2015 Playoff Predictions

The Final Tally

About ten days ago I did some napkin scribbling and ended up predicting the following finish to the season for the teams fighting for the western playoffs:

  • Calgary: 97 points and third seed in the Pacific
  • Winnipeg: 96 points and 2nd Wildcard seed
  • Los Angeles: 94 points and missing the playoffs
  • San Jose: 91 points and missing the playoffs
  • Dallas: 89 points and missing the playoffs

The actual results:

  • Calgary: 97 points and third seed in the Pacific
  • Winnipeg: 99 points and 2nd Wildcard seed
  • Los Angeles: 95 points and out of the playoffs
  • San Jose: 89 points and out of the playoffs
  • Dallas: 92 points and out of the playoffs

Winnipeg played better than predicted but not good enough to catch the Blackhawks in the really tough Central — and well done to the Jets. Dallas outplayed my expectations as well and ended up passing the Sharks, which I didn’t expect. The Sharks lost a game to Edmonton they really shouldn’t have lost and that kept them under 90 points, but it also let Colorado sneak past with 90, so in the Wildcard race San Jose not only didn’t close the gap, they ended up behind three other teams. That’s going out with a whimper….

But overall, I’m really happy with the predictions and results. it’s a short sequence so the possible variation was quite small, but still, it’d be interesting to try this analysis at, say, 20 games left and see how well it works. Maybe next year.

But that’s later. For now, onward to the playoffs.

2015 Playoff Predictions

As is my tradition, here are my playoff predictions for the 2015 NHL playoffs. Also as is my tradition, let me note that anyone who makes wagers based on these predictions is an idiot, so don’t. I’ve been doing this since most seasons since 2002. Last year my prediction for the finals was Kings/Bruins (it was the Rangers) and for the Kings to win it all (they did). In 2013, Chicago vs. Pittsburgh (it was the Bruins), with Chicago winning. in 2012, I chose St. Louis and Pittsburgh (it was Kings/Devils, with Kings prevailing) which shows why you shouldn’t be betting on these predictions.

Still, we can have some fun looking at the series.

Overall, the playoffs look fascinating this year. With five Canadian team and the first playoffs to hit Winnipeg since that team returned, there are some great stories awaiting us. It’s a year when a number of the “usual suspects” are off golfing and some unexpected teams have made the second season. I would never have predicted that Los Angeles would miss the playoffs, but in retrospect, I’m not surprised. That’s a team that’s played a seriously long schedule for too many seasons and that team didn’t so much look bad as it did tired.

At the same time, I didn’t predict the Sharks to make the playoffs, but at the same time, watching the Sharks this year disappointed me, and in reality, one key goal in five or six games would have made the difference, and yet that team couldn’t. While the Kings looked tired this year, the Sharks looked — often confused, sometimes uninterested, and mostly just mystified that things were going badly and unable to figure out why. (Why is an entirely different blog post. stay tuned)

For the last few years, the Stanley Cup final has felt like “the Cup winner vs. whoever makes it out of the East”, but not this year. Both conferences have legitimate contenders this year.

This should be fun.

The Eastern Conference

  • New York Rangers vs. Pittsburgh Penguins: Rangers in 5. I like the look of the Rangers. I don’t like what I see in Pittsburgh. To say they limped into the playoffs is an understatement. I’m not sure what’s wrong with the Penguins, but something certainly is, and I can’t see them winning out against the Rangers. (NYR in five)
  • Washington Capitals vs. New York Islanders: I’m thrilled to see the Islanders make it back to the playoffs this year, but the Capitals under Barry Trotz have it firing on all cylinders, and they’re going to be hard to beat. The Islanders won’t. Washington in 5.
  • Montreal Canadiens vs. Ottawa Senators: An all-canada round, meaning we’ll have canadian teams in the 2nd round. It’s nice to see the Canadian teams getting good again. This may be my favorite series of the first round, and should be a lot of fun. It’s also the hardest one to choose, since I like both teams. Ottawa has been able to beat Montreal consistently in the regular season, but I’m going to say Carey Price is going to make sure that doesn’t happen, and choose Montreal in 7.
  • Tampa Bay Lightning vs Detroit Red Wings: Steve Yzerman’s team vs his previous team. Unfortunately, the Red Wings look tired and their goaltending is suspect. Tampa should win this one out relatively easily. Tampa Bay in 5.

Ultimately I think the East is going to be either Washington or the Rangers, and of the two, I like the Capitals, but not by a lot. So my prediction for coming out of the East is the Rangers. A series where these two teams go head to head should be epic.

The Western Conference

  • Anaheim Ducks vs. Winnipeg Jets: Congratulations to the Jets for getting into the playoffs. That’s great to see. Unfortunately, they’re up against Anaheim. David, meet Goliath. I expect Goliath to win this time, though. Anaheim in 5. Winnipeg definitely seems to be on an upward trend so I expect they’ll be back in the playoffs next year and hopefully with a better seed.
  • Vancouver Canucks vs. Calgary Flames: Might be my favorite series with two of my favorite Canadian teams. It’s very nice that there will be two Canadian teams in the 2nd round (potentially three if Winnipeg pulls it off). I think Vancouver is the obvious choice here but for some reason I’m unconvinced. I’m going to go a bit off the board and call for Calgary in six.
  • St. Louis Blues vs. Minnesota Wild: I like the Blues. I think the Wild will make it interesting, but I don’t see them winning the series. I’ll take St. Louis in 6.
  • Nashville Predators vs. Chicago Blackhawks: If Anaheim is the obvious pick to come out of the west, then Nashville and Chicago are the second and third choices. the question is what the winner will have left for the second round. I expect this to be fast, physical, hard hitting, well played and tough on both teams. I also think Nashville will prevail, but I don’t know if they’ll have enough energy left to be competitive in the second round when Chicago is done with them. If you watch only one series, watch this one. Nashville in 6.

I think the western team in the cup final will either be Anaheim or whoever wins Nashville/Chicago. Since those two are playing each other, that means Anaheim has an easier schedule in these playoffs, sort of by definition. So I expect the Ducks will make it to the finals this year (but I’m rooting for it to be Nashville). I wouldn’t rule out St. Louis, either.

The Cup Final

So my prediction for the Cup finals are the Washington Capitals and the Anaheim Ducks. I like both teams. The Capitals won both games head to head. it’s been a nice run of wins in the West, but I think either the Rangers or the Capitals could play in the West and I think this might be the year the cup goes back to the east coast. I’m going to pick as my ultimate winner the Washington Capitals in 6.

Games start Wednesday, and then we’ll get to watch this unfold. I must say, I’m looking forward to it.