Five first round playoff matchups we want to see

With the playoffs roughly two and a half weeks away, there are still a lot of points to be had as teams jockey for positioning and try to solidify themselves with the best seed possible – or a playoff berth in general as many teams are still fighting for the coveted 8th spot in both the Eastern and Western Conferences.

In the East, Buffalo is clinging to a three-point lead over the Carolina Hurricane for the 8th spot while the Toronto maple Leafs are right on their tail with 76 points. In the West, the Ducks are securely in 8th place but the Stars and Flames are one and two points behind respectively, meaning Anaheim has to play top-notch hockey for the remainder of the season to maintain their playoff aspirations.

With the standings changing on a daily basis, here are five of the first round playoff matchups that we would love to see happen in this year’s Stanley Cup playoffs.

Matchup: Vancouver vs Calgary

Not only does this have the potential to be the only all-Canadian matchup if the first round, and perhaps of the playoffs in general, but Vancouver and Calgary are also division rivals which could make for a very physical and intense matchup between two teams who are very familiar with one another. It would also pit two seasoned goaltenders against each other in Roberto Luongo and Mikka Kiprusoff. Neither has had much success in the playoffs recently and both would look to step up to the challenge and backstop their team to victory.

Will we see this matchup? Perhaps, but the Flames need to play much better down the stretch if they intend to catch the Ducks, who are 8-2-0 over their last 10 while the Flames are a mediocre 4-4-2.

Matchup: San Jose vs Chicago

Goaltender Antti Niemi won the Stanley Cup with the Blackhawks last season before the team had to forgo resigning him due to salary cap restraints. The Sharks quickly snatched him up and Niemi has put up good numbers in San Jose with a 2.48 goals against average and a .916 save percentage while accumulating 30 wins with the Sharks. Chicago, meanwhile, has had to rely on rookie goaltender Corey Crawford since Marty Turco, who was brought in as a veteran (and cheaper) replacement to Niemi, has been an absolute bust. But goaltending isn’t the only issue. Both teams are fighting to remain relevent and prove that they have what it takes. After losing a significant amount of talent in the offseason, Chicago has exceeded expectations in a very tightly contested Western Conference. On the other end, the Sharks want to show that they are more thasn just regular season superstars and look to make a significant push to a Stanley Cup this season. This would be quite a matchup to see in the first round.

Will it happen? It could. There is still a significant amount of position-swapping going on in the Western standings, and if San Jose vs Chicago doesn’t happen we would gladly take the other likely alternative of Chicago vs Detroit.

Matchup: Washington vs New York

The Capitals always draw fan fare because of the likes of Alexander Ovechkin and his dynamic goal-scoring abilities. But the real reason why this would be an appealing matchup is because it would come down to whoever executes their game plan better on any given night. Both teams are in the top-5 for the fewest amount of goals allowed per game on average and Henrik Lundquist is finally getting due credit this season as many are already lobbying for him to win the Vezina Trophy as the league’s best goaltender. The real kicker, however, is that the Rangers actually score, on average, more goals per game than the Capitals. This would be a very tightly contested matchup where the winner will be the team that shows up and brings their A-game every single night of the series. It might not be high scoring, but it would sure be fun to watch.

Will it happen? The 8-Ball says yes. If playoffs started today, this would be one of the opening round matchups in the East.

Matchup: Boston vs Montreal

There is clearly a disdain amongst both parties for one another in this divisional rivalry – something that could potentially go to the next level thanks to Zdeno Chara’s bone-crushing hit on Max Pacioretty two weeks ago. The good news is that Pacioretty very well may be back for the playoffs. The bad news is that Montreal now has a good cause to ride behind as they look to overthrow the Bruins for the division lead. The Bruins are feisty and the Canadiens are hungry after falling just short of a Stanley Cup Finals berth last season after losing to the Philadelphia Flyers in the Conference Finals. These two teams certainly do not like each other and a best-of-seven playoff series could really elevate this rivalry to the next level.

Will it happen? It’s highly likely. If playoffs started tonight, Boston would be taking on Montreal in one heck of a seven-game classic.

Matchup: Toronto vs Well…Anyone Really…

The Leafs haven’t skated into the postseason since the 2003-04 season where they made it to the 2nd round before being eliminated by the Philadelphia Flyers. Things haven’t looked good since then. But Brian Burke is working on turning things around for this storied franchise and a team that was almost counted out is now only five points out of a playoff spot. With eight games left, the Leafs will have to work hard to get points from teams like the Red Wings, Capitals, Bruins and Canadiens – teams all still left on their docket before the season comes to a close. Can they do it? It’s highly unlikely, but what a story it would be if they did…


  1. I agree with all of those playoff matchups. They would be great watches. I other match ups that people would want to see it Washington play Pit at some point but it loses its luster because of the lack of Malkin and Crosby. The other match up people would love to see is Detroit Vs Chicago. An original 6 matchup and it seems like these teams are just starting to dislike each other. A tough 7 game series would go a long way to bringing this rivalry to the front page every time they play.

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