We roll on with hockey’s return, this time to Edmonton where the Western Conference is playing house. And they’ve picked the small window of time every year where the air doesn’t punch you in the face and insult your children in Northern Alberta. Onwards...
(5) Edmonton Oilers vs. (12) Chicago
Oct. 14: CHICAGO 3, Edmonton 1
Feb. 11: EDMONTON 5, Chicago 3
Mar. 5: CHICAGO 4, Edmonton 3
Why The Oilers Will Win:
Spector: Chicago finished last in the Central. They’re bad and shouldn’t be in the playoffs. Edmonton was second in the Pacific. They’re… OK, “good” would be overselling it, but they’re not bad, and their young superstars are better than Chicago’s declining ones. There’s no need to overthink this one.
Why The Hawks Will Win:
Fels: Because this is the Oilers and they can fuck anything up. While the difference behind the benches is massive, the difference in the crease might be just as big in the opposite direction. Corey Crawford has two rings and is playoff tested, though has only had about four practices after dealing with COVID-19. MIke Smith is likely to chuck his mask at the track-camera and storm off in the 2nd period of Game 1, and Mikko Koskinen is the definition of “a guy.” If you think you have two goalies, you don’t have one, as the old hockey proverb repeated ad nauseum by drunk hockey people (redundant) with brain damage goes (also redundant). The Oilers have two of the best five forwards in the game, but if one doesn’t light fireworks then the Hawks have the better scoring depth. Yes, the Hawks also have the worst defense in the league, but that’s what Crawford is for and there’s more potential for a scoring heater with Kane, Toews, Saad, Kubalik, and DeBrincat than just the two of McDavid and Draisaitl.
(6) Nashville Predators vs. (11) Arizona Coyotes
Oct. 17: ARIZONA 5, Nashville 2
Dec. 23: NASHVILLE 3, Arizona 2
Why The Predators Will Win:
Fels: This one’s a struggle, as there might not be an organization I find more detestable than the Predators. They’ve been a mess all season, as their top line tanked because Ryan Johansen stopped caring about anything other than donuts two years ago. So I’ll go with the easiest route. They just have more good players than the Coyotes do, who also have to deal with the fiasco of their fraudulent GM quitting right before all this starts. It’s just a matter of getting that greater number of better players to play like it, which two coaches for the Preds have failed to do so far this year.
Why The Coyotes Will Win:
Spector: This is way closer than you’d think a 6-11 matchup would be. The Predators were 28-26 in regulation, the Coyotes were 26-29. Arizona is an amazing collection of “Oh wow, he’s there???” for casual fans: Phil Kessel! Taylor Hall! Carl Soderberg! Derek Stepan! OK, casual fans have only heard of two of those guys! The Predators played better for John Hynes than they did for Peter Laviolette, but when it comes to the playoffs, if you have two goalies, sometimes it means you have no goalies (We did it again! We must be drunk and brain damaged and Canadian! Redundant!). The net should just belong to Juuse Saros at this point. Still, Nashville doesn’t really have the firepower it needs here.
(7) Vancouver Canucks vs. (10) Minnesota Wild
Jan. 12: Vancouver 4, MINNESOTA 1
Feb. 6: MINNESOTA 4, Vancouver 2
Feb. 19: Minnesota 4, VANCOUVER 3 (SO)
Why The Wild Will Win:
Fels: The Wild are here? That’s pretty much anyone’s reaction to anytime the Wild are mentioned at all. They don’t have a player who matters all that much outside of Ryan Suter, and his matter-level is waning. Zach Parise only matters these days when he’s getting yet another coach fired, and he already did that this season. They can win because this is all weird enough and a team that no one can remember much less care about could go on a deep run while their existence is simultaneously constantly forgotten. This year deserves a Stanley Cup Final with Liam McHugh introducing it before Game 1 in the following fashion, “Welcome to Game 1 of the 2020 Stanley Cup Final between the Tampa Bay Lightning and...uh...wait, who are they playing again? The what? Who are they? That’s a team? Huh, fuck me.”
Why The Canucks Will Win:
Spector: Dean Evason went 8-4-0 coaching the Wild after Bruce Boudreau got canned, and that means… I dunno. I’m trying to process a goaltending matchup of Jacob Markstrom and… probably Alex Stalock? Maybe Devan Dubnyk? Or Kaapo Kahkonen? The Canucks have a lot more of the type of players who can heat up and make a big difference in a short series.
(8) Calgary Flames vs. (9) Winnipeg Jets
Oct. 26: Winnipeg 2, Calgary 1 (outdoors at Regina, Sask.)
Why The Flames Will Win:
Fels: The Flames have been “that” team for a few years now, the one that is seemingly ready to pop and announce themselves as the next big thing. And yet it never happens. Still, the only challenge here is breaking down Connor Hellebuyck in net, because the Jets have been dog vomit pretty much everywhere else. They’re structure-less, they rarely play with any kind of emotion, and have spent the better part of a year trying to get their coach fired, which they’ve also failed at. If there’s a team genuinely pissed that it had to reconvene and play again, it’s Winnipeg. The Flames nearly need to play kind of like a team and they’ll be better off than the Jets. Any lead and any win will toss the Jets into the modicum of adversity they’ll need to utter a giant “FUCK THIS” and head home. The Jets are basically The Replacements at the end of their run. Any excuse to walk off stage is good enough.
Why The Jets Will Win:
Spector: Connor Hellebuyck is the reason the Jets are here and the reason the Jets are a dangerous team in the playoffs. They’re not going to win the Stanley Cup, but having a goalie this good is enough to make a deep run, even if you only got into the playoffs because of an expanded field.