Sunday, 23 April 2017

The Math Begins

With the Marcus Johansson goal in Toronto tonight, that will end the opening round of the rather surprising NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs. If one was a betting person, I'm not certain that anyone would have predicted the Nashville Predators sweeping the Chicago Blackhawks or the Anaheim Ducks sweeping the Calgary Flames, but the bigger surprise to me were the 18 overtime games we saw! If Gary Bettman wanted parity, those 18 games of extra time might be a prime example of that. In any case, the HBIC Playoff Pool leaderboard will go up tomorrow and we'll see who had themselves a solid first round of predictions!

I'll have the next spreadsheet posted at the bottom of the leaderboard, and you may want to note the URL or make it a favorite to check the leaderboard after each round. With no hockey until Wednesday, you'll have lots of time to check and recheck your next round of entries, and I'll post the honorable mentions on Tuesday in giving some kudos to those who did well in each opening round series. Be prepared to see your names in lights... potentially!

With everyone's brackets busted - thanks, Chicago! - from what I've read on Twitter, I'm quite certain everyone will adjust their picks to reflect a Washington-Anaheim Stanley Cup Final since they are the best teams left. If you learned anything from the opening round, though, it might not be such a wise plan to count out Nashville who seemed to enjoy handing the Blackhawks some early tee times. I'm not saying that St. Louis will be as much of a pushover, but Nashville has had a lot of preparation time for their next opponent.

On the other side, the Ottawa-New York Rangers series will be interesting in that Mike Zibanejad and Derrick Brassard will face their old teams and try to make those respective GMs regret that trade. If New York happens to get past the Senators, there will be all-Metropolitan Division Eastern Conference Final which is appropriate considering how good that division was this season. I'm not saying one should count on this result, though, as the Senators somehow found their defibrillation machine and re-energized Bobby Ryan.

Of course, Anaheim and Edmonton will throw haymakers at one another as these two heavyweights in the Pacific Division renew acquaintances. Anaheim is faster and slightly bigger than San Jose, but certainly less skilled on paper. Edmonton is faster and more skilled than Anaheim, but there will be questions on how much punishment that their forwards can take. Personally, I see this series going six or seven games with the winner of Game Five taking the series.

Finally, the annual meeting between the two Metropolitan Division foes in the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins happens in Round Two, and this might be the series that defines Alex Ovechkin's career. It's almost certain that this Capitals team will be broken up due to salary cap concerns at the end of this season with players like TJ Oshie, Karl Alzner, Justin Williams, and Kevin Shattenkirk all facing unrestricted free agency. They will be the favorites against Pittsburgh despite everything that's happened in the past, so it will be interesting to see how they approach this series knowing that the Penguins basically have been awaiting this opportunity since the trade deadline.

If the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs was exciting, this upcoming round could be very interesting with the storylines developing. If you're part of the HBIC Playoff Pool, you certainly have a lot to think about when it comes to how these series may play out and whether or not you want to risk any points in the "RISK IT" option.

Until tomorrow's leaderboard is tabulated, keep your sticks on the ice!

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