The Regroup is usually reserved for information we already know. From the previous week’s content here on The Coaches Site to video breakdowns of tactics, systems, and trends, it’s all stuff that’s come and gone, both literally and figuratively.
Well, sometimes the best insight comes from asking the right questions first, and then doing your best to find the answer. And like a lot of coaches out there who have wrapped up their own seasons, I’m happy to switch to fan mode for the next two months, and I’m armed with questions I’d like answered.
I’m also not planning on getting up, so feel free to send sandwiches.
Note: I’m going to include each team’s 5on5 Fenwick percentage from the regular season. Fenwick is the amount of unblocked shot attempts for vs unblocked shot attempts against. Info via naturalstattrick.
1. Nashville Predators vs Dallas Stars
Nashville lost in the best series of the playoffs last season in an epic battle with Winnipeg, so you know they’re feeling the pressure of unfinished business. Dallas, on the other hand qualified for the postseason after a season in which Stars’ CEO Jim Lites said Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin were f$#*ing horsesh&%.
Can Nashville’s superb defense corps lead the way offensively and take advantage in the Stars’ defensive zone?
Nashville FF% 52.40
Dallas FF% 48.45
Player to watch: Ryan Ellis
2. Calgary Flames vs Colorado Avalanche
Watching the Avalanche clinch a playoff spot last week playing the high octane Toronto Maple Leafs was a treat. They play fast, they compete, and they have one of the best lines in hockey, while Calgary has 4 of the best lines in hockey.
Can Colorado’s top end beat Calgary’s depth up front and on the back end?
Colorado FF% 50.26
Calgary FF% 53.11
Player to watch: Samuel Girard
3. San Jose Sharks vs Vegas Golden Knights
There’s no one on earth more eager to prove last year’s Stanley Cup run wasn’t a fluke than Vegas’ Gerard Gallant. And this year Vegas has an entire new number one line in Max Paccioretty, Paul Statsny, and Mark Stone. San Jose’s aging stars must be kicking themselves once again. Always a bridesmaid, never a bride.
Can San Jose’s experience and regular season success overcome the exuberance of the Vegas misfits?
Vegas FF% 54.19
San Jose FF% 54.57
Player to watch: Joonas Donskoi
4. St. Louis Blues vs Winnipeg Jets
What didn’t seem like a remote possibility on January 1st when the St. Louis Blues were the worst team in hockey is suddenly shaping up to be the fiercest battle of the playoffs.
Can Paul Maurice point the Jets in the right direction and overcome their emotional exit in last year’s playoffs while the confident Blues are pounding them into the boards?
St. Louis FF% 52.00 (October 1st – December 31st: 49.81, 16th in the NHL; Jan 1st – April 6th 53.71, 4th in the NHL)
Jets FF% 50.73
Player to watch: Ryan O’Reilly
1. Tampa Bay Lightning vs Carolina Hurricanes
The Tampa Bay Lightning are firing on all cylinders after a historic 62 win season while the Columbus Blue Jackets snuck into the postseason after a trade deadline that saw them acquire Matt Duschene, Ryan Dzingel, and Adam McQuaid while holding onto Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovksy. These two teams couldn’t be more different in their makeup if they tried.
Can Jon Cooper and the Lightning quell the enthusiasm of John Tortorella’s Blue Jackets and get this series finished as quickly as possible?
Tampa FF% 52.63
Columbus FF% 51.39
Player to watch: Ryan Murray
2. Washington Capitals vs the Carolina Hurricanes
The reason the fenwick stat was invented, the oft-shooting Carolina Hurricanes, are ready to put their analytics-based approach to the test against last year’s Stanley Cup champs.
The battle of the coaches: can Rod the Bod stay the course while Washington’s new head coach Todd Rierden tries to prove that he’s got what it takes to repeat?
Capitals FF% 48.28
Carolina FF% 56.39 (1st in NHL)
Player to watch: Jacob Slavin
3. Pittsburgh Penguins vs New York Islanders
Two decently surprising seasons saw the New York Islanders soar above their expectations with new coach Barry Trotz at the helm while the Penguins finally showed some signs of aging for the first time since the Sid lottery.
Can Barry Trotz keep the defense-first Islanders focused against a playoff powerhouse?
NYI FF% 47.23
Penguins FF% 50.36
Player to watch: Jake Guentzel
4. Toronto Maple Leafs vs Boston Bruins
With respect to the MacKinnon line in Colorado, the best line in hockey is Patrice Bergeron centering Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak, while the Maple Leafs have a couple individual players who might be considered among the best in the game.
Can the team game of the Boston Bruins overcome the raw skill of the Maple Leafs’ Auston Matthews, John Tavares, and Mitch Marner?
Toronto FF% 48.83
Boston FF% 52.73
Player to watch: Morgan Reilly
From last week, in case you missed it…