So, it’s that time of year again, when the NHL starts their playoffs and I try to predict who will win what series. This is actually fairly tough to do, because it seems that in today’s NHL upsets are common-place, so much so that you have to start to wonder if picking the underdogs is now the equivalent of picking the favourite, especially since so many of those underdogs come into the playoffs after fighting hard to get there and having to have everything go well and having to go on a roll to get there, meaning that the increased level of play that the playoffs produce is just another day to them.
Anyway, here are my predictions for the first round, starting in the East:
Montreal vs Ottawa: I think this series will be decided in Game 1. If Ottawa wins that game, they’ll probably ride that momentum to a series win. If they lose a close one, they still might be able to ride the confidence they gained during their improbable run to win the series. But if Montreal manages to burst their bubble, they’ll collapse and Montreal will take it easily. So will that happen? Montreal has a strong team, and Carey Price has had a great season. Ottawa, however, has a team that has been playing really, really well over the past few months. If they can ignore the pressure, and Hammond can keep playing the way he has been when facing a team that is going to analyze his tendencies to death, they can win the series. You could wonder if they’ll run out of gas, but they’re a very young team so fatigue isn’t as big an issue. Montreal has the edge in playoff experience, however.
This one will be a close one, but I’m going to go with Ottawa.
Tampa Bay vs Detroit: I don’t ever want to count Detroit out, because they’re a team that tends to make it into the playoffs and do things in the playoffs even when they really shouldn’t. That being said, Tampa Bay has a strong team this year and as far as I know isn’t starting with any critical injuries, and come in on a roll. This one might go the distance, but I think in the end Tampa’s talent will win the day.
Prediction: Tampa Bay
Rangers vs Pittsburgh: Pittsburgh comes in after limping into the playoffs, and with major injuries, especially on their blue line. The Rangers are the President Trophy winners, a very skilled team, and Lundqvist is back and seems to be playing well. For Pittsburgh to win this, Fleury would have to stand on his head and steal the series with Lundqvist being at most human. That won’t happen.
Washington vs Islanders: This series pits two Hart Trophy candidates against each other, Ovechkin and Tavares. The teams are even in points and even in talent, so this should be a close series. That being said, the Islanders slumped their way into the playoffs and Halak has seemed shaky whenever I’ve watched him play lately, and so while he has more experience Holtby is playing better at the moment. Everything else being a wash, I give it to Washington.
St. Louis vs Minnesota: I don’t think that St. Louis has any big injuries, and they had a great season. Minnesota is a good team and can force the upset, but I don’t think they’re playing any better than St. Louis is right now. So I’ll give this one to St. Louis.
Prediction: St. Louis
Nashville vs Chicago: The teams are close in points, but Chicago has a lot more playoff experience than Nashville does. Nashville pretty much only has home ice advantage working for them, and I don’t think it will be enough.
Anaheim vs Winnipeg: All through the panel discussion during the Senators game yesterday, people kept saying how they felt that Anaheim, for all of their points and success, was vulnerable. Winnipeg will get a massive boost just from making it into the playoffs for the first time, and that’s always dangerous. Anaheim will have more pressure due to expectations on them and Winnipeg has nothing to lose. This is probably a mistake, but I’ll go with the emotional boost on this one.
Vancouver vs Calgary: Vancouver has the weight of expectations on them with a team that hasn’t performed that well this season, including its top stars. Calgary has been overcoming massive adversity the whole season, and as the panel commented everyone thought that they were just going to go away, and they never did. Let me predict them to not go away this round either, playing against a team that isn’t that much better than they are.
Montreal vs Ottawa Incorrect
Tampa Bay vs Detroit Correct
Rangers vs Pittsburgh Correct
Washington vs Islanders Correct
St. Louis vs Minnesota Incorrect
Nashville vs Chicago Correct
Anaheim vs Winnipeg Incorrect
Vancouver vs Calgary Correct
Overall Record: 5 – 3