Tristin Huntamer Is Your NHL Playoffs Cheat Sheet

Tristin Huntamer

We’re midway through the first round of the NHL Playoffs, and we were wondering…

How did we get midway through the first round of the NHL Playoffs? Wait, there was an NHL season? What happened to the strike?

Tristin Huntamer

When it comes to hockey, we are happy to let someone else do the driving… particularly if it’s a girl who spends her non-hockey time scantily clad or even naked. She writes about hockey for SportsRants.com and RinkRocket, although the best place to keep track of her is her Twitter page @TristinHuntamer.

We’ll get out of the way — here is Tristin’s guide to the NHL Playoffs, including the (now underway) first-round matchups:

Eastern Conference

The number 1 seeded Pittsburgh Penguins (36-12-0, 72 points) against 8th seeded New York Islanders (24-17-7, 55 points). The Penguins are 4-1-0 against the Islanders in the regular season.

Penguins: They have had a fantastic offense all season and where they lacked in physicality GM Ray Shero played Mr. Fix It by making some deals that filled that void. The Pens have been plagued with injuries all season and those coming off injuries are going be watched by opponents for weakness’. Islanders: If it wasn’t for a strong month of April the Islanders may not have had this opportunity. They certainly didn’t have the strongest defense for the majority of the season. They will need a strong showing from key players like Evgeni Nabokov and John Tavares to have a shot at Round 2.

The number 2 seeded Montreal Canadiens (29-14-5, 63 points) against the 7th seeded Ottawa Senators (25-17-6, 56 points). The Canadiens are 2-1-1 against the Senators in the regular season.

Canadiens: This team knows how to win possession and has the advantage of speed that tests the endurance of their opponents. They are methodical in the way they play, but if they lose that focus they lose games. They have a great starting goalie with Price and a strong relief with Peter Budaj if Carey Price fails.

Senators: They have strong all around goaltending. They do need to focus on offense and make a point to score more than once a game. Cory Conacher will need to step up his game and show that The Senators got an asset in their trade with the Lightning.

3rd seeded Washington Capitals (27-18-3, 57 points) against the 6th seeded New York Rangers (26-18-4, 56 points). The Rangers are 2-0-1 against the Capitals in the regular season.

Tristin Huntamer

Capitals: The Caps have had new life breathed into them over the second half of this season with a hot offense. Unfortunately there defense could use some resuscitation right about now. Braden Holtby is under pressure, but holding his own under an on slot of shots.

Rangers: Henrik Lundqvist needs to play like the Vezina winner he is and the offense needs to actually play offensively. Rick Nash will need to light it up and inspire his teammates to follow suit for a Round 2.

4th seeded Boston Bruins (28-14-6, 62 points) against the 5th seeded Toronto Maple Leafs (26-17-5, 57 points). The Bruins are 3-1-0 against the Maple Leafs in the regular season.

Bruins: They are a big team that is strong on the faceoff. The Bruins have reliable goaltending in the form of Tuukka Rask. To win Milan Lucic will need to get it together and the team will need to stay focused on their objectives.

Maple Leafs: A much improved penalty kill and strong goaltending the Leafs made it to the playoffs for the first time in nine years. They led the league in major penalties and in the playoffs Colton Orr and Frazer McLaren become nearly obsolete.

Western Conference

The number 1 seeded Chicago Blackhawks (36-7-5, 77 points) against the 8th seeded Minnesota Wild (26-19-3, 55 points). The Blackhawks are 2-0-1 against the Wild in the regular season.

Blackhawks: The team has depth and youth in their favor. Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp have all had spectacular showings during the regular season. They boast a great blueline, but they need work on their power play.

Wild: They have strong players such as Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. They also have speed and create scoring chances. The Wild need the defense to step up and not falter to bigger opponents. Niklas Backstrom will need to play strong and stay healthy because there is no Plan B on this team in terms of goaltending.

The number 2 seeded Anaheim Ducks (30-12-6, 66 points) against the 7th seeded Detroit Red Wings (24-16-8, 56 points). The Red Wings are 2-1-0 against the Ducks I the regular season.

Ducks: They had one of the best offensive teams in the league and they need to remain hot and light it up to win. Viktor Fasth and Jonas Hiller are both strong goalies and will provide the Ducks with what they need in the net.

Tristin Huntamer

Red Wings: They boast fast skating forwards and a strong blueline. What they have in speed they unfortunately lack in size. Goalie Jimmy Howard doesn’t have the best numbers in past playoffs, but he has been good in the regular season.

The 3rd seeded Vancouver Canucks (26-15-7, 59 points) against the 6th seeded San Jose Sharks (25-16-7, 57 points). The Sharks are 3-0-0 against the Canucks in the regular season.

Canucks: They have a strong hard to shut down offense but their power play which is ranked 22nd in the league is a far cry from the way it was the 3 seasons prior. Canucks have reliable goaltending but their blueline has suffered some injury.

Sharks: They are great on the faceoff and have a strong penalty kill. The Sharks also have fantastic goaltending from Antti Niemi. Scoring has been difficult for the team and they will need to light it up to advance.

4th seeded St. Louis Blues (29-17-2, 60 points) against the 5th seeded Los Angeles Kings (27-16-5, 59 points). The Kings are 3-0-0 against the Blues in the regular season.

Blues: They have big forwards that have no problem scoring and even more size on their defense. They need a real first line to play at the level expected of all teams in the playoffs. Goaltending sometimes sizzles and sometimes fizzles so the Blues will hope that Brian Elliott can keep the puck out of the net.

Kings: The defending Stanley Cup Champions have a good blueline, depth and boast two-way play. Jonathan Quick needs to match the way he played in the last playoffs because his current goaltending isn’t living up to his potential. Dustin Penner will also need to step up his game like he did in the last playoffs as well if he wants his name on the Cup again.

Every hockey player wants to hoist it in victory, they want their name engraved on it, and they want a day with it. They have dreamed about it since they were young boys idolizing Gretzky, Lemieux and Oor. This is their chance and because it’s The Cup they will willingly leave their blood, sweat and maybe a few teeth on the ice in the pursuit of it.

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