) Philadelphia Flyers

The Flyers earned their playoff spot by being slightly better than a heavily regressing Bruins squad and beating the Penguins as they rested most of their starters. As a reward, they face what is essentially the hockey version of a T-1000 Terminator. “But Stephen,” you retort, “the T-1000 dies in the end.” Right you are, but in this reproduction, the Flyers are no Arnold. At best, they are John Connor’s foster dad. This is going to be a massacre.

Capitals in 4, but possibly with casualties

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(2) Pittsburgh Penguins vs. (3) New York Rangers

Since March, the Penguins are 16-5 with 3.8 goals per game. Replacement coach Mike Sullivan has managed to undo all the damage done by fired coach Mike Johnston’s rigid system and create four lines of goal-scoring terror. Keep in mind this is without a healthy Evgeni Malkin. Goaltending depth issues have begun to rear their head, but as of Monday, rumors are swirling that starter Marc-Andre Fleury (who suffered a concussion on March 31) will be ready to start game 1. The Pens will have to crack Henrik Lundqvist in playoff mode, a challenge they have failed to overcome in years past. But those teams didn’t have a healthy core of forwards or a beast-mode Letang. I’m a homer to be sure, but the Pens are coming. Be afraid, Rangers. Be very afraid.

Pens in 5

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