2014 contenders for Lord Stanley
Here at BSB, we’re always using “expertise” and “knowledge” and “total guesses” to bring you news and our views on goings on around the Rangers organization and all around the NHL. A few of us have broken down our individual predictions for each of the Round 1 playoff series. We’ll be doing this as each round advances. Enjoy.
Detroit vs Boston
Kevin’s Pick: Bruins in 7. I love the way the Red Wings are playing right now and probably would have taken them over any other team in the Eastern Conference, but this is a nightmare matchup for Detroit.
Dave’s Pick: Bruins in 6….The Wings are one of the hottest teams and are finally healthy, but the Bruins are just that good. The Bs have the advantage in every aspect of the game except Datsyuk dangles.
Justin’s Pick: Bruins in 6…I think Jimmy Howard will give the Wings a fighting chance, but at the end of the day, Boston is just too deep, physical and skilled.
Becky’s Pick: Bruins in 5. I see the Wings as contenders always, with talent, skill and leadership. Are they hot right now? Sure are. But then again, the Bruins haven’t slowed down at all this season.
Chris’ Pick:Bruins in 5.The Bruins will walk all over the Red Wings. The Bruins are deeper in every area when both teams are fully fit. With the injuries (i.e. Zetterberg) that the Red Wings have – and have had – It was a an achievement in itself that they crawled into the playoffs. The Bruins are close to the top of the league right now and have been for some time meanwhile, the Red Wings have just really begun to re-build on the fly. This shouldn’t be a close match-up.
Montreal vs Tampa Bay
Kevin’s Pick: Canadiens in 5. The Lightning has enjoyed an incredible string of luck in the wake of the Stamkos injury, but that will run out against a Canadiens team that is built for the playoffs. Price will slam the door shut and Montreal will benefit from facing backup goalie Anders Lindback.
Dave’s Pick: TBL in 6…The Habs and Lightning are pretty similar teams: Solid goaltending, talent up front, and a decent blue line. The difference is that TBL was a solid driver of puck possession (51.7% to the Habs 48.4%), even without Stamkos for half the season. When all else is equal, the team that drives more puck possession should win.
Justin’s Pick: Canadiens in 7…I have an exceedingly difficult time picking against Steven Stamkos, but the Canadiens are too dangerous for the suspect back line and goaltending in Tampa to compensate for.
Becky’s Pick: Canadiens in 6. I think that the loss of Bishop will affect the Lightning more than they’d like. Stamkos is a world class athlete, but the Habs have a tendency to be pesky and get under the opposition’s skin. Add that up with Price typically playing out of his mind and I see Tampa going down in the first round.
Montreal in 6. I think it will come down to which club handles the pressure best and my gut instinct says it will be Montreal. Are Tampa’s stable of overachieving rookies and younger players ready to go the distance in the NHL playoffs? I’m not so sure. My heart wants Tampa to eventually face the Rangers in the playoffs (what a story line Callahan vs. St Louis would make?) but Carey Price
will win the goaltending duel in this series. He’s legitimately elite.
Columbus vs Pittsburgh
Kevin’s Pick: Penguins in 5. It was a great year for Columbus, but even if Bobrovsky stands on his head, it’s hard to imagine the Blue Jackets outlasting the veteran Penguins in a seven-game series.
Dave’s Pick: Blue Jackets in 7…This is my big upset pick. CBJ has the edge on defense, and while they certainly lack the front end skill that the Pens have in Crosby and Malkin, they are a much deeper team. Bobrovsky will have to steal a game or two, and CBJ will have issues without Horton, but I think the Pens (and their ridiculous 103.7 PDO while barely staying above 50% Fenwick-For) come crashing down.
Penguins in 6…Too much fire power from Pittsburgh’s top guys, even for a sneaky solid blue line in Columbus. I don’t think Marc-Andre Fleury
is going to all of a sudden turn into Patrick Roy come playoff time, but I think he rights the ship from the past two seasons and keeps a Horton-less offense at bay.
Becky’s Pick: Penguins in 5. Sorry, Columbus. I know you’re gritty and really want to be there: that’s great. You’re dealing with a team whose backups are amazing, who have been resting their star forwards and who typically won’t choke until the second round. In the end, the Jacket’s tendency to take a billion penaties (close approximation there) will lead to their demise.
Blue Jackets in 6. Beware the dark horse. Columbus have a ton of upside and are only just beginning to show what they could achieve. They have a big advantage in net (it’s meltdown season in Pittsburgh) and I can’t help thinking Ryan Johansen’s coming out party continues for a couple weeks more. While you can never count out a Crosby/Malkin led team, the Blue Jackets are the better team defensively and if they get timely scoring that may just be enough. Brandon Dubinsky
will relish getting under Sidney Crosby
’s skin for a seven game series, won’t he?
Philadelphia vs New York
Kevin’s Pick: Rangers in 6. It’s a shame we won’t get to see the Philadelphia/Pittsburgh circus again, but the Rangers are just a more balanced team than the Flyers and have a massive edge in goal.
Dave’s Pick: Rangers in 6….The Rangers are more balanced up front, have better defense and goaltending, and are one of the best teams in the NHL since January. If Mason is out for a longer stretch than anticipated, this could be over much quicker.
Justin’s Pick: Rangers in 5…The Flyers are an incredibly flawed team. They have some real talent up front, but their blue line is barely passable for a playoff team, highlighted more so if Ray Emery is forced into action. I just don’t see the Flyers being able to get any traction against a much more balanced Ranger team.
Becky’s Pick: Rangers in 6. The only way this goes any further is if the Rangers do that thing where they can’t score against a backup goalie and Emery comes into play. The Rangers are just more balanced and won’t lose their heads as often as the Flyers will.
Chris’ Pick:Rangers in 5. My heart and my head are thinking the same. The Rangers have a much better defensive unit, a huge advantage in net (goes without saying), they have a deeper set of forwards and are a more disciplined team. The Flyers have a chance if Steve Mason is healthy and continues to steal games. They have a chance if they can play so physically that they get under the Rangers skin and if Wayne Simmonds and Claude Giroux are too hot to handle.Giroux hasn’t set the world alight against the Rangers so it’s a big ask to do so all of a sudden in the glare of the playoffs. The Rangers will have too much for a talented but flawed Flyers team.
Minnesota vs Colorado
Avalanche in 7. Colorado may have a tougher time than expected without two of its top three centers – Matt Duchene and John Mitchell
– but the Avalanche wasn’t a fluke this season.
Dave’s Pick: Avs in 5…The Avs will have an issue without Duchene and Mitchell, and their whopping 102.2 PDO will be exposed in later rounds, but Minnesota isn’t the team to do it.
Justin’s Pick: Avalanche in 6…I’ve really enjoyed watching the Av’s resurgence this season, but I’m not 100% sold yet. The Wild have a resilient group, who I think will give Colorado a real fight. I think the Av’s come out on top.
Becky’s Pick: Avs in 6. I really want to have them winning in 5 but I think they’ll miss Duchene more than we realize. They play tough and they’re skilled. I think if any team has a chance of going against Boston this year, it’s Colorado.
Chris’ Pick:Avalanche in 6. This series will come down to which team has the better goaltending and it’s clearly a strength for the Avalanche right now. Varlamov has begun to realise his obvious potential and has justified the Avalanche’s faith in him. Will the absence of Matt Duchene be an issue? Of course, but when you can fall back on Paul Statsny, Nathan McKinnon and Ryan O’Reilly you’re pretty well set.
Chicago vs St Louis
Kevin’s Pick: Blackhawks in 7. Talk about a heavyweight showdown! These might be the two best teams in the Western Conference, but Chicago has been through the ringer and knows what it takes to win in the postseason. The Blues just aren’t playing well at the wrong time.
Dave’s Pick: Hawks in 7…The Blues have lost 6 straight, but are one of the best puck possession teams (53.1% Fenwick-For) and have Ryan Miller in net. Problem is Chicago is a better puck possession team (55.2% Fenwick-For) and have much more talent up front. This is going to be a fantastic series.
Justin’s Pick: Blues in 7…I know the Hawks are the trendy pick here, since the Blues have limped in to the playoffs. I’m rolling the dice here because most of the key guys missing for the Blues are day-to-day. I also think Ryan Miller gets it together and turns in another one of his big stage performances.
Becky’s Pick: Blues in 7. I’m stickin with Justin here; the Blues may have struggled in their past two weeks of play, but with Backes, Oshie, Sobotka and Tarasenko coming back early in the first round, I think they’ll get it together. The team was too skilled all year to simply fold, plus with their record vs the Hawks all year (3-2-0 with one loss in their abysmal phase), this is the series to watch from the West.
Chris’ Pick: Hawks in 7. If the Sharks-Kings series doesn’t convince you which conference is the strongest then this series just adds weight to what is a one sided argument. Another two clubs with legitimate designs on the Cup and another series that’s too close to call. With the injuries the Hawks are enduring it would be hard to pick them if it wasn’t for the Blues iffy form. This will be a marathon of a series. The size and physical nature and defensive depth of theBlues will help them edge an incredibly tight series by the odd goal here or there.
Dallas vs Anaheim
Kevin’s Pick: Ducks in 5. I like the Stars a lot, but the Ducks come in waves and will be too much for Dallas to handle. Seguin and Benn could catch fire and help Dallas steal a game or two early, but winning four of seven over a team as deep and talented as Anaheim is too much to ask.
Dave’s Pick: Ducks in 7…The Stars are no pushover, and can match the top-end talent of the Ducks with Seguin and Benn. In the end, the team with the better goaltending is going to take this series. I’ll give the benefit of the doubt to the Ducks, but they are another high-PDO (103.4) team that barely breaks the 50% mark in Fenwick-For.
Justin’s Pick: Ducks in 6…The Stars are a little too one-note to beat a power house like the Ducks. I think the upstart Stars will give it a run, but I think the talent wins out here.
Becky’s Pick: Stars in 6. My bold upset here, but Dallas have been playing really well lately and seem like a serious powerhouse. I don’t have much to go on here other than pure faith, but I truly believe Dallas will make it to the second round.
Chris’ Pick:Ducks in 5. This may be the easiest series in the West to call. Yes, the Stars have a few talented players in Seguin and Benn and have several talented youngsters learning on the job but how do you bet against Perry and Getzlaf? The Ducks are dipper, more skilled and have better goaltending especially when factoring in their depth. The Stars will be grateful to acquire so much needed playoff experience but will be brushed aside by the powerful Ducks.
Los Angeles vs San Jose
Kevin’s Pick: Sharks in 7. I could see this one going either way, but the Sharks really feel different to me this season. This will be a war until the very end, but I think San Jose has enough to move on.
Kings in 7…This is also going to be a great series. The Kings are the best puck possession team in the league (56.7% Fenwick-For), but the Sharks are #3 (54.6%). They are both talented, deep, and have solid goaltending. This one is a coin flip. In Game 7, I give the edge to Jonathan Quick
Justin’s Pick: Kings in 7…I keep going back and forth about whether this or the Blues/Hawks series was the toughest to predict. These are very even teams on paper, and at some point you’d think the Sharks would get over the hump, right? I’m not ready to bite on that yet….
Becky’s Pick: Sharks in 7. Jumping on the “in 7″ bandwagon, this will be a great series to watch. I think the Sharks have enough offensive talent to get past Quick, especially with a rejuvenated Pavelski tossing goals in left and right. This one will be fun to watch for sure.
Chris’ Pick: Sharks in 7. This series is why we all love hockey, isn’t it? Two powerhouse teams, two rivals, two Cup contenders forced to slug it out in the early rounds again. The Sharks are the popular pick for the Cup while who would bet against the Kings, their defense and Jon Quick after what they’ve already accomplished in the playoffs. These teams don’t like each other and it could be a physically grueling encounter. The Sharks may have an X-factor with the return of super rookie Tomas Hertl but either way, teams don’t seem to be able to cope with Joe Pavelski and that will continue in this series.