NHL, The race has begun. Tonight will mark the first games for the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs! There is nothing that can match the anxiety and suspense of an NHL Playoff game. Unlimited overtimes, huge hits, momentum building fights, and elite net-minders. Although hockey doesn’t get the ratings it deserves, the loyal are loud and proud, and probably some of the most fun sports fans to be apart of. A BIG good luck to all of your teams as they make the bold attempt to be the next team to lift the cup. Here is Tony’s Take’s 2016 NHL Playoff Preview.
Detroit Red Wings- 41-30-11
25 straight years in the playoffs (They should be thanking the Boston Bruins) marks the longest active streak in all of sports. This is not the only significant mark for this Detroit team this season. Pavel Datsyuk has also announced that he will be leaving the NHL after the end of the post season. One of the all time best two way forwards to ever enter the NHL. If the Wings want to add another banner to their rafters, they’ll need his leadership and presence to be the Hall of Fame quality it has always been. The Red Wings have had a very inconsistent season. Mainly in their own net. Mrazek and Howard have both had their moments, but both have shown very inconsistent play. It looks like Howard will be getting the nod this postseason, and he will need to find consistency quick. The wings rank 23rd in Goals For, and 22nd in Shooting Percentage. This will need to be vastly improved since they also rank middle of the pack on Goals Against (17th). Their leadership and playoff experience will need to be complimented by the new generation of players in Detroit if they are to have a shot at winning it all.
Philadelphia Flyers- 41-27-14
The Philadelphia Flyers were in playoff mode before this week even began. Fighting for the last wildcard spot against the Boston Bruins, and Detroit Red Wings the flyers cemented themselves in the postseason. The Flyers currently sit on the bottom of the standings for Goals For, Shooting Percentage, and the Penalty Kill. If they want to make a postseason run they will need their forwards to step up and improve on getting the puck to the net. They will need to put pressure on the opponents net minder, and rely on Mason to carry the team on the back end. It is thanks to Mason that they rank 2nd in Save Percentage.
Tampa Bay Lightning- 46-31-5
Tampa Bay enters the postseason having almost won it all last year. Unfortunately for the Lightning, they are banged up this time around. Their captain, Steven Stamkos, had season ending surgery to remove a blood clot, and that means they will need players on every line to step up and fill the hole. However, the Lightning will be getting Tyler Johnson back just in time, and not to mention they also have the wall that is Bishop, in net. If they are to follow last year’s success they will need to play their way, and their way is speed. Special teams are crucial in the playoffs and being ranked 28th on the Power Play will need to change. Hopefully Johnson can add that spark to get things going on that unit. However, using their speed to create scoring chances, and force mistakes is the likely way for this team to lift the cup.
New York Islanders- 45-27-10
The Islanders represent a strong defensive unit with a whole lot of speed up front. They enter this postseason with the same roster they had last year. The same roster that took the Capitals to game 7 of the first round. They will need the production from Tavares, and blue liners Boychuk and Leddy, to come up big if they want a shot at the cup. Tavares had another stellar season posting 30 goals, but he’s not the only one putting up points. Forwards Okposo and Nielsen both contributed 60 and 50 points respectively. This is the kind of depth they will need in order to succeed. The Islanders rank in the middle of the pack in almost everything, but Penalty Kill (4th) and Goals For (11th). They will need to make sure their balance of Offense and Defense remains firm. Keeping pressure in the opponents zone will be the key to success for the Islanders.
New York Rangers- 46-27-9
The New York Rangers found themselves in a late season slump dropping down to the first wildcard position. They will need Henrik Lundqvist to carry the load in order to make their run for the cup. The Rangers finished the season ranking 26th in the Penalty Kill. However they do rank 1st in Save Percentage on a 5v5. This just highlights what kind of mistake free hockey they must play throughout the playoffs. They will need to rely on the playoff experience that is deep throughout their roster to ensure this.
Florida Panthers- 47-26-9
What a bounce back season for the Florida Panthers. Not only that, but who would have guessed that the 44 year old Jagr would lead them in it? The oldest player in the league continued to set records this year by being the only 44 year old player to post 60 points in a season. His Hall of Fame Career would be nicely capped with a hoist of the Stanley Cup in 2016. The Panthers are the definition of “passing the torch”. Led by the veterans Jagr, Campbell, and Luongo. Robert Luongo has had his best season since leading the Canucks to a heartbreaking Stanley Cup Finals in 2011. These veterans are accompanied by bursting stars Huberdeau, Barkov, and Trocheck. This mixture has led the Panthers into finishing in the Top 10 for Goals For, Goals Against, and Save Percentage (5v5). This team will need to rely on the veteran leadership to guide them to the cup.
Pittsburgh Penguins- 48-26-8
The Penguins are beginning to heat up entering the 2016 Playoffs, and they don’t mean cool down anytime soon. They finished ranking in the top 6 in Goals For, Goals Against, and Penalty Kill. This has all the make ups of a team that will make a deep run. In the past, though, their troubles stemmed from inconsistencies from net minder Marc-Andre Fleurry. Since taking over the head coaching position Sullivan has given his skill players new life. If Fleurry can find that consistency stated earlier, and Letang (Norris Trophy Finalist) can lead the back end group, Crosby and company can handle the rest. Crosby is arguably the best player in the NHL, and he has only added to his favor in the argument. With the addition of Kessel this year the three headed monster of Crosby, Malkin, and Kessel can provide a stand out talent to each line.
Washington Capitals- 56-18-8
The President’s Trophy winners look to a bigger prize this post season. This team has been on a terror all season long. Ranking in the Top 5 in almost every category in the NHL. What makes them different from their previous rosters? They have no weaknesses. Holtby has had a career year tying Brodeur’s single season win record, and is a likely Vezina finalist. They’re depth is almost unmatchable, their ability to put pressure on the opponent is one and the same. What makes them a Stanley Cup favorite is their talent depth. They acquired Stanley Cup Winners in the off season in Williams, and Orpik. Not to mention blue chip players like T.J. Oshie. This team is built to win it all, and they are the likely favorite to do it.