NHL Playoffs 2017: Stanley Cup Bracket, Schedule and Predictions

Rob GoldbergFeatured ColumnistApril 10, 2017

TORONTO, ON - MARCH 18:  Patrick Kane #88 of the Chicago Blackhawks skates against the Toronto Maple Leafs during an NHL game at the Air Canada Centre on March 18, 2017 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
Claus Andersen/Getty Images

The Stanley Cup playoffs are set, and as we learn every year, anything can happen from this point forward.

While the Washington Capitals and Dallas Stars had the best records in their respective conferences last season, neither was able to make it past the second round. The Pittsburgh Penguins beat the San Jose Sharks in the Stanley Cup Final a year after the Chicago Blackhawks beat the Tampa Bay Lightning. None of those teams finished first in their divisions.

This means while the Capitals and Blackhawks earned a lot of points this season, that won't guarantee success in what should be an exciting postseason.

      

Schedule

2017 NHL Playoff Schedule
GameWashington Capitals vs. Toronto Maple LeafsDateTime (ET)TV
1Maple Leafs at CapitalsThursday, April 137 p.m.USA
2Maple Leafs at CapitalsSaturday April 157 p.m.NBCSN
3Capitals at Maple LeafsMonday, April 177 p.m.NBCSN
4Capitals at Maple LeafsWednesday, April 197 p.m.NBCSN
5*Maple Leafs at CapitalsFriday, April 21TBDTBD
6*Capitals at Maple LeafsSunday, April 23TBDTBD
7*Maple Leafs at CapitalsTuesday, April 25TBDTBD
GamePittsburgh Penguins vs. Columbus Blue JacketsDateTime (ET)TV
1Blue Jackets at PenguinsWednesday, April 127:30 p.m.USA
2Blue Jackets at PenguinsFriday, April 147 p.m.NHL Network
3Penguins at Blue JacketsSunday, April 166 p.m.CNBC
4Penguins at Blue JacketsTuesday, April 187:30 p.m.CNBC
5*Blue Jackets at PenguinsThursday, April 20TBDTBD
6*Penguins at Blue JacketsSunday, April 23TBDTBD
7*Blue Jackets at PenguinsTuesday, April 25TBDTBD
GameMontreal Canadiens vs. New York RangersDateTime (ET)TV
1Rangers at CanadiensWednesday, April 127 p.m.NBCSN
2Rangers at CanadiensFriday, April 147 p.m.USA
3Canadiens at RangersSunday, April 167 p.m.NBCSN
4Canadiens at RangersTuesday, April 187 p.m.NBCSN
5*Rangers at CanadiensThursday, April 20TBDTBD
6*Canadiens at RangersSaturday, April 22TBDTBD
7*Rangers at CanadiensMonday, April 24TBDTBD
GameOttawa Senators vs. Boston BruinsDateTime (ET)TV
1Bruins at SenatorsWednesday, April 127 p.m.NHL Network
2Bruins at SenatorsSaturday, April 153 p.m.NBC
3Senators at BruinsMonday, April 177 p.m.CNBC
4Senators at BruinsWednesday, April 197:30 p.m.USA
5*Bruins at SenatorsFriday, April 21TBDTBD
6*Senators at BruinsSunday, April 23TBDTBD
7*Bruins at SenatorsWednesday, April 26TBDTBD
GameChicago Blackhawks vs. Nashville PredatorsDateTime (ET)TV
1Predators at BlackhawksThursday, April 138 p.m.NBCSN
2Predators at BlackhawksSaturday, April 158 p.m.NBC
3Blackhawks at PredatorsMonday, April 179:30 p.m.CNBC
4Blackhawks at PredatorsThursday, April 20TBDTBD
5*Predators at BlackhawksSaturday, April 22TBDTBD
6*Blackhawks at PredatorsMonday, April 24TBDTBD
7*Predators at BlackhawksWednesday, April 26TBDTBD
GameMinnesota Wild vs. St. Louis BluesDateTime (ET)TV
1Blues at WildWednesday, April 129:30NBCSN
2Blues at WildFriday, April 148 p.m.NBCSN
3Wild at BluesSunday, April 163 p.m.NBC
4Wild at BluesWednesday, April 199:30 p.m.NBCSN
5*Blues at WildSaturday, April 22TBDTBD
6*Wild at BluesMonday, April 24TBDTBD
7*Blues at WildWednesday, April 26TBDTBD
GameAnaheim Ducks vs. Calgary FlamesDateTime (ET)TV
1Flames at DucksThursday, April 1310:30 p.m.NBCSN
2Flames at DucksSaturday, April 1510:30 p.m.NBCSN
3Ducks at FlamesMonday, April 1710 p.m.NBCSN
4Ducks at FlamesWednesday, April 1910 p.m.USA
5*Flames at DucksFriday April 21TBDTBD
6*Ducks at FlamesSunday, April 23TBDTBD
7*Flames at DucksTuesday, April 25TBDTBD
GameEdmonton Oilers vs. San Jose SharksDateTime (ET)TV
1Sharks at OilersWednesday, April 1210 p.m.USA
2Sharks at OilersFriday, April 1410:30 p.m.NBCSN
3Oilers at SharksSunday, April 1610 p.m.NBCSN
4Oilers at SharksTuesday, April 1810 p.m.NBCSN
5*Sharks at OilersThursday, April 20TBDTBD
6*Oilers at SharksSaturday, April 22TBDTBD
7*Sharks at OilersMonday, April 24TBDTBD
*If necessary; NHL.com

      

Bracket

      

Eastern Conference Predictions

Series Predictions
RoundMatchupGames
1st RoundWashington Capitals over Toronto Maple Leafs4-1
1st RoundColumbus Blue Jackets over Pittsburgh Penguins4-3
1st RoundNew York Rangers over Montreal Canadiens4-3
1st RoundBoston Bruins over Ottawa Senators4-2
2nd RoundWashington Capitals over Columbus Blue Jackets4-3
2nd RoundBoston Bruins over New York Rangers4-2
Conference FinalWashington Capitals over Boston Bruins4-2

Based on the way this season has gone, it seems likely the Eastern Conference champion will come out of the Metropolitan Division.

The Capitals are once again the top team in the NHL, with the best defense and one of the top offenses in the league. Braden Holtby has had an outstanding year in net, while Alex Ovechkin has plenty of help around him on offense.

Pittsburgh is all about offense, with a league-best 282 goals scored, and Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are still as dangerous as anyone in the NHL. 

Meanwhile, the Columbus Blue Jackets are a sleeper with arguably the top goaltender in the league this season in Sergei Bobrovsky. 

Although the team doesn't have one go-to player on the front line, there are 12 players with at least 10 goals this year and nine players with at least 20 assists. That balance could be a positive in the playoffs instead of relying upon one or two elite players.

With that said, Washington remains the favorite to advance beyond the first few rounds and finally break through with success in the playoffs.

From the Atlantic Division, the Boston Bruins have the talent and experience to make a deep run.

       

Western Conference Predictions

Series Predictions
RoundMatchupGames
1st RoundChicago Blackhawks over Nashville Predators4-0
1st RoundSt. Louis Blues over Minnesota Wild4-3
1st RoundAnaheim Ducks over Calgary Flames4-1
1st RoundEdmonton Oilers over San Jose Sharks4-2
2nd RoundSt. Louis Blues over Chicago Blackhawks4-2
2nd RoundAnaheim Ducks over Edmonton Oilers4-3
Conference FinalSt. Louis Blues over Anaheim Ducks4-3

With three Stanley Cup wins in the past eight seasons, the Chicago Blackhawks are the obvious favorites to advance in the Western Conference.

Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews have been leaders for the team in all of the title runs and are still making a major impact. However, past success doesn't guarantee anything for the future.

One of the biggest threats will be the St. Louis Blues. Despite finishing with just 99 points on the year, there are few hotter teams in the NHL, with the Blues recording 15 wins in the final 19 games, including two overtime losses.

"It feels really good," Blues coach Mike Yeo said, per Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "That was something we set our sights on and really pretty impressive of our group, to be honest with you. These last couple months have been quite a run, and now we can get excited and get geared up for a real tough opponent."

This team reached the conference final last year and is just as dangerous this time around despite a worse overall record. The special teams could also come up big, with the No. 4 penalty kill in the NHL.

The Minnesota Wild won't be an easy out in the first round, but this sleeper could go the distance.

While the Anaheim Ducks and Edmonton Oilers are both capable of winning it all, the Oilers might be a bit too young to trust in these playoffs while the Ducks are inconsistent offensively. 

Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

            

Final Prediction

Stanley Cup Final
MatchupGames
Washington Capitals over St. Louis Blues4-2

The Chicago Cubs have won the World Series, the Cleveland Cavaliers have won an NBA title and Sergio Garcia has won a major. Why can't the Washington Capitals win the Stanley Cup?

Recent history has not been kind to the Capitals. They have reached the playoffs eight of the past nine years with six first-place finishes. This has resulted in zero trips past the second round.

The key for this team is balance, with anyone on the top two lines capable of making a game-changing play. Ovechkin and T.J. Oshie are also capable of creating goals on their own when everything else breaks down.

Holtby won the Vezina Trophy last year and improved in almost every major category, making him even more dangerous going into the postseason.

This is the best team in every aspect of the game and should finally live up to the promise with a Stanley Cup.