PLAYOFF FIELD SET
The NHL playoff field is set in the Eastern and Western Conference. The Penguins who closed out the regular season with a 4-2 win over the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday afternoon, enter their expected grueling first round series with the Flyers regarded as the favorties in the East from many NHL pundits, including the games most prolific goal scorer.
Lightning star center Steven Stamkos became the 20th player in NHL history to reach the 60 goal mark on Saturday, and while appearing on Sportscenter last night, Stamkos chimed in on the upcoming playoffs and said the Penguins are going to be a tough team to beat with all the talent they have,Â Stamkos also said if he had to make a pick, he believes the Penguins will be the ones hoisting the Cup this June.
Pittsburgh’s first round series with Philadelphia is tentatively expected to begin Wednesday for Game 1 with Game 2 Friday night in Pittsburgh, before the series heads to Philadelphia Sunday afternoon for Game 3 and then a two day break with Game 4 on Wednesday. The league will officially announce the playoff schedule in less than an hour at 1:00 p.m.
FINAL REGULAR SEASON NUMBERS & RANKS
— The Penguins from a statistical standpoint had their second most successful season in team history, registering 108 points, the second most in team history behind the franchise best 119 points the Penguins recorded in 1992-1993.
— The Penguins finished the regular season as the No. 1 scoring team, averaging 3.3 goals per game. Philadelphia was second, averaging 3.17 goals per game.
— Statistically, the Penguins are one of the best teams in hockey in the special teams department: The team ranked 3rd on the penalty kill (87.8) and tied for 5th on the power play with the Flyers, posting an 19.7% mark on the power play.
— The Penguins finished the regular season 32-0-3 when leading after two periods
— Evgeni Malkin had a special day on Saturday, scoring his 50th goal (9th player in Pens history) of the season and officially winning the Art Ross, leading the league with 109 points, 12 points better than Steve Stamkos who finished the year ranked second in points and 1st in goals with 60. Malkin the favorite for the Hart Trophy, ranked 2nd in goals, 1st in points, 1st in even strength points, 1st in shots and ranked 3rd in assists with 59. Malkin had 31 multi-point games.
— Kris Letang finished the season with 42 points in 51 games played, averaging 0.83 points per game, the second best mark among defensemen behind Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson who collected 78 points in 81 games, averaging 0.96 points per game. Letang alsoÂ finished the regular season with a team best plus 21 rating. Overall, Pittsburgh had six players with plus/minus ratings of plus 15 or better: Kris Letang (+21), Brooks Orpik (+19), Evgeni Malkin (+18), Pascal Dupuis (+18), Chris Kunitz (+16), and Sidney Crosby (+15)
— Pascal Dupuis ended the regular season on 17 game points streak, capping off a tremendous season with 25 goals – 34 assists for 59 points and a plus 18 rating. Dupuis ranked 11th in the NHL with 55 even strength points.
James Neal who sat out the final two games of the season, finishes the regular season ranked 4th in goals with 40, 7th in points with 81, 1st in power play goals (18), 4th in power play points (30), and 2nd in shots with 329.
— Marc Andre Fleury finished second in wins (42), 9th in goals against average (2.36) among goaltenders with 40 or more starts, and ranked 21st in save percentage (.913) among goaltenders with 40 or more starts.
— Sidney Crosby registered 8 goals and 29 assists for 37 points in just 22 games played this season. Crosby collected 14 multi-point games, averaging 1.68 points per game. Crosby enters the playoffs with 5 goals in his last five games.
— Chris Kunitz set career highs with 26 goals and 61 points, while appearing in all 82 games. Kunitz played in only 66 games in 2010-2011 and 50 games in 2009-2010.
A quick look at the upcoming playoffs…..(not official predictions)
1. New York Rangers vs Ottawa Senators
Ottawa won season series, 3-1
Series Buzz: After locking up the No. 1 seed, mentally the Rangers coasted through the final two games of the regular season, which could backfire on them. The Senators are a team that comes hard at you, can put the puck in the net, ranking 4th in the NHL in goals and could cause the Rangers problems. New York though should prevail in six games.
2. Boston Bruins vs 7. Washington Capitals
Washington won season series, 3-1
Series Buzz: Other than Pittsburgh – Philadelphia, this is one of the most intriguing playoff matchups. The defending champs have the big advantage in goal and defensively, but the Capitals are a darkhorse with how well Alexander Ovechkin is playing and with the return of Nicklas Backstrom. However, a big cause of concern is Mike Green who is clearly not healthy. The Bruins should be able to wear Washington down throughout a seven game series, but look for Washington to make things interesting.
3. Florida Panthers vs 6. New Jersey Devils
Teams split season series, 2-2
Series Buzz: Despite splitting the season series, New Jersey ended up with a very good draw in the Florida Panthers. The Devils should take this series in five or six games and for Florida to win this series, they’re going to have be a factor on the power play against the Devils No. 1 ranked PK unit.
4. Pittsburgh Penguins vs 5. Philadelphia Flyers
Flyers won season series, 3-1
Series Buzz: Not ready to make a prediction for this series but there are so many storylines and key matchups. There might not be a team that matches up as well as the Flyers do with the Penguins, but the key matchup will be Ilya Bryzgalov vs Marc Andre Fleury. If Bryzgalov plays like he did in March, the Flyers have a great chance to upset the Penguins and for the Penguins who don’t defend well, Fleury has to limit the mediocre games he’s been suspect of during the Penguins last two playoff runs.
1. Vancouver Canucks vs 8. Los Angeles Kings
Teams split season series, 2-2
Series Buzz: The Kings have the goaltender in Jonathan Quick and the playmakers to steal a game or two but Vancouver is the far more superior and complete team.Â if this series goes beyond six games, it would be a surprise.
2. St. Louis Blues vs 7. San Jose Sharks
St. Louis won series, 4-0
Series Buzz: The Blues dominated the season and while the Sharks are playoff tested unlike the Blues, San Jose plays way too inconsistent for me to see them winning four of seven games from the Blues. St. Louis should defend their way into second round.
3. Phoenix Coyotes vs 6. Chicago Blackhawks
Phoenix won season series, 3-1
Series Buzz: Phoenix has the better goaltender and are the better defensive team, but do they have enough top tier talent to upend the Blackhawks? Unlikely….. The Hawks should prevail.
4. Nashville Predators vs 5. Detroit Red Wings
Teams split season series, 3-3
Series Buzz: Are the Predators ready to take that next step? They have home-ice which is crucial in this series as the Red Wings do not play well on the road, going 17-21-3. That figures to be a big advantage for Nashville but Detroit has the stars and top tier talent, which is why I give them a slight edge in this series.