Oregon Sports News 2016-2017 Stanley Cup Preview

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The Stanley Cup Playoffs begin tonight five games on the networks of NBC, and this year’s tournament brings some supremely good news: Canada, after missing out entirely this year, is back.

Five of Canada’s seven teams – Montreal, Edmonton, Calgary, Ottawa, and Toronto – are in. Detroit, on the other hand, for the first time in 25 years, is not. Their rebuild can now begin in earnest

As the Red Wings well know, there’s nothing like playoff hockey. Below are previews and picks for all eight of the first round series.

Eastern Conference

Montreal vs. New York Rangers

What You Need To Know:

  1. Montreal made one of the biggest trades in recent NHL history when they shipped P.K. Subban to Nashville for Shea Weber in the offseason. So far, it’s worked. The Canadians, after missing the playoffs last year, won their division with ease.
  1. This might be something of a last push for an aging Rangers team, whose core lost to the LA Kings in the final three years ago
  1. Montreal can struggle to generate offense, so they’ll need their defense – the league’s third best – to be stingy in front of Carey Price.

Thing To Watch: Goaltending. Henrik Lundqvist hasn’t always played well in Quebec, but he’ll need to be at his best for the Rangers to win this series.

The Pick: Habs in 6.

 

Pittsburgh vs. Columbus

What You Need To Know:

  1. The NHL’s wacky playoff structure has given us a first round matchup between Pittsburgh, who finished second in the East, and Columbus, who finished third. It’s a bad system, and both teams can feel hard done by.
  1. This is – by far – the best team in Blue Jackets history. Leaving this postseason without winning a series for the first time in franchise history would be a massive disappointment.
  1. This series pits the league’s best offense in Pittsburgh against its best goaltender in Columbus’ Sergei Bobrovsky.

Thing To Watch: How damaging will the loss of Kris Letang be for Pittsburgh?

The Pick: Pens in 7.

 

Ottawa vs. Boston

What You Need To Know:

  1. The Bruins return to the playoffs after a two-year absence, and, despite a middling record, have a very good matchup against the Senators.
  1. Ottawa’s goaltender Craig Anderson didn’t get his chance at as an everyday NHL starter until he was 29 years old, and now, at 35, he’s playing the best hockey of his career. He’s his team’s best hope in this series.
  1. The Senators – despite finishing the season with a negative goal differential – have been finding a way all season. Home ice will be important.

Thing To Watch: Patrice Bergeron is having a vintage season, and he’s always been a phenomenal playoff performer.

The Pick: B’s in 6.

 

Washington vs. Toronto

What You Need To Know:

  1. Austin Matthews and Mike Babcock have made hockey fun again in Toronto. The Leafs aren’t going to win this series, but they’re going to be in the playoffs every year for the next decade.
  1. Washington has torn through the league this year. They’re the favorites going in.
  1. The Capitals have had their fair share of spectacular playoff collapses in the Ovechkin era, but if Toronto were to win this series, it would be one of the greatest upsets in league history.

Thing To Watch: It should be a high-scoring series. Both teams can fly.

The Pick: ‘Caps in 5.

 

Western Conference

Chicago vs. Nashville

What You Need To Know:

  1. After falling in the first round last year, the Blackhawks’ core of Towes, Kane, and Keith is ready make a serious run at a fourth Cup.
  1. The ‘Hawks also played the ‘Preds – and won in 6 – on their way to the championship two years ago.
  1. Nashville knows Chicago exceptionally well. They won’t be intimidated.

Thing To Watch: Subban, now in Nashville, remains one of the best players to watch in the league.

The Pick: ‘Hawks in 6.

 

San Jose vs. Edmonton

What You Need To Know:

  1. Connor McDavid – at 20 years old – is the Oilers’ captain and perhaps the best player in the NHL. He’s a once-in-a-generation player.
  1. The Sharks made a great run last year – winning the Western Conference before running into the Penguins in the Stanley Cup Final – but they haven’t been sharp of late.
  1. This is Oilers’ first playoff series in a decade. Like Winnipeg a few years ago, the atmosphere in Edmonton should be electric.

Thing To Watch: McDavid, McDavid, McDavid – the playoff bow of the game’s next superstar.

The Pick: Oilers in 6.

 

Anaheim vs. Calgary

What You Need To Know:

  1. The Ducks have been unable to get over the hump in the Western Conference, losing game sevens the last three years. They enter the playoffs on a 14-game unbeaten streak.
  1. The Ducks eliminated the Flames last time Calgary was in the playoffs in 2015. This is an older Flames team, but they enter this series playing their worst hockey of the season.
  1. Anaheim fired Bruce Boudreau last season for failing to win those game sevens. Randy Carlyle, who led the team to the Cup ten years ago, was hired to right that wrong.

Thing To Watch: Young Johnny Gaudreau was sensational last time Calgary was in the playoffs.

The Pick: Ducks in 5.

 

Minnesota vs. St. Louis

What You Need To Know:

  1. This series pits the Wild against their former coach Mike Yeo, who took over in St. Louis midseason after Ken Hitchcock was fired.
  1. Minnesota has had a phenomenal year, and they’re as deep as any team in the league – but goalkeeper Devan Dubnyk struggled down the stretch.
  1. St. Louis could use a lift after losing the Rams and missing out on a chance to land an MLS team, while Minnesota hasn’t had one of its teams make a final game or series since Kirby Puckett led the ’91 Twins to the World Series.

Thing To Watch: Boudreau, now with Minnesota, has made the playoffs eight times as an NHL coach without reaching the Stanley Cup Final. Could this be the year it changes?

The Pick: Wild in 5.

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