April 14 2016 01:00PM
It's the battle of the North Stars!
In one corner, we have the Dallas Stars. Often accused of being weak on the backend, this season, they decided not to care and went on to become the best of the West in the regular season, their 50 wins behind only the Washington Capitals. They scored more goals than everybody else with 267, and they also picked up Kris Russell at the deadline, ensuring Calgary would be cheering for them (for the first two rounds, at least).
In the other corner, we have the Minnesota Wild. Making the playoffs with just a paltry 87 points, they beat out the Colorado Avalanche for that final wild card spot in the West, securing it by five whole points. They're well behind the rest of the playoff teams, though - even the Detroit Red Wings have 93 - so their lacklustre regular season may see them in tough in this first round matchup.
April 13 2016 02:00PM
The battle of the Central Division is here with the St. Louis Blues facing the Chicago Blackhawks. We ask: who will take the series?
Will it be the upward trending Blues carrying a 8-2-0 record in their last ten games played? St. Louis looks strong and poised to succeed where they have failed before, but the Blues have a history of falling short on expectations in the playoffs. Will it be the consistently post-season dominant Blackhawks who can never be counted as out? Chicago is not the dominant team of 2013, but neither were the 2015 Stanley Cup Winning Hawks either.
April 13 2016 01:00PM
The Washington Capitals were the run away favourites of the East. The Philadelphia Flyers, in contrast, squeaked into the playoffs thanks to an unlikely late season charge. This should be one of the biggest mismatches of the 2016 playoffs, but this series may turn out to be closer than what seems apparent when glancing at their regular season results.
April 12 2016 03:18PM
Well, here it is! The Florida Panthers vs. New York Islanders playoff series that we've all been anticipating and gushing over for years!
In one corner, we have the Panthers from Sunrise, Florida, making their fifth playoff appearance in franchise history and their first since 2012. Thanks to excellent play from Roberto Luongo and the ageless wonder Jaromir Jagr, the Panthers had their most successful season in franchise history, and are looking to go on their first major playoff run since they clawed their way to the Cup Final back in 1996. In the other corner, we have the Islanders from Brooklyn, who are looking to do better than they did last year when they lost to the Washington Capitals in seven games. The Islanders haven't won a playoff series since 1993, so regardless of what happens here, somebody's slump is going to be busted.
April 12 2016 02:00PM
Remember when Pittsburgh was looking like they might miss the playoffs? Those days are long gone, and the Penguins hit the ground running after a midseason coaching change as one of the league's hottest teams heading into their first-round matchup with the New York Rangers.
Phil Kessel never scored the 50+ goals some thought he might (he scored 26), but a second-half "rebound" from Sidney Crosby saw him sit third in league scoring and lead a strong playoff push. The team finished with 104 points, good enough for second in the Metropolitan Division. Besides Crosby and Kessel, Evgeni Malkin (when healthy) and Patric Hornqvist added 27 and 22 goals each. The Penguins' 241 goals ranked third in the league.
The Rangers, on the other hand, boasted five 20-goal scorers (Derick Brassard, Mats Zuccarello, JT Miller, Chris Kreider, and Derek Stepan) in one of the more well-balanced attacks in the league, which ranked seventh in total goals. The team had its own surprises throughout the year, as likely the player with the most offensive talent on their team, Rick Nash, picked up just 36 points in 60 games, after potting 42 goals in 79 games the year before. The Rangers picked up 101 points.
Both teams were full of shocks this year, but once the season came to an end, neither team could be too disappointed with their placing in the standings. All in all, the teams come in fairly evenly matched up in their performances this year over 82 games, in what has all the makings of a classic first-round series.
As you'll recall, these teams faced each other in each of the past two playoffs, with the Rangers coming out on top both times in last year's first round (4-1) and in the conference semifinals in 2014 (4-3.)