Last September, I listed my predictions for the upcoming NHL season. Below are the results:
- Tampa Bay Lightning
- Detroit Red Wings
- Florida Panthers
- Montreal Canadiens
- Boston Bruins
- Ottawa Senators
- Buffalo Sabres
- Toronto Maple Leafs
- Washington Capitals
- Pittsburgh Penguins
- New York Rangers
- Columbus Blue Jackets
- Philadelphia Flyers
- New York Islanders
- New Jersey Devils
- Carolina Hurricanes
- St. Louis Blues
- Nashville Predators
- Minnesota Wild
- Dallas Stars
- Chicago Blackhawks
- Winnipeg Jets
- Colorado Avalanche
- Anaheim Ducks
- Los Angeles Kings
- San Jose Sharks
- Calgary Flames
- Vancouver Canucks
- Edmonton Oilers
- Arizona Coyotes
*Correctly Predicted In/Out of Playoffs; Incorrect Placement
*Correctly Predicted In/Out of Playoffs; Correct Placement
*Incorrectly Predicted In/Out of Playoffs
So in summary, I predicted 14 of the 16 playoff teams and 8 out of 30 in the correct place in their division. Not great, not terrible. So it goes with predicting the unpredictable.
Which brings us to the first round of the NHL playoffs, beginning Wednesday night. In examining the 8 playoff rounds, the competition between teams is closer than ever. Even a supposed sure thing (Washington vs. Philadelphia) can easily be an upset without much great surprise. Some are pretty much just a flip of a coin (Chicago vs. St Louis). So here it goes:
Dallas Stars vs. Minnesota Wild
The Stars have coasted through the regular season with the best offense in the league while the Wild have sputtered with winning streaks followed by losing streaks. I think Dallas’ offense pushes against the Wild’s inconsistency.
- Dallas in 5
St. Louis Blues vs. Chicago Blackhawks
The defending Cup champs against a team that must make some noise in the postseason or else risk a break up. This has all the makings of a long, hard-fought series. St. Louis needs to prove that they are a contending team while Chicago will be looking to stake a claim as a modern-day dynasty with their fourth championship in 7 years. It’ll be close, but the Blackhawks want to win, the Blues have to win.
- St. Louis in 7
Anaheim Ducks vs. Nashville Predators
The Ducks started the season terribly, but rebounded in the second half as one of the hottest teams. The Predators counter with one of the best defenses in the league and an improved offense with the addition of Ryan Johansen. The Ducks are favored, but the Predators have it all right now and may frustrate the Ducks.
- Nashville in 7
Los Angeles Kings vs. San Jose Sharks
A re-match of the 2014 opening round series (aka the San Jose Sharks epic fail), this series should be full of punishment and intensity. The Sharks will be trying to avenge their loss from two years when they blew a 3-0 series lead and the Kings will be trying to prove that they are the preeminent franchise in the league today. I’d love to pick the Sharks, but the Kings are too deep.
- Los Angeles in 6
Washington Capitals vs. Philadelphia Flyers
The Capitals are the President’s Trophy winners, the best team in the league, led by 50-goal scorer Alex Ovechkin, all-time single season wins holder (tied with Martin Brodeur) Brayden Holtby and a smart, active defense. The Flyers are one of the hottest teams entering the playoffs, but this may be the Capitals year.
- Washington in 6
Pittsburgh Penguins vs. New York Rangers
The Pittsburgh Penguins were the hottest team at the end of the season while the Rangers stumbled into the playoffs with some injuries. It’ll come down to the Penguin’s offense versus the Ranger’s defense. Goaltender Henrk Lundqvist might be the difference-maker.
- New York in 7
Florida Panthers vs. New York Islanders
The Panthers are one of the more interesting teams in the league, led by 44-year-old Jaromir Jagr and supported by a bunch of kids. The Islanders counter with star captain John Tavares and a cast that has been through a couple of playoff battles. Look for Florida goaltender Roberto Luongo to backstop the Panthers to the next round.
- Florida in 6
Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Detroit Red Wings
The Lightning are decimated by injuries. The Red Wings are maddeningly inconsistent. A re-match of last year’s first round series promises to be an interesting affair. Look for Detroit’s inability to score goals to be their downfall.
- Tampa Bay in 6
After filling in the NHL playoffs bracket, I am amending my pre-season projection and predicting a final between the Washington Capitals and the St. Louis Blues, with the Capitals prevailing in 6 games.
Will that happen? Probably not. We will find out in June.