Thirty-seven years ago, the New York Islanders started a tradition that is carried on to today. It is 1980 and the Islander players stopped shaving their faces. They won the Stanley Cup that year. In fact, the won the next three Cups after that. Some claim it’s the luck of the Playoff Beard. Is it true, can a beard help you win the Holy Grail of Hockey? Some will argue it does. Patrick Kane was too young to grow a beard in his rookie season and that season the Blackhawks failed to advance in the playoffs. Years later, Kane returns the playoffs with a beard and won his first Cup. On the other hand, 1994 New York Rangers did not grow playoff beards because of its connection to the rival Isles. Who did the Islanders beat in the first round for the 1980 Cup? Rangers.
It is time to put the shaving cream and razors away. For the next two and half months it’s the NHL’s second season. The playoffs are here and wives in both US and Canada will be complaining about their husbands’ facial hair! This superstition transcends the players. It is shared by fans too. I even participated (without the wife’s liking) in the playoff beard phenomena while I was employed with Tampa Bay Lightning last season.
Let’s look at the first-round match-ups.
Montreal Canadiens V New York Rangers: Carey Price might be the best player in the league. Plus, the solid defense by Shea Weber makes Price’s numbers better. Watch out for Pacioretty! He can steal the game. For the Rangers, King Henry isn’t getting any younger. This might be his last chance for a Cup. However, the Rangers have depth and have been a solid offensive force since October. This one is going to seven games. I take the NY Rangers.
Ottawa Senators V Boston Bruins: Neither team made it to the playoffs last season. Both teams are hungry. Bruins ended the season on a decline as the Sens heated up towards the end. This even match-up will fall in the favor of the Senators only because of their momentum entering the playoffs.
Washington Capitals V Toronto Maple Leafs: The Presidents Trophy winning Capital will take on the Maple Leafs. This the first-time playoff match-up. Maple Leafs limped into the final playoffs spot on the second to last day of the season. Toronto is swelling with pride and making the playoffs for the first time in four years but are being punished by matching up against the Caps in the first round. Sorry Leaf fans, Caps will win.
Pittsburgh Penguins V Columbus Blue Jackets: Blue Jackets are the Cinderella team of the league this year; but, don’t count out a health Crosby, Malkin and Kessel. These teams are both powerhouses with valid chances to make it to the finals. The x-factor: Bobrosky. Leaning toward Pens due to their experience in the playoffs.
Chicago Blackhawks V Nashville Predators: Here is another series that will reach seven games. I’m going to be bold a predict an upset. Preds over the Chicago. Subban and Rinne have the same solid defense seen in Montreal. Preds, like the Rangers, have team depth.
Minnesota Wild V St Louis Blues: The Wild are my favorite to win the Western Conference. The Blues are not the same team for past seasons. The departure of Backes to Boston really affected the team. Wild will advance.
Anaheim Ducks V Calgary Flames: Two teams that flew under the radar this season. Another one almost too close to call. I’m picking the Flames.
Edmonton Oilers V San Jose Sharks: One word: McJesus! Colin McDavid (or McJesus) will lead his team into the second round. It’s going to be a heart-breaker for Sharks fans who saw the Penguins crush their dreams last season. Sharks are on the verge of rebuild mode.
Those are my predictions. Like them? Don’t like them? Let me know.