First Round NHL Playoffs Predictions (and expectation for the rest)

Below you will find what I feel is going to happen in the NHL playoffs. There are lots of close match ups so it should be interesting to see how many come true and which ones I look foolish on.

Western Conference

(1st Central) Colorado Avalanche (52-22-8-112 PTS, 250 GF, 220 GA, +30) vs. (Wild Card 2) Minnesota Wild (43-27-12-98 PTS, 207 GF, 206 GA, +1)

  • Prediction: Avalanche in 5. The Avs finished the season 7-1-2 asnd I don’t see them slowing down against the Wild. Minnesota has a good squad, but the Avs under Patrick Roy have been a force to be reckoned with this year to finish first in arguably the top divison in the league over contending teams like St. Louis and last years champs the Chicago Blackhawks.
  • Season Series: 3-0-1 Avalanche, 1-3-1 Wild
  • Goaltending: Colorado has the edge in the the battle of Russian netminders, Simeon Varlamov vs. Ilya Bryzgalov. Varlamov has been solid all year and Byzgalov has been good since coming to the Wild, but I can’t see him taking them past the Avs in the first round. I don’t see Niklas Backstrom or Josh Harding coming of the injured reserve before this one is done either. Darcy Kuemper offers the Wild another option should Bryzgalov falter.
  • Forwards: Colorado has a slight edge with Matt Duchene, Gabriel Landeskog, Ryan O’Reilly, Nathan MacKinnon and Paul Stastny vs. Jason Pominville, Zach Parise, Mikko Koivu, Matt Moulson, Mikael Granlund and Dany Heatley who has been less than stellar this season with only 28 points in 76 games.
  • Defence: Minnesota has a slight edge with Ryan Suter anchoring the D but not by a lot. The Avs do have quality on the point and Erik Johnson will be relied upon heavily. Tyson Barrie is an Avs Dman that could also see increased ice time leading the teams D with a +17 in the regular season.
  • Powerplay: Colorado 19.8% (4th) vs. Minnesota 17.9% (15th)
  • Penalty Kill: Colorado 80.7% (24th) vs. Minnesota 78.8% (27th)

(1st Pacific – 1st Western Confernce) Anaheim Ducks (54-20-8-116 PTS, 266 GF, 209 GA, +57) vs. (Wild Card 1) Dallas Stars (40-31-11-91 PTS, 235 GF, 228 GA, +7)

  • Prediction: Ducks in 4. Okay maybe the Stars will steal a game, but honestly the Ducks are going to roll through this one. They have way too strong of a team and will be rallying to win one for Teemu Selanne who is set to retire. As the top team in the West they should be expected to make it to the final and potentially win the Stanley cup.
  • Season Series: 2-1 Stars, 1-2 Ducks
  • Goaltending: Anaheim has the slight edge, but not by much. Having 3 solid options in John Gibson, Frederik Andersen and Jonas Hiller against 2 solid options for Dallas in Kari Lehtonen and Tim Thomas means both teams won’t have to worry about changing their netminder should any falter early. The Ducks Gibson played 3 games for the Ducks near the end of the season posting a perfect 3-0 record with a 1.33 GAA and a .954 Save percentage with 1 shutout. It might seem odd to use a 20 year old goaltender in the playoffs when you have 2 other goalies with GAA under 2.5 and both with over 20 wins, but don’t be suprised if it happens.
  • Forwards: Anaheim because they have the more established Ryan Getlaf and Corey Perry leading the way compared to Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn in Dallas. All four are elite NHLers should provide much of the offence in the series. The Ducks Teemu Selanne should also be motivated in his final NHL Playoffs.
  • Defence: Anaheim again with Cam Fowler, Hampus Lindholm and Francois Beauchemin a step above a grouping that highlights Alex Goligoski, Trevor Daley and Sergei Gonchar.
  • Powerplay: Anaheim 16% (22nd) vs. Dallas 15.9% (23rd)
  • Penalty Kill: Anaheim 82.2% (13th) vs. Dallas 81.4% (21st)

(2nd Central) St. Louis Blues (52-23-7-111 PTS, 248 GF, 191 GA, +57) vs. (3rd Central) Chicago Blackhawks (46-21-15-107 PTS, 267 GF, 220 GA, +47)

  • Prediction: Blackhawks in 7. This one could go either way, these teams are both contenders. I am giving the defending Champs the edge, and with Patrick Kane back they will be tough to beat. St. Louis does have Ryan Miller between the pipes and he will have to be on his game for the Blues to win this series. The Blues also hold the special teams advantage, so if the Hawks end up in the penatly box the Blues will also more likely win.
  • Season Series: 3-2-0 Blues, 2-1-2 Blackhawks
  • Goaltending: Advantage St. Louis – Ryan Miller is a little bit better than Corey Crawford, but not significantly.
  • Forwards: Chicago – Patrick Sharp, Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa are a more established group and a definite step up from Alex Steen, T.J. Oshie, David Backes and Jaden Schwartz
  • Defence: This one is a draw with Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Nick Leddy, Niklas Hjalmarsson leading the way for Chicago and Alex Pietrangelo, Kevin Shattenkirk, Jay Bouwmeester and Barret Jackman the core group for St. Louis.
  • Powerplay: St. Louis 19.8% (7th) vs. Chicago 19.5% (9th)
  • Penalty Kill: St. Louis 85.7% (2nd) vs. Chicago 81.5% (19th)

(2nd Pacific) San Jose Sharks (51-22-7-111 PTS, 249 GF, 200 GA, +49) vs. (3rd Pacific) Los Angeles Kings (46-28-8-100 PTS, 206 GF, 174 GA, +32)

  • Prediction: Sharks in 6. Even though I am tipping my hat to the Kings for Goaltending and D. The Sharks are strong on special teams and put up alot more offense than the team with the NHL’s lowest goals against in the Kings, which gives the Sharks a slight edge even if the Kings won the season series. I also think the Sharks are due for a solid playoff run.
  • Season Series: 3-1-1 Kings, 2-2-1 Sharks
  • Goaltending: Kings – Niemi is good, but Quick is a bit better. They both do have Stanley Cups to their credit also.
  • Forwards: Sharks – The Sharks but not by much. I’ll take Pavelski, Thornton, Marleau, Couture and Burns over Kopitar, Carter, Williams, Richards, Gaborik and Brown. Some may disagree.
  • Defence: Kings – Doughty, Voynov, Regehr and the rest of the Kings D make any goaltender look decent so I give them the advantage over another solid group that includes Boyle, Demers and Vlacic.
  • Powerplay: Sharks 17.2% (19th) vs. Kings 15.1% (27th)
  • Penalty Kill: Sharks 84.9% (7th) vs. Kings 83.1% (11th)

Eastern Conference
(1st Atlantic – 1st Eastern Confernce – 1st NHL) Boston Bruins (54-19-9-117 PTS, 261 GF, 177 GA +84) vs. (Wild Card 2) Detroit Red Wings (39-28-15-93 PTS, 222 GF, 230 GA, -8)

  • Prediction: Bruins in 5. I don’t see the Red Wings giving the Bruins a lot of trouble. The Bruins have a 92 goal better differencial this year, and despite there being a lot of people in the sports world who actually think the Red Wings have a chance, I think they will be terribly mistaken. The Bruins are the best team in the NHL this year and the odds makers have them as the favourite to win the cup, as much as I don’t like to say this being a Leafs fan, but they are the team to beat this year. I could care less that the Red Wings won the season series this is playoff time.
  • Season Series: 3-1 Red Wings, 1-3 Bruins
  • Goaltending: Bruins get this with Tukka Rask over Jimmy Howard in a landslide. Howard isn’t bad. Rask is just that damn good. Leafs fans can thank John Ferguson Jr. for trading the franchise goalie away for a season and a half of Andrew Raycroft. It’s enough to make we want to cry myself to sleep.
  • Forwards: Bruins by a little bit, David Krejci, Patrice Bergeron, Jerome Iginla, Milan Lucic and Brad Marchand are all know playoff performers. Second year players Reilly Smith and Carl Soderberg have also been impressive this season. Reilly Smith should be pumped to play against his brother Brendan on the Bruins. Loui Eriksson not as much as expected, but he could turn things up in the playoffs. The Red Wings still boast a pretty impressive squad up front with Henrik Zetterberg (Recovering and likely missing first few games), Pavel Datsyuk, Johan Franzen, and of course Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar have been very impressive since being called up from Grand Rapids. Nyquist so much so that he lead the team in goals with 28 in only 57 games.
  • Defence: Bruins get the edge here with Zdeno Chara, Johnny Boychuk, Dennis Seidenberg, Andrej Meszaros, Matt Bartkoswki, Dougie Hamiltonand the offensively gifted Torey Krug. The Red Wings are fairly solid as well with Niklas Kronwall, Danny DeKeyser, Jakub Kindl, Kyle Quincy, and Brendan Smith who will no doubt be motivated to shut down his brother Reilly and the Bruins.
  • Powerplay: Bruins 21.7% (3rd) vs. Red Wings 17.7% (18th)
  • Penalty Kill: Bruins 83.7% (8th) vs. Red Wings 83.1% (12th)

(1st Metropolitan) Pittsburgh Penguins (51-24-7-109 PTS, 249 GF, 207 GA, +42) vs. (Wild Card 1) Columbus Blue Jackets (43-32-7-93 PTS, 231 GF, 216 GA, +15)

  • Prediction: Penguins in 5. I can see the Blue Jackets stealing one game. The didn’t beat the Penguins once during the regular season.
  • Season Series: 5-0 Penguins, 0-5 Blue Jackets
  • Goaltending: Blue Jackets by a litte bit. Bobrovsky last years Vezina winner is a little better than Fleury but I wouldn’t say significantly.
  • Forwards: Penguins with Crosby leading the way as Malkin still appears to be on the shelf for this series with a foot injury. The supporting cast of Kunitz, Neal, Jokinen and Stempniak should give the Blue Jackets more than enough to handle. The Blue Jackets are lead by Ryan Johansen and Brandon Dubinsky, and playoff verteran Nathan Horton will be out with an Abdominal Injury after only skating in 36 games after coming back from a Shoulder injury in Januray.
  • Defence: The Penguins are a little more solid in this category with Letang back in the lineup, Paul Martin, Brooks Orpik, Niskanen and rookie standout Olli Maata stacking up nicely against the Blue Jackets James Wisniewski, Jack Johnson, Fedor Tyutin and company.
  • Powerplay: Penguins 23.4% (1st) vs. Blue Jackets 19.3% (11th)
  • Penalty Kill: Penguins 85% (5th) vs. Blue Jackets 82.1% (15th)

(2nd Atlantic) Tampa Bay Lightning (46-27-9-101 PTS, 240 GF, 215 GA, +35) v (3rd Atlantic) Montreal Canadiens (46-28-8, 100PTS, 215 GF, 204 GA, +11)

  • Prediction: Canadiens in 7. Really this series is a toss up. I think Montreal will win on the strength of Carey Price and recently aquired Tomas Vanek. I wouldn’t be shocked if Steven Stamkos and company came out on top either. This is a series that’s should go at least 6 or 7 games.
  • Season Series: 3-0-1 Lightning, 1-1-2 Canadiens
  • Goaltending: Honestly I want to give this one to Montreal because I think Carey Price is without a doubt an elite goaltender, but if Ben Bishop comes back for the Lightning it is a very even match up leaving me to call this one a draw. Both teams have decent secondary options with the Canadiens having Peter Budaj, Dustin Tokarski and even veteran Devan Dubnyk available. The Lightning counter with Andres Lindback and Latvian Olympic standout Kristers Gudlevskis who had an impressive 38 save win in his first start.
  • Forwards: The Canadiens, by a small margin with Thomas Vanek, Max Pacioretty, David Desharnais, Tomas Plekanec, Brendan Gallagher, Brian Gionta, Alex Galchenyuk, Lars Eller and solid playoff performer Daniel Briere stacking up nicely against the Lightning who will rely on superstar and the top sniper in the league when he plays a full season Steven Stamkos and he’ll look for Ondrej Palat, Valtteri Filppula, Tyler Johnson, Teddy Purcell, Alex Killorn and former Rangers Captain Ryan Callahan to add needed secondary scoring.
  • Defence: The Canadiens take this category as well but not by much. It will be a battle of P.K. Subban and Andrei Markov against Victor Hedman who had a breakout offensive year and Matthew Carle who both teams relied on heavily during the regular season.
  • Powerplay: Lightning 18.5% (14th) vs. Canadiens 17.2% (20th)
  • Penalty Kill: Lightning 80.7% (23rd) vs. Canadiens 85.1% (4th)

(2nd Metropolitan) New York Rangers (45-31-6-96 PTS, 218 GF, 193 GA, +25) v (3rd Metropolitan) Philadelphia Flyers (42-30-10, 94 PTS, 236 GF, 235 GA, +1)

  • Prediction: Rangers in 7. This one should be close but I don’t expect a strong defensive squad like the Rangers to drop a series to the Flyers.
  • Season Series: 2-2 Rangers, 2-2 Flyers
  • Goaltending: Rangers win this as King Henrik Lundqvist and Cam Talbot are a stronger tandem then Steve Mason and Ray Emery and the Rangers only let in a league’s 4th best 193 goals compared to the Flyers 235 during the season.
  • Forwards: I’ll call this one a draw with the Rangers bringing Marty St. Louis, Mats Zuccarello, Derek Stepan, Brad Richards, Derick Brassard, Rick Nash, Chris Kreider, Carl Haglin and company up against the Flyers Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek, Wayne Simmonds, Scott Hartnell, Brayden Schenn, Matt Read, Vinny Lecavalier, and company. The most interesting will be the story line of former longer term linemates St. Louis and Lecavalier squaring off against each other in the playoffs for the first time in the first season apart from a Tampa Bay Lightning team they won a Stanley Cup for 10 years ago.
  • Defence: The Rangers get the nod in this one also but not by a wide margin. Ryan McDonagh, Dan Giradi, Marc Staal and crew have been solid all year and should continue to provide excellent support for their goaltenders. The Flyers also have a solid group of defenders in Mark Streit, Kimmo Timonen, Andrew MacDonald, Braydon Coburn, Nicklas Grossman and Luke Schenn.
  • Powerplay: Rangers 18.2% (15th) vs. Flyers 19.7% (8th)
  • Penalty Kill: Rangers 85.3% (3rd) vs. Flyers 84.8% (7th)

Predictions for the rest of the way – I will still post 2nd round predictions. I just figured I’d make an early prediction based on my first round picks coming true.

  • West Quarter Final – Round 2 – Avalanche vs. Blackhawks – Blackhawks in 7 / Ducks vs. Sharks – Ducks in 6
  • East Quarter Final – Round 2 – Bruins vs. Canadiens – Bruins in 6 / Penguins vs. Rangers – Penguins in 7
  • West Final – Round 3 – Ducks vs. Blackhawks – Ducks in 6
  • East Final – Round 3 – Bruins vs. Penguins – Bruins in 6
  • Stanley Cup Final – Round 4 – Ducks vs. Bruins – Ducks in 7