With much of the recent discussion surrounding the Chicago Blackhawks revolving around Marian Hossa, Marcus Kruger and whatever game might be coming next (they’re in Dallas tonight), I figure it’s time to look at something outside the Chicago organization. And with the playoffs getting closer and close each day, it’s as good a time as any to look at what we might see.
In that vein, I’m going to break down 10 potential 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs series that would be most enjoyable to watch. Just so we don’t end up looking only at Cup Final matchups we’d like to see, I’ll key in on four series featuring only Western Conference teams, four series featuring only Eastern Conference teams and two Cup Final series. Let the fun begin.
(Note: These series aren’t ranked in any particular order, and I’m only using teams that would be in the postseason if the regular season ended right now.)
Chicago Blackhawks vs. St. Louis Blues
Playoff series history: Blackhawks lead 8-3
Likelihood of 2016 matchup: There’s a pretty good chance we could get this series in the first round, and if not then, perhaps the second round of the postseason. The Blackhawks are currently atop the Central Division with 88 points, same as Dallas, while the Blues are a point back of both.
Why we’d want to see it: Well, if you watched Wednesday’s game between the teams, you’d see they can put on quite a show. Sure, there wouldn’t be any shootouts in the postseason, but these teams consistently want to beat each other and will play each other really tough. From a Blackhawks perspective, that could be a downside considering the Blues’ propensity to try and hit opposing players into another universe, but just like with the Ducks in last season’s Western Conference finals, you know they’d battle through it. This would just be an entertaining, enthralling and, at times, infuriating series for both teams and fan bases.
Predicted result: Blackhawks in 6
Dallas Stars vs. Colorado Avalanche
Playoff series history: Tied 2-2
Likelihood of 2016 matchup: This one could happen if Dallas wins the Central and Colorado stays in that second wild card spot. Other than that, there’s little chance these teams would meet this postseason, as I’m not sure either one gets out of the first round without playing the other.
Why we’d want to see it: Do you love goal scoring and hate defensively tight contests? Well, this would be the series for you. Dallas averages 3.21 goals for per game and 2.88 goals allowed per game, while Colorado sits at 2.70 and 2.83. Yeah, no defense here. The goaltending on both of these teams has been abysmal, but they’re both trying to ride into the postseason on strong offensive outputs. It probably won’t take them very far unless they put up six to eight goals a night, though.
Predicted result: Stars in 7
Los Angeles Kings vs. Chicago Blackhawks
Playoff series history: Blackhawks lead 2-1
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Likelihood of 2016 matchup: It’d be in the Western Conference finals, and I’d say only Anaheim is really a threat to that not happening right now. Things could change, of course.
Why we’d want to see it: There are still many key pieces on both sides from the 2013 and 2014 Western Conference finals series that were so entertaining to watch, more so the 2014 one since it went the distance. Jonathan Toews vs. Anze Kopitar. Corey Crawford vs. Jonathan Quick. Duncan Keith vs. Drew Doughty (not exactly versus, but you get the point). Patrick Kane vs. … Kris Versteeg. OK, that last one is a joke. But it’d be another fantastic series, as these two teams are again geared up to smash through playoff opponents who haven’t been there as often. Those roads lead to each other, eventually.
Predicted result: Blackhawks in 7
Anaheim Ducks vs. San Jose Sharks
Playoff series history: Ducks lead 1-0
Likelihood of 2016 matchup: It’d happen in the opening round if the season ended right now. The Ducks are currently in second in the Pacific Division, a point behind the Kings, while the Sharks are three points behind the Ducks. They could potentially see each other in the second round, too, but that doesn’t seem very likely.
Why we’d want to see it: Chronic playoff underachiever vs. chronic playoff underachiever. Both teams would be pushing crazy hard to take a step toward overcoming that stigma, and it could make for a really fun series. On top of the fact these teams see each other a fair bit in the Pacific, the Sharks are kind of the surprise team in the West, while the Ducks probably still feel they should’ve won the Cup last season (more hits would’ve done it, I’ll bet). It’d make for good TV, even if all the games would start at 10 p.m. Central time.
Predicted result: Ducks in 5
Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Detroit Red Wings
Playoff series history: Lightning lead 1-0
Likelihood of 2016 matchup: If Tampa ascends to the top spot in the Atlantic Division — a distinct possibility, considering it’s one point behind current leader Boston — and Detroit stays in the first wild card spot, the two would meet up in the first round. Other than that, it probably wouldn’t happen.
Why we’d want to see it: They had a fun series last year, with Tampa overcoming a 3-2 series deficit to knock off Detroit. Two somewhat underappreciated goaltenders in the Lightning’s Ben Bishop and the Red Wings’ Petr Mrazek would be involved, as would a boatload of fun young players. Nikita Kucherov, Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat and Alex Killorn suit up for Tampa, while Dylan Larkin, Andreas Athanasiou, Tomas Tatar and Tomas Jurco would be involved for Detroit. Oh, and we’d see Steven Stamkos vs. Pavel Datsyuk. Sign me up.
Predicted result: Lightning in 5
New York Rangers vs. New York Islanders
Playoff series history: Islanders lead 5-3
Likelihood of 2016 matchup: I’m pretty sure Washington has unofficially officially won the Metropolitan Division, and I’m also pretty sure Pittsburgh isn’t cracking the division’s top three teams, so these two will meet in the opening round.
Why we’d want to see it: There hasn’t been an all-New York playoff matchup since 1994. That’s a long time between playoff series for an Original Six squad and a second expansion team. Both teams have good pieces and have shown flashes of success this season, but both teams have also had occasional meltdowns. I’d want to see this one more so for the fact it’d make a New York-New York series.
Predicted result: Islanders in 6
Washington Capitals vs. Boston Bruins
Playoff series history: Capitals lead 2-1
Likelihood of 2016 matchup: It’d be an Eastern Conference finals matchup, and while Washington feels like a lock at this point, Boston is far from that.
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Why we’d want to see it: This is the East’s version of Dallas-Colorado, but with much better defense. Washington (216 goals) and Boston (210 goals) trail only Dallas in that department, but they also boast solid goal differentials, with the Caps’ plus-62 leading the league. These two squads are really solid on the road, too, as both hold a 23-7-3 record away from their home arenas. It’d be real fun to see a Braden Holtby–Tuukka Rask goaltending matchup, though Rask would certainly need more help from his defense if Boston was going to win this. Oh, and Alex Ovechkin and Patrice Bergeron would be involved. Enough said.
Predicted result: Capitals in 6
Washington Capitals vs. Pittsburgh Penguins
Playoff series history: Penguins lead 7-1
Likelihood of 2016 matchup: Unless Detroit falls to the second wild card spot, these teams will meet in the first round.
Why we’d want to see it: There’s one group that definitely wants this to happen: NBC executives. They can play up the living daylights out of Ovechkin-Sidney Crosby, and they will. But this series would be about more than that, as it’d actually offer another solid goaltending matchup. Although Marc-Andre Fleury has struggled in the postseason before, he’s been a huge reason Pittsburgh is even involved in the postseason chase this season. And, of course, you have the likes of Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel against Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Nicklas Backstrom.
Predicted result: Capitals in 6
Chicago Blackhawks vs. Washington Capitals
Playoff series history: None
Likelihood of 2016 matchup: Washington appears to be the clear favorite to come out of the East, but the NHL playoffs are known for their parity and sometimes crazy results. The Blackhawks and Kings are likely the favorites out of the West. I’d say the chances of this Final matchup are better than any other.
Why we’d want to see it: Again, the goaltending matchup and forward star power. Corey Crawford against Holtby? Yes, please. Kane and Ovechkin on the same ice for four to seven games? Yes, please. We could go on and on with names, but this Final matchup would offer the best hockey possible. The only thing that would make this matchup a little less great is the fact T.J. Oshie is involved.
Predicted result: Blackhawks in 6
Los Angeles Kings vs. Florida Panthers
Playoff series history: None
Likelihood of 2016 matchup: Probably not very good. Let’s leave it at that.
Why we’d want to see it: I want to see Jaromir Jagr deke Doughty out of his skates. Other than that, why not? It’s a wild-card pick.
Predicted result: Kings in 5
What playoff series would you most like to see this year? Let us know in the comments section.