The 2016-17 NHL regular season has officially ended, which means we are finally in playoffs. After an interesting regular season, there are some new faces in the playoff picture this year, and some new match ups. The first round will go as follows.
Chicago Blackhawks vs. Nashville Predators
Minnesota Wild vs. St. Louis Blues
Anaheim Ducks vs. Calgary Flames
Edmonton Oilers vs. San Jose Sharks
Montreal Canadiens vs. New York Rangers
Ottawa Senators vs. Boston Bruins
Washington Capitals vs. Toronto Maple Leafs
Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Columbus Blue Jackets
The teams in bold are obviously the teams that I think will move onto the next round. Of course the Pittsburgh Penguins are a team that no matter what, I have to root for, but teams like the Capitals and Blackhawks should breeze through the first round.
The long shot for me will be the Edmonton-San Jose series and the Montreal-New York series. With Edmonton being so young, the question is whether they can handle the pressure. Riding high on the Art Ross Trophy Winner Connor McDavid, I think their speed and incredible talent will put them over San Jose. In the finals last year the Sharks proved they are a hard hitting and tough team, they were ultimately beat by Pittsburgh speed and finesse, which I think will happen with Edmonton.
With so many new faces in the mix this year, it is hard to know how teams will stand up to one another. We will have to wait for the first games to see just how these teams step up to the plate.
Although the Carolina Hurricanes are not in the playoffs this year, they win the prize for the most emotional and heartfelt moment this season. After being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis earlier in the season, Bryan Bickell finally made his return to the lineup to compete in the last four games in the season. In a highly emotional interview, fans of the league and of the team were brought to tears as Bickell struggled to get through the interview. After a charity run attended by his teammates, Bickell made the announcement that he would be hanging up his skates to focus on his treatment and his family. In a moment that could only happen in hockey, Bickell’s last NHL moment was scoring a shootout goal to help the Canes win their final game of the season. Our hats are off to you Mr. Bickell on a great career and an even greater impact on the game. Hopefully we can all be #Bickellbrave like you.
With the regular season ending, we are seeing the last of some iconic places and faces in the league. We are saying goodbye to one of the best hockey arenas in the country, Joe Louis Arena in Detroit. We may be saying goodbye to the legendary coach Lindy Ruff after he and the Dallas Stars have parted ways after a lack luster season. And we are saying goodbye to great players who are saying goodbye to the game like; Patrik Elias, Barret Jackman and of course Bryan Bickell. I predict that after playoffs, even more players will be ending their careers.
All we can do now is enjoy the spectacle that is playoff hockey and hope that our teams goes far (Pittsburgh better repeat) and that we don’t lose to much to the expansion draft that is looming.