Complete Predictions for the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs
Has anyone ever gone 15-for-15 in predicting the Stanley Cup playoffs from start to finish? I know I haven't, because it's really hard and almost impossible to do.
Anyway, here's my attempt to go 15-for-15 in this year's playoffs, which allow for a little more opponent certainty in later rounds with teams staying within divisions for the first two rounds.
Who will win the Stanley Cup? Are the Blackhawks good enough to repeat? Who will be the Cinderella of this year's playoffs? Will there even be a Cinderella?
Find out the answers to all those questions and more with these predictions, which will prove to be 100-percent accurate over the next two months.
All statistics courtesy of NHL.com.
No. 1 Boston Bruins vs. No. 4 Detroit Red Wings: Bruins in 5
Regular season: The Red Wings took three of four from the Bruins.
Last 10 games: Bruins 5-2-3; Red Wings 6-3-1
Why Boston wins: The regular-season wins mean nothing. The Bruins are bigger, stronger and deeper than the Red Wings in all areas. The Red Wings reached the postseason despite a gaggle of injuries, but the absence of Henrik Zetterberg will finally come back to haunt them in this series.
No. 2 Tampa Bay Lightning vs. No. 3 Montreal Canadiens: Canadiens in 6
Regular season: The Lightning took three of four from the Canadiens, although three of the four contests were tied after regulation.
Last 10 games: Tampa Bay 7-3-0; Montreal 7-2-1
Why Montreal wins: The absence of Ben Bishop for at least Game 1 will be too much to bear for the Lightning, who will also have leading scorers Valtteri Filppula and Ondrej Palat at less than 100 percent. Goaltender Carey Price finished the season 11-3 with a .941 save percentage in his final 14 games. The difference in goaltending between Price and Anders Lindback should be enough to give the Habs the series.
No. 1 Pittsburgh Penguins vs. No. 4 Columbus Blue Jackets: Penguins in 6
Regular season: The Penguins won all five meetings with the Blue Jackets in regulation this season.
Last 10 games: Pittsburgh 5-3-2; Columbus 6-3-1
Why Pittsburgh wins: The Penguins are vulnerable with their poor depth beyond their top two lines and a questionable Marc-Andre Fleury in net, but they should have enough to take care of the Blue Jackets. This will be Ryan Johansen's first taste of the postseason, so how he reacts to the raised stakes and higher pressure will dictate much of the Blue Jackets' success in this series.
No. 2 New York Rangers vs. No. 3 Philadelphia Flyers: Rangers in 5
Regular season: The Rangers and Flyers split their four games this season, with each team going 2-0 at home.
Last 10 games: New York 6-2-2; Philadelphia 4-3-3
Why New York wins: The Rangers have a huge advantage in net with Henrik Lundqvist vs. either a banged-up Steve Mason or Ray Emery. The difference in blue lines also skews heavily in favor of the Rangers, who are 1-4-0 at Wells Fargo Center over the past two seasons but have the third-best road record in the NHL this season.
If Mason can't go, the Flyers will go with Emery.
"I feel better each day and we'll see how I feel [Wednesday]," Mason said via the Flyers public relations department, according to NHL.com.
No. 1 Colorado Avalanche vs. No. 4 Minnesota Wild: Wild in 6
Regular season: The Avalanche went 4-0-1 against the Wild this season.
Last 10 games: Colorado 7-1-2; Minnesota 6-3-1
Why Minnesota wins: The Avalanche have excelled this season by having goaltender Semyon Varlamov stand on his head while the team is consistently outshot by opponents. The Wild aren't that much better of a possession team, but they have scored about 0.25 more goals per game since the acquisition of Matt Moulson at the trade deadline. With the Avs missing Matt Duchene and having John Mitchell and Jan Hejda at less than 100 percent, this is the end of the road for the Avalanche.
No. 2 St. Louis Blues vs. No. 3 Chicago Blackhawks: Blackhawks in 4
Regular season: The Blackhawks lost the first three meetings with the Blues but won the final two contests by a combined 8-2 score.
Last 10 games: Chicago 5-5-0; St. Louis 3-7-0
Why Chicago wins: The Blues are struggling and riddled with injuries, while the Blackhawks won four of five before losing a meaningless game against the Nashville Predators to conclude the season and are getting Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane back from injury. The Blues have lost six in a row; that number will reach 10 if the Blackhawks can pull off the sweep.
No. 1 Anaheim Ducks vs. No. 4 Dallas Stars: Ducks in 7
Regular season: The Stars took two of three from the Ducks, although the teams haven't met since Feb. 1.
Last 10 games: Anaheim 7-2-1; Dallas 6-4-0
Why Anaheim wins: This was the most difficult to pick of the first-round series, but the Ducks are slightly better than the Stars. They're a little deeper at forward and have a better defense corps (hello, Stephane Robidas) although Kari Lehtonen is probably a more reliable option than whoever the Ducks use in net. This series feels like a tossup, but the Ducks will find a way to win Game 7 at home.
No. 2 San Jose Sharks vs. No. 3 Los Angeles Kings: Kings in 6
Regular season: The Kings won three of their five matchups with the Sharks this season.
Last 10 games: San Jose 5-4-1; Los Angeles 5-3-2
Why Los Angeles wins: This series went seven games last season and could go that far again this season, but the Kings should be able to handle the Sharks in quicker fashion. The Sharks are a little more top-heavy than the Kings, and Jonathan Quick gives Los Angeles the edge in net. This is the most heated rivalry in the NHL, and the series should live up to expectations.
No. 1 Boston Bruins vs. No. 3 Montreal Canadiens: Canadiens in 6
Regular season: The Canadiens won three of four against the Bruins with two of the victories coming in regulation.
Why Montreal wins: Not that Carey Price isn't a well-known name at this point of his career, but this is the series where he shows he deserves the title of best goaltender in the NHL. The Canadiens have been a difficult matchup for the Bruins this season, but that's something the Bruins will be able to combat in the series. What they won't be able to solve is Price, who will steal this series for the Canadiens.
No. 1 Pittsburgh Penguins vs. No. 2 New York Rangers: Rangers in 6
Regular season: The Rangers went 2-1-1 against the Penguins this season.
Why New York wins: Marc-Andre Fleury won't be a problem in the first round, but will succumb to the pressure in the second round against the Rangers. The Rangers' forward depth will give the Penguins problems as well. The Penguins' lack of secondary scoring will also help bring their season to an end.
No. 3 Chicago Blackhawks vs. No. 4 Minnesota Wild: Blackhawks in 5
Regular season: The Wild grabbed three wins in five games against the Blackhawks this season.
Why Chicago wins: After an easy first-round win, the Blackhawks will be firing on all cylinders when this series begins. Wild goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov will struggle, as will his team in finding offense. This will be a near carbon copy of the first-round series between these teams a year ago.
No. 1 Anaheim Ducks vs. No. 3 Los Angeles Kings: Kings in 4
Regular season: The Ducks won four of five against the Kings this season.
Why Los Angeles wins: Advanced statistics from Extra Skater show the Ducks (15th in Fenwick differential, first in PDO) are headed for quite the crash in the postseason, while the Kings (first in Fenwick differential, 23rd in PDO) are one of the best possession teams in the NHL. Those two factors will collide in this Southern California clash and leave the Ducks heading home for the season. It will also mean the end of the career of Teemu Selanne.
No. 3 Montreal Canadiens vs. No. 2 New York Rangers: Rangers in 6
Regular season: The Canadiens took two of three from the Rangers, including a meaningless 1-0 overtime win in the regular-season finale for both teams.
Why New York wins: Two of the best goaltenders in the league will have it out in the conference finals, but Henrik Lundqvist will come out on top over Carey Price thanks to having a stronger group of defensemen in front of him. The Rangers forwards will wear down the Canadiens over the course of the series, which could feature one-goal games throughout.
No. 3 Chicago Blackhawks vs. No. 3 Los Angeles Kings: Blackhawks in 7
Regular season: The Blackhawks won all three meetings with the Kings this season.
Why Chicago wins: In what will be a classic seven-game series won in overtime on a goal by Patrick Kane (why not get really specific?), the Blackhawks will return to the Stanley Cup final. Jonathan Quick will have a slight dip in play in this series, which will be enough to allow Corey Crawford to win his seventh straight postseason series.
No. 2 New York Rangers vs. No. 2 Chicago Blackhawks: Rangers in 6
Regular season: The Rangers won both meetings with the Blackhawks this season.
Why New York wins: Henrik Lundqvist will finally earn his longstanding nickname of "King Henrik," as he will outplay Corey Crawford and allow the Rangers to pull off the upset over the defending champions. The Blackhawks will fall much the same way the Detroit Red Wings did in 2009—playing so much hockey over the past two seasons will open the door just a crack and allow the Rangers to burst through and win their first Stanley Cup since 1994.