Aug
31

Playoff Predictions 2015: Who will be back?

August 31, 2014, by
Is it hockey season yet?

Is it hockey season yet?

Throughout the course of a season, a team will play 82 games in the hopes of playing just four more rounds for the chance to hoist Lord Stanley’s Cup. These 82 games are no walk in the park. They consist of grueling hits, tough goals and workouts that most of us would pass out or throw up halfway through. These athletes do it because they want to know the glory of being the very best, having their names etched in glory forever on the greatest trophy in all sports.

Of the 30 teams in the NHL, 16 make it to the first round of the playoffs. For certain teams, making the playoffs is a distant dream. For others, missing them is beyond unacceptable. Below is the breakout of the first round from April 2014:

 

s/t CBS Sports

s/t CBS Sports

So which of these teams will most likely make it again?

St. Louis Blues

With the offseason gain of Olympian forward Paul Stastny, the Blues are a lock to have another great season. Stastny, a three-time 70+ point player, racked up 60 points for the Avalanche last year, and seems to be even more invigorated by this homecoming – Stastny was raised in St. Louis upon his father, Peter’s retirement from the league. Though the Blues lost Ryan Miller, they re-signed Brian Elliot to a 3 year deal, and it seems that he will help with the integration of their AHL-leading goalie Jake Allen into the NHL. If Alexander Steen (or any one other forward) plays well to complement Stastny, you’re looking at a team that should be an absolute force.

Dallas Stars

The Stars just squeaked in last year and had a hard task of playing the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Ducks, but moves in the offseason dictate that they will be a team to beat next year. By adding goal scorer Ales Hemsky and veteran leader Jason Spezza from Ottawa, the offense becomes completely rounded out. If their defense can keep up, the Stars could bring April hockey back to the Deep South for at least one more season.

Boston Bruins

It actually pains me to write this, but I still see the Bruins as the best in the East. I know they weren’t even the best last year, but they’re big, they’re physical, they’re skilled and they’re basically the same as they’ve always been. The loss of Jarome Iginla is obviously worth noting, but will it break the team? Absolutely not. Tuukka Rask is only 27 and getting better each year. Short of a major injury, I see the Bruins going far, per usual.

Though several teams flip flop each year (think Washington Capitals, New Jersey Devils, Toronto Maple Leafs, Carolina Hurricanes, etc), teams have made some very interesting moves this offseason which will make them better in years to come. Don’t expect to see the Oilers in the playoff hunt next year, but Edmonton has made quite a few moves that prove that the front office is thinking long term. If there’s an award for most improved, I want to put their name in the race; the addition of forward Teddy Purcell and defenseman Mark Fayne, along with the extension of Justin Schultz, along with the young talent they have in Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins shows that some front office brains are at work. Give relatively new captain Andrew Ference some time to get his bearings and I think that we’re looking at a vastly improved team in a couple of years’ time.

 

8 comments

  1. Walt says:

    Speed kills, and we got faster!! Why is Boston the beast of the east? They are slow, getting older, and can be beat as well.

    I see us as being much improved, faster, younger, and now have the potential of a very good power play!!!!!!

    Bottom line, we make the play-offs, and teams like the Flyers may not. Mark this date down, the Pens are going to be a weaker team this year as well, and could struggle to get in!

    • Becky says:

      In a twist this season, more than one team in the east will make the playoffs. Since the rest of the blog writes primarily about the Rangers, I try to focus elsewhere. But yes, I do think the Rangers make it this year.

    • Puck Luck @Centerman21 says:

      I would be careful about counting out the Penguins. They have changed the front office and their coach is more of a puck possession coach. Rather than the forechecking strategy they used under Bylsma who used a Torts like strategy. The Pens are already a good or great Possesion team as it is. If they hold the puck more instead of dump n chase. I think they could be good. Also Flower is in the final year of his contract so he will play his best in years. He only has to play well one season and once he gets a new deal he can return to his previous head case status.
      It may take them time to adjust defensively and overall I think they’ll struggle the entire season with a weak rearguard. However, they have a very good offensive team that could be able to get past the second round this year. I see them in the 1 or 2 spot in the division and go on a run to the ECF. I this is where the Rangers get a rematch with Pittsburgh next season.

      • Walt says:

        No one is counting the Pens out, all I’m saying is that they will struggle this year. They lost their best d-man in Orpik, as well as Niscannin (spelling?), and Engglland. They won’t be as touch as last year as well, with Glass gone. Their entire blue line is weak, with Letang being their best, and he is weak on defense. As for the flower, he is inconsistent at best, and is an air head. I wouldn’t want to depend on him for anything!!!!!

  2. Dave says:

    Philly out, Isles in. Colorado out. Toss up on who replaces them.

    • Puck Luck @Centerman21 says:

      The Metro is gonna be real tight this season. Washington & Pittsburgh improved by cleaning out the managerial staff. The Pens are at least. Washinton could have trouble unless Trotz comes up with a strategy that fits his team. The Pens got better by adding a couple 2 way players. Not just loading up 10 top 6 players.
      The Islanders added depth and vets to help lead the younger core on how to be pros. Halak will win some games for them Nabakov wasn’t able to. They lost a lot of games they had 3rd period leads in last year.
      Columbus is getting better every season. A healthy Horton will start the season with the Jackets for the first time. Johansson is gonna get signed and have a powerhouse season.
      I still think the Rangers are the best in the division. I think they get more from the top line this year and have about the same depth they had last season. I don’t think the 3rd line will have the same dynamic but will still will some games for the NYR. I think Hayes surprises a lot of people and score 15-20 goals. Mainly loose rebounds in the crease. Lombardi will bring a level of speed and Stempniak will be a great forechecker. Hayes and Stempniak might both be on their true sides making it a balanced 3rd line with 2 speedy players and one big young fearless monster in Hayes. Having Kreider with him will help ease him into the routine. I think either of Fast, Mueller, or Kristo should be on the 4th line with their right handed shot but one of them has to prove they belong in camp. However, the Rangers need right handed shots in the lineup. 2 are not enough when only one (Stepan) is capable of helping the PP. Unless somehow AV sees Stempniak helping on the 2nd unit. They need at least one righty forward on both units. Or the PK has less ice to defend. I think the NYR get a top 3 spot in the EAST.

  3. Puck Luck @Centerman21 says:

    I think the Avs have a Sophmore Slump with Roy at the Helm. I think the Oilers will be better than most think. I think they might even gain a playoff spot. Montreal takes a step back. The Bruins win the East. The West is much of the same except the Kings win the conference. Bow out in round 2 or 3. It might be the Blues turn if they can get 30 goal production from one player like Steen or Stasny. The rest of their scoring is spread out. St Louis should have kept Miller. Allow him to play a full season. He’d gone so long with no chance at the playoffs. I don’t think he was mentally prepared.

    • Becky says:

      I don’t think that the Blues will miss Miller too much. Jake Allen led the AHL in basically all goaltending categories, and integration will be made easier with a vet like Elliot behind the helm. They don’t have an all-star goalie, but their offense is so strong that I don’t think it makes much of a difference. Add in Pietrangelo who everyone forgets about until he wins a Norris and I’d be surprised if they’re out in the first round again.