Screen Shot 2016-04-13 at 1.07.03 PM

Stanley Cup Playoffs: First round breakdown and predictions

Heading into the Stanley Cup Playoffs, there are loads of storylines to discuss.

The first round will feature fierce battles between bitter rivals. Chicago and St. Louis will meet in the first round for the second time in three years. Pittsburgh and the New York Rangers will meet up for the third consecutive season. Two California teams face-off in the series between the Kings and the Sharks. With quality matches across the board, we should see a lot of highly competitive series in the coming weeks. I’ll break down the first round, analyze the match ups, and make predictions for the rest of the playoffs.

Western Conference

(1) Anaheim Ducks vs. (WC1) Nashville Predators

This series pits two experienced playoff teams against each other. While the teams are not identical, they play a very similar type of hockey. Both teams are tough, defensive-minded clubs. As we discussed last week, Anaheim had a rough start to the season, but has rounded into form as the season has gone along. The opposite has occurred for Nashville, as they started the season 11-3-3 and have gone 30-24-11 since, losing more than half of their games. Pekka Rinne, a finalist for the Vezina Trophy last year, saw his save percentage drop to .908 this year. The Ducks on the other hand sport two quality starting goalies. The Ducks are deep, experienced, playing great hockey, and ready to avenge their Western Conference Finals loss last season.

Prediction: Ducks in 5

(2) Los Angeles Kings vs. (3) San Jose Sharks

Photo courtesy of Yahoo! Sports.

Since 1997, the San Jose Sharks have missed the playoffs only twice. Last season was one of those two times. The Kings also missed the playoffs last season, but don’t let that fool you. Both of these teams have quality players at forward and defenseman, playoff experience, and good coaching. These teams know each other well as play in the same division, and they have met in the postseason in 2013 and 2014 with the Kings winning both matchups. However, there is one key detail that swings things into the Kings favor: they have Jonathan Quick, and the Sharks do not. Quick has two Stanley Cup Championships, and Martin Jones (the goalie for San Jose) was his backup for one of the championships. While both teams have very quality positional players, the goalie matchup swings the series in favor of the Kings.

Prediction: Kings in 7

(1) Dallas Stars vs. (WC2) Minnesota Wild

The Dallas Stars are the most offensively talented team in the NHL. The Minnesota Wild want to limit shots and play with sound defensive structure. These two styles clash with each other, and the style of play that wins out will likely determine the outcome of the series. With that being said, it is tough to slow down the Stars and the Minnesota Wild will be clearly overwhelmed in this series. We found out this morning that Zach Parise and Thomas Vanek will miss the first two games in Dallas. While Minnesota has won both of the last two years as a wild card, this year feels a little different. Dallas is nearly impossible to stop from scoring, and the Wild lack enough scoring punch to keep up. While the Wild could certainly get hot and win this series, I do not see it happening.

Prediction: Stars in 6

(2) St. Louis Blues vs. (3) Chicago Blackhawks

For a few years now, people have been wondering if the Blues can get over the playoff hump. Since beating the Sharks in 2012, they have not won another playoff series. On the contrary, the Blackhawks have won two Stanley Cups since then. Needless to say, the Blackhawks have the mental advantage in this series. Coach Q is arguably the best coach in the league, Toews and Kane have loads of playoff experience, and the Hawks are coming off a Stanley Cup victory. However, that Stanley Cup team had Patrick Sharp, Johnny Oduya, Brandon Saad, Brad Richards, and Kris Versteeg, and this team does not. St. Louis has a goaltender that has the best save percentage in the NHL since March 1st. The Blues are one of the hottest teams in the NHL. With all that being said, I still fell like Chicago is gonna find a way to win this series. If this goes to a Game 7, the advantage is Chicago’s even though they’ll be on the road. I think St. Louis is the better team right now, but the moxie of the Blackhawks combined with the playoff acumen of Coach Joel Quenneville will win them this series.

Prediction: Blackhawks in 7

Eastern Conference

(1) Washington Capitals vs. (WC2) Philadelphia Flyers

Similar to the Anaheim and Nashville series, these two teams are tough and physical. However, this series is the most lopsided from the beginning. For the entirety of the season, the Capitals have been the best team. They have won the most consistently and showed that they are tough to beat. The Flyers made the playoffs on effectively the last day of the season and had an up and down year at times. If the Flyers can avoid special teams, this team can skate with the Capitals and even steal a game at home if they play well. However, the Capitals are just going to be too much for Philly to handle.

Prediction: Capitals in 5

(2) Pittsburgh Penguins vs. (3) New York Rangers

For the third straight year, we are treated to a Rangers vs. Penguins showdown in the playoffs. Last year, the Pens limped into the playoffs while the Rangers captured the President’s Trophy. This year, the Rangers started the year red hot and cooled off to a certain extent. The Pens finished the season winning 14 of their last 16 games, some of which without Marc-Andre Fleury (pictured right) and Evgeni Malkin. With both goaltenders looking like they will be facing injuries throughout these playoffs, the series become a lot more uncertain and difficult to predict. Regardless of which goaltenders play, it is tough to pick against the Penguins right now. This team is red hot and they are playing without some of their best players. The Penguins are going to get revenge for last season.

Prediction: Penguins in 6

(1) Florida Panthers vs. (WC1) New York Islanders

This is a very interesting series. The Florida Panthers have a phenomenal mix of young talent and veteran experience. They have some of the most talented young guys in the NHL in Ekblad, Barkov, Bjugstad, and Huberdeau. This is only the second playoff experience for the Panthers team since 2001, but this team wants to do everything it can to give veterans Roberto Luongo and Jaromir Jagr a chance at a Stanley Cup. The Islanders are a little different, with this being their seventh playoff appearance since 2001. However, they have not won a playoff series since 1993, and the injury to Halak only spells trouble for New York. Thomas Greiss will be starting in goal and making only his 2nd career playoff start in Game 1. The Islanders know their team is not as good as some of the teams in the past.

Prediction: Panthers in 6

(2) Tampa Bay Lightning vs. (3) Detroit Red Wings

Photo Courtesy of Getty Images


This should have been the first time since I have been born that the Red Wings would miss the playoffs. They lost two out of their last three, but were saved by the collapsing Boston Bruins. Now they get to be the #3 seed and play a #2 seed instead of having to play a #1 seed or missing the playoffs all together. They also have 19-year old star Dylan Larkin (pictured right), but wait, there’s more. They get to play the Tampa Bay Lightning sans their best offensive player and second best defender (Stamkos and Stralman). While Tampa Bay goalie Ben Bishop has posted incredible numbers down the stretch, it is tough the bet on the team that might be the most injured of anyone going into the playoffs. Is Ben Bishop capable of stealing this series? Absolutely. He is one of the best goaltenders in the NHL. However, I think that the Lightning have too much to overcome to beat an experienced, yet youthful Red Wings team.

Prediction: Red Wings in 6

Predictions for the rest of the playoffs

Western Conference Semifinals and Finals

(1)Anaheim Ducks vs. (2) Los Angeles Kings – Prediction: Ducks in 7

(1) Dallas Stars vs. (3) Chicago Blackhawks – Prediction: Stars in 6

(1) Dallas Stars vs. (1) Anaheim Ducks – Prediction: Ducks in 6

Eastern Conference Semifinals and Finals

(1) Washington Capitals vs. (2) Pittsburgh Penguins – Prediction: Capitals in 7

(1) Florida Panthers vs. (3) Detroit Red Wings – Prediction: Panthers in 6

(1)Washington Capitals vs. (1) Florida Panthers – Prediction: Capitals in 5

Stanley Cup Final

In October 2015, I picked Ducks over the Capitals as the Stanley Cup Final. No reason to change it now!

(1) Washington Capitals vs. (1) Anaheim Ducks – Prediction: Ducks in 7

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

Gravatar Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s