Wednesday, April 15, 2015

NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs 2015 - First Round Predictions

April is here already?  But the snow just finished melting (hell, when I was in Minneapolis last week and it snowed two days in a row).  The good news is the weather is improving and the NHL Stanley Cup playoffs are starting. What I can say for sure is the Los Angeles Kings will not repeat as champs, as they become the first Stanley Cup champs to fail to make the playoffs the next year since the Carolina Hurricanes ten years ago. And it’s really weird not seeing the San Jose Sharks in the playoffs ready to make their annual first round exit. So, let’s get right to the First Round preview. I've again assembled my crack panel of NHL experts. 

Eastern Conference (The OK conference)

New York Rangers vs Pittsburgh Penguins

The Rangers were the top team in the East pretty much the whole season, even when Hendrik Lunquist missed some serious time with an injury. They are a much better team going into the playoffs this year than they were last year when they made their run to the Stanley Cups finals.  The Penguins?  Not so much.  They barely made it and have had some injuries to key players, Like Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang.  The Penguins have done little in the playoffs the last five years. Don’t expect them to do much this year either.  Rangers in 6.

Montreal vs Ottawa

Montreal was one of the top teams in the East all season long Carey Price will likely be a Hart finalist.  The Senators were in a deep hole as recently as January until goaltender Andrew Hammond came to the rescue.  The Senators come into the playoffs in fire and again, I just don’t think the Habs are that much better than then.  Senators in 6.

Tampa Bay Lightning vs Detroit (sucks) Red Wings

Tampa Bay lead the league in scoring and was second in goal differential.  Detroit somehow managed to keep their playoff streak alive as some of their younger players finally stepped up and produced.  But who will start in goal for them.  It doesn’t matter.  They hit the golf course by May 1st.  Lightening in 6 (Sorry McKee).

Washington Capitals vs New York Islanders

These two teams tied with 101 points in the regular season but the Caps secured home ice on the tie breaker.  Alexander Ovechkin bounced back from a subpar season last year to lead the league on goals.  The Islanders are fun to watch but struggled a bit the last ten games or so.  I’m bucking the trend and going with the Islanders in seven.

Western Conference (The good conference)

Anaheim Ducks vs Winnipeg Jets

The Ducks were the best of the west all season long.  Good goaltending, solid defense and a lot of scoring will help you win a lot of games.  The Jets have a very talented team and have been on the cusp of the playoffs the last few years.  Jets fans will be going nuts at home games, but they might only have two of them.  The Ducks are good and deep.  Ducks in 5.

Vancouver Canucks vs Calgary Flames

The Canucks had a good season, minus the traded Ryan Kesler, as the Sedin twins put up their normal numbers and Ryan Miller played solid, if not spectacular, in goal.  The Flames made the playoffs?  Really?  The Flames finished third in their division even though they had the fewest points of the eight teams that qualified in the West.  They overachieved all season long and were supposed to lose out to the Kings, but the Kings forgot to win and the Flames forgot to lose.  They were supposed to be rebuilding.  They will be done quickly.  Vancouver in 6.

St. Louis Blues v Minnesota Wild

The Blues finished strong to nap the top spot in the Central, the best division in hockey, which sent five teams to the playoffs.  They caught Nashville and kept ahead of the Hawks and their reward is the Wild, who have been the best of the West the last two months since they traded for Devan Dubnyk.  Who will start in goal for the Blues, Brian Elliot who struggled down the stretch (costing me a fantasy hockey championship) or Jake Allen, who has little playoff experience?  This most will be a fun series to watch.  Blues in 7.

Chicago Blackhawks vs. Nashville Predators

The Predators lead the division most of the season but only garnered two points in their last six games.  The Blackhawks ended the season with four straight losses, which cost them home ice in this series.  Patrick Kane is expected back from his shoulder injury, which is great news for the Hawks who have struggled to score the last month of the season.  You don’t want to be struggling to score when you are up against Pekka Rinne.  As long as Corey Crawford plays well, this is the Hawks series to win.  Hawks in 7.
Here’s the predictions from my panel of experts.  I like how the only thing we agree on is the Hawks and Blues (we are all either Hawks or Blues fans).

SeriesMikeJaxJarrettBob
Rangers vs PenguinsRangers in 6Rangers in 6Rangers in 5Rangers in 5
Canadians vs SenatorsSenators in 6Canadians in 6Canadians in 5Canadians in 7
Lightning vs Red WingsLightning in 6Red Wings in 7Lightning in 7Lightning in 5
Capitals vs IslandersIslanders in 7Islanders in 6Islanders in 7Capitals in 6
Ducks vs JetsDucks in 5Jets in 6Ducks in 6Ducks in 4
Canucks vs FlamesCanucks in 6Canucks in 6Flames in 7Canucks in 6
Blues vs WildBlues in 7Blues in 7Blues in 7Blues in 6
Blackhawks vs PredatorsHawks in 7Hawks in 6Hawks in 6Hawks in 5

 
Check in again after the first round  to see how we did and to see the second round preview.