With my beloved Maple Leafs missing the playoffs for the zillionth straight year, I’ll be watching the entirety of the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs from a purely hockey fan perspective. And that sucks. So, I decided to do an NCAA Basketball-style bracket with a few of my buddies, and made official predictions for the post-season. And, because people love to voice their own opinion, I’m putting my predictions in this blog for you all to guess and comment.
Could they be completely wrong? Absolutely. Was I writing this column instead of doing actual homework or at least somewhat acknowledging my girlfriend? You bet. Was I drunk with all my buddies while making the bracket? Is that even a question?
So here’s my picks. If I didn’t pick your favourite team, then you can complain about it in the comment section. Happy playoffs!
Huntzy’s First Round Playoff Picks
#1 New York Rangers vs #8 Ottawa Senators
This isn’t as easy as some people are making it. If you look at the head-to-head matchups, Ottawa does a good job of staying at least on-par with the Blueshirts. Sens goalie Craig Anderson has the ability to steal a few games, and taking at least one in New York would be huge for the series. But the Rangers are too tough, and are too well built for the playoffs (elite goaltender, stacked defense, unreal at blocking shots and taking the body).
Prediction: Rangers in 6
#2 Boston Bruins vs #7 Washington Capitals
The defending Stanley Cup champs are coming into this series with a few injuries, most notably to forward Nathan Horton, who was shut down for the entire post-season. Washington has showed flashes of skill, and head coach Dale Hunter is a warrior, and is best remembered for killing Pierre Turgeon in the 1993 playoffs. The Capitals have been good down the stretch, but despite Alexander Ovechkin seeming to wake-up, Washington isn’t nearly tough enough to last in the playoffs. When your roster has the likes of Zdeno Chara, Milan Lucic, Shawn Thornton, Gregory Campbell, and Adam McQuaid…well…you’re pretty friggin’ tough. “You come at the king, you best not miss.”
Prediction: Bruins in 5
#3 Florida Panthers vs #6 New Jersey Devils
Florida is the perfect example of why winning your division guarantees you a top three spot in the playoffs is stupid. If you went by points, then the Panthers should be 7th. Also, they had 18 overtime losses, giving them 18 more points then any team with as much talent as them should ever have. The Devils finished the season with six straight wins, and Ilya Kovalchuk seem to have found his stride after struggling last year. This could end early.
Prediction: Devils in 4
#4 Pittsburgh Penguins vs #5 Philadelphia Flyers
The other reason why Florida sucks is that, because of the division rule and the rankings, the Penguins and the Flyers are forced to play eachother in the first round. Seriously, how awesome is this going to be? Pittsburgh hates Philadelphia. Philadelphia hates Pittsburgh. Hits will be made. Punches will be thrown. Blood will be split. Awesomeness will be experienced. I honestly can’t dive deep into any analysis for this series, because I’m way too excited for it. These four-to-seven games will be what you will find under “playoff intensity” in the dictionary.
Prediction: Penguins in 7
#1 Vancouver Canucks vs #8 Los Angeles Kings
Last year’s running up, the Canucks have waited all year to start the playoff journey all over again. With Vancouver not exactly showing Roberto Luongo all the confidence in the world, backup Cory Schneider could see some time in net. Toughness was thrown into question in the finals against the Bruins, but the addition of Zack Kassian could be the answer they need when it comes time to push back. The Kings have been a question mark all year, as most of the players expected to excel (Mike Richards, Drew Doughty, and more recently Jeff Carter) have been nothing short of a disappointment. L.A. goalie Jonathan Quick has been the saving grace, posting 10 shutouts and a 1.95 GAA. If he can steal one of the first two games in Vancouver, they might have a shot.
Prediction: Canucks in 6
#2 St. Louis Blues vs #7 San Jose Sharks
After hiring Ken Hitchcock after the start of the season, the Blues have become one of the hottest teams in hockey. Their
boring as hell style of play has helped get them near the top of their conference, and have become a modern day version of the trap-style Devils of the late ’90s. The Sharks have been consistently inconsistent throughout the year, but found a way to sneak into the playoffs. It will be interesting to see if Joe Thornton will finally become a big-time player.
Prediction: Blues in 5
#3 Phoenix Coyotes vs #6 Chicago Blackhawks
This was a tough one. On one hand, you have the Blackhawks; 2010 Stanley Cup champions, solid defense, questionable goaltending, and a core of forwards who can score at any moment. With the Coyotes, you have Shane Doan, who is due to at least win one playoff series in his career (here’s Doan scoring a goal in the 2010 playoffs against Detroit, with the greatest facial expression you’ll ever see) and Ray Whitney, who at 39, put up 53 assists and 77 points. Not only that, but Dave Tippett is one of the best coaches in the NHL, and is a huge factor into Phoenix finding a way to stay in Phoenix.
Prediction: Coyotes in 6
#4 Nashville Predators vs #5 Detroit Red Wings
This might be the most interesting series from a match-up standpoint. Nashville’s defense is ridiculously stacked, beginning with Shea Weber and Ryan Suter, and combined with the freakishly good goaltending from Pekka Rinne, this team is built for a run. Detroit, well, we all know what Detroit is. Stupid talent with tremendous experience and elite coaching. Pavel Datsyuk, Nicklas Lidstrom, Todd Bertuzzi, Mike Babcock — playoff warriors. But to borrow a line from Herb Brooks in Miracle: “Their time is done. It’s over. I’m sick and tired of hearing about what a great team the (Red Wings) have. Screw ‘em.”
Prediction: Predators in 7
So there it is. Hope you enjoyed the article, and may all your playoff predictions come true. And for your enjoyment, here’s a montage of last year’s playoff run. Enjoy…
Follow Hunter Crowther on twitter @HunterCrowther or email him at email@example.com