16. Anaheim Ducks Goaltending Carousel
The Ducks are the top team in the West and are heading into the playoffs against the Dallas Stars. According to coach Bruce Boudreau, the Ducks could rotate 3 goalies in the playoffs. Jonas Hiller, Frederik Anderson, and John Gibson. That has never been done before, and if so, it would take a lot of confidence in the team in front of those 3 to win each game with a different goaltender.
15. Columbus made the Playoffs for just the 2nd time ever
Yes, the Blue Jackets are in, and it’s just the 2nd time ever in franchise history. They haven’t had much luck since they were founded in 1997, and began play in 2000.
In fact, they only time they have ever made the playoffs was in the 2008-2009 season when the Detroit Red Wings swept them in the first round. This time around, they’ll play the Pittsburgh Penguins.
14. Ryan Miller in the West
The last time Ryan Miller saw past the first round of the playoffs was in 2006-2007 when the Buffalo Sabres lost to the Ottawa Senators in the Eastern Conference Finals. Since then, the Sabres qualified twice for the playoffs (2009-10, 2010-11), losing in the first round to the Bruins and Flyers.
Seeing Ryan Miller, and what he can do backing a dangerous St. Louis Blues team will be fantastic to watch.
The New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers started a physical rivalry back in the 1970s and 1980s, carried a bit into the 1990s, but the teams haven’t met in the playoffs since the 1996-97 season. The teams split the season series this year, racking up 191 penalty minutes in four games this year, including 8 fighting majors.
If you want chippy, physical, and fast hockey, the city of Brotherly Love and the Big Apple will clash like the teams of old, igniting possibly a renewal of this once great rivalry.
12. San Jose-Los Angeles Matchup
These Pacific Division rivals squared off five times this year, and although San Jose is the better team, the Kings beat them 3 times this year. The past two games have been low scoring games, but the other three saw at least 5 goals scored.
The Sharks have yet to win a Stanley Cup, while the Kings have the better part of their core that won it in in 2011. These two teams will beat up on each other for at least four games, but don’t be surprised if this goes to six or seven.
11. Patrick Roy leads his Avalanche into the postseason
Who would’ve thought? One year after finishing dead last in the Western Conference and the fifth worst attendance in the league, the Colorado Avalanche tabbed former Hall of Fame goaltender Patrick Roy took the helm and pushed the Avs into the postseason as the top team in the Central Division. Roy is the leading candidate to win the Jack Adams award, and for very good reason.
The Avalanche are fourth in the league in goals per game and is set to face the Minnesota Wild, who have put up a good fight this year, but lost four out of five games against the Avs this year.
10. Alfredsson’s farwell season
There’s no guarantee that Daniel Alfredsson will be back next year, and at age 41, it’s possible this could be his last season. If he were with Ottawa, the chance of winning the Stanley Cup would be 0%, while he has at least a 1% chance with the Red Wings who are up against the Bruins in the first round.
9. Red Wings 23rd Consecutive Playoff Appearance
The Red Wings have mad the playoffs 23 straight years, and that’s currently the longest streak in professional sports. They are six seasons away from tying the Bruins for 29 consecutive years in the playoffs.
It wasn’t easy, especially with all of the injuries they suffered, but a newer, younger team has led the way, with some veteran leadership. A matchup against the Bruins will be interesting.
8. Teemu Selanne Farwell Tour
This is Selanne’s last season, and being on the top team in the West is the best thing he can ask for. Matching up against the Dallas Stars, a pesky team that just won’t go away, should be easy even though the Stars beat the Ducks twice this season.
Selanne deserves to go out on top after his Hall of Fame worthy career, and don’t be surprised if the Ducks go far in the playoffs.
7. Zach Parise and Ryan Suter playoffs: Take Two
Last year the Wild were ousted in five games to the eventual Stanley Cup Champion Blackhawks in the first round, and they didn’t really stand a chance. This year, they fare no better against the Avalanche, but with a better goaltender, and some better secondary scoring and defense, they have a slightly better chance.
6. Carey Price
After leading Canada to the Gold Medal in Sochi this past February, Price now has the chance to backstop his team to a Stanley Cup this postseason. Price was injured after the Olympic Break, but he won 8 of the last 11 games he played down the stretch.
He has the skills, and clearly showing that he can stand tall under pressure, the playoffs against the Tampa Bay Lightning without star goaltender Ben Bishop should be a breeze for Price and the Canadiens.
5. Chicago’s Scorers
There are four Blackhawks players in the top 25 of scoring this year. Sharp, Kane, Hossa, and Toews all have scored a combined 120 goals on the season, making it the most for any combined teammates in the top 25. These four players make the Hawks a dangerous team to face in the first round, and Miller should be nervous facing Chicago in the first round.
6. Marc-Andre Fleury Rebound
Can Fleury rebound after an atrocious 2013 playoffs? In fact, he has had an atrocious playoffs every year since he won the Stanley Cup in 2009 with the Penguins. He’s had a less than .900 save percentage since ’09.
Statistically, this is one of Fleury’s better seasons, but can he carry it into the playoffs? Against the Blue Jackets, anything is possible, but the scrappy team backstopped by the reigning Vezina Trophy winner is no small task.
5. Lightning back in the Playoffs
The Tampa Bay Lightning are back in the playoffs since 2010-2011, when they lost to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference Finals. This time, they don’t have their leader Martin St. Louis, who they traded to New York for Ryan Callahan, and are now without star goaltender Ben Bishop. Good news is they have Latvian Olympian, Kirsters Gudlevskis to backup Anders Lindback. They have a shot, and now lead by Steven Stamkos, the Lightning have a slight shot against Canadiens.
4. The fans
The fans of the NHL are probably the craziest, but most loyal fans in all of sports. They have certain pregame rituals, are superstitious, and will do anything to give their team the advantage when they play.
3. Red-Wings Bruins Matchup
The last time these two Original Six teams met in the playoffs was 1957. Ted Lindsay was a rookie that year, and both teams played in their original arenas (Olympia Stadium and Boston Garden).
The Bruins are the best team in the league, while the Red Wings squeaked in for the 23rd consecutive year. The Bruins have size and a lot of experience, while the Red Wings have speed and youth. Which one will prevail? Experience or youth?
2. Five Original Six Teams are in
Boston, Montreal, New York, Detroit, and Chicago are all in this year, which makes for a real possibility of seeing yet another Original Six Stanley Cup Final.
We would see all six if Toronto decided to not implode down the stretch, and we will see a first round Original Six matchup between the Detroit Red Wings and the Boston Bruins.
1. Because it’s the Cup
All of these teams are vying for the top prize in all of sports, the Stanley Cup. It weighs 35 lbs. but every player has said when they lift it, it feels weightless. Watching the winning team at the end hoist the cup that every team covets is a great sight to watch.