The playoffs start tonight and if we learned one thing from last year, it’s that any team can win, regardless of their seed.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at tonight’s action:
Game 1: The Chicago Blackhawks host the Minnesota Wild (8:00 p.m. ET, NBCSN)
Chicago got off to a historic 21-0-3 start this season and never really hit a major rough patch. The Wild did manage to eke out a shootout victory against the Blackhawks on Jan. 30, but Chicago won the other two matches.
The Blackhawks’ depth is incredible, but 28-year-old goaltender Corey Crawford still has a lot to prove when it comes to postseason hockey. Plus, the Minnesota Wild can use their status as the clear underdogs to their advantage.
“I think now that they’re in the playoffs, they feel they have nothing to lose and they can relax and play their game,” Blackhawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson told CSN Chicago.
Game 1: The St. Louis Blues host the Los Angeles Kings (8:00 p.m. ET, CNBC)
We haven’t seen a team win the Stanley Cup in back-to-back campaigns since the 1997 and 1998 Detroit Red Wings. Can the Los Angeles Kings defy the odds and win it all again?
It’s hard to bet against the Kings given how spectacularly they cruised through the playoffs last season. Along the way they swept the Blues in the Western Conference semifinals and they were also perfect against St. Louis in the 2013 regular season.
All the same, St. Louis has a lot of offensive weapons, a stellar defense, and an incredibly hot goaltender in Brian Elliott. Regardless of what the Kings have done to them in the past, this isn’t a team that can be taken lightly.
Game 1: The Anaheim Ducks host the Detroit Red Wings (10:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN)
Detroit won four straight games to get into the playoffs while Anaheim has a mediocre 8-9-2 record in its last 19 games. So which Anaheim Ducks will show up for this series and will Detroit’s edge in momentum be the difference in Game 1?
33-year-old forward Johan Franzen wasn’t able to be a major player in Detroit’s last two postseason runs, but he averaged a point-per-game in April. He’s a big X-Factor in this series and so is 30-year-old netminder Viktor Fasth. It’s not even clear if Fasth will be the Ducks’ starter in Game 1, but can he continue his remarkable and unusual rookie season if he’s called upon?