May 1, 2013 by ussportsfanuk
With the strike shortened NHL regular season over we can now look forward to the ‘second season’, a title that seems particularly fitting this year as the Stanley Cup finalists could end up playing over half as many games in the playoffs as they did during the whole regular season!
Certain teams look strong going into the playoffs, as they have all season. Teams like the Pittsburgh Penguins and Chicago Blackhawks are examples of this with both looking the strongest teams in the Conference from early on. There are some teams who looked good early but have struggled more recently with the Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens perhaps being the best examples. Bothe these teams could struggle in the playoffs based on their more recent play but if they can find their early form from the first half of the season then both could be capable of going far in the post season. Then there are teams who have improved as the season has gone and could do well in the playoffs if their better form can continue, like the Los Angeles Kings.
Another feature of the playoffs this year is the return of the Toronto Maple Leafs and New York Islanders to post season action. Both teams have been out of the playoffs for too long and, although both face tough looking match ups, they could cause an upset.
The Eastern Conference has been perhaps the less predictable this season. In a previous post at the start of the season I did my predictions for who would make the playoffs. Although I got 7 of the 8 right in the West, I only correctly guessed 4 from the Eastern Conference. I also predicted the New York Rangers to beat the St. Louis Blues in the Stanley Cup Final which I now really can’t see happening. Although the Penguins and Blackhawks do clearly look the strongest teams in each Conference I don’t see both No. 1 seeds making the Final. I do think the Penguins will make it but think the Blackhawks will miss out to the Vancouver Canucks in the West. As for the winners, the wait for a Stanley Cup will continue for the Canucks as the Penguins win it in 5 games. Now I have gone against my original prediction it will probably end up being the Rangers and the Blues after all!