Well, that was a fun way to welcome back hockey wasn’t it? In the NHL’s first ever postseason Qualifying Round, chaos reigned supreme and lower seeds vanquished higher seeds in both hub cities. Not just lower seeds, but the lowest seeds possible in both conferences advanced. First it was Chicago knocking off Edmonton and then it was Montreal delivering an early exit to Pittsburgh.
Did we learn anything from the play-in round? That five-game series in the age of parity are absolute crapshoots. The only series that really saw a talent mismatch was Carolina and New York. The Hurricanes were just too much for the Rangers and it showed on the ice.
In every other series both teams had a chance, or several chances to win. Had these been seven game series, I’m pretty sure we’d have seen some different outcomes. If Nashville had another couple of games, it wouldn’t have been surprising to see them pull that series off. The same goes for Edmonton.
With all this chaos there has been a minor ground swell of support for making a play-in round permanent in the NHL. Should that happen? No, not really. The chaos was fun for this year, but if 24 teams head to the playoffs every year, why even have a regular season. I wouldn’t be adverse to going to a format that involves a quick series between the 8th and 9th seeds in each conference, but anything more than that it becomes diluted. Not that the NHL is adverse to driving something fun into the ground (see: outdoor games).
Last week I made some predictions. I warned you that they might not be very good. Guess what, I was right (about them not being good, not the actual outcomes). Now it’s time to see what happened.
Prediction: Edmonton in four
Outcome: Chicago in four
Connor McDavid did what he could to drag the the Oilers to a win, but he couldn’t overcome their lack of goaltending. Jonathan Toews and Corey Crawford turned back the hands of time.
Prediction: Nashville in four
Outcome: Arizona in four
The Coyotes found some offense. We knew that it would be tough to score against them, but the question was if they could find enough offense to edge out Nashville. They did, and they spread it out. Eleven different Coyotes scored a goal in the series.
Prediction: Vancouver in four
Outcome: Vancouver in four
I got one right! It looked a little dicey after Alex Stalock posted a shutout in game one. After that, it was pretty much all Vancouver. Jacob Markstrom posted a save percentage of .926 and rookie defenseman Quinn Hughes led the way with six points (1 goal, 5 assists). The Canucks scored 12 goals in their 3 wins. Didn’t really see that offense coming.
Prediction: Calgary in five
Outcome: Calgary in four
If Patrick Laine and Mark Schiefle aren’t hurt in game one, I think Winnipeg takes them to the limit. Winnipeg scored 3 goals in their game two win, and 3 goals total in the other three games. Cam Talbot was sensational in net and the team did a good job of suppressing Winnipeg’s shot quality.
Prediction: Pittsburgh in four
Outcome: Montreal in four
This was probably the series I was most disappointed with. Pittsburgh looked tired and slow against Montreal, which is just inexcusable coming off of a long layoff. Carey Price did Carey Price things by saving 6.07 goals above expectation (far and away the best in the Qualifying Round). Evgeni Malkin had one assist in the series while Kris Letang was held off the scoresheet. Their best players didn’t show up, and that’s why they’re leaving the bubble.
Prediction: Carolina in four
Outcome: Carolina in three
This was probably the least surprising outcome of the Qualifying Round. In my defense, I thought New York’s goaltenders could steal at least one game. Henrik Lundqvist couldn’t pull it off and the Rangers couldn’t generate any offense at all.
Prediction: Florida in five
Outcome: New York in four
Florida wasn’t very good in this series. The Islanders mucked things up, limiting the Panthers quality shots while finding some unexpected offense. The Islanders needed scoring at the deadline and J.G. Pageau’s three goals in the series tied for the team lead. Sergei Bobrovsky was not good.
Prediction: Toronto in four
Outcome: Columbus in five
This was the closest series in the Qualifying Round. Two games went into overtime, there were three shutouts, and everything was still in doubt heading into the third period of game five. What else would you want in a series? Columbus did well to bottle up Toronto’s high-octane offense and played their boring, but successful style of hockey. Both Columbus goaltenders were solid in net. Tampa will have their hands full.