We have postseason hockey, and oh is it glorious! Goals galore, heavy hits, everything on the line, and a couple of suspension worthy plays mixed in for good measure. What we're not used to seeing though is all of the penalties called. We're seeing a big uptick from the number of calls in the regular season, and while that's how it should be in the postseason as everyone toes the line even more than usual, it's never the way it actually goes.
My hope is that the refs are consciously making an effort to call the rulebook, and that this keeps consistent through the postseason. It hasn't seemed to take away from the intensity, but it has added to the number of scoring chances. If it then continues into next season, we could continue to see an uptick in scoring. If you want to market the NHL, then this is the ideal direction for things to be going. I don't think it's an accident.
Our DobberHockey writers put together their playoff picks, and it feels great to be looking good early, with even LA coming through winning game one as the away team. Florida may be down early, but they're not a team that I'm worried about. I wanted to quickly run through each series, what I'm expecting to see, and why I picked the winner that I did.
Florida v Washington (My pick: FLA in 4)
As the President's Trophy winners, the Panthers are an easy pick as the favourites over the Capitals. The Panthers have the advantage in size, firepower, depth, and in net. The Capitals may end up winning one or two, but this would be the most surprising place to see an upset.
Carolina v Boston (CAR in 6)
The complete opposite from the first series, this one is a coin flip in my eyes. The Hurricanes won game one with their depth and goaltending, while the older Bruins looked like they had a tougher time keeping up. If the playoffs do end up having more scoring, then the Hurricanes have the advantage, but I picked them regardless as they are the kind of team that can create relentless pressure with mismatches. Lately they have been running Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Martin Necas on the fourth line. That kind of scoring talent down the lineup can be the difference in a longer series.
New York v Pittsburgh (NYR in 6)
Both teams have some top-heavy firepower up front, and one stud on defence plus a solid committee afterwards. The difference between them is in net, where the best goalie in the league is going up against an average backup goalie (due to Tristan Jarry's injury). The Rangers also made a conscious effort to build up their depth in the offseason, making them harder to play against, especially with the playoffs in mind. As long as they can stay out of the box, they should be able to outplay the Penguins' bottom-six.
Toronto v Tampa Bay (TOR in 6)
There comes a time where after a win, there's less of a will to leave everything on the line again. It seems for a lot of cup champions that comes the next season, and they often fail to get to the second round. The Lightning had both exceptional talent, and a higher will to win last year, and ended up repeating. However, down the stretch this season they seemed to lose a bit o