The NHL season is quickly winding down as teams finish out there final four or five games. The playoff picture seems to be coming clear. With it, it’s hard not to get excited for some of the possibilites. Sure we won’t get a Flyers-Penguins matchup again, but there are still some interesting possibilites.
In this post we’ve gone through the different possibilities and are only going to be looking at the ones that have a higher than 20% chance according to Sports Club Stats and are calculated before Saturday’s games.. When considering “interesting” we have a few criteria here namely historical rivalry, even match-up, and intriguing storyline.
The Least Interest Match-ups: With all due respect to these teams and athletes, these five matchups would probably be at the bottom of the priority list.
Boston Bruins vs. New York Islanders – Can a series end in three?
Washington Capitals vs. Ottawa Senators – Capital series…I guess
Vancouver Canucks vs. St. Louis – Would the underdogs be the favourites?
#5. Los Angeles Kings vs San Jose Sharks
Probability of Occurring: 22.2%
Sure these two have the very manufactured “Battle of California” thing going on, and sure they had a fun series a few years back but things are very different. Since then the Sharks have declined and the Kings have improved leaps and bounds. Even though this series would be a 4-5 matchup, it would be a clear curb-stomping. The Kings outmatch the Sharks in virtually every category, especially grit and clutch, which are the two most important things in the playoffs.
#4. Washington Capitals vs. Toronto Maple Leafs
Probability of Occurring: 23.1%
If the Leafs continue their little slide and the Caps keep their charge, this series could be quite likely as the 3-6 matchup in the East. Oddly these two teams have never met in the playoffs, which is a little strange considering how long they have both been around for. These two squads both have goaltenders who are young and looking to prove that they are for real. Of course that could be an interesting storyline, but a series victory for either Holtby or Reimer wouldn’t go too far towards proving anything, just that they were less terrible than the other one. Although it would be kind of fun to watch the winner of this series get eaten alive by either Boston or Pittsburgh in the second round.
#3. Chicago Blackhawks vs. Dallas Stars
Probability of Occurring: 23%
These two teams had some interesting series back when one team had the word “North” in their name but those days are long gone. Not only have they never met in the playoffs since the team arrive in Texas, but they haven’t even made the playoffs in the same year since 1997 when both teams lost in the first round. But more importantly, the Stars would be total killjoys for the Hawks more interesting possible opponents (see below).
#2. Anaheim Ducks vs. Minnesota Wild
Probability of Occurring: 54.2%
If you forgot that this series occurred in 2007 then congratulations, you may be a member of the Anaheim Ducks or Minnesota Wild. Of course their 2003 Battle of Cinderella Western Conference final is slightly more memorable, but is still the least discussed series from the (then Mighty) Ducks miracle run that year. These two teams have some good high end talent and there’s probably an Olympic preview to be discussed as Parise and Sutter take on Getzlaf and Perry, but to imagine a team in Southern California playing for Canadian pride sounds just plain wrong. By my math this is the most likely scenario to occur, and both teams seem to be limping into the playoffs, so expect one of these teams to limp a little longer and give one of the real-deals in the West a bit of a break in the next round.
#1. Montreal Canadiens vs. Ottawa Senators
Probability of Occurring: 20.4%
Please Ottawa, don’t screw this up. You know what we all want, take a dive if you have to, playing the Capitals won’t be so bad. Full disclosure time, the main reason I don’t want this is because I’m a Sens fan. Most of Canada forgets that we’re even an actual hockey team, I don’t want them to start hating us for denying them the dream series.
Of course this means that it’s totally going to happen now…
The Most Interest Match-ups: If these ones happen get ready to call in sick.
Vancouver Canucks vs. San Jose Sharks - Battle of Underachievers totally writes itself
Pittsburgh Penguins vs. New York Rangers - Henrik Lundqvist could sure make this one interesting
Pittsburgh Penguins vs. New York Islanders - Remember all of those fights from a few years back? They sure don’t!
#5. Chicago Blackhawks vs. Columbus Blue Jackets
Probability of Occurring: 23%
Sure it would be a slaughter, sure it’s unlikely, but hot-damn it’s hard not to get excited about #Lumbus right now and for all intents and purposes, this is their only real possible opponent. Although it may be a little sad to realize that in life David doesn’t beat Goliath.
#4. Los Angeles Kings vs. St. Louis Blues
Probability of Occurring: 23.8%
Their second round meeting last year seems like an eternity ago, doesn’t it? The Blues were a team that came out of nowhere to finish second in the conference while the Kings, considered early season contenders, fell off most people’s radars and got hot at the right time, much to the Blues chagrin. If there is any team that has a chance to be a surprise-but-not-really in the West it’s the Blues. They were considered strong contenders to do some damage out West before the season started but some early struggles have them in the middle of the pack instead of the top, where they perhaps belong. If they get going, watch out. If there’s one team that they would love to get going against, it’s the guys that beat them last year and hoisted the silver. Sure the hockey could be boring, but the story-lines would be fun to watch.
#3. Boston Bruins vs. Toronto Maple Leafs
Probability of Occurring: 27.2%
“THANK YOU KESSEL!” *clap clap clap clap clap*
Sure it would be a slaughter, but damn would it be fun to watch the Toronto media find someone to blame for all those games that Seguin, Hamilton, and Raask steal. Expect the lines in the papers to change from “Haven’t made the playoffs since 2004″ to “Haven’t won a playoff game since 2004″.
#2. Chicago Blackhawks vs. Detroit Red Wings
Probability of Occurring: 39%
Sorry Columbus, but this is a more interesting matchup. With the Red Wings moving eastward, this could be the last time that we see this series for a very, very, long time. These two have the fourth most frequent showdown of any playoff pairings in the NHL history and it would be a nice thing for the fanbases to get a bit of closure before they’re ripped apart from one another. Oh and NBC would love it too…
#1. Montreal Canadiens vs. Toronto Maple Leafs
Probability of Occurring: 32%
If Canada is looking to quash it’s reputation for being docile, this is the best way to do it. A playoff matcup between these two venerable franchises that have deep cultural and historic ties in the country in the Twitter Age will see nothing but hatred and venom get thrown around. We may see a Canadian civil war start over this.
Please, please, please, this needs to happen, it’s hard not to get excited over the essays that this series will start, the Sharks-Jets like turf war that’ll brew all across the country, and the downright dirty plays that we’ll see on the ice.
Of course, if anyone can screw it up it’ll be the Leafs. Lord knows they don’t even give their own fan base what they want, why would they care about the rest of us?