By Mo Cranker
With the end of the regular season, over half of the teams in the NHL are gearing up for what they hope will be an extended playoff run.
For the teams that miss, though, it’s more about reflecting on a failed season and looking forward to and preparing for the next season.
Whichever side your team falls on, there’s probably going to be an open roster spot, or two, ripe for the taking due to players retiring, free agency or trades.
Here’s a list of 10 prospects that are ready to earn a roster spot and make an impact on their big league club next season.
SERIES STARTS: Friday, 10:30 p.m. ET, in Anaheim.
HOW THEY WIN:
DUCKS: If Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry aren’t the best 1-2 punch in the league, they’re the best when it comes to offense and getting under the skin of the opposition. They don’t always play on the same line, but when they do it’s magic. With Getzlaf distributing and Perry finishing, Anaheim has the No. 2 power play in the league and No. 4 since 2005-06, when those two became regulars.
Everyone knows the captain of the winning team gets the Stanley Cup first. He gets to take it from commissioner Gary Bettman and have his well-earned moment with it. But who gets it next is always interesting to watch. Which grizzled veteran or sentimental favorite deserves the captain’s hand-off of the Stanley Cup this year? Our picks.
ANAHEIM DUCKS: It would be apropos if Ryan Getzlaf passed the Cup to Corey Perry, even though both won it as sophomores in 2007. But we suspect RYAN KESLER will sneak in there.
CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS: The Hawks lack an obvious Cup-less elder statesman. If CHRISTIAN EHRHOFF cracks the lineup, he’s worthy. He’s 33 and lost in the 2011 final with Vancouver.
DALLAS STARS: Would Jamie Benn hand the Cup off to grizzled vet Jason Spezza? It’s more likely Benn gives it to TYLER SEGUIN first and honors their bromance.
While the analytics vs. eye test debate is getting pretty stale, what’s always interesting is seeing where the two sides differ and why that may be. There’s probably no better way to do that then with the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Ask each party who they think the Cup favorites are this season and you’ll get similar answers within the two camps, but slightly different answers across the two. Same thing goes for a few individual series – although you may be surprised by how many are agreed upon. Both sides view hockey through different lenses and both have merits, so where they differ is valuable information.
So let’s hear both those sides by plotting out the Cup bracket based on ‘what the numbers say’ and ‘what the eyes see’ and then examine the similarities and differences between the two.
SERIES STARTS: Thursday, 9:30 p.m. ET, in Dallas.
HOW THEY WIN:
STARS: The Stars are offense incarnate. They lead the NHL in goals per game, generate the third-most shots on goal per game and rank second in score-adjusted Corsi For per 60 minutes.
Welcome to the playoff preview edition of The Hockey News Podcast.
This week, Ryan Kennedy, Ken Campbell, and Matt Larkin break down each and every first-round series. We discuss the biggest storylines, key matchups, and make some predictions.
Order of discussion:
St. Louis vs. Chicago
Dallas vs. Minnesota
Anaheim vs. Nashville
Los Angeles vs. San Jose
Florida vs. Islanders
Tampa Bay vs. Detroit
Pittsburgh vs. Rangers
Washington vs. Philadelphia
Download and subscribe on iTunes, and on Soundcloud.
[Music: Metz-Headache; Quicksand-Omission]
SERIES STARTS: Thursday, 10:30 p.m. ET, in Los Angeles.
HOW THEY WIN:
KINGS: The Kings like to take the puck from the opening faceoff and hang onto it for the next 60 minutes or so. It doesn’t always work out that way, but that’s the mindset of a puck possession team under the direction of coach Darryl Sutter. Los Angeles leads the NHL in outshooting the opposition – its difference of 4.8 in shots for versus shots against easily outdistances the next best, Nashville and Carolina at 3.3.
SERIES STARTS: Thursday, 8 p.m. ET, in Florida.
HOW THEY WIN:
PANTHERS: From the time coach Gerard Gallant’s team stepped on the ice for the first game of the season and scored four goals in the first seven minutes, the Panthers forged their identity. This is an exciting, quick-strike bunch that dines out on opportunities and makes opponents pay for mistakes.