A Look Back at the Qualifiers

The NHL’s first attempt at a Qualifier Round in the Hub Bubble was a success, regardless of how your team finished. The idea of a 24-team playoffs as the “new normal” began to have a little traction, especially with Barry Trotz speaking up about it. The downside to this would be the length of the season, of course. Unless teams vote to knock off 10 games to the regular season in lieu of those playoff games, the 24-team concept will be a one-and-done situation. Of course, playoff tickets do outweigh regular season ones; so teams who consistently make the playoffs could be swayed by that extra revenue; whilst the constant also-rans will hate to have five home games taken from them.

It’s hard to argue that it’s a novel concept– a qualifier of some sort with the top-four teams battling out to reshuffle the top positions. Though, some of the top teams would cry foul if they did get that top spot to have a better advantage in the playoffs, only to lose that spot when it came to the actual playoffs starting– much like how the Bruins lost their top spot because of their subpar play in the round-robin.

Granted, it’s not to say that getting the top spot will assure victory. We saw with the Oilers and the Penguins that just because you’re facing the weakest-seeded team, it doesn’t really mean the top team will get out in front. In fact, four of the eight qualifiers saw the lower seed winning, with Chicago, Montreal, and Arizona being below the 10-seed and still advancing.

A bugaboo for me was the statistics of it all. I don’t understand how the round-robin games count as playoffs games when the OT structure was that of the regular season. It’s not as if they were in any kind of series structure to it, so why would they count as playoff games??

The bubble concept has been great for people, especially since you can’t have fans in the arena, the time teams play is very flexible and creates all-hockey, all-the-time on the networks. We’d have to assume, however, when people are allowed back into the arenas, this will be a thing of the past. You’d actually have to choose between a number of games rather than just sit down and have them come one right after another.

Unsung to these games is the ice crew, who have been amazing in the bubble with the ability to keep the ice as good as can be with three games playing at a time, while also making sure they had the correct local ads on the boards for the “home” team and their regional broadcast. Not only that, but the game operation folks have been tremendous with their humor to the in-game presentations.

This was a good trial run to see how the length of a qualifier, coupled with how to spread out the games. If the NHL does start to scratch their chins about the idea of a consistent 24-team playoffs, then they can pretty much push to this in order to determine the success and failure. Only issue would be doing it across multiple sites and not just one or two.

Overall, the qualifying round proved to be a nice re-introduction to most people for hockey and the playoffs, which will hopefully carry over into the actually playoffs when they start on Tuesday.

ITPST: October 24th, 2019

It’s the second edition of the gimmick that keeps on giving. Hey, we’re almost across the board with teams playing double-digits games– which means we’re getting closer to that sweet, sweet playoff push.

Keeping it in the East to start, the Buffalo Sabres’ hot start (8-1-1) have them at the top of the Atlantic Division. Right behind them are the Boston Bruins (6-1-2) and the Toronto Maple Leafs (5-4-2). Who can’t wait for another round of Bruins/Leafs in the first round?!? Yeah– I could wait for a good long while. In the Metro, the Caps (7-2-2) and John Carlson are on a big streak after a rough start, putting them atop the Metro. Carolina have a little bit of a stall after a torrid start (6-3-0), with the Penguins right after them (6-5-0). The Wild Card spots head to both Florida teams in the Lightning (5-3-1) and the Panthers (4-2-3).

Therefore it’ll be the Sabres vs. the Panthers, the Bruins take on the Leafs, the Caps will take on the Lightning, with the Hurricanes and Penguins going at it to round it out.

Out West, the Colorado Avalanche (7-1-1) are ripping it up and are atop the division, with the Predators (5-3-1) and Blues (4-2-3) rounding out the tough Central Division. Getting rid of Milan Lucic has helped the Edmonton Oilers (7-2-1) put themselves ahead in the Pacific, as the Golden Knights (7-4-0) and Canucks (6-3-0) round out the top three. The Wild Card spots will be headed to Anaheim (6-4-0) and the rejuvenated Coyotes (5-2-1).

And as we see it– the Avalanche will duel with the Coyotes in the relocation bowl, with the Blues and Predators being the other match-up, as the Oilers will take on the Ducks and the Golden Knights battle the Canucks.

NHL Playoffs 2019: Round One

Since no one asked– here’s my picks and a reason.

TAMPA BAY vs. COLUMBUS
Prediction: Tampa in 5
Reason: As much as I may no believe in the Lightning down the stretch, the Blue Jackets were too hot going into the playoffs to have much left in the tank. Also, Nikita Kucherov will most likely continue to step-up his game in the second season.

BOSTON vs. TORONTO
Prediction: Boston in 6
Reason: We’ve seen this song before and Toronto isn’t that great against Boston in the playoffs. Goaltending is a disaster for the Leafs, while their defense isn’t much better.

WASHINGTON vs. CAROLINA
Prediction: Washington in 6
Reason: Give the Jerks credit, they clawed back to get in this spot. However, the Caps seem to enjoy feasting on the Canes in life. Plus, the Caps want to get back to the Promised Land to hoist the Cup again, so they’ll do whatever it takes to win it again

NY ISLANDERS vs. PITTSBURGH
Prediction: Penguins in 6
Reason: As much as I want to believe in Robin Lehner and Thomas Greiss; Sidney Crosby, Phil Kessel, and a somewhat healthy Evgeni Malkin trump that. Only hope is Matt Murray stinking up the joint

CALGARY vs. COLORADO
Prediction: Calgary in 6
Reason: Goaltending aside, the Flames won the Western Conference for a reason. Especially with Mikko Rantanen just coming back from injury– who knows how effective he will be. Though, some pressure may be on Johnny Gaudreau and friends to make an unexpected run.

SAN JOSE vs. VEGAS
Prediction: Vegas in 5
Reason: Playoffs is about defense and as much as the Sharks have Brent Burns and Erik Karlsson to add some punch offensively, Martin Jones hasn’t been great. The Knights enjoyed a nice taste last year and probably want to make people know it wasn’t a fluke.

WINNIPEG vs. ST. LOUIS
Prediction: St. Louis in 7
Reason: I don’t know why, but the Blues could be a sleeper team to make some noise. They weren’t even supposed to be here, but Jordan Binnington decided that he’d show Jake Allen how to play in net. They’ll be a tough out with JB in net.

NASHVILLE vs. DALLAS
Prediction: Nashville in 6
Reason: With the window for the Preds and all their talent, it could be the perfect time for them to run wild in the West. They probably still feel the sting of the lost to Winnipeg and want to make a statement run at the Cup this year.

2018-19 Preview….Kind Of: Eastern Conference Edition

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Okay– time to shake the dust off this thing and get into some NHL previewing. We’ve got 31 teams in four divisions, so the only way to do this right is to do it as half-assed as ever. If you’ve been following me for the last 17 years of writing– you know it’s the only way to go.

First, the Metropolitan Division; the division with the worst name, but boasting the last three Stanley Cup Champions. The Washington Capitals kept the band together, save for Philipp Grubauer. Other than that– the big concern here is the short off-season (which has been seen with the lack of Devante Smith-Pelly), but the hunger to keep the winning going could fuel this team. Alex Ovechkin is back in the best shape of his life part 2, while the rest of the team– despite a subpar preseason– will be looking to keep the good vibes going into this season.

It won’t be easy– the Penguins will want to get some revenge on the Caps since they won the Cup and rekindled a bit of the rivalry. With a longer time to rest, you can bet Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Phil Kessel will be ready– but will Matt Murray be durable or not?? The Columbus Blue Jackets will want revenge on the Caps, but their house is a mess with both Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky really not having a great off-season and signalling their tenure in C-bus may be soon over.

The New York/New Jersey area is full of “The hell??” vibes, especially with the Rangers retooling rather than rebuilding, the Islanders losing John Tavares, but gaining Lou Lamoriello, and the Devils being the best team out of the three since they made the playoffs last year. The Rangers will go as far as Henrik Lundqvist takes them, the Devils will have to rely heavily on Taylor Hall to keep his MVP form, while the Islanders will be…something. They at least have Barry Trotz and a whole slew of….oh, right they sent a lot of their prospects back to Bridgeport. Oh boy.

That leaves Philadelphia and Carolina. The biggest thing for the Flyers this offseason was the introduction of Gritty the Mascot. While James van Riemsdyk is back, that’s not really getting the juices flowing when you don’t know who will end up as your goalie by the Thanksgiving break. The Hurricanes have a revamped everything– new owner, GM, coaches…it’s a new team….minus the same Scott Darling, the same lack of depth scoring, the lack of stable defense. Maybe Dougie Hamilton can change that, but maybe not. A near-perfect preseason gives them some momentum…as much as you can with preseason results.


When you think of the Atlantic Division, you think of two tire-fires and a team who is planning the parade route thanks to a single signing of a local player. First, the Maple Leafs, who have already been given the Stanley Cup by their fans and some pundits due to the John Tavares signing….totally forgetting their defense is suspect at best and Freddy Andersen can only do so much with that suspect defense in front of him. But– it’s Toronto, so hype is always around.

The other Canadian teams in the division are just plain garbage. Ottawa is just bad news all around thanks to the Erik Karlsson deal– which sealed the summer of drama for the team– on top of Eugene Melnyk not getting out of his own way. Montreal, however, traded their captain and a young forward while also naming a guy who has been more injured than not during his Canadiens tenure the captain of the team. Wonder if Carey Price is regretting signing long-term or if he’s just getting his money and not caring about the outcome.

Looking around, the Buffalo Sabres are poised for either a break out year or another disappointing season looking towards the lottery. Rasmus Dahlin aside, the attitude of Jack Eichel seems to be about winning now, Carter Hutton could be a breakout start in a starters role, the the Sabres could just decided to say the hell with it and go balls to the wall in order to win. That or they’ll have to deal with a lot of injuries and then get frustrated and fold up into a shell again.

While Tampa Bay didn’t lose too many big names, the loss of Steve Yzerman could very well hurt in the long-run. Though, Julien BriseBois has been under Yzerman’s learning tree, the moves that Yzerman were able to get may just be the respect factor of the man who is revered in the hockey world. Yet, a team that was one win away from the Cup Final shouldn’t have to do much more than they did, especially in a weak division.

People sleep on Boston a little too much, especially when you think they have Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand on their offensive side. Tuukka Rask is due for a bounce-back year, though the defense will rely heavily on Charlie McAvoy, especially with Torey Krug out for the start of the season. It will be scoring by committee after the first line in Boston, but Bruce Cassidy seems like he can holster all the firepower he can in order to get this team back to the playoffs.

Florida and Detroit are also in this division. The Panthers keep getting closer and closer then further away, while the Red Wings could be in the midst of a long playoff drought in their new building. Of the two, MAYBE the Panthers could come close to being in the Wild Card discussion, but it’s a very long-shot at that.

Summer Reading: Barracuda Nostalgia Sparks Idea For Other Retro Nights

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With the announcement of the San Jose Barracuda having jersey/theme nights to honor the affiliates of the San Jose Sharks past, it made me wonder if more teams should go and do it. Nostalgia is a helluva selling point for people, both in-arena and online. A gimmick like this creates a lot of buzz and could move a lot of tickets and a lot of merchandise to help out a team.

On the flip side, it’s a bit morbid. It’s a showing of failed teams, possibly failed markets, and while it’s nice– could rub some people the wrong way if they are bitter enough about losing their team.

Regardless of that, however, and regardless if you asked my opinion or not– but here’s some teams who I’d enjoy seeing honor their old affiliates. Of course, my top pick would be the Capitals to show off the old Richmond Robins, Baltimore Skipjacks, and Portland Pirates jerseys….but a team like the Hershey Bears wouldn’t give up their tradition to honor someone else’s– especially since they have outlasted those teams.

So– in no particular order:

ANAHEIM DUCKS: First in the alphabet, first one on this list. The Ducks have had some great affiliates– the short-lived Baltimore Bandits and Cincinnati Mighty Ducks, but they weaved their way through some solidly established teams, like the Syracuse Crunch and Norfolk Admirals. However, if there’s one team I want to see again, it’s the Iowa Chops. One season wasn’t enough and if the San Diego Gulls wanted to move merch, that’s the way to do it. Of course, the Gulls are at the top of attendance and probably merch, so they don’t need that big of a boost.

NEW YORK ISLANDERS: While the Bridgeport Sound Tigers are the longest affiliate the Islanders have had, the stops they’ve had along the way has been great and aesthetically amazing. The Thoroughblades are represented again (as seen above), but also the gaudy Salt Lake Golden Eagles jerseys, the early Lowell Lock Monsters jerseys, and the Utah Grizzlies‘ jerseys with a giant shoulder patch would really steer the memories, especially from the IHL fans.

CAROLINA HURRICANES: Including the Charlotte Checkers, the Hurricanes have only had five affiliates– but what affiliates they have been. The Beast of New Haven could have the worst logo of all time, the Cincinnati Cyclones, Lowell Lock Monsters, and Albany River Rats add to the memorable logos of affiliates past for the Hurricanes.

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS: What’s not to like about the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins as the Muskegon Lumberjacks, the Baltimore Skipjacks, or the Broome Dusters….jacks. While the motif is pretty much the same in the black and gold, the older logos would be solid in a modern setting.

MINNESOTA WILD: While the Iowa Wild is the third of the AAA-affiliates for the Wild, the Houston Aeros look would be nice– but why not add some ECHL flavor?? The Louisiana IceGators looks would be solid, same with the Texas Wildcatters, Mississippi Sea Wolves, and Johnstown Chiefs; though it seems like a better option for the Allen Americans to do with their new ECHL affiliation with the Wild.

There’s plenty to go around. Minor league teams change like the tide, though thanks to teams owning their affiliates and markets being very solid in the industry– that’s slowed down a bit. Maybe there’s entire weekends that could be “Turn Back the Clock” weekends to bring back a little retro flavor and put some much needed attention onto the minor leagues. Anything in the name of a good gimmick.

TEPID TAKE: 2018 NHL Free Agency Edition

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The first day of open market in the NHL pretty much brought us everyone waiting for John Tavares to finally decide where he was going. The other signings meant nothing until he signed– it was all about JT today.

-So, JT did sign with his hometown team, the Toronto Maple Leafs– making their fanbase even more insufferable when it comes to players who were born in the GTA coming to their Cup-drought filled team. Good on JT for making this decision, though– to walk into the lion’s den freely to achieve a goal to play in your hometown. It’s a comfort for him…for now. Ultimately– he makes the Leafs that much better despite the lack of defense for now.  Maybe this will take some of the pressure of Auston Matthews of being the first-line center and perhaps help him get out of whatever doghouse Mike Babcock has Matthews in.

-When it comes to Islanders fans, though, it’s natural to feel pissed at this– especially with JT dragging this process on and really making people wait. The problem is that JT doesn’t owe the fans anything and you should really be mad at the dysfunction in the front office for years rather than the player who wanted to play on a contender. The legacy Garth Snow left is being barely mediocre while not really getting Tavares the support he needed. With Lou Lamoriello being at the helm, we’ll see if he’ll build around Mat Barzal or some other wacky stuff to keep the Islanders middling for years to come.

-The move I liked the least had to be Petr Mrazek going to Carolina. We all are aware that the Scott Darling project hasn’t worked out after the first year, but to get a guy who will be a challenger to Darling’s starting spot could go one of two ways– really good by pushing him and making him better or really bad by having two goalies too tense to make a mistake that their nerves get shot. With two goalies who are better off as a back-up coming in to start a string of games rather than be a starter– the Canes are playing with fire in hopes this will really work out this time.

-Bruce Boudreau really loves former Capitals and grit guys that the Wild signed a lot of them. Matt Hendricks, Eric Fehr, JT Brown, and Greg Pateryn are joining Minnesota for the next season. For what reason….character?? I really don’t know what these moves are about, but if grit is the one thing the Wild thing was missing– then they are sure to get further now.

-Most people hate the Jack Johnson deal. I think the tenure of the deal is what gets me, but overall– it’s not HORRIBLY BAD. Especially in Pittsburgh, Johnson could get back into the groove of things with his boy Sidney Crosby around and Mike Sullivan working him until turns it around in a big way. It could turn out to be a very big value deal if Johnson can actually get his game back.

-Speaking of tenure deals I don’t like– Jay Beagle to Vancouver. I’m glad Beagle got paid somewhere. He was a folk-hero in Washington for years, but he couldn’t have been expecting that money in DC. Four years for Beagle at $12M is something I shook my head at for Vancouver. Good on Beagle to get his money, Jim Benning better hope it pans out for the team and gets them closer to another level.

-One of the busiest teams was the Dallas Stars. They picked up Anton Khudobin, Blake Comeau, Roman Polak, and Val Nichushkin. A decent amount of depth there– Khudobin hoping not to be another in the junkyard that is goalies of Stars past, while Nichushkin comes back after a two-season hiatus in the KHL putting up 27 goals and 51 points in 86 games. Polak will be another veteran presence on the blueline next to Marc Methot and help tutor the younger defensemen in the Stars line-up.

That’s the moves that stand-out to me that need talking about. We’ll cover more of these on Face Off Hockey Show Wednesday night live and on podcast that weekend. After Tavares, things kind of cooled down. Which is fine for a holiday week and reporters wanting to actually enjoy it for a change. That said, there’s probably going to be small moves here and there as teams address their depth needs and wants.

Takeaways and Looking at the Second Round

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The first round is over and it was….something. Here’s some takeaways from it:

-As much as I hate to say it, the Penguins look like they’re world beaters. Sure, they beat the Flyers who were beat-up themselves and not all that great when you look at their goaltending, but to put up 28 goals in six games is impressive regardless of how you look at it. For a team that’s played from top to bottom for two straight seasons, they look like they’re gonna make a bigger push to get to a third.

-Man, those Western Conference series were a bit of a snooze, huh?? Two sweeps, both in the Pacific and the only real big deal series maybe showed the defending Conference Champs showing some vulnerability against a definitively weaker opponent. That said, at least the also-rans are out of the way for the new crop of powerhouses to take control of the division for a bit.

-The question is does this powerhouse really include the Vegas Golden Knights or are they just a mirage. They’ve already overcome the expansion blues and really took the league by storm. The question is whether or not Marc-Andre Fleury can really take the reins of this team and prove his playoff mettle. While defensive teams often take over the playoffs, a little goal support like how they managed this season could really help their cause as this dream season continues.

-Andrei Vasilevskiy will hopefully enjoy this break. For a guy who was talking about how he’s been worn down the entire season by playing so much, this time off will help him get a little recharged and focus. Though, he did look solid in those last two games, only letting up two goals total in them. If Nikita Kucherov and Alex Killorn can keep the offense up, the Bolts could take advantage of a worn down Bruins team.

Now, with that stuff out of the way– what to look for in the second round.

-The Jets aren’t the Avalanche, so the Predators better not let up early goals like they have been. While Pekka Rinne and the squad have been solid, a team like the Jets and the offensive prowess they have will jump all over the Preds and not give the lead up so easily. You have to believe the best is yet to come for Patrik Laine, Mark Scheifele, and Blake Wheeler– and what better way to do it than now.

-While I’m a Caps fan and know what could come next, the fact they are going to start Game One without having to face Evgeni Malkin and Carl Hagelin is a good thing. Yet, the Caps are 8-2 in Game Ones against the Penguins and have gone 1-9 in those series by the end. Alex Ovechkin has been scoring and the depth on the Caps is solid– they just have to get the boulder from off their back (and between their ears) if they want to succeed.

-Despite big-upping Vasilevskiy earlier, the Bruins are a team that could very well grind out some wins. It seems no matter what– their depth is chipping in and taking some pressure off Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron. However, whether or not Tuukka Rask can withstand the barrage of firepower that Tampa has remains to be seen. You can expect the best out of Steven Stamkos this round, too.

-Someone get the pumpkin ready, because Vegas’s Cinderella season could be at it’s end. It’s nice to believe they can get to the Finals, but when you look at how this Sharks team is performing and how Martin Jones is looking back to form, it’s hard to say they’ll have a cakewalk like they did against LA. With Marcus Sorenson and Melker Karlsson leading the fresh group of Sharks, the Golden Knights could finally see their season end without a fairytale ending.

More Coverage is More Gooder

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With Game Six being the end of the NHL season, NBC took center stage as the Pittsburgh Penguins took home their second straight Stanley Cup and fifth overall to the delight of many and the disgust of many more. However, while NBC did have the game itself, couldn’t the NHL and their rightsholder have done more to make this coverage an even bigger deal for fans??

Full disclosure: I’m a cord-cutter and use SlingTV as my main visual aspect of getting games on top of NHL.TV for coverage. The closest NBC tower is 40 miles away and getting a good reception in this wind field that is North Dakota is near impossible and with the NBC Sports App, you apparently need a cable provider to sign up and have them be cool with it. If you have any ways to legally get around it, then let me know in the comments because my dumbass doesn’t know how to.

Is there a reason the NHL didn’t make a possible series-clinching game one of the biggest events over their networks of coverage?? Granted, NBCSN did have their own stuff to cover, like the new-to-you showing of the Canadian Grand Prix (which had happened that afternoon) that night after their pre-game coverage to Game Six; but why not put NHL Network to work for something like this?? Maybe give hockey fans an alternative to the claptrap they have to endure with NBC’s announcers, like playing the Sportsnet/CBC coverage on the NHL Network to give another aspect of the game with different voices than that of what NBC pushes onto fans.

Sure, it was nice to see the NHL Network play Sportsnet’s “NHL Classic” series where they have pop-up video elements over classic games in a sixty-minute span, but wouldn’t some kind of alternate simulcast be just as good for hockey fans?? Maybe do to the series-clinching games like ESPN does with the NCAA National Championship Football MegaCast in putting different analysts on a simulcast of the game to give their differing opinions.

The second-screen experience is what other sports give their fans. Whether it be through radio calls, enhances stats during the game, or some other alternative to what the main broadcast is, it seems that the NHL has lacked that for a time and is behind on a lot of sports in that nature. Even if it’s just giving an alternative viewing, why not have people watching something rather than be mad at the broadcast team they have now. Hell, why not just get rid of the group of people you have and get new blood in there– but that’s another discussion for another time.

Like I said, NBCSN probably does have other properties they have to show contractually, so they might not be available to pull off this kind of thing, especially when it’s not a one-and-done thing. However, NHL Network hasn’t proved that they are showing anything but reruns of old games or some random animated show hosted by Boomer Esiason. Why not utilize this league dedicated network to the Cup Final series and give fans an alternative and a reason to watch that channel outside of the On The Fly aspect during the season. To do something like that with the Cup-clinching games (at least) could get people to actually tune into the channel and give a fresh spin for those who are overly sick of the NBC talking heads.

I just feel that if you have a big event like the Cup-clinching game, more than just NBC would be the spot to watch, especially when the auxiliary channels deal with the bulk of the post-game after the Cup is won due to local news or some other NBC program coming on after the game’s time-slot.  Make it a big event because it’s the biggest event of the hockey year. Hell, even if you have to do it two or three or four times, why not do it and treat it like a big deal?? Just seems there’s so much to do when it comes to the broadcast that is left on the table by letting NBC keep it to just one channel for the game itself and not give a second-screen experience that other sports give their fans.

PREDICTION: Stanley Cup Final(s)

When I was growing up, it was called the Stanley Cup Finals and sometime along the post-lockout world it became the Final; but whatever. Everyone is in the prediction business, so why not go for it myself??

Short and sweet, too.

As much as I loathe the Pittsburgh Penguins, this year they’re trying to be the first back-to-back team since the Detroit Red Wings in 1997 and 1998, which is made especially difficult in a salary cap world. Without Kris Letang and without Sidney Crosby at 100% (and even then he’s 2nd in playoff scoring), guys like Evgeni Malkin and Jake Guentzel have stepped up in a big fashion, while I don’t think we’ve seen the best out of Phil Kessel yet. Hell, Matt Murray is trying for his second Stanley Cup in his rookie season, which is just wacky as hell when you say it out loud like that. However, the Penguins have really showed their depth and showed how their system really could be a model for most teams in the league going forward.

On the other side, the darling of the hockey world has been the Nashville Predators and the fans of Nashville who people are just discovering. While they don’t have the offensive fire-power, they do have some of the top defensemen in the league in Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis, and PK Subban. Upfront, Filip Forsberg has truly blossomed to the player people thought he was going to be, while Colton Sissons is going to get paid this summer because of his John-Druceian performance this playoffs. Luckily, Pekka Rinne has also came to play for the Predators after an up and down season for him this season. The loss of Ryan Johansen is a big one, but it’s a “next man up” mentality for this team who have really bought into Peter Laviolette’s message.

It’s going to be interesting to see how the Penguins react to having played so much since October 2015, as this is their second straight run of this magnitude. They aren’t the young guns they were back in 2008 and 2009 when they made this kind of run themselves. Coming off of two Game 7s in the past two series, the Pens could be running on fumes; but you can bet they have some gas in their tank saved up just for this.

The Preds, on the other hand, are amazing in team stats in having a +18 goal differential and only have let up 29 goals this playoffs. They’ll be very tested against the top scoring team in the playoffs, but Rinne will probably be equal to the task. As the second Wild Card in the Western Conference, this team is playing with house money. They don’t know they shouldn’t be here and are going to play the next however many games with as much enthusiasm as they did leading up to this.

PREDICTION: It’s really a “head vs. heart” for me because I know what the Penguins can do, but I think the Predators could really pull it out because they have the defense-first mentality that usually gets teams very far in the playoffs.

Predators in 7. Rinne will continue to be hot, the Preds defense will rule the day again, the Pens will feel the effects to all the games in the past two season and not have that extra juice needed to win.