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Playoffs preview!

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It's the best time of the year for hockey. Get acquainted with your matchups here.

"See there? That's what good teams get to play for. Look, don't touch!"
"See there? That's what good teams get to play for. Look, don't touch!"
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Happy Monday friends! It is my FAVORITE time of year. In a couple days' time, the first (and best) round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs will be upon us, so get to bed early the next couple days and spend some time with those people who live in your house, because you're about to forget that they're your family.

The first round is crazy, jam-packed, and unpredictable. There's not a single matchup with no hype this year. No "oh yeah the Devils and Panthers have a series" moments here. Part of this is due to the divisional playoffs format and part of this is due to the intrigue of who made it in, and where.

So before I start gushing too much let's break down each matchup. I'll be judging the teams on boring normal stuff like goals and standings and CF% along with a set of arbitrary criteria, potentially including:

  • Dick Factor: Are they a bunch of Matt Cookes?
  • Fan Factor: How big is the fanbase? How obnoxious?
  • Fun Factor: Is their brand of hockey enjoyable?
  • Intrigue: What about this team is fascinating?

Let's make with the J-J-J-JUDGEMENTSSSSS.

Eastern Conference

New York Rangers vs. Pittsburgh Penguins

Goodness. I hate both these teams a lot, for mostly no reason. You can find this series on NBC and NBC Sports, for obvious reasons.

NYR

PIT

Standings

1st overall, 113 points

East Wild Card #2, 98 points

Season Series

3-0-1

1-1-2

GD

+60

+11

CF%

49.6%

52.6%

This is a difficult series because I want to hate the Rangers, but man the Fan Factor for Pittsburgh is a killer for those of us who spend time online. Penguins fans are everywhere and obnoxious as hell. More Henrik Lundqvist in the playoffs is good for everyone; of course you could say the same for Crosby and Malkin. Ultimately the most interesting thing about this series could be how well the Penguins show simply because of how hard they backed in to the playoffs. They are 3-5-2 in their last ten games, good for worst among playoff teams, and needed help to get where they are. Will the Rangers ever start to falter, or can they roll over a struggling Pens? Drink every time Fleury forgets how to goaltender.

Montreal Canadiens vs. Ottawa Senators

Both of these teams are dumb and have inflated results because of goaltending. Their first four games are all on different networks, so get ready to be confused by their listings every time they play.

MTL

OTT

Standings

Flortheast Champs, 110 points

East Wild Card #1, 99 points

Season series

1-3-0

3-1-0

GD

+32

+23

CF%

48.4%

50.3%

This series will be a popular upset pick, with those broad numbers being part of why. The Senators have also barreled into the playoffs with one of the hottest springs we've ever seen. 23-4-4 is the run being cited on NHL.com. That's stupid. Goalie Andrew Hammond has come out of nowhere and basically stopped every puck in the world, which is interesting because many would argue Montreal are only in the position they're in because Carey Price stops every puck in the world. Ultimately, an Ottawa win makes for the better storyline and the unhappier Habs fans, which is all right with me. But a Montreal win makes for more PK Subban, which isn't the worst consolation prize ever. CHUG if any player eats a hamburger thrown on the ice.

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Detroit Red Wings

This mostly-flagship series pits Steve Yzerman's new team against the team that made anybody know who Steve Yzerman was in the first place. It's about the only thing interesting about this matchup before they make with the games so get ready to hear it over and over.

TBL

DET

Standings

2nd, Flortheast, 108 points

3rd, Flortheast, 100 points

Season Series

3-1-0

1-2-1

GD

+51

+14

CF%

53.2%

53.5%

These are the two best teams at shot suppression left in the playoffs (CA60 = DET 45.7, TB 49.3... the Avs were at 62.2, for context). Both come at us as strong possession teams, but you see, one of them is the red wings, and the other one is not. Tampa have had the better season and got the better of the season series. Go Bolts, you should be able to lock this one down. Drink when Tampa scores on a Stamkos shot from the Stamkos spot, or when Detroit scores after Datsyuk does something with the puck that you're pretty sure is illegal in most countries.

Washington Capitals vs. New York Islanders

Oh boy, this is the East series I'm most looking forward to. Playoffs Ovechkin taking on Tavares and company. The last time the Capitals took on Jaroslav Halak, the eventual end result was Washington firing pretty much everybody.

WSH

NYI

Standings

2nd, NHL on NBC Division, 101 points

3rd, NHL on NBC division, 101 points

Season Series

2-0-2

2-1-1

GD

+39

+22

CF%

52.7 %

51.3%

These two teams went past regulation in three out of their four games this year, Ovechkin is a blast to watch, Tavares is a blast to watch, and the Islanders are the highest-event team in the playoffs (CP60 = 115.3) on the back of a blistering offense that averages more than 60 shot attempts per game (also leading playoff teams). It's a really difficult series to call and seriously I can't stress this enough, you should watch all of these games. The Fun Factor is through the roof. There could easily be bonus hockey three more times. Ultimately, I want to see as much Alex Ovechkin in the playoffs as possible, but the Fan Factor is heavily behind the Islanders here (as is my Leafs-related fanboying for Grabovski and Kulemin). Drink if Ovechkin's plusminus is brought up. CHUG if they combine his line's plusminus.

Western Conference

Anaheim Ducks vs. Winnipeg Jets

Well there you go. The Jets got their stupid playoff series. I hope everyone is happy. The Dick Factor is seriously high for both clubs here. I hope one team sweeps the other so the loser goes home as soon as possible.

ANA

WPG

Standings

West Champs, 109 points

West Wild Card #2, 99 points

Season Series

3-0-0

0-1-2

GD

+10

+20

CF%

51.2%

52.6%

I think what I'm most looking forward to in this series is what the fans at the MTS Centre decide to hurl at Corey Perry and his band of merry miscreants now that they have an opportunity to cheer for postseason hockey. Both teams play a brash, physical style. Anaheim regularly top the charts despite underlying numbers indicating they can't possibly be there. Winnipeg have put together a solid winning team without almost anybody noticing. And have I mentioned both teams are chock full of a-holes? There's no telling what kind of shenanigans will come out of this series. It's the Teemu Bowl, so for this one let's drink whenever Teemu Selanne is mentioned. Also drink if any player does something suspendable.

St Louis Blues vs. Minnesota Wild

Ugh.

STL

MIN

Fuck them?

Yes

Yes

Dick Factor:

So high

So so high

Fan Factor:

Not bad

Heaven help us

Fun Factor:

Too busy flexing for that

None to be had

Oh all right. The Bloos take their fake-tough bullshit into the postseason again, hoping to avoid their annual disappointment, while the Adjectives hope to build on last season's playoffs on the shoulders of Devan Dubnyk. Minnesota takes the Dick Factor here in a walk, despite St Louis employing David Backes, because of their own insistence on paying Matt Cooke to represent them. The edge in Fan Factor has to go to St Louis, though, because their online fanbase goes out of their way to troll us MUCH less frequently. And I've never see them insist that Missouri is some hockey capital, which could be partially due to the fact that they have won as many Cups as the Wild have, which isn't any. Okay, okay, you want the real numbers, fine, here:

STL

MIN

Standings

Conference III Champs, 109 points

West Wild Card #1, 100 points

Season Series

2-2-0

2-1-1

GD

+47

+30

CF%

51.7%

51.1%

This is actually a really balanced matchup, so the games might be worth watching if you can stand looking at the jerseys. If anyone can think of a way for both of them to get swept, let me know. Drink every time a Steve Dangle Podcast listener makes a "...not like St Louis" joke.

Nashville Predators vs. Chicago Blackhawks

This could be a pretty cool series as two teams I don't really like, but don't mind watching at all, go try to score goals on each other. Chicago haven't had the easiest road in the world and are without Patrick Kane for a while still. Meanwhile Super Rookie Filip "Not Fucking Related To Peter" Forsberg has been great for Nashville, one factor providing the offense that team has needed since... let's see the league expanded to Nashville when again?

NSH

CHI

Standings

2nd, Conference III, 104 points

3rd, Conference III, 102 points

Season Series

1-1-2

3-1-0

GD

+24

+40

CF%

52.9%

53.5%

There's plenty of Fun Factor in this series. Chicago are right behind the Islanders with just over 60 shot attempts a game (CF60 = 60.2), but Nashville aren't far behind (CF60 = 58.4). There's plenty of Fan Factor too, as Nashville tends to have a great atmosphere, and Chicago are an enormous American market with lots and lots of displaced Visiting Team Invaders. Chicago have also had some players up the Dick Factor in past postseasons, so we hit all those bases and bring it home to check in on Intrigue. Can Chicago stay alive long enough for Kane to get healthy? Can Pekka Rinne steal some games? Will this series be the beginning of Shea Weber's journey to the Flyera? I'm looking forward to watching this one most out West. Drink if you want to. I can't think of anything for these teams.

Vancouver Canucks vs. Calgary Flames

Finally, for my money the least interesting series of the first round is the one with the latest start times—and even it isn't exactly boring. Calgary aka the Flams aka The Team That Eliminated Los Angeles take their improbable playoff berth up against the Vancouver Creepy Twins.

VAN

CGY

Standings

2nd, Canafornia, 101 points

3rd, Canafornia, 97 points

Season series

2-2-0

2-1-1

GD

+20

+25

CF%

49.6%

44.3%

That's right folks, Calgary are this season's 2013-14 Avalanche. The 2013 Maple Leafs.  You get the idea and if you pay any attention to league-wide blogs you've already seen this headline 10 times. This month. That said, Vancouver aren't the worst draw in the world for old friend Bob Artley and the Flames. It's hard to imagine who they would rather have this first round. But, we're talking about the Sedins here, and what Ryan Miller still can bring. Drink every time you hear "Johnny Hockey." I'll go ahead and call the ambulance for you to get it out of the way.

ALTERNATE ENDING

Some people said the Calgary Flames shouldn't make the playoffs but they did. They want to win four hockey games before the Vancouver Canucks do. Calgary's game plan is to score more goals than the other team which is how they've won so much all year. (Drink if Sean Monahan gets a point.)

So everyone make sure to join the Mile High Hockey Bracket Challenge group and get your picks in, then check in with us every night there's games for live thread action. Fyeah playoffs!