The NHL Playoffs begin tonight, which means it’s time to see who will stand out from the pack and see their Stanley Cup dreams realized. The defending champions are in a position to defend their title, but the field is vast and deep, with the Cup being in reach for just about everyone left standing at this point. Some of the matchups are looking one-sided, but don’t be so fast to pick out which ones are over before they begin. Upsets are a big part of the NHL Playoffs and before the fun and games begin, we must take a look at some teams that might make waves by knocking off a top seed in the first-round.
(6) New York Rangers over (3) Washington Capitals
Last season the New York Rangers were the Eastern Conference’s top seed, and it took until the Conference Finals for them to get knocked off. But this year the Rangers are the sixth-seed in the East, but don’t confuse that as a poor reflection on New York’s chances of making a tear through the NHL Playoffs. While New York is facing the league’s most intense power play unit in the Washington Capitals, the Rangers were the least-penalized team in the league this season, and have superior puck possession. If the Rangers can keep most of the games 5-on-5, then netminder Henrik Lundqvist, who has a .922 playoff save percentage against the Capitals over the past three years, should be able to carry them through to the Conference Semifinals and a likely (and winnable) matchup with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Chance of Upset: 54%
(7) Detroit Red Wings over (2) Anaheim Ducks
Usually, the Red Wings are always favored to win in the NHL Playoffs, but this isn’t your Red Wings team of old. That being said, this Ducks team isn’t mighty at all and despite a breakthrough season by Ryan Getzlaf, Anaheim has struggled to win the battle between the posts this season. Obviously, they’ve come out on the right end of things enough times to get the 2-seed in the west, but the biggest knock on this Ducks squad remains their inability to drive puck possession. According to the FenwickClose%, less than 49 percent of all even-strength shot attempts by Anaheim have gone in their favor, while the Detroit has seen more than 53 percent of their shots go in when the game is within one goal or tied. Again, despite the poor ratio on even-strength goals, the Ducks have come out on the right end of things more often than not, and can potentially win this series on the Power Play. But if Detroit can stay out of the penalty box, we may see the Red Wings pull off the upset.
Chances of Upset: 51%
(5) Los Angeles Kings over (4) St. Louis Blues
This one doesn’t seem like an upset on paper, since it’s a classic matchup where the teams are virtually even. But if the Kings can pull off a series win over the Blues in the first-round, it could shift the momentum of the Western Conference. It’s not that it’s a low seed beating a high seed, it would be the Kings knocking off the team a lot of people are considering a sleeper team to make the Finals, or at the very least a run at the Conference Finals. St. Louis is entering the playoffs one of the hottest teams in hockey, and have played at times this year like the best in the NHL. But the Kings are champions because they dominate puck possession and that could be a key in this series for Los Angeles. When you take a look at the shot attempts by Los Angeles based on a score-adjusted Fenwick percentage, the Kings dominate with 56 percent efficiency. The Blues are a tough opponent and netminder Brian Elliot had a .948 save percentage in April, so he’s coming into the NHL Playoffs red-hot. This series will come down to puck possession but the Blues can off-set that a bit by excellent goaltending — and the Kings know better than anyone what good goaltending can do for you in the NHL Playoffs.
Chance of Upset: 48%
(7) Ottawa Senators over (2) Montreal Canadiens
Back in the NCAA College Basketball March Madness tournament, the Oregon Ducks drew a 12-seed which confused a lot of people. Those who didn’t watch Oregon all season picked against them based on that 12-seed. But Oregon made a tear in the tournament and were stopped only by the 1-seeded and eventual champion Louisville Cardinals. What happened to the Oregon Ducks is exactly how you should feel about the Ottawa Senators as they’re not your typical 7-seed. Injuries devastated the Sens all season long from lingering issues to freak accidents like the Erik Karlsson achilles slice. But Ottawa is healthy now and you can throw whatever metric stats at this matchup you want, because an age old hockey rule cancels out every equation you can come up with — a good team that is completely healthy and hot coming into the NHL Playoffs is a dangerous, deadly thing to deal with. It also doesn’t help that the Canadiens are limping into the post season after losing six of their last 10 games.
Chance of Upset: 57%
Be sure to stay tuned to Fansided.com all postseason long as we bring you up to the minute results and opinions on everything going on in the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs