Which teams’ failure to make the playoffs warms your black, black heart?
Brigstew: As much as I like a lot of the players on Florida, it will never not please me to see them fail after the gongshow their front office was last off season. Them coming up just short makes it even better after leaning so heavily on their top two lines. Imagine if they still had, oh, say Reilly Smith and Marchessault to improve their depth?
Arvind: I mean... how can this not be Edmonton? The way they imploded was perfect for schadenfreude purposes. They traded two of the better wingers in the league, then failed in part due to a lack of secondary scoring. Montreal is also up there... the Subban-Weber deal, at its most optimistic, improved Montreal’s chance of winning now, in return for lowering it later. Well, they just wasted one of those ‘win now’ years.
Kevin: Edmonton, Florida, and Ottawa. I wonder if Rasmus Dahlin has already bought a place in Edmonton
Omar: Considering how nice the fans have been this season and in the past as a whole, the answer is a little obvious. In other words what Arvind said.
seldo: Buffalo. If the Sabres can be mired in an Edmonton style rebuild for a decade I wouldn’t mind the Leafs only winning three cups in that time. Ever since Mike Harrington drove all the way to Toronto to weep at Mike Babcock’s press conference, and Tim Murray openly said how disappointed he was to draft Jack Eichel (who got his revenge) I’ve moved my preference from wanting the rivals to be good at the same time to wanted misery for that franchise.
Fulemin: Edmonton is just terrific, but honestly, the Sens. I had to hear on and on about how they were actually a real team that was good. They were not! They were trash.
Acha: I am shocked, shocked, that nobody has mentioned the Red Wings. They are truly the best team to not make the playoffs after boasting of their streak — how far the mediocre have fallen.
Katya: The only answer is Chicago. Bonus points for Artemi Panarin having a hot year in Columbus. Chicago fans cannot tell us all how great they are this spring. They can’t feud with Penguins fans over their fannish perfection. In short, Chicago is out on their ears where they deserve to be.
Hardev: Nothing’s more fun than seeing a group of people double down on their stupidity and still fail. The media, front office, and fanbase in Edmonton is so out of touch with what it means to have a good hockey team and what it takes to succeed that it’s so invigorating to see them fail.
Which playoff team do you think is a paper tiger?
Brigstew: Washington Capitals. I think they'll have problems with just about any team in the East come playoff time, let alone the top tier teams.
Kevin: Washington. Minnesota would also be an acceptable answer, but not many people will expect them to get out of that division. Washington’s roster is a little bit less impressive this year, and they will have a tough time beating the Penguins, Bruins, or Lightning.
Arvind: I’d also go with Washington, though obviously, having Ovechkin firing on all cylinders can go a long way. I don’t think they’re bad, necessarily, but among the division winners and strong second place teams of the Atlantic and Central, I think they’re the weakest
seldo: Winnipeg. Think or hope? But Winnipeg is a popular pick to do well but I just don’t see it happening. Not for any logical reason, but it just feels like they’re the new Washington and if this is true, it will make me happy.
Acha: Am hoping it’s not the Tampa Bay Lightning, but I’m a little concerned about Andrei Vasilevskiy’s health, ok.
Fulemin: Is everyone just too gunshy to say Vegas here? I know they made us all look silly by being so successful in Year One, but they’re easily the weakest division leader, for my money. They’re a legit playoff team, but their record overrates them I think and LA may give them a rough ride.
Katya: If it walks like a Duck and quacks like a Duck and is coached by Randy Carlyle, it’s going to blow away in a stiff breeze. The Ducks may have sneaked over San Jose for second place, but they look like a fast-exiting team to me.
Hardev: Philadelphia is going to take a chunk out of Pittsburgh in the first round. In previous years people said Columbus and New York would do the same in the first round but both series’ only went to five games. Philly has the ability to go six, possibly seven, against the Pens and play them hard in each contest. Pittsburgh will probably come out of that series but there’s a chance there won’t be much of them left to face the Capitals or Blue Jackets.
Which playoff team do you think will surprise everyone by being really hard to beat?
Brigstew: Columbus. I think they're under the radar in terms of being a top team in the east. They have a great goalie, the best defense pairing in the league, and underrated forwards. In the West I'd say San Jose are underrated too.
Kevin: Vegas. They do not get the same respect as other division leaders, but they are in an easier division. They have to win the Stanley Cup so a movie can be made. I am also a fan of the Flyers, but they will definitely be underdogs.
Omar: There’s something about the New Jersey Devils that speak to me. Besides the fact that they can finally have a player in the Hart conversation, you know because you need to make the playoffs for that, in Taylor Hall and they could catch teams off guard. First-round sweeps are always something people look for, perhaps the Devils are the culprits.
Arvind: San Jose has a pretty easy bracket, and could be getting Thornton back midway through the postseason. They could surprise people.
seldo: The Maple Leafs. We live in a Leafs bubble, but I don’t think they get the respect they deserve around the league and in the media and from fans. Only two years removed from last place, the Maple Leafs are way ahead of schedule and with Bozak, JVR, and others playing for contracts there’s motivation all around. They’re not world beaters, or an easy pick for the final, but I think they’ll surprise people with one 5 game series in the first two rounds and a run to the conference final at minimum.
Fulemin: I’ll go with Seldo here. We’re going to be underdogs against whoever we face but I figure we have a 40-45% shot at either Boston or Tampa.
Katya: I think there’s a good case to be made for Columbus or San Jose, but yeah, I’m with seldo too. The Leafs are in the rarest of positions where they get to just go hard for every game, just like last year. You can say playing it safe is wrong, but it’s hard to live that unless you are the underdogs who genuinely have nothing to lose.
Species: The Oilers. Because they didn’t make the playoffs! LOLOILERS.
Hardev: Tampa Bay has a 27th penalty kill in the league while New Jersey has a top-10 power play. If New Jersey is anything like last year’s Leafs — which I think they are — they’re going to be able to turn a lot of heads.
Who is winning this thing?
Brigstew: I'll go off the board and say San Jose because I'll look real smart if they do finally win it
Omar: I’ve been a huge fan of what the Winnipeg Jets have done and they play that rugged physical game that can do wonders in a deep round. Granted, they’d have to get through the Nashville Predators to do it, but what’s a Stanley Cup victory without any shades of adversity right?
Arvind: I will be boring and say Nashville. They have the best shot.
Kevin: I’ll guess Nashville. They’ve been outstanding all season, and I’d like to see Subban win a cup.
seldo: With the way things are now, I think Nashville has the easiest path to the final and will be in the best shape so they’re my pick with an asterisk because if the Leafs can make it out of the division they’re my pick to win it all.
Fulemin: I’ll say Pittsburgh mostly because Nashville-Winnipeg is gonna be a bloodbath. I’d give Nash the edge if they and Pittsburgh had equal paths, but the Metro is winnable.
Katya: They only reason Nashville lost last year was because Pekka Rinne entered one of his flaky periods at the wrong time. Even having seven guys with broken legs didn’t stop them. I’m saying Nashville.
Hardev: Buds All Day. Why Not The Leafs? ARE YOU IN?!
Who is getting swept in the first round?
Brigstew: The Flyers (sorry Annie) with the caveat that it’s because they're so streaky. They'll either get swept or do the sweeping. That said, I WANT Winnipeg to get swept. How hilarious will it be for them to STILL not win a playoff game?
Omar: Columbus for no reason only that it would be kind of funny to see it happen again *furiously knocks on wood*
Arvind: Pittsburgh is gonna sweep Philadelphia. Sorry Annie.
Kevin: No one! But Minnesota will lose in five.
seldo: The Avalanche. They have no chance and get a pat on the head and ruffle of the hair for just getting in those four games.
Fulemin: The Devils. I like Taylor Hall very much but the team around him isn’t good enough yet.
Katya: Points up at what seldo said. And even if Varlamov were playing, I’d still say that.
Hardev: Bernie and the Avs are not going to have a fun time.
With no actual captain, which Leaf will get to raise the Cup first?
Brigstew: Josh Leivo
Omar: Kyle Dubas jumps down from the ceiling to claim his prize and then passes it to Tomas Plekanec who, in the heel move of the century, agrees to wear the ‘C’ for the next decade.
Arvind: Gotta be Marleau, right?
Kevin: Patrick Marleau.
seldo: It’s the old guy without a cup, the one true #6dad, Patrick Marleau.
Katya: I hear where you’re coming from, but no. Auston to Freddie to Patty.
Hardev: I would love love love to see Naz give it to Patty but the Leafs are going to be the way they always are and be super boring about it. Pick one of the four alternate captains (Leo, Hainsey, Bozak, Rielly) who will probably still pass it to Patty.
Species: Babcock will send in Polak to take it first. You know it’s going to happen, folks.
But seriously …
Is anyone getting out of the press box for the Leafs, or is the lineup the lineup?
Brigstew: I define press box players as Leivo, Martin, Moore, and Carrick. Johnsson maybe if the Marlies lose early in the playoffs. As long as everyone stays healthy it'll be tough to see any of them get into a game but I'd give Carrick the best chance.
Omar: The Carrick vs. Polak debate has been long discussed and we should all know who is getting the tap on the shoulder. I don’t expect any changes as Babcock loves his set lines.
Arvind: Barring injuries, no.
Kevin: The lineup is the lineup.
seldo: Maybe Carrick switches off with Polak, or Johnsson and Komarov swap spots one game after a loss. No Leivo though. He does the cup celebration in his suit. I don’t think he was even given a jersey this year.
Fulemin: The lineup is the lineup until there’s an injury. But injuries happen.
Katya: The lineup is the lineup with one caveat. If the whistles are not totally in pocket, and the Leafs second PP unit goes south, Johnsson might come in for Komarov.
Hardev: Unless Babcock feels like a touch more offense with Johnsson on the fourth line would really kill the Bruins, I don’t see any changes being made.
How do you beat Boston to get out of the first round? Asking for a coach.
Brigstew: Ride the wave of special teams and high danger scoring chances from Frederik Andersen's back.
seldo: Never stop moving. The Maple Leafs are sharks who have to keep moving or else they die, while the Bruins are sheep, just flouncing around eating daisies. The sheep have necks so they keep looking back at their past, but the sharks don’t have necks so they’re always moving forward. Be a shark Maple Leafs, never look back and always be moving.
Also running the goalie would help things out.
Omar: The Leafs have to go at Boston with their speed and depth. The matchup battles must be tricky, especially on the road which will make the bottom two lines more important than many think. At the same time, the Leafs will have to take advantage of any and all opportunities they have to generate offence and score. That includes both power play units, so fingers crossed that both Matthews and Marner can keep things going. However, the 90’s child in me would be disappointed if I didn’t bring up the movie factor in all of this. Bozak, Kadri, JVR, Komarov, Gardiner...you remember...channel it.
Kevin: Win the goaltending and special team battles, and pray to the hockey gods for a favourable bounce or two in the one goal games.
Hardev: Speed. Speed. Speed.
Fulemin: If it’s Boston you plaster Nazem Kadri’s line to Patrice Bergeron and basically tell them to stay above them come hell or high water. If the Kadri line plays the Bergeron line to a draw the Leafs’ chances are excellent. Easier said than done, but that’s what we’re going for.
Katya: Boston will take the puck away if you let them. Don’t let them. That means puck management has to be at peak execution. Passes on tape, smart plays, fast skating, and protect that puck. Defensively the Bruins hold their positions and get in lanes, so speed and reversals with the low to high passes the Leafs love will help here. Offensively, the Bruins don’t pile in deep, which means the Leafs need to be aware of point shots and also need to have a plan to flee the zone up the middle. You won’t get out on the boards. But above all: speed, speed, speed. Sure they have some young guys. They also have a lot of slow and old guys playing big minutes. Wear ‘em down.
Species: “David Pastrnak was not seen for the rest of the playoffs...”