It’s a tradition. Even thought I don’t talk hockey that much these days, I still want to put my playoff predictions out there for all to see and laugh at. Annual warning: if you use these predictions to do any betting, you are an idiot. Note that I’m not. My track record is probably better than random chance, but not that much better (but it is well beyond the Panther’s power play results this season….)
A quick comment on the new playoff seeding the NHL is using this year: I like it. There’s a strong emphasis on in-division matchups which I really like. To the NHL, I have to say ‘Well done’.
This year I’m really torn between what my head says and what my heart says. Because of this, in some cases I’m going to give both a “head” (what the objective me thinks) and a “heart” (what my gut and personal preferences are) say.
Detroit (WC 2) vs Boston (Atlantic 1): Give it to Detroit; they found a way to make the playoffs; earned their way in, but barely. I hate betting against them because they find ways to make it happen. But against Boston? Boston’s a powerhouse, and I really love how they play. I do think Detroit will go down fighting, and this is a series I plan on watching as much of as I can — but Boston will take this in 5.
Tampa Bay (Atlantic 3) vs Montreal (Atlantic 2): I’ve been really impressed with the Lightning this year. I’d make them my favorite if it weren’t for Bishop’s injury, and we don’t know if he’ll be back for the playoffs or how healthy he’ll be. If Bishop is out to start the series or not 100%, then Montreal will take this in 5 or 6. If Bishop is okay, then I’ll pick Tampa in 5. Given I can’t have it both ways when I publish this, I’ll take Montreal in 6.
Columbus (WC 1) vs Pittsburgh (Metropolitan 1): It’s been a thrill watching Columbus this year, seeing this team pull itself together and improve. It’s playing a lot of good hockey and a fun team to watch. That said, they’re up against the Penguins. I don’t expect this to be a “happy to be in the playoffs” scenario for the Blue Jackets but I don’t see how they can beat the Pens. I just expect them to go down fighting and make it interesting, so I’ll pick Pittsburgh in 6.
Philadelphia (Metropolitan 3) vs NY Rangers (Metropolitan 2): this is the series that wins the “most likely to include mayhem” award. I expect it to be hard fought and physical and a lot of fun to watch. I don’t see any way this Flyers team can win out against this Rangers team (and especially Lundqvist) in a series. I’ll take the Rangers in 5.
East in Summary: Boston, Montreal, Pittsburgh, NY Rangers
My choice coming out of the east: Boston Bruins.
Minnesota (WC 1) vs Colorado (Central 1): The Wild is an improving team but not this year. They got into the playoffs, but the Avs should take this one fairly easily. Colorado in 5. (and a side note: I agree with those choosing Patrick Roy for the Adams, he’s really been able to get the most of his teams and get them playing together well and consistently).
Chicago (Central 3) vs St. Louis Blues (Central 2): The Blues have been a great team this year; a lot of credit has to go to John Davidson for putting the pieces together, but they really made it happen this year. That said, they exited the season with a sputter. Chicago on the other hand has been inconsistent at times and has some key injury questions. Even if the Hawks were fully healthy I’m not sure they’d beat the Blues, but if the Blues can get back to their game for the playoffs, you have to think the West is theirs to lose. I’ll take the Blues in 6.
Dallas (WC 2) vs Anaheim (Pacific 1): Dallas makes it back to the playoffs, and congrats to them. They’ve made a lot of progress. That said, Anaheim is a significantly better team and playing really good hockey, so the Ducks in 5.
Los Angeles (Pacific 3) vs. San Jose (Pacific 2): This is the series that put the Sharks out of the playoffs last year in game seven, where the big difference was home team advantage — the home team won every game. This year the Sharks have home advantage. both teams are playing well. Both teams are powerhouses. And this series ought to be a battlefield. Even if I didn’t live local to San Jose, this would be the series I tell everyone to watch. That said, I’m torn. I’ve watched almost every Sharks game this year, so I know the team very well and I like what I see. My heart says this team is the best of some really good Sharks teams over the last few years (and the veterans are running out of time and know it). My head says that the Kings are a really kick butt take no prisoners team that knows how to win and will do what it takes. This series is a tough call. My heart says San jose in 6. My head says Los Angeles in 7. I have to pick one, so I’ll take the Kings in 7, primarily because Niemi has been just inconsistent enough that I don’t know whether the ‘real’ one will show up for the playoffs. The other big wildcard here: Raffi Torres coming back, and how effective he’ll be. If he’s the real Raffi Torres and playing 15 minutes a night of chaos and havoc, that could well swing the series back to the Sharks. And having said all of that, even if Niemi falters, I have a lot of respect for the ability of Staylock to take up the cause — but he’s unproven in the playoffs. No matter what, this series is going to be a major hunk of fun. But: Kings in 6.
West in summary: Colorado, St. Louis, Anaheim, Los Angeles.
Coming out of the west: My heart says St. Louis, my head says Los Angeles. Again, I’m going with the Kings.
So my prediction for the Stanley Cup final: Boston Bruins and the Los Angeles Kings, and boy, wouldn’t that be fun.
Dark horses would be the Blues, the Sharks, the Penguins and the Rangers. Any of those four could proce me wrong, I think. And any series with those teams in it will be worth watching.
Onward to the playoffs!