The 56-game regular season is over and now, the real fun begins. We get two rounds of all-Canadian matchups in the playoffs. The first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs is the best time of the year in normal times. Now, adding in the fact that we get basically nothing but rivalry matchups, it’s likely going to be that much better.
Of course, every team heads into the playoffs thinking that they have a shot at winning it all and I guess they really do. In hockey, more than in any other sport, the lower seeds have a chance to do some damage in a best-of-seven playoff series.
No team in the North is perfect, they all have their weaknesses. Before the playoffs get going, I figured it might be a good idea to look into what each team’s weaknesses are. To do so, I asked a writer/reporter for each of the four teams to outline what they believe that club’s downfall might be in the postseason. Here’s what I got.
TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS
For the Leafs, I asked our friend Jon Steitzer, who is the Managing Editor of The Leafs Nation. Here’s what he said:
“It feels like the biggest weakness should be goaltending when our eggs are in the basket of a starter who has only had 21 games this season, and hasn’t had a starter’s workload since 2016-17 in the AHL. That would be a good choice, right? Well, I’ll consider it the second choice behind being able to adapt their style of play. Unfortunately once a team figures out how to shut down the Leafs, they’ve had a hard time overcoming that. That was the issue last year with Columbus, and that lack of adaptation sank their powerplay this year as well. Thankfully they have enough talent to overcome it in the first couple of rounds.”
I decided to handle this part of the article on my own. The Oilers have two of the most dynamic offensive players in the league and I’m not too concerned about those two producing in the playoffs. Still, their biggest weakness might still be their depth scoring.
If a team does find a way to keep McDavid and Draisaitl off the scoresheet for five or six periods, then the Oilers likely won’t get enough offence from the bottom of their roster to overcome that. That’s a big concern for me. Of course, Mike Smith will need to keep up his solid play and Darnell Nurse will need to log heavy minutes as well. But for me, the biggest concern is still their lack of depth scoring.
For the Jets portion of things, I reached out to Angus Hout of Jetsnation. Here’s his take:
“The Jet’s biggest weakness is their defence. There is a lot wrong with this D-group. Everything from a lack of offence, being caught flat-footed which leads to high scoring chances, or just a general lack of high-end skill. You know what you’re getting out of the Jets defense night in and night out and that predictability is starting to hinder the Jets. The lack of a number one defenseman is the biggest of the Jets’ weaknesses. Every Jets fan has been screaming for a number one D-man since the departure of Dustin Byfuglien.”
For the Habs, who are coming into the playoffs as the lowest seed in the North, I went to Tony Marinaro, who is a host on TSN 690 in Montreal. Here’s what he said:
“No established number one Center. Suzuki has potential and has shown flashes but has not been consistent in that regard. Tough to ask of a 21-year-old in just his second season in the NHL. The team also lacks a mobile skating puck-moving defenceman.”
For me, any team that has goaltending concerns heading into the playoffs is a major red flag. The fact that the Leafs are probably the most well-rounded team in the division outside of the crease leads me to believe they can overcome it and on top of that, Frederick Andersen will be an option for Sheldon Keefe. Still, the Habs have better goaltending and that would scare me if I was a Leaf’s fan.
As for the Habs, they don’t have a workhorse number one centreman but they have some solid depth. That could work for them as they look to just grind down the star forwards on the Maple Leafs.
The Oilers are going to need to get offensive production from more than just Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, but in the first round of the playoffs, they might be able to survive without it. The Jets will need to shut those two down or they won’t have much of a chance. Considering how the fact that they weren’t able to do that during the regular and that their blueline is still a major concern, I’m not sure if I’m expecting them to magically figure out how to stop the Oilers dynamic duo.
Both of these series will be close in my opinion. I’m personally expecting both of them to go more than five games and a big part of that is because all four of these teams have some rather major weaknesses.