NHL Western Conference 2nd Round Playoff Picks

What an epic first round of NHL Playoffs! Both division winners in the West were knocked off in six games at most while only one second place team in each division made it to the second round (it took San Jose two wins in overtime and a full seven games to make it). The wildcard teams look the strongest, but their opponents will make their run harder. The St. Louis Blues continue their winning ways since Mike Yeo was fired, the Avalanche’s Nathan MacKinnon may be the best player in the whole conference and Ben Bishop could possibly win the Vezina Trophy (the award for the top goalie in the NHL) if he keeps this level of playing up. We’re in for a wild ride to say the least.

Time now for second round playoff predictions. Note here it’s possible a lot of analysts’ playoff picks are probably close to mine.

6859First Round picks record: 1-3

#3 San Jose Sharks v. #8/WC2 Colorado Avalanche

It’s a shock these two teams won because of the teams they played and how both series were turned upside down. After being shutout in the first game in Calgary, the Avs didn’t just beat the Flames, they walloped them after the second game. Nathan MacKinnon is back to the version of himself fans wanted him to be after his rookie season. He alone set the tone that first series, and Calgary simply gave up. Gabriel Landeskog, the actual captain and Mikko Rantanen stepped up and were dominant as could be. Last but not least, Avalanche goaltender Philipp Grubauer showed he’s a legitimate starter in the net and can come up big when it matters most. He was the only goalie in the first round who didn’t give up a penalty shot (a play after a serious penalty in which a player at mid-ice gets to try to shoot the puck into the net against the goaltender). If Colorado advances, it’s because these four will come up big again.

San Jose completed their comeback and most importantly Martin Jones got a good amount of confidence back. It was players like Tomas Hertl, Barclay Goodrow and Kevin Labanc who dug deep and got the Sharks out of the 3-1 hole they were in. It’ll get better for the team since San Jose had struggled with Vegas all season and was successful against the Avs the regular season, scoring a minimum of four goals in three games and winning all three. While the Avs will score as well, the Sharks have better depth and have to be relieved that this roster they’re facing isn’t as deep as Vegas’.

Prediction: Sharks win series 4-2.


#5 St. Louis Blues v. #7/WC1 Dallas Stars

What a thrilling first round of hockey from both of these clubs! While St. Louis caught fire in early January and hadn’t let up going into the playoffs, the way they dominated the Jets, especially in Winnipeg, is something a lot of sports analysts and fans didn’t see coming. It’s impressive how the left and right wings (forwards) have broken through and given St. Louis a lot of goals (Jaden Schwartz has had four goals in four periods as the most prominent example) and the centers (Ryan O’Reilly and Brayden Schenn being the main ones) have made their impacts. This is impressive considering there were a few games net-minder Jordan Binnington was uncharacteristically off and deserved criticism. The Blues believe they truly can get into the Stanley Cup Finals and don’t show any signs of letting up.

It’s been a different story in Dallas, where the Stars have been around the playoff caliber teams in their division most of the regular season, but didn’t really stand out besides playing good defense. Well, the Stars made their mark by ousting the Nashville Predators in round one of the playoffs. Not only did they get into the second round, they looked in control after the first three games. Putting Jamie Benn, Alexander Radulov and Tyler Seguin back into the starting lineup together seems like a good decision moving forward, unless the Blues find a way to jam them up in this next series. If the Stars can score three goals or more (they were 1-2 in the first round when scoring less than three), there’s a chance they could stretch the series and maybe advance. Ben Bishop was phenomenal in the final game with over 40 saves and yielding only one goal.

The thing to watch for in this series will be coaching, as it will show who can adapt better as the series goes along. Jim Montgomery is 3-1 since 2019 started against the Blues, and his squad has gotten better the more they’ve faced Craig Berube and Jordan Binnington. I look for Dallas to frustrate the Blues more and to take control beginning Game 3.

Prediction: Stars win series 4-2


The NBA Eastern Conference 2nd Round Playoff Predictions


That was a quick first round in which there wasn’t much of a fight from the losing teams. Most expected the Bucks, Raptors, 76ers and Celtics to make it already, but to have the Eastern Conference first round go as fast as it did shows how much progress needs to be made before all four teams can feel joint competition from the other twelve. Nevertheless, these two series will be pretty fun to watch.

First Round Record in Eastern Conference: 3-1

#1 Milwaukee Bucks v. #4 Boston Celtics

It was a strange relief to many basketball fans that the Celtics showed up and stole three of the four games from the Pacers in the last round. While most of the series leaned on defense, Boston’s stars Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward pushed the Celtics offense to do just enough. They’d make a great choice to push further into the playoffs, except…

Their next opponent is the team with the best record in the NBA, the Milwaukee Bucks.

The Bucks made quick work of the Detroit Pistons, even with Blake Griffin doing everything he could to push the series. The Bucks are the better team in almost every facet of this series. A lot has to happen for Milwaukee to be eliminated and Boston advances

Prediction: Milwaukee wins series 4-1

#2 Toronto Raptors v. #3 Philadelphia 76ers

Speaking of quick work, both Toronto and Philly made sure they could easily get into the second round. While both teams showed vulnerability, Philadelphia looked more unbalanced, whereas Toronto looked in control against Orlando with not so many slip-ups. I do think this could be a seven game series because of how both teams will come to play and show everything they have, but I don’t see the Sixers advancing without taking more heavy hits. Toronto seems to be the better team, in which there’s an established system (not a shot at Brent Brown, it’s just the dynamic the Raptors have). Unlike Brooklyn, Toronto will be more physical on both sides of the court.

Prediction: Toronto wins series 4-2

2019 NHL 1st Round Playoff Predictions in the Eastern Conference

6857Unlike the muddled Western Conference, the Eastern Conference has been on a roll this season. A good number of us know how sensational the Tampa Bay Lightning have been, but the Boston Bruins, despite their injuries have had a phenomenal season. The Capitals look to be back in their postseason form from last year as well, and the Pittsburgh Penguins shouldn’t be looked down on and counted out, especially since Evgeni Malkin is finally back in the starting line up. So let’s get to JD’s predictions.

#1 Tampa Bay Lightning v. #8/WC2 Columbus Blue Jackets

I’ve written and talked about how impressive the Tampa Bay Lightning are in ALL of the NHL’s history, and their roster depth is the best in the league. I cannot see this team pulling 2009-10 Washington Capitals and being ousted in the first round. To put it this way: Tampa could go through the motions, and STILL skate the Jackets out of the building. There’s a major decisive factor in the series, and it doesn’t bode well for Columbus. The Russian phenom of the Blue Jackets, Sergei Bobrovsky, does not do well in the playoffs, giving up an average of 3-5 goals in every game he’s played in. Him playing almost every game to make sure the Jackets can get in might take it’s toll in the first round. At least the Blue Jackets were able to get there.

Prediction: Lightning sweep 4-0

#2 Washington Capitals v. #7/WC1 Carolina Hurricanes

Congratulations to the Carolina Hurricanes, who made the playoffs for the first time in over a decade, and have finally snapped the longest playoff drought in the NHL. The Canes have played like a team that loves and cares for each other in on and off the ice, and it’s a big reason they got into the playoffs. With players like Sebastian Aho, Dougie Hamilton and Petr Mrazek, the Canes caught fire in the second half of the season after trying to stay relevant before the All-Star game. Rod Brind’Amour is a candidate for coach of the year for sure, but this will be the biggest test of the year when it comes to series preparation.

Unfortunately for this band of merry men, they’ve drawn the defending Stanley Cup Champions in the first round. This series is reminiscent of last year’s first round matchup between Tampa Bay and New Jersey, where the Devils were a success story, but they faced a buzzsaw that is the Lightning. The same applies to the Hurricanes, and I expect Braden Holtby to be the first one to slam the door on their Cinderella season.

Prediction: Capitals win this round 4-1


#3 Boston Bruins v. #6 Toronto Maple Leafs

There’s a lot to say for both teams and where they’re headed. Bruce Cassidy again has navigated through a lineup that cannot stay healthy in the long-term, but the “next man up” mentality is strong in Boston for another year. It doesn’t matter who goes down; the Bruins just find ways to win, especially if it’s ugly.

There are more issues that will be addressed in this blog if the Bruins get further into the playoffs, but those issues won’t be looked at because of the team they’re playing: the Toronto Maple Leafs.

This was a first-round matchup last year that wasn’t going to give many people hype. The Bruins and Lightning were much closer to skill, so it wasn’t a surprise Boston won in six (remember, injuries is a factor). This time it looks like there’s a much bigger gap between Toronto and Boston. While Boston has moved a little further, Toronto has imploded in the past two months. Questions about goaltending are more frequent than in San Jose (and it’s a sieve for the Sharks), the defense has caved in and the offense, while gradually getting back into full-gear, has sputtered and is clearly not the same as it was in the first part of the season. It’s easy to understand the frustration of wanting to win a championship when the franchise hasn’t for over 50 years and the roster is pretty darn good, minus the goalie question. While it’s probable Babcock will neither be fired nor leave, this doesn’t help his case for staying much longer, especially with who’s been brought in under his watch.

Prediction: Bruins win series 4-1

#4 New York Islanders . #5 Pittsburgh Penguins

Did you know that the Islanders have given up the fewest goals all season (they’ve given up 191)? It’s impressive to see how well this team turned out during the season. Written off for dead after their captain John Tavares went to Toronto, their new and, yes, defending Stanley Cup Champion head coach Barry Trotz has pulled off probably his best year of his NHL coaching tenure. Unlike the Pens, this roster isn’t filled with big names, and like Carolina, they’ve played as a tight-knit group for almost the whole season.

The Penguins, as mentioned above will get Malkin, Sidney Crosby’s enforcer on ice, back in the starting lineup. The Pens have a fantastic roster, but they’ve been inconsistent for a while. Losing to a team like the Rangers when you want that home ice advantage for the number four seed on the last game of the regular season could possibly hurt. Matt Murray hasn’t been at his best during the latter half of the regular season, which is worrying because this is when he can get going and play like the two-time Stanley Cup winning goalie he is. While the Pens can’t be counted out with Mike Sullivan and the players he has on ice, it doesn’t seem like they have the motivation to go far in the playoffs, especially if this goes to a seven game series.

Upset pick in the NHL Eastern Conference 1st Round: Islanders win in 7, 4-3

2019 NHL 1st Round Playoff Predictions in the Western Conference

6859The Western Conference in the National Hockey League has been clumped together for most of the 2019 season. Teams like the Edmonton Oilers and the Chicago Blackhawks lasted as long as they did because a lot of the teams better than them were ahead by a handful of points. Now that those teams are filtered out, it’s time to predict the four first-round series.

#1 Calgary Flames v. #8/WC2 Colorado Avalanche

This matchup is pretty hard to predict. Don’t get it wrong, Calgary has been by far and away the most consistent team in the West, but there are a lot of questions on their end. Like last year, the Avs get the 8th seed, and they must be relieved to play a team that isn’t as skilled as the Nashville Predators (They’re up next in the predictions by the way). Colorado proved pesky in last year’s six game series against Nashville, and wound up slowing the Preds to the point where they faltered against Winnipeg and were eliminated. This is NOT meant to take anything away from the Flames, who seem to have fixed their biggest issue in goaltending with the tandem of Mike Smith and David Rittich, though it could be a lot better. The Flames look like a complete team so far, but they need to keep their foot on the gas and win the matchups that clearly favor them. This will be offensively oriented though, since both teams were in the top 10 in goals scored. Philipp Grubauer, the former backup behind Braden Holtby, could possibly keep the Avs in this as long as possible.

Prediction: Flames take this in 7, 4-3

#2 Nashville Predators v. #7/WC1 Dallas Stars

Speaking of goalies, this series is going to be heavily centered around them. Both of these teams were in the top three in goals allowed. Just 3 years ago, Dallas was an offensive juggernaut that had horrible defense and net-minding, a 180 from what it is now. The two goalie system seems to work with net-minders who aren’t so-so. The tandem of Ben Bishop and Anton Khudobin make a solid wall, as they gave up only 200 goals in the regular season. What may be a deciding factor is the power play (when one team has a one, two or more man advantage because of a penalty committed by the opposing team. The player/s must sit in a box isolated for at least two minutes each), where Dallas sits comfortable at 11th, but Nashville is dead last. It doesn’t help that the Predators’ renown goalie Pekka Rinne is now 36. He’s played like it especially in divisional games against the Blues, Blackhawks and Jets, whereas Dallas’ penalty kill is in the top five. The Stars will find ways to rely on their defense and score just enough to advance, especially if there are power play opportunities.

Upset pick Western Conference 1st Round: Stars win in 7, 4-3



#3 San Jose Sharks v. #6 Las Vegas Golden Knights

It’s a confidence builder for San Jose that they beat the Golden Knights at home in overtime on March 30th, especially since they struggled with the last month and a half with their schedule. Perhaps they have playoff fever and will break out. Unfortunately, they have two obstacles in their path. The first one being that the star they acquired before the 2019 season began in Erik Karlsson may not be back in time during the first round. While the chemistry with his new teammates is still in progress, it’s one less major player making a difference. The second and most important obstacle is the opponent they’re playing. If this was an opponent such as Dallas or Colorado, the Sharks could/would find a good groove back. The Golden Knights have been on a tear ever since they too poached the Ottawa Senators’ roster and landed Mark Stone on the last day of the trade deadline. The Knights seem to have their power and speed back close to the levels they had in last year’s Stanley Cup run, and while San Jose might take a game, the Knights will find a way to take advantage of the offensive issues the Sharks have had and expose the open wound that is San Jose’s goaltending.

Prediction: Knights win this round 4-1.

#4 Winnipeg Jets v. #5 St. Louis Blues

A part of me wonders if the Jets didn’t purposely get cold at the right time so they could find the right first round matchup. While St. Louis has been the hottest team in the second half of the season (they beat Tampa at least once, so that’s saying something), there are valid critiques and concerns of the Blues trying to keep that going in the playoffs, especially from what we know given their past postseason runs this decade (they mostly have ended past the second round). This will be a matchup that heavily favors the Jets in a lot of ways, but mostly in health as a few key players such as Dustin Byfuglien make a full return.

While Jordan Binnington has been a remarkable find in the net does help, one does not want to face the number four power play unit in the league, especially a unit as physical and persistent as Winnipeg.

For the Jets, Connor Hellebuyck has to be consistent and not let in four or five goals a night. St. Louis was 15th in scoring this season, and Connor gave up only one goal in the only loss the Jets had to the Blues.

Prediction: Jets win 4-2

Questioning the New Pass Interference Replay Rule

One of the most important parts of the National Football League isn’t when a down is played, or there’s no scores or when the draft has come. Although it’s true free agency is important because you can sign players to bolster or revamp a roster, the NFL Rules Committee votes on proposed changes to the game that can impact what goes on for seasons to come.

One such proposition was voted almost unanimously 31-1 Yes on having a replay for pass interference at any stage in a football game. The proposed rule allows coaches to ask if the penalty, regardless of if it’s called or not can be reviewed.

The rule can have one of two probable outcomes: The rule could be used fairly and given a chance within the one year span of use to cement how having the rule is good for the game, or the rule could be abused in some ways to show favoritism to certain teams or players. It’s why current San Fransisco 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman and newly signed Los Angeles Rams safety Eric Weddle have voiced their opinions and warn that not only could the game become one-sided, but game times could drastically spike up if called often and the outcomes can now be controlled directly by the officials and not the players in critical moments.

Richard Sherman tweeted to Eric Weddle on March 26th, “Now they (the officials) can control the outcome as they see fit. Every defendable pass looks like PI (pass interference) in slow motion.”

It is important to note that the missed defensive pass interference call between the Los Angeles Rams and the New Orleans Saints led to this rule change. However, unlike Nickell Robey-Coleman’s interview where he admitted, “Ah, hell yeah, that was pass interference.”, there will be very close calls and probably few of the players targeted will say or feel that they did anything wrong. That is why the fans who are either loyal to the game and certain teams or to just casual fans who watch one game a year must educate themselves on the rule terminologies for pass interference and let their voices be heard. We should all want fair and clean officiated games.