So you're all probably aware that the NHL playoffs are about to begin (unless you're American). As a result I decided to make my predictions for the playoffs for all to see. Some of these predictions will be downright wacky to some of you, or knowing me probably all of you. I believe that the best way to judge these teams is based on what happened during the regular season between the teams. Records may not lie, but it's not important how well your team plays overall, it's how well they do against their current opponent.
You may also be wondering what Commissioner Gary Bettman is doing on the cover. Apparently he is assuring people he intends to keep hockey in Phoenix. This is what happens when an American takes over a Canadian sport.
This is going to be an interesting matchup so let's get to dissecting.
In the first game between these two clubs, the Rangers were without star forward Marian Gaborik. To be fair the Capitals were without the true Alexander Ovechkin as he struggled to score goals early in the season. However, the Rangers were beaten handily by the Capitals 5-3. Henrik Lundqvist was in net for the Rangers, and Michael Neuvirth was in net for the Capitals. It may also interest you to know that the game was played in New York.
Oddly enough the second game was played in New York as well. In this game star forward Gaborik played and even had a goal. Ovechkin was still struggling a bit, and the Rangers completely destroyed the Capitals 7-0. The goaltenders in question were Semyon Varlamov, and Henrik Lundqvist.
The next game was played on January 24th. Here again Marian Gaborik was playing, but this time in Washington DC. By then Ovechkin had started to play somewhat well (though not to his level), and so the Capitals had very little excuses. Gaborik scored the only goal for the Rangers, while Matt Hendricks replied for the Capitals. It went to a shootout in which the Rangers won. The interesting thing here is that both teams played backup goaltenders. Washington played Braden Holtby while the Rangers played Martin Biron.
The final game was in Washington. Gaborik was out yet again. However, even then the Rangers spanked the Capitals 6-0. Remember this was in Washington. The goaltenders were Neuvirth and Lundqvist yet again. Ovechkin had turned it on by then.
I find it odd that Matt Hendricks is the player that scored in every game for the Capitals in which they were not shutout. So look for him to be an ex factor, but more importantly the Capitals should start Neuvirth. Otherwise they are done. But the key will be Lundqvist and Gaborik. They will lead the Rangers to victory. I predict a first round upset.
In the first game between these two clubs, the Sabres started Ryan Miller while the Flyers started Sergei Bobrovsky. The firepower of the Flyers really went to work as the Flyers beat the Sabres in Philadelphia. 6 different players scored for the Flyers. This is not something that normally happens when you have Ryan Miller in net.
In the second game, which took place in Buffalo, the Sabres started Ryan Miller again, and the Flyers started Bobrovsky again. As a result the Flyers beat the Sabres 5-3. It is interesting to note that Briere scored in both this game and the first one. Maybe he has a formula to score on Miller. If so, I'd love to have that.
Even in the third game it was Bobrovsky versus Miller. This game took place in Philadelphia. In that game the Sabres took it 5-3. In this game, Briere did not have a goal which was surprising considering his success against Miller this year. Then again, it is Ryan Miller. So the Sabres won in Philadelphia.
In the final game in Buffalo it was Miller versus Bobrovsky. Again. Miller left early on and left the net to Jhonas Enroth. The Flyers could not score on Miller once but had three on Enroth, including one from Daniel Briere. The Sabres won this game 4-3 in overtime.
So what do I expect? I expect this to be one of the closest first round series. Obviously the Sabres must play Ryan Miller, and the Flyers must play Bobrovsky. While it's true that Miller was recently injured, he is still a Vezina caliber goaltender. And as for the Flyers' Bobrovsky struggling, that too will pass. They must trust him. For the Flyers the ex factors are Briere, and Chris Pronger if he returns. For the Sabres it must be Miller, and Thomas Vanek who must earn his paycheck. In the end I think Buffalo wins, but this one is very close.
Now this is an original six matchup made in heaven. In fact, they are divisional rivals. I think this will be fun to watch. Well, let's find out who'll win.
In the first game it was Tuuka Rask versus Carey Price in net for Boston and Montreal respectively. Both Rask and Price played very well in this game, but the Montreal offense was relentless. The Canadiens won 3-1 in Boston no less. All key players seemed to be playing in this game (except Tim Thomas of course). To be fair, Marc Savard was not playing, but he may be forced to retire.
In the second match it was Price versus Thomas. Now that is an excellent matchup as Thomas had returned to Vezina form. However, the Canadiens still won the game 4-3. This time it was in Montreal. Again no major players missing, in fact Savard played in this game and had a goal and an assist.
In the third match it was Price versus Thomas in Montreal again. This time both goaltenders were scintillating. In fact Thomas may have played better as he faced 42 shots and only let in three goals! However, the final score was 3-2. Thus wasting an outstanding performance by Tim Thomas. Again Savard played, but this time he got nothing!
In the fourth match between these two, it was between Thomas and Price again. This time in Boston. I have no idea why neither goaltender was replaced in this game as they were just terrible. The final score was 8-6 in favour of Boston! Why did they leave them in so long? Savard did not play in this game as he had suffered the Matt Cooke concussion by then. As a result, he would not be able to play again for the season (possibly forever).
The fifth matchup was in Montreal. The Bruins sent Rask out to face Price this time. It was a terrible idea. He was awful as Montreal scored four goals on 29 shots! Of course Savard was not playing, and Price was amazing, saving 30 of 31 shots.
The sixth and final matchup was set in Boston. Here the Canadiens started Price and then had to switch to Auld. The Bruins smoked Price like a Cuban Cigar as he gave up 5 goals! His save percentage was terrible, as was Auld's. Thomas on the other hand got the shutout 7-0.
So who do I like? I like Montreal. I think the Bruins played better in the final game. Boston needs to send out Tim Thomas and hope he and Zdeno Chara can be ex factors in these games. Montreal's ex factor is going to have to be Price and Brian Gionta who scored in every game except of course the one the Canadiens were shutout in.
Now the Lightning and Penguins have both won a cup in recent years. In fact, the Penguins may be challenging for dynasty status with wins coming soon.
Mike Smith started the first game in Tampa Bay, but ended up having to leave early as he allowed three goals on seven shots. Dan Ellis seemed to fare better but the Lightning won it decisively at a score of 5-3. The Penguins started Marc-Andre Fleury.
The next game it was Smith versus Fleury in Pittsburgh. Here, Pittsburgh crushed Tampa Bay 5-1. The Lightning have a great team but need it seemed they could not play well in Pittsburgh.
The next game was in Pittsburgh which Pittsburgh won 8-1. Here the goaltenders were Fleury and Dan Ellis. Again, the Lightning played terrible in Pittsburgh. Don't know if home ice advantage will be enough for Pittsburgh.
The final game was won at home by the Lightning. It was a squeaker 2-1. Tampa started Roloson and the Penguins started Fleury. The game was close but it must be pointed out that Crosby was not playing in that game.
Who will win? On the one hand the home team has won every game this season. On the other hand the Penguins are missing Crosby and Malkin. On the other hand, they acquired James Neal and Crosby may eventually return. So who will win? I say the ex-factor for the Penguins are Neal and Crosby, while for the Lightning it's Stamkos and Martin St. Louis. In the end I think Pittsburgh wins because their best player may return, and they are a very good team.
Now this will be a well played series.The defending champs versus the favourites to win the cup this year. Who will prevail?
In the first game, Chicago won at home in a shootout. The netminders were Marty Turco and Roberto Luongo. Both were stellar with Stalberg and Daniel Sedin scoring goals. This game was very very tight. Also keep in mind that Stalberg was hot to begin the year. As such he did very well.
In the second game Luongo allowed four goals and Scneider allowed three goals as Corey Crawford backstopped the Blackhawks to a 7-1 schelacking. Only Fernando Pisani scored twice as lots of really good players on Chicago scored. Mikael Samuelsson responded for Vancouver. This may have sent the Canucks into panic mode as they were playing at home.
In the third game the Canucks' Roberto Luongo shutout the Blackhawks 3-0 in Chicago. The Blackhawks had Turco in net who only faced 15 shots! How do you lose like that? Henrik Sedin, Christian Ehrhoff, and Tanner Glass scored for Vancouver.
In the final game played in Vancouver it was a very close match. Luongo played outstanding, and Turco was awful as the Canucks beat the Blackhawks 4-3. This game creates some concern for Vancouver as the opposing goaltender was awfuk, and theirs was stellar, and yet they just barely won. So who knows what could have happened?
In the end I think Vancouver takes this. They key I think is Luongo and the depth of their defence. For the Blackhawks to win they need to start Crawford, and rely on their skill players to make big plays. If they cannot do that, then they will most definitely lose (which I expect).
Now this is a divisional matchup. This should be entertaining. After all, they know each other and their tendencies very well. Time to see if the Sharks choke again.
In the first game, San Jose started Anterro Nittymaki, and the Kings started Jonathan Bernier. Bernier was awful, and Nittymaki was decent. The Sharks had six different players score including Patrick Marleau, Dany Heatley, and Ryan Clowe. This was a very lopsided decision played in San Jose with the final score of 6-3 in favour of San Jose.
The second game was also in San Jose, but this time the Sharks started Antti Niemi and the Kings started Jonathan Quick. Quick had a stellar shutout while Niemi played below average. Kings captain Dustin Brown scored twice in the 4-0 victory.
The next game was in Los Angeles. The goaltenders were Niemi and Quick. They both played outstanding, but Niemi got the shutout while Quick allowed one goal from Devin Setoguchi. This was extremely close and could have gone either way. These are the types of games we expect from these two teams in the playoffs.
The fourth game was won by Los Angeles in Los Angeles by a shootout. It was Quick versus Niemi again. Clowe and Setoguchi scored for San Jose while Alexei Ponikarovsky and Ryan Smith scored for Los Angeles.
The fifth game was also won in a shootout in Los Angeles by Los Angeles. Again it was Niemi versus Quick. Lots of elite players contributed with Marleau, Brown, and Pavelski scoring. Again, it was very tight. This can be a very exciting series.
The final game was won by the Sharks in the Shark Tank. Niemi versus Quick, but they chased Quick out. It was a 6-1 whipping by the Sharks. It seems they are ready.
As the games won by the Kings were so close, I am going to have to predict the Sharks to advance to the next round. For the Kings to win, they have to start Quick, and Brown and Doughty have to excel. Unfortunately for them Anze Kopitar is out. For the Sharks they need their big forwards to finally come through in the playoffs. I think they'll do that. So the Sharks win this series.
This is a series that will go right down to the wire. The games they played in the regular season were unbelievably close. We'll see how it goes. Here's my analysis.
In the first game the Red Wings won 2-1 in overtime. It took place in Phoenix and was as close as it gets. It made me believe that this year the Coyotes would be able to go toe-to-toe with the upper echelons of the Western Conference. The starting goaltenders were Ilya Bryzgalov and Jimmy Howard.
The second game took place in Detroit, and Phoenix won. It was 4-2, but one of them was an empty net goal so you know that this game was a nail biter. Bryzgalov started for the Coyotes, and Chris Osgood started for Detroit.
The third game took place in Detroit. This time Howard and Bryzgalov were both in net. Howard was stellar as was Bryzgalov. Unfortunately the Red Wings won in overtime 3-2.
The final game was in Phoenix, and the Coyotes took it in a shootout, 5-4. Jimmy Howard was horrible, but Bryzgalov was that much worse. The rest of his team bailed him out on this one.
The key in this series for Detroit will be Nicklas Lidstrom, and Jimmy Howard. And they absolutely have to use Howard and not Osgood. The key for the Coyotes will be Bryzgalov and really he's the main thing. No matter how much of an impact the other players may have, he will have a much bigger impact. I fully expect the Red Wings to take this one simply because of their experience.
Well this looks like one of the few bad matchups in the west. Most of the series I expect to go right down to the wire, but this one will be over fast. Let's get started.
In the first game between Anaheim and Nashville the Predators sent out Pekka Rinne against Jonas Hiller. The Predators were able to smoke the Ducks with goals from all sorts of unlikely players, but then again the Predators don't exactly have a great offense. This is why they gave up a first round pick to get Mike Fisher. Predators won 4-1 in Nashville.
In the second match, it was Hiller versus Anders Lindback. Both goaltenders were just awful. Anaheim won this match 5-4 in Anaheim, but does that really matter? After all, Nashville sent out a rookie goaltender to face Hiller, and still very nearly won.
In the third match the Predators smoked the Ducks 4-1 in Anaheim. Again it was Hiller versus Rinne, with Rinne doing amazing and Hiller being solid. But it really was Rinne that won it for the Predators despite the score.
The final game took place in Nashville. The Ducks sent Dan Ellis as their goaltender, and the Predators countered with Rinne. As you can tell the Predators won this one in a close 5-4 match. It only got close because Rinne wasn't able to do as well against Corey Perry's unbelievable abilities.
The amazing thing about this is that Perry only scored 2 goals in the entire season series, both of them in the very last game. He's an excellent player and him and Ellis will have to be what wins the Ducks the series. The Predators need to rely on Rinne and Shea Weber. I think the Predators win it, and it won't even be close.
This is a good division rivalry. The Rangers who used to have Wayne Gretzky versus a team that now has Sidney Crosby. Let's see what I expect to happen shall we?
In the first game which took place in Pittsburgh, both teams sent out their franchise goaltenders. Pittsburgh used Marc-Andre Fleury, and the Rangers used Henrik Lundqvist. The Rangers won this game in overtime 3-2. This took place back when both Evgeni Malkin and Crosby were still in the Penguins lineup. Marian Gaborik also played in this game. Considering all the star power, it was actually the lesser players that were scoring goals.
In the second match, which took place in New York, Lundqvist and Fleury were sent to do battle once more. In this match again it was the lesser players that scored, with the exception of Gaborik scoring. The final score was 3-1 Pittsburgh.
The third match took place in Pittsburgh. The Penguins used Brent Johnson to go against Lundqvist. Malkin, Crosby, and Gaborik all played in this game. But the Rangers took advantage of the rookie goaltender and won 4-1. The only star player that scored was Malkin. Odd how the losing team always seems to have a star player scoring.
The fourth match took place in New York, in which it was Lundqvist versus Fleury again. This time the Penguins just barely edged out the Rangers 4-3 in a shootout (which we won't have in the playoffs). This time no star players scored. Of course by now both Crosby and Malkin were out.
The fifth match was in New York, and between Lundqvist and Fleury. The final score was 5-3 in favour of the Rangers. No star player scored and of course Crosby and Malkin were out for the season. As many goals as there were, not a single scorer was what you would call a star.
The sixth match was between Fleury and Lundqvist in Pittsburgh. The final score was 5-2 in favour of the Rangers. This time Jordan Staal, and Gaborik both scored. However this is an interesting pattern in that the main scorers don't tend to be playing a huge factor in these games.
So for the Rangers, the key is Fleury and production from their lesser forwards. For Pittsburgh it must be production from lesser forwards and hopefully Crosby returning. I see the Rangers winning as they have not lost to Pittsburgh since Malkin and Crosby were injured.
New York Rangers
An absolutely beautiful rivalry. Why does Montreal get all these interesting matchups? Let's find out what happens.
In the first game in Montreal, Ryan Miller and Carey Price had a true goaltender's duel. Price's save percentage was .956! The main cogs for Buffalo were Tyler Myers and Jordan Leopold who both had a lot of minutes. In the end Montreal won 2-1.
The second game was in Buffalo and again Montreal won 3-2. All the goal scorers were unsung heroes. The Canadiens sent out Price again, but the Sabres sent out Patrick Lalime. Myers' minutes were scaled back as were Leopold's.
The third game was in Montreal in which the Canadiens won 3-1. This time the matchup was between Price and Miller again. Price was amazing, and Miller was actually solid in this one. In this one the Sabres gave monster minutes to Leopold (but not Myers).
In the fourth game in Buffalo, the Sabres won 2-1 in overtime. In this game both Miller and Price were amazing with Miller having an astonishing .966 save percentage! Leopold was given a lot of minutes, as was Steve Montador, but the highest time on ice was given to PK Subban.
The fifth game took place in Montreal. The Sabres won 3-2 in a shootout. As you can tell, the game was close. It was Price versus Jhonas Enroth. Both were amazing with Enroth being a trifle better. The Canadiens sent out Subban for a lot of minutes again. Leopold and Myers also had a lot of time on the ice.
The sixth game in Montreal, had the Sabres blank the Habs 2-0. Miller was in net, and did an amazing job, whereas Price was outstanding too. Subban got a lot of minutes, but they scaled it down. Leopold also got a lot of minutes.
In essence, this series comes down to Price versus Miller. These are the main players. And if Montreal wants to win, someone inform their coach they were doing better against Buffalo when they were more balanced instead of using Subban for 29 minutes. As it comes down to the goaltenders I have to go with Miller. Sabres win.
Now this is an interesting matchup. People will love it simply because it's the second round and "the curse of the President's Trophy." When I have time, I will dispel that idea. But for now, let us what happened between them this year.
First game took place in Vancouver. Canucks sent Roberto Luongo to face Pekka Rinne. Alex Burrows and Shea Weber are the big names that scored goals in that game. In the end it was won 2-1 by Vancouver, but there were scintillating performances by both Rinne and Luongo. A bunch of defencemen on Vancouver got quite a few minutes.
Second game is in Nashville. It was Rinne versus Luongo again. Daniel Sedin and Mike Fisher are the big names to score goals. Luongo was terrible while Rinne was scintillating again. Christian Ehrhoff played almost half the game! Maybe that was a bad idea. Predators won 3-1.
Third game was in Vancouver. Here the Predators dominated. Rinne was perfect, and Luongo was great. Again Ehrhoff got almost 30 minutes. In the end the Predators took this one 3-0.
The last game was in Nashville. Ehrhoff only played 22 minutes and the Canucks got the win 3-1. It was Luongo versus Rinne again. Both goaltenders were simply amazing.
In the end I think the Canucks must rely on Luongo, and must allow Ehrhoff to play less. The Predators must get Rinne to get the job done, and have Shea Weber do what he does best. Don't be surprised to see Ryan Ellis play. In the end, I think the Canucks' experience wins them the game.
These are two very different teams in some ways and very similar in others. They both dominate the regular season often, but San Jose seems to have a hard time winning in the playoffs, while the Red Wings do nothing but win in the playoffs. Let's see what happened.
In the first game played in San Jose, the Sharks sent out Antero Nittymaki, while the Red Wings countered with Jimmy Howard. A lot of stars on both teams, and they scored a lot of the goals. Dany Heatley, Pavel Datsyuk, and Henrik Zetterberg were the stars that scored. In the end the Red Wings took it 5-3. Interesting side note, Dan Boyle played 27 minutes.
The next game was played in Detroit. San Jose sent out defending Stanley Cup Champion goaltender Antti Niemi and the Red Wings used Howard, again. The goals from San Jose came quite often from their stars as Joe Thornton and Heatley both scored. Boyle only played 25 minutes on this day. Sharks win, 5-2.
The third game was also in Detroit. It was Howard versus Niemi again. This time Thornton, and Zetterberg were the stars that scored. Boyle only played 23 minutes, as nobody was sent to really be overworked. The Sharks won 4-3.
The final game was in San Jose. The Sharks used Niemi, while the Red Wings used MacDonald. Goals from superstars Heatley and Patrick Marleau clinched the game for the Sharks as they won 3-1. On a side note, Boyle did not play.
It seems the Sharks need to rely on their trio of superstars up front in Marleau, Thornton, and Heatley. Also they need to stop overworking poor Boyle. For the Red Wings, their stars need to perform, and they need better goaltending from Howard. In the end the Sharks will take it.
San Jose Sharks
This is interesting. For the second year in a row the two lowest seeds make the conference finals. Also this would be a classic goaltender's duel between Henrik Lundqvist and Ryan Miller. Let's get started.
The first match was in Buffalo. The Rangers sent out Lundqvist while the Sabres sent Miller. It was no goaltending duel here. Lundqvist did a bit above average while Miller did absolutely terrible. No major players scored and the time on ice was very evenly distributed.The Rangers won 6-3.
The second match was in New York. This time it was Jhonas Enroth versus Martin Biron in a battle of backup goaltenders. In this game, Dan Girardi was given a lot of minutes. The Rangers won 3-2 in overtime, but mostly because Biron was amazing and Enroth was horrible. If not for the goaltender advantage, Buffalo most assuredly would have won.
The third match was also in New York. It was Lundqvist versus Miller as we expect it to be in the playoffs. In this game a lot of ice time was given to Girardi, Tyler Myers, and Ryan McDonagh (he plays for the Rangers). The Sabres won 3-2, possibly because so much ice time was given to an unknown player like McDonagh. Of course Lundqvist was terrible as well.
In the fourth and final match it was between Lundqvist and Enroth. You would expect the Rangers to blow out the Sabres, but no. Enroth was up to the task of shutting out the entire Rangers roster. In the meantime no Sabres players were given excessive ice time while the Rangers may have overworked Girardi and Marc Staal. The Sabres won 1-0.
Considering how tight these two teams play, and how few goals they score I would say I cannot bet against Ryan Miller. Ever since the Sabres got that new owner in Terry Pegula, they have been outstanding. The Rangers would need Lundqvist to be amazing. It ain't happening. I say the Sabres advance.
So the top two seeds from the Western Conference have survived to the conference championships. How fitting it all is. Now what will happen? Well let's see.
The first game was in Vancouver and took place between Antti Niemi and Roberto Luongo. Here the Canucks smoked the Sharks like a cuban cigar and Luongo was absolutely spectacular. Dany Heatley scored for the Sharks but no star forward for the Canucks scored (relatively speaking, after all what forward on the Canucks isn't a star?) The Canucks won 6-1.
The second game was in San Jose. The goaltenders were Niemi and Corey Schneider. Daniel Sedin scored for the Canucks while Patrick Marleau scored for the Sharks. Niemi and Schneider both played about average, but it was the unbelievable play of the Canucks skaters, especially the defence which played a lot, with Hamhuis leading the charge, that helped the Canucks pull out a 4-3 victory.
The third game was between Luongo and Niemi in Vancouver. Both goaltenders played outstanding, I mean Vezina outstanding. The game tied 1-1 it went to a shootout in which San Jose won 2-1. Alexander Edler, Christian Ehrhoff, and Kevin Bieksa all had a lot of minutes for the Canucks. Patrick Marleau, Dan Boyle, Joe Pavelski, and Douglas Murray had a lot of ice time for the Sharks.
The final game was between Niemi and Schneider. The Sharks peppered Schneider with 48 shots and he saved 44 of them! Niemi on the hand was just plain awful. Daniel Sedin scored a goal in this game, and really that's it for star goals. The game was of course in San Jose. And the Canucks won 5-4 in a shootout.
So this will be an offensive contest with the likes of the Sedin twins going up against Marleau, Heatley, and Thornton. I think the Canucks excess defensive abilities along with their amazing goaltender gives them the edge.
Ahh, a matchup made in heaven for Vancouver. The second lowest ranked team in the entire playoffs are in the finals against the President's Trophy winner. What will happen?
The Sabres and Canucks only played one game against each other. In that game both teams got 39 shots on net, and the game went into overtime. It was Ryan Miller versus Corey Schneider. Daniel Sedin scored for the Canucks. The game went into overtime and the Sabres beat the Canucks 4-3 in overtime. Schneider played awful while Miller played solid. Alexander Edler, Dan Hamhuis, and Ryan Kesler were played a lot. Buffalo on the other hand did an outstanding job rotating their players, and keeping them fresh.
So who will win the Stanley Cup? The Canucks or the Sabres? Consider that in the game where they played each other the Canucks sent in their backup goaltender. However, the attitude for the Sabres have been different ever since Terry Pegula bought the team. Their is a strong focus on winning, and they have one of the best records in the NHL since he took over. I say the key is the Sabres defence and Miller versus the Canucks offense. In the end I say the Sabres win the Stanley Cup.
Stanley Cup Champions: Buffalo Sabres
And there you have it. My full prediction for the NHL playoffs. Every round, every team. I even broke down regular season matchups for you.
In the end the city of Buffalo deserves this as there is a renewed sense of hope. The fact they can spend is good because ever since they lost Daniel Briere and Chris Drury due to budget constraints (not to mention Brian Campbell the next year), I felt bad for the small market Sabres. They would be able to be one of the best teams year in and year out, but because of the lack of money they could not keep their superstars. Congratulations to the city of Buffalo.