TUESDAY OCTOBER 17, 2017
 
Blog THROWIN SMOKE
NHL PLAYOFFS BY THE NUMBERS
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Don’t tell Gary Bettman, but that 48-game season was kinda fun, wasn’t it?

It was fun to see the Chicago Blackhawks go half a season without a regulation loss. It was great to see the Washington Capitals go from worst to first in the Southeast Division, with sniper Alex Ovechkin leading the resurrection. The Maple Leafs made the playoffs? Only in a lockout-shortened season, to be sure.

Here are 8 key numbers, in order, that will dictate the first round of the NHL's second season:

Minus-22: Career plus-minus mark of Toronto Maple Leafs’ forward Phil Kessel against his former team, the Boston Bruins. Kessel has only scored three goals in 22 games against the Bruins, who will face Leafs in the first round of the playoffs. The Bruins are also 8-1-1 against the Toronto over the past two seasons, so Leafs fans shouldn’t put downpayments on those second-round tickets just yet. Series prediction: Boston 4-1

stanleycup_copy.jpg0 – Number of times the Minnesota Wild have met the Chicago Blackhawks in the NHL playoffs prior to this season. It’s also the number of games the Wild are likely to win against the heavily favoured Hawks in their first-round matchup. Chicago started the season 21-0-3 and finished it by going 10-3-2, capturing the President’s Trophy with the league’s best regular-season record. If you’re not a fan of the Hawks’ catchy goal song Chelsea Dagger, don’t watch this series. Series prediction: Chicago 4-0

1.33 – The goals-against average of Brian Elliott over his final 11 games of the season after being sent down to the minors for two games. Prior to the demotion, Elliott was 3-6-1 with a league-worst 3.65 GAA. Elliott also set a franchise record with 201:17 of consecutive shutout minutes. Can the Blues shock the defending Stanley Cup champion L.A. Kings? If Elliott stays spectacular, yes. Series prediction: St. Louis 4-3

5.5 – Width, in inches, of the average human head. Nothing will be more critical to the playoff fortunes of the Vancouver Canucks this year than the distance between goaltender Roberto Luongo’s ears. Until Corey Schneider can return from an undisclosed injury, it falls to Luongo and his shaky mental state to keep the Canucks alive against a tough, experienced San Jose Sharks team in the first round. Series prediction: Vancouver 4-2

16.875 – Cost, in millions of dollars, that the Anaheim Ducks will pay top players Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry next year and each year until 2021. The Ducks were red-hot prior to signing their two stars – winning 13 games in a row at one point – but stumbled to 7-5-1 down the stretch. The Ducks will be hard-pressed to beat the veteran Detroit Red Wings in the first round. The Wings, who are making their 22nd-consecutive playoff appearance, beat the Ducks three times in five regular-season meetings this year. Series prediction: Detroit 4-3

20 – Number of seasons since the Pittsburgh Penguins last were the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, if you can believe it. The Penguins will face the New York Islanders having won 22 of their final 24 games, most without Sidney Crosby and James Neal, who are expected to be healthy for the first game against New York. With the additions of Jarome Iginla, Brenden Morrow, Jussi Jokinen and Douglas Murray to an already stacked lineup, the Pens have to be considered Stanley Cup favourites. Series prediction: Pittsburgh 4-1

24 – Number of positions improved by the Montreal Canadiens between the 2012 and 2013 seasons. The Habs, who finished 28th overall last season, won the Northeast Division and finished with the fourth-best record in the NHL in 2013. It’s also how many more Stanley Cups the Canadiens have in franchise history than the Ottawa Senators, their first-round opponents. Series prediction: Montreal 4-2

26.8 – That’s the Capitals’ power-play efficiency percentage, the best in the league, led by Ovechkin’s 16 power-play markers. Over the final 19 games of the season, the Capitals went an impressive 15-2-2, including a 3-2 win over the New York Rangers, their first-round opponent. Watch for the Rangers to fire coach John Tortorella within minutes after this series ends. Series prediction: Washington 4-2

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