The prediction business goes hand in hand with covering sports.
As the 2013-14 NHL season gets under way, it's the time to make the year-end predictions.
When you make predictions, it's a very risky business. You are climbing a tree, one of the tallest trees in the forest. But that's not enough. When you get to the top, you must climb out on the longest branch.
In most cases, that branch is going to get sawed off and you're going to come tumbling down in a harsh and forceful manner. Ambulance, anyone?
We have taken this route many times, but we never fail to go out to the furthest edges of the branch with the hope that this time, all the predictions will fall in place.
Here's a look at our 2013-14 playoff predictions.
NHL 2013-14 Standings
1. Boston Bruins
2. Detroit Red Wings
3. Ottawa Senators
x-4. Montreal Canadiens
5. Toronto Maple Leafs
6. Tampa Bay Lightning
7. Florida Panthers
8. Buffalo Sabres
1. Pittsburgh Penguins
2. Philadelphia Flyers.
3. New York Rangers
x-4. New Jersey Devils
5. New York Islanders
6. Columbus Blue Jackets
7. Washington Capitals
8. Carolina Hurricanes.
1. Chicago Blackhawks
2. St. Louis Blues
3. Nashville Predators
x-4. Minnesota Wild
5. Winnipeg Jets
6. Dallas Stars
7. Colorado Avalanche
1. Los Angeles Kings
2. San Jose Sharks
3. Edmonton Oilers
x-4. Vancouver Canucks
5. Anaheim Ducks
6. Phoenix Coyotes
7. Calgary Flames
Boston Bruins defeat Montreal Canadiens, 4 games to 3.
Pittsburgh Penguins defeat New Jersey Devils, 4-2.
Detroit Red Wings defeat Ottawa Senators, 4-2.
Philadelphia Flyers defeat New York Rangers, 4-1.
The Bruins get by the Habs in another classic seven-game series as Tuukka Rask registers a seventh-game shutout to clinch the victory. The Penguins have too much firepower for the plucky Devils, and that's a good thing, because the Penguins' goaltending is once again shaky.
The Detroit Red Wings look right at home in the Eastern Conference, but there's something wrong about Daniel Alfredsson scoring two game-winning goals against the Sens. The Flyers rely on the goaltending of Ray Emery to shut down the punchless Rangers.
Chicago Blackhawks defeat Vancouver Canucks, 4 games to 1.
Los Angeles Kings defeat Minnesota Wild, 4-3.
San Jose Sharks defeat Nashville Predators, 4-2.
Edmonton Oilers defeat St. Louis Blues, 4-3.
The Blackhawks are on top of their game against the hated Canucks and eliminate them with little trouble. The Kings get pushed to the brink by the Wild, but Mike Richards scores the series winner in double overtime.
San Jose has too much firepower as Logan Couture dominates the Predators. The young Oilers find their stride and deliver another case of heartbreak to the Blues.
Boston Bruins defeat Philadelphia Flyers, 4-2.
Detroit Red Wings defeat Pittsburgh Penguins, 4-1.
There's magic when the Bruins meet the Flyers in the postseason, and this series is no different. Unlike past years, the Flyers break out on top and win the first two games in Boston. That's when Patrice Bergeron and Zdeno Chara call a team meeting, and the Bruins turn things around.
They break the Flyers' hearts with two overtime wins in Philadelphia and then take charge in the final two games to send the Flyers to the golf course.
The Red Wings have looked at home in the Eastern Conference all season, and they find the Penguins' soft underbelly—weak goaltending.
The Penguins had toyed with the idea of acquiring a goaltender during the season, but Ray Shero never pulled the trigger and shaky Marc-Andre Fleury remained between the pipes. Pavel Datsyuk and Danny DeKeyser take turns beating him like a rented mule, and the Red Wings easily advance.
Chicago Blackhawks defeat Edmonton Oilers, 4-3.
San Jose Sharks defeat Los Angeles Kings, 4-2.
The Blackhawks were heavily favored to defeat the upstart Oilers, but they can't shake Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Nail Yakupov. It's a back-and-forth series through the first six games, and the Blackhawks continue that pattern in the seventh game. Two Jonathan Toews goals early in the first period allow the Blackhawks to take control, and they finish off the Oilers in the third when Duncan Keith blasts home a power-play goal. Corey Crawford limits the Oilers to one second-period goal from Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.
With last year's playoff loss to the Kings still fresh in their minds, the Sharks play their best playoff series in recent memory and get the best of Jonathan Quick and the Kings. After the teams split the first four games, the Sharks win decisively at the Staples Center to take a 3-2 lead. The Kings bounce back and take an early lead in Game 6 at the Shark Tank, but Joe Pavelski scores a third-period hat trick to eliminate Los Angeles.
Detroit Red Wings defeat Boston Bruins, 4-2.
The Red Wings make their return to the Eastern Conference a winning one as they dispatch the Bruins. While Boston has the edge in size and strength, Detroit has too much skill, speed and quickness and wins three overtime games to take the series.
After taking a 3-1 lead in the series, the Red Wings look to close out the Bruins at home, but they can't prevent Milan Lucic from scoring two second-period goals. The Bruins and Tuukka Rask hold on for a 3-1 win. However, the Bruins can't hold the Wings back in the sixth game, as Henrik Zetterberg finishes Boston with a power-play goal midway through the first overtime to give Detroit a 4-3 victory and a spot in the Stanley Cup Final.
San Jose Sharks defeat Chicago Blackhawks, 4-2.
Call it Antti's revenge. San Jose goalie Antti Niemi was the Blackhawks' main man between the pipes when they won the Stanley Cup in 2010, but the team rewarded him by letting him go.
Niemi got his money and his opportunity to play with the Sharks, and he has been rewarded handsomely. However, the stoic Finn has been waiting for his opportunity to pay back his former employers, and he finally gets it.
He plays stellar hockey and frustrates the Blackhawks at every turn. With the Sharks leading the sixth game 1-0 late in the third period, Niemi makes back-to-back saves on Duncan Keith and Jonathan Toews to preserve the victory and send the the Sharks to their first Stanley Cup Final.
San Jose Sharks defeat Detroit Red Wings, 4-3.
The close-but-no-cigar team finally gets its reward.
The Sharks have been a long-time Western Conference power, but they have always gotten their hearts stomped in the playoffs. Their leadership has often been criticized, and general manager Doug Wilson and head coach Todd McLellan wisely started leaning on players like Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski in the biggest moments instead of Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau.
That's all the Sharks needed. Couture has the kind of heart that allows him to play his best game even when he's injured. That's something that has never been said about Thornton.
Couture takes charge in the seventh game and scores the tying goal in the final three minutes and the winning goal early in overtime as the Sharks win their first Stanley Cup.