With the 2014-2015 regular season coming to a close in just about a month, there will only be a few more minor adjustments in the standings before the playoffs are finalized.
With the end of the season comes an exciting several weeks. Teams begin to clinch playoff positions, divisions and conferences. Others begin to separate themselves into the top percentages for the Draft Lottery.
Finally, first round playoff match-ups begin to clear from the cloudy place that is the top eight in the East and West. There are always some very intriguing possibilities that most fans would like to see come true, but often they get mixed up and never come to fruition.
This year, there are a ton of both entertaining and realistic possible first round match-ups. Let’s take a look at the three best series that could very well come true this April.
3: New York Rangers Vs New York Islanders
The Rangers and Islanders don’t quite have the same intensity as the Subway Series between the New York Mets and Yankees, but it could very well be garnering attention this year. Their last meeting this season at the Nassau Coliseum was a memorable one, with the Rangers coming from behind multiple times to eventually come away with a 6-5 win.
The New York teams haven’t met in the playoffs since 1994. In eight postseason meetings, the Islanders hold a 5-3 series advantage, winning 20 of those 39 games. In order for a ninth playoff series to occur this Spring, the Pittsburgh Penguins will likely have to heat up and capture the Metropolitan Division title, because it’s unlikely either of these teams will fall to a wildcard position.
These teams feature high end talent all over their rosters. Most notably, this series would feature two of the best offensive players in the NHL, this year. John Tavares currently leads the league in points, with 70 in 67 games. For the Rangers, Rick Nash has broken out this year again and is currently second in goals scored with 38, behind only Alex Ovechkin. This series definitely has the potential to be the best series in this year playoffs.
Prediction: New York Rangers win 4-2.
2: Montreal Canadiens Vs Boston Bruins
A classic battle of Original Six teams. All year long this series seemed like it couldn’t possibly come true, because how could the mighty Boston Bruins finish as the second Wild Card team in the Eastern Conference. But, here we are, with just 15 games or so left in the regular season, and this series is still slated to take place, with Montreal first in the East and Boston in the second wild card position.
These teams have met in the playoffs five times since 2004. Four of those series have gone the distance to seven games. Just last year, the Habs stunned the favourited Bruins by winning two straight elimination games to win in seven. This rivalry seems to be gaining momentum over the last few years, and it’s likely the most probable series to come true in this list.
Both teams are defensive minded, featuring two of the top goalies in the NHL, in Tuukka Rask and Carey Price. However, it’s been Price this year who has taken over the league, not only among goaltenders, but of all skaters. He currently looks like the favourite to win the Hart Trophy as league MVP. For this to happen, the teams must hold their current positions, with the Canadiens winning the Atlantic Division and Boston holding the second wild card position, which seems likely at this point in the season.
Prediction: Montreal Canadiens win 4-1.
1: Chicago Blackhawks Vs St. Louis Blues
These are two fast, skilled hockey clubs with a recent past that has included a ton of winning, albeit only Chicago’s has transferred into the postseason. They’ve been caught in the second and third place positions in the ridiculously strong Central Division all year, stuck behind Nashville. Should Nashville hold on to win the Central Division, it is very likely the Blackhawks and Blues would find each other in the first round again.
The Blackhawks and Blues don’t have a huge recent rivalry to speak of, but in the 1980-90’s, they played each other 8 times in 13 years. However, they’ve only met once in the playoffs since 2002. That one time was last spring, and it was a great one. The Blues took a commanding 2-0 series lead only the have the Blackhawks win the next four in a row to move on.
Quite possibly all around deepest teams in the NHL will no doubt result in a top notch series. Chicago is led by Patrick Kane, who was leading the league in points before his injury, and Jonathan Toews. For St. Louis, it’s a bunch of guys all over the roster. Up front, its mainly Vladimir Tarasenko, who’s 7th in points in the league. On defence, Kevin Shattenkirk was leading defensemen in points before his injury.
Prediction: Chicago Blackhawks win 4-3.
Which series do you want to see most? Discuss in the comments!
Contributor for the Toronto Maple Leafs and Prospects. Scout with the Oakville Blades of the OJHL. For questions, concerns, or comments, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or on twitter @SlawsonTHW.