Don't you love this time of the year? Spring! As a sports fan there may not be any better time to get enriched in sports culture. March Madness has just wrapped up. The NBA season is coming to a close. The MLB season is just beginning (which is the best time to get excited as a fan). Oh...and of course NHL Playoffs are set to start. What a great 6-8 weeks stretch we get sports fans!!!
Last season the playoffs began just after I moved to Calgary. The timing was perfect. I was in a new city and my new home was at a heightened state of excitement with the Flames in the playoffs. I was even fortunate enough to attend 3 of the Flames 5 home playoff games. It was my first time experiencing playoff hockey action (at the NHL level anyway) in person. And I loved every second of it!!
Of course this year will be a bit more sombre around Calgary. Well across Canada to be honest. No Canadian teams qualified for the playoffs this season. Almost unheard of right? Shocking to say the least. This is only the second time in the history of the league we have witnessed this heartbreak, with the other being in 1970! But before you get all down on Canada let's also remember a majority of players skating on the ice for the playoffs still bleed the Red and White and proudly support the Maple Leaf on a daily basis. While the physical Canadian cities may be absent from the playoffs, there will be no shortage of Canadian talent to cheer for if you find your team already eliminated.
I love the opening round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Round 1 usually produces some of the best games throughout the entire Road to the Stanley Cup...and often sees the most upsets. Last year was the first year I went full-on with round by round predictions. If you want a reminder on how I did in the opening round (pretty darn good by the way), check it out HERE. One note I made leading up to my predictions was saying upsets would happen out West and great games (with no upsets) would reign supreme out East. I'd call that 2 for 2 as all the higher seeds prevailed in the East and 3 of the 4 lower seeds won out in the West.
Maybe last season was a fluke you say? Let's look at 2014. Again, 3 of the 4 lower seeds prevailed out West and 3 of the 4 higher seeds won out East. Hmmm....I'd start calling that a trend wouldn't you? And how is this for a mind boggle? Even though the top West teams seem to often lose in the opening round, West is still best when it comes to hoisting Lord Stanley. The West has won the last 4 Stanley Cups (Chicago and LA both taking home two). Over the past 10 seasons, the East has only prevailed 3 times (Carolina 2006, Pittsburgh 2009, Boston 2011). If these trends teach us anything it should be to pick chalk out East, mess it up out West but know even the best in the East will fall to the middle of the West in the end.
Ok, enough of my ranting and raving. Let's get on to the fun part. The predictions! Let's see if #TwineTime can stay on the ice long enough to score some points this opening round.
EASTERN (Chalk Talk) CONFERENCE
(1) Washington Capitals vs. (WC) Philadelphia Flyers
#TwineTime pick: Capitals over Flyers - 5 games
(2) Pittsburgh Penguins vs. (3) New York Rangers
#TwineTime pick: Penguins over Rangers - 6 games
(1) Florida Panthers vs. (WC) New York Islanders
#TwineTime pick: Panthers over Islanders - 7 games
(2) Tampa Bay Lightning vs. (3) Detroit Red Wings
#TwineTime pick: Red Wings over Lightning - 6 games
WESTERN (Upset City?) CONFERENCE
(1) Dallas Stars vs. (WC) Minnesota Wild
#TwineTime pick: Stars over Wild - 5 games
(2) St. Louis Blues vs. (3) Chicago Blackhawks
#TwineTime pick: Blackhawks over Blues - 6 games
(1) Anaheim Ducks vs. (WC) Nashville Predators
#TwineTime pick: Ducks over Predators - 6 games
(2) LA Kings vs. (3) San Jose Sharks
#TwineTime pick: Kings over Sharks - 7 games
Share your thoughts on my predictions and don't be shy to share your's as well either in the comments below or hit me up on twitter. If you really want to test your hockey knowledge, accept the #BeatTheBlogger Challenge and join my #TwineTime NHL Bracket Challenge Group. See if you can outwit, outpredict and outlast this sports blogger. Most importantly, enjoy the opening round action. If past history teaches us anything it's that come round two....we will begging for the excitement of round one!
Also, don't forget to come back the #TwineTime homepage often to vote YOUR team as the favourite to win the Stanley Cup this year. Vote now....vote often....vote daily! Support your team....or at least the team you selected in your bracket. Voting will remain open for the full run of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs.