I come before you today humbled by the play of the 8 teams in the play-in round. Of all the predictions I made in May, only one of those teams has proven me right. I love that. This return to play model has produced some very exciting games with some very surprising results.
Without putting you all to sleep, allow me to remind you of all the ways I was wrong.
May 23, 2020
It was on this date that I said with a fair amount of confidence that the Penguins would easily beat the Canadiens to advance to the next round. Wow, I could not have been more wrong. I could only watch 2 of the 4 games they played, but what was notable for me from those games was that the Penguins were not firing on all cylinders. Crosby was Crosby, of course, but while he can carry a fair portion of the team on his back, the salt to his pepper, Malkin, was a nonfactor. I honestly can’t even remember if he was ever on the ice. He only had an assist in 4 games. That’s not the Malkin that I, nor would I imagine any other hockey fan, expected.
I don’t think the Canadiens’ victory is wholly due to the absence of typical Penguins form, however. The Habs came into the series with quiet confidence. They didn’t count themselves out before they hit the ice. Despite a ton of unnecessary penalties, they were patient and tenacious. While I don’t think they have a snowball’s chance in hell of taking the Cup this year, I’m very impressed by their performance and am excited to see how they do in the next round.
That being said, they are set to face the Flyers. I was half right in my prediction in that the winner of the Montreal/Pittsburgh series would play Philly; I’ll take that as a win. They played each other 3 times before the break, the Flyers having one 2 of those. I don’t see the Habs pulling off another series win, so my choice is the Flyers. But who knows, maybe they’ll prove me wrong again.
The other prediction I made on May 23 was that the Capitals would either play the Hurricanes or the Rangers. I was wrong on both fronts.
May 30, 2020
There were many bold statements made. I started strong with a Calgary besting Winnipeg, despite my admiration and respect for Connor Hellebyuck.
I had Edmonton easily beating Chicago. Boy, was I wrong. Like I said last week, I don’t think it’s that the Oilers played poorly; rather that the Blackhawks played a lot better. Considering their season, that was a surprise to me. But hey, good for them, hopefully for them, they can keep this momentum.
Vancouver winning against Minnesota brings me to 2 out of 3 right so far. I did have them in 5 because of their history, but they did it in 4, so I guess that brings me to 2 out of 4.
As far as the Nashville-Arizona series goes, I’m happy to be proven wrong, as I said may happen. The Yotes had points from more players than on just the first line, which was exactly what needed to happen for them to win 3 games. I put them on a level similar to the Habs; they came this far, but I’m not counting on them making it further.
Since I only officially gave match-ups for the West, I’ll throw in how I expected the East to do, now. Predicted winners are bold. Washington v. New York R, Philadelphia v. Pittsburgh, Boston v. Toronto, Tampa Bay v. New York I. Here’s who I had for the West, as a reminder: Calgary v. St. Louis, Edmonton v. Colorado, Vancouver v. Las Vegas, Nashville v. Dallas.
Here are the actual match-ups (assuming CBJ beats TOR): Philadelphia v. Canadiens, Washington v. New York I, Boston v. Carolina, Tampa Bay v. Columbus, Vegas v. Chicago, Colorado v. Arizona, Dallas v. Calgary, St. Louis v. Vancouver.
If you ask me, the real ones are more exciting. I chose my winners based on the play we’ve seen so far in the Bubble, which is honestly pretty different than it was before. The East isn’t super controversial, mostly because I didn’t feel that any of the bye teams lost much of an edge. The potential exception to that is Boston, seeing as they haven’t won a game since before the break, but I think the veterans on the team, plus Pasta, can pull themselves together once these games really “matter” for them.
Now let me defend my Western choices. If Chicago can carry the energy they had from their high scoring games against the Oilers and the rookies can continue to contribute, the Blackhawks, in my mind, have a really good chance against Vegas. The biggest obstacle for them might be Fleury, but he hasn’t been the same Flower we remember from a few seasons ago this year. For Calgary, I think they (meaning Tkachuk) will get under the Stars’ skin and aggravate them into making mistakes. In addition to Tkachuk, they also have elite scorers in Gaudreau and Monahan, as well as the contributions the bottom 6 have produced this week. I didn’t see nearly enough production out of any of Dallas’ big names (Seguin, especially) to have any kind of confidence.
I have my expectations high for the games we’re going to see going forward. Bring on the playoffs.
-Heidi Thomas (@DamselOnDrums)