The playoffs are upon us, starting tonight, giving me two months of solid nights when I can come in the house and say to my wife “the E! channel is going off, right now, because I gotta watch this Stars-Ducks game” and it just might work. Konopkaesque will be back on Thursday morning with a more detailed look at the Colorado-Minnesota series, but for now here’s a quick gander the other 14 teams engaged in first round series, complete with all of the really important info you need to know.
Every team’s deep playoff run is filled with a few standard story lines. Someone is going to throw a big, borderline hit that sets off controversy, and someone will emerge as an unlikely hero just in time to bilk some unsuspecting team into overpaying in the summer (a.k.a “the Leino”). I’ll try and identify these before they happen.
Team in a nutshell: Boston won the Presidents Trophy, and since Tim Thomas is no longer with the club, this trophy was deemed acceptable. The Bruins are big, bad, and certainly the best team in the Eastern Conference. Though that distinction, this season, is apparently like being the best technical musician in the Sex Pistols.
Important injuries of note: Patrice Bergeron is listed as injured, which is bad. On the other hand, Patrice Bergeron is not dead, so I’m guessing he plays.
Less important injuries of note: Marc Savard is still listed on their official injury report. Marc Savard hasn’t played a game since 2011 due to post-concussion syndrome. This seems excessive.
Player most likely to be hated: The Bruins are pretty much a known commodity at this point, since they are on national tv 600 times per season. Instead of picking a player, feel free to tune into a NESN broadcast (if you can). If you don’t hate play-by-play man Jack Edwards by the first commercial break, I don’t like you.
Potential Leino: Andrej Meszaros, due to the fact that no one else on this team is an unrestricted free agent over the summer.
Prediction: The Bruins will steamroll the Eastern Conference on their way to the finals. Unless they don’t.
Detroit Red Wings:
Team in a nutshell: The Detroit Red Wings are a young group of plucky underdogs. That’s what my notes say. I know, it’s hard to believe. Apparently it’s true.
Important injuries of note: All players over 30. Anyone you’ve ever heard of. Basically, a lot of dudes, man.
Player most likely to be hated: Todd Bertuzzi pretty much has this one locked up in perpetuity, so I won’t waste your time trying to find anyone else.
Potential Leino: Kyle Quincey, and his career minus-3.
Prediction: The Red Wings are one injury and subsequent call-up from the Grand Rapids Griffins just giving up on fielding a roster.
Team in a nutshell: The Penguins have shaky goaltending and a ton of injuries, but they also have Craig Adams, who doesn’t not make deep playoff runs. So there’s that.
Important injuries of note: Evgeni Malkin has a wonky foot. Pretty sure you need those for hockey, so that could be important.
Player most likely to be hated: Hating Sidney Crosby doesn’t count, you jealous trolls. However, the swell of James Neal hate is rising. Keep your eyes on that.
Potential Leino: Lee Stempniak. Step 1: Stand in front of the net. Step 2: wait for Sidney Crosby to do the rest. Step 3: Profit!
Prediction: The Penguins will play very well, but will ultimately fall without reaching the Stanley Cup Finals. Then, let the unnecessary scapegoating begin!
Columbus Blue Jackets
Team in a nutshell: Franchise has never won a playoff game, and traded their most recognizable offensive star during the season, meaning their offensive load will be shouldered by a 21-year old you haven’t heard of. This should go well.
Important injuries of note: Nathan Horton is injured again. He played 36 games this season. Don’t worry, Jacket fans! He’s only signed through 2020!
Player most likely to be hated: Artem Anisimov, but only if he pulls this crap again:
Potential Leino: Jack Skille. Former top ten picks who have done nothing in their careers automatically go here if they happen to score a fluky overtime winner.
Prediction: The Penguins will have more fans in Columbus than the Jackets, despite the best efforts of Columbus’ ticket office. Also, the world will (or at least should) discover Ryan Johansen, who is awesome.
Tampa Bay Lightning
Team in a nutshell: Team that traded a franchise icon at the deadline, and somehow got better? What a country!
Important injuries of note: Ben Bishop is vital. Sure, Anders Lindback played very well the last week of the season, but without Bishop this team is screwed.
Player most likely to be hated: Radko Gudas. Hits everything that moves, and has the name of an Eastern European Cold War Era apparatchik strongman.
Potential Leino: Um, the Lightning are pretty young so there’s not a lot here. How much is too much for Ryan Callahan?
Prediction: Maybe nothing this year, but all of their best players are very young, and they still have Jonathan Drouin on the way. Trending up just in time to dash some Canadian team’s hopes in the 2016 finals, as they watch the Stanley Cup go to the beach again.
Team in a nutshell: Canada’s only hope for a Stanley Cup Champion. Also hated by most of Canada. This existential crisis could become problematic should the Habs make a run.
Important injuries of note: Alex Galchenyuk won’t play in the first round. Other than that they are in pretty good shape.
Player most likely to be hated: Ryan White, no wait, P.K. Subban, no wait, Alexei Emelin. Oh, man. Lots of options here.
Potential Leino: Lars Eller has underperformed all season. One overtime winner should do the trick.
Prediction: The Canadiens will unite a country under one common banner. That banner being hoping the Canadiens do not win the Stanley Cup. Solidarity, baby!
New York Rangers
Team in a nutshell: Team that plays in the “World’s Most Famous Arena” has 20 home wins. Rangers have home ice disadvantage over the Flyers in the first round.
Important injuries of note: Pretty much everyone they need, including Derek Brassard, who was hurt in practice the other day.
Player most likely to be hated: Brian Boyle always seems to find trouble at this time of year.
Potential Leino: Assuming he’s not in the penalty box, Boyle again. Otherwise Benoit Pouliot is so ready for this.
Prediction: The Rangers will win the Stanley Cup, but will have no captain present to accept the trophy after the Callahan trade. Mass panic will ensue, abating only when Rick Nash does a Ned Brayden-style strip tease before skating away with the Cup.
Team in a nutshell: The Flyers lost seven of their first eight games this season, and lost eight of their last twelve. That’s how you bookend a season, folks.
Important injuries of note: Steve Mason is touch-and-go for the opening round after reading about the fates of every playoff goaltender the Flyers have had since Ron Hextall.
Player most likely to be hated: It’s the Flyers, so hockey fans are contractually obligated to pick more than one.
Potential Leino: From the team that brought you the original Leino, perhaps the weakest pool of potential future Leino’s emerges. Steve Downie? I’ve got nothing.
Prediction: Steve Mason seems to have resurrected his career just in time to destroy it once again at the hands of angry Flyer fans after the teams’ inevitable ouster.
Team in a nutshell: Get ready for the Ray Borque-ing of Teemu Selanne, despite the fact that Selanne has already won the cup.
Important injuries of note: No one, unless you really love you some Mark Fistric.
Player most likely to be hated: Teemu Selanne, after he inexplicably kills Jennifer Lawrence, who happens to be in attendance at game one.
Potential Leino: Selanne again, after he shocks everyone and un-retires for the tenth time after the season.
Prediction: The last few lines should serve to prime you for the upcoming tidal wave of Selanne-love. Of course, how could you hate that man!
Team in a nutshell: After all of the Western Conference love all season, you’ll be shocked to know that if Dallas had played in the East, they would have missed the playoffs. HA!
Important injuries of note: Rich Peverley is out, and I have no jokes about this, of course. Here’s hoping Peverley is able to play again next season, or ever.
Player most likely to be hated: Vernon Fiddler. But given his history, it could also be hilarious.
Potential Leino: Fiddler again. He makes 1.8 million now. Which is just about right. A high profile playoffs will push him into ludicrous territory.
Prediction: Dallas will beat Anaheim in round one. Sorry, that was an actual prediction. Seriously, though, this will happen.
St. Louis Blues
Team in a nutshell: Despite winning 52 games during the regular season, did you know that this team is actually terrible? True story.
Important injuries of note: David Backes, T.J. Oshie, Vladimir Tarasenko, Patrick Berglund, Vladimir Sobotka, Barrett Jackman and Brendan Morrow. Jesus, These guys are screwed.
Player most likely to be hated: Maxim Lapierre. That is all.
Potential Leino: Ryan Miller. Despite all the hype around him, Miller has only once posted a save percentage over .920 in his career, and that was in 2010. Not necessarily always his fault (thanks Buffalo defense corps), but is Miller still an elite goalie? Someone is about to overpay to find out he isn’t.
Prediction: NBC will have to position a second person inside the glass whose sole job is to towel off Pierre McGuire after he’s done extolling the virtues of both David Backes and Jonathan Toews, assuming they both play.
Team in a nutshell: Not the best team in the league, but injuries to Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews provide a built in excuse if they don’t defend their title. Get ready to hear it.
Important injuries of note: See above.
Player most likely to be hated: Andrew Shaw should take the David Bolland mantel and run with it.
Potential Leino: Unless some GM gets absolutely shit-housed while watching the playoffs and falls in love with Sheldon Brookbank, the ‘Hawks are virtually Leino free.
Prediction: America will continue to be sick of The Fratelli’s “Chelsea Dagger,” despite only knowing the 1/15th of the song that contains no real words.
San Jose Sharks
Team in a nutshell: Choke-tastic!
Important injuries of note: Raffi Torres is suffering from “general soreness,” and the world weeps.
Player most likely to be hated (non-Torres division): Thomas Hertl, because he did that one thing that one time that he totally shouldn’t have. Even though it was awesome.
Potential Leino: Rookie Bracken Kearns will score some big goal, and a gullible GM will like his youthful energy and sign him away. Only to find out around July 15th that Kearns is actually 32.
Prediction: It’s the Sharks, so it doesn’t end well so Patrick Marleau also gets blamed for a lot of stuff.
Los Angeles Kings
Team in a nutshell: Lowest scoring team in the playoffs, but they won the Stanley Cup two seasons ago, so they’re still totally awesome, right?
Important injuries of note: None to speak of.
Player most likely to be hated: As much as I’d like to find someone else, it’s still Dustin Brown.
Potential Leino: Putting Marian Gaborik on this list seems harsh, but I fear that someone will still see him as an elite scorer and pay him as such. He’s not done, but he’s not top tier either.
Prediction: Dustin Brown and Raffi Torres will both be suspended in this series when they try to elbow each other on the same hit.