Play-Off Predictions – Round 1

With the Stanley Cup play-offs set to being tonight, it seemed only fitting to throw my two pence in to the ring and make some predictions for the first round.

There’s no question the new format has led to some mouth watering ties, with at least a couple of serious contenders for the Cup set to fall at the first hurdle. Here’s how I see things shaping up:

Boston Bruins

Eastern Conference

Boston Bruins versus Detroit Red Wings – Bruins in 5
Despite injuries to key players, Detroit extended their post season streak to 23 straight years with a late season surge. It launched Mike Babcock in to the Jack Adams conversation, and made them an unenviable prospect for whoever was set to face them in round 1.

But, simply put, I think the Bruins have too much for the Wings in this one.

Even without Dennis Seidenberg and Adam McQuaid’s, defensively they are marginally better and a healthy crop of forwards (aside from Marc Savard obviously) gives them an edge over a Detroit side still sans Henrik Zetterberg, Stephen Weiss and experienced hand Dan Cleary. Thrown in the best goalie in the world this year and it’s Bruins in 5 – albeit I do think the series will be closer than that prediction may suggest.

Montreal Canadiens versus Tampa Bay Lightning – Canadiens in 6
Tampa and Montreal ended up being rather comfortable at the top of the Atlantic behind Boston, setting up a finely balanced first round match up.

The Bolts endured, despite losing their best player for an extended period and arguably their most iconic player to a tantrum induced trade, whilst Montreal just seemed to go about their business.

Whilst both teams have difference makers; ultimately I think it is Carey Price that edges this one in the Habs favour. Ben Bishop was superb early on, but did fade after the Olympic Break, whilst with Price’s ‘clutch’ credentials were well and truly certified in Sochi. He is the X factor between two sides who are otherwise well matched.

Pittsburgh Penguins versus Columbus Blue Jackets – Penguins in 5
Both teams fortunes will almost certainly rest with their goaltenders – both in this series and beyond.

If Bobrovsky hits a hot streak, Columbus could surprise a lot of people. A team greater than the sum of their parts, they deservedly took one of the wild card spots this season. ‘Bob’ has the ability to steal a game or two, meaning the Jackets just need to squeeze a little more out of Ryan Johansen and co to stand a good chance at what would still probably be considered an upset.

However, Pittsburgh’s roster speaks for itself – particularly with Kris Letang skating again. But question marks remain over starting goaltender Marc Andre Fleury, and Tomas Vokoun’s form is up in the air following health issues. If the Pens get ‘league average’ goaltending from one (or both…), Dan Bylsma’s side have enough to take a run at the Cup – either way, I think they’ll be too much for the Blue Jackets.

New York Rangers versus Philadelphia Flyers – Rangers in 7
Perhaps the pick of the Eastern Conferences first round match ups, especially after Craig Berube turned the Flyers season around following a disastrous start.

Philadelphia has a habit of finding an extra gear in the post season, but the Rangers depth and superior goaltending edge this one for me – though I fully expect it to go the distance.

Chicago Blackhawks

Western Conference

Anaheim Ducks versus Dallas Stars – Ducks in 5
Bruce Boudreau may not have the best reputation in the post season, but he already has a significant advantage this time around with Jonas Hiller between the pipes.

Anaheim finished the season 7-2-1, winning their last four games (whilst unleashing their next goaltending star…) and in any other year Ryan Getzlaf would have won the Hart. Adding former Star Stephan Robidas was a quiet but highly effective move at the trade deadline.

Whilst Dallas have had a great season in their own right, it’s hard to see them overcoming a Ducks side who are serious contenders for the Cup again.

San Jose Sharks versus Los Angeles Kings – Kings in 7
Another incredible first round match up between two Western Conference powerhouses.

Two would be champions, likely to knock seven bells out of each other. It’s a series that really could go either way, featuring franchises that really could go all the way – for me the Kings ‘championship experience’ is the difference maker. Jonathan Quick has shown what he can do in the post season enough times to make any team nervous about facing him, whilst Drew Doughty thrives in these situations.

St. Louis Blues versus Chicago Blackhawks – Hawks in 6
Has any team hit a skid at a worse time than St Louis? The Blues dropped 6 straight to finish the season, missing out on the Central Division title and setting up a clash with the defending champions in the process.

Chicago meanwhile look set to welcome back Captain Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane for Thursdays game, and have a post season pedigree the envy of pretty much everyone else in the NHL.

Knowing ‘how to win’ will be a mighty weapon for the Hawks against an out of sorts Blues who’ve fallen to LA in each of the past two play-offs amid mounting pressure this is ‘their time’.

Colorado Avalanche versus Minnesota Wild – Avalanche in 6
Winning the Central Division capped off a remarkable season for Colorado; moving from the basement to the penthouse under new Head Coach Patrick Roy – who will surely win the Jack Adams for his efforts.

It also setup a very winnable clash with Minnesota.

Matt Duchene’s continued absence is a concern for the Avs; but against a Wild team that struggled to score (only LA and Edmonton scored less in the West) and has goaltending worries, a confident Colorado side should have no trouble progressing to round 2.

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About Rob

Software engineer by day, Elite League Media man by night, Rob also blogs about cricket for One Stump Short, hockey for In Goal Magazine and video games for Outpost Delta as well as hosting the One Stump Short Podcast.

Posted on April 16, 2014, in Anaheim Ducks, Boston Bruins, Chicago Blackhawks, Colorado Avalanche, Columbus Blue Jackets, Dallas Stars, Detroit Red Wings, Hockey, Los Angeles Kings, Minnesota Wild, Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers, NHL, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, San Jose Sharks, St Louis Blues, Tampa Bay Lightning and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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