April 26 2017 10:49AM
© Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Stanley Cup Final.
Well, not actually, because anything can happen, a key player can get injured, a goalie can get hot, and a surprise team can win, but the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins are clearly the two best teams in the NHL. They finished with the best and second best records during the regular season, their underlying numbers match it, and whoever comes out of this series will become the favourite to win it all.
The Penguins have been the obstacle in the path to success for the Capitals forever now. Ever since Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby entered the league in 2005-06, the Penguins have come out on top. Last season, Pittsburgh beat Washington in what was as tight and well played of a series as you'll see en route to their second Stanley Cup in the Crosby era. In fact, Washington has only even beaten Pittsburgh in a playoff series once in franchise history, and that came back in 1994.
We ask every single season, but can this be Washington's year? Can Alex Ovechkin finally beat Sidney Crosby? This might be his best — and last — chance.
April 26 2017 09:28AM
There's only one Conn Smythe, but that doesn't mean we can't hand out our own playoff MVP awards. Let's take one last look back on the first round, and hand out an award for each winning team's most valuable player.
Ottawa Senators - Erik Karlsson: He averaged a point a game,
averaging over 30 minutes played each game, and was second on the team
with a 60.55 xGF%.
April 25 2017 05:00PM
PHOTO CREDIT: ERIC HARTLINE-USA TODAY SPORTS
The Oilers assigned Jesse Puljujarvi to Finland’s World Championship team last week, ending his rookie season in North America. Puljujarvi, along with Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine, was thought of as one of the three 2016 draftees who were NHL-ready going into the season. Matthews and Laine had amazing rookie campaigns, but Puljujarvi’s wasn’t on the same level, spending time in both Edmonton and AHL Bakersfield this year. Puljujarvi didn’t have the same immediate impact as a Matthews or Laine, or even a Tkachuk. He didn’t dress in every game and he didn’t play much when did, averaging only 11:15 minutes.
April 25 2017 02:04PM
© Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
And here begins the only predictable second round matchup. It was easy picking both of these teams to advance to the second round, as they both dominated the Western Conference this year. Both of these teams are unstoppable monsters, and even though it will also be a close series, I can only see Chicago coming out of it and winning the Cup.
Wait, this isn't Chicago and Minnesota? But I was told by everyone that Chicago was going to the Cup finals, even though Chicago-Nashville was still going to be a close series, and if not them, then Minnesota. Wait, Chicago got swept? Minnesota almost did too? Then who am I previewing? St. Louis-Nashville? Well, this will be more interesting.
April 25 2017 12:06PM
If you needed a reminder that the playoffs are mostly a complete and total crapshoot, you needn’t look any further than what just transpired over the last few weeks. Boston, out. Chicago, out. Minnesota, out. The teams with the third, fourth, and fifth best records in the league are already done.
Still, though, the postseason has always been full of surprises, and this year was no different. From emotional comebacks, to the fall of a once great empire, to the emergence of new ones, round one of the 2017 NHL playoffs had it all. Here’s a look back at the East, series by series, at the two weeks that were.