Playoff Picture Finally Set

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.

Bryan Bickell

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.

Playoff Bound

In what has already proven to be an interesting season, we are getting closer and closer to the start of the playoffs. Just weeks away from the regular season ending, we are seeing more and more teams by the day securing their spot in the race to win the ultimate trophy, the Stanley Cup.

With the past few days, four elite teams have punched their tickets and started their preparations for the grueling four round playoffs. Not surprisingly, the Chicago Blackhawks, Washington Capitals, and Pittsburgh Penguins are of the teams that have a guaranteed spot. The surprising addition to the list is the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Since hiring John Tortorella as head coach, the Blue Jackets have completely turned their team and structure around. Being somewhat of a forgotten team in past season, the Jackets have climbed their way from the bottom of the leader board to clinching a playoff spot in the most competitive division in the NHL, the Metropolitan.

In general, this NHL season has seen a shift in team standings. Once revered as one of the best and most consistent team in the league, the Detroit Red Wings find themselves in a very unfamiliar position, out of the playoffs and at the bottom of the conference, only above the New Jersey Devils. With a coaching change and a 25 consecutive playoff appearance run flushed down the toilet, the team are in desperate need for a change next year.

Although they hadn’t had an almost mythical playoff run like the Red Wings, the Colorado Avalanche were shaping up to be a good team these past years. With good, young talent coming through the ranks, they were destined for greatness. But unfortunately this greatness never came, at least not yet. With so much young talent, it is easy for a team to lose their way, especially after different coaches coming and going. Hopefully next season will prove to be more positive after they bring new talent to the team. Standing at the last position in the league with only 43, god knows they need some help.

Of course it is fun to see the best teams in league compete against eachother for the cup, but when it is the same teams year after year, it tends to become a bit mundane. Even if its just one or two teams that are added into the mix, it brings a new sense of excitement. The unknown becomes a factor, will the team succeed or be swallowed up by the big dogs in the first round? The Stanley Cup playoffs don’t really need any more excitement and hype than it already has, but the new questions are fun to think about.