Complete Predictions for the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs
The 2014-15 NHL season is just about to get underway, and although there's still 82 games to play, reaching the 2015 Stanley Cup playoffs is what's on every team's mind.
While the twists and turns of the season make this a daunting task, I'm here to give you predictions for every playoff series that will play out in April, May and June. Sure, a lazy, amateur prognosticator would post some quick picks for his or her champion, runner-up, division winners, etc., but that's not what you get with one of my slideshows.
Anyone can tell you the Stanley Cup finalists—I'm going to tell you why each team will win or lose in each round and how it will happen.
If you're curious as to how the seedings were determined, check out the points predictions for all 30 teams.
All statistics via NHL.com.
Eastern Conference, 1st Round: 1. Tampa Bay Lightning vs. 4. Detroit Red Wings
Prediction: Lightning defeat Red Wings in 4
Why Tampa Bay wins: The Red Wings will be banged-up, while the Lightning will be at full strength. The Lightning are deeper than the Red Wings when healthy, but the injuries will take their toll on Detroit.
Dave's details: Look for a simply outstanding series from Victor Hedman, while goaltender Jimmy Howard will be shaky after struggling over the final two weeks of the regular season.
Despite the sweep, Steven Stamkos will be held without a goal.
Eastern Conference, 1st Round: 3. Montreal Canadiens vs. 2. Boston Bruins
Prediction: Canadiens defeat Bruins in 6
Why Montreal wins: It will be a carbon copy of the 2014 series, as the Bruins will control more of the play territorially, but Carey Price will be the difference. Only this time, the improved Canadiens will be good enough to end the series one game sooner.
Dave's details: The age of Zdeno Chara will show, as the speedy Alex Galchenyuk will victimize him in a one-on-one situation for an overtime goal in Game 2 that will turn the tide of the series.
Eastern Conference, 1st Round: 1. Pittsburgh Penguins vs. 4. New York Islanders
Prediction: Islanders defeat Penguins in 6
Why the Islanders win: In what will be one of the shockers of the first round, the Islanders will end the Penguins' playoffs hopes early. John Tavares will make a huge impact, winning the battle of the superstar centers by outplaying Sidney Crosby.
Dave's details: Game 6 will go to double overtime, tied at 4-4. Tavares will dump the puck into the Penguins' zone from center ice only to see it bounce through the legs of Marc-Andre Fleury for the winning goal.
Eastern Conference, 1st Round: 2. New Jersey Devils vs. 3. Washington Capitals
Prediction: Devils defeat Capitals in 6
Why New Jersey wins: This series will come down to goaltending, and Cory Schneider will slightly outplay Braden Holtby to get the Devils to the second round.
Dave's details: Alex Ovechkin will score five goals in the series, but the support just won't be there from his teammates. The Devils will receive contributions from unlikely heroes, as Bryce Salvador and Jordin Tootoo will score game-winning goals.
Western Conference, 1st Round: 1. Chicago Blackhawks vs. 4. Minnesota Wild
Prediction: Blackhawks defeat Wild in 5
Why Chicago wins: The Wild will take Game 1, as the Blackhawks will get caught relaxing after a dominant regular season. Critics will question whether Corey Crawford is sharp enough after his conference finals struggles in 2014, but the game will serve as a wake-up call and Chicago will cruise into the next round.
Dave's details: The Blackhawks will take the next four games by a combined 17-6. Teuvo Teravainen will lead all scorers with five goals.
Western Conference, 1st Round: 2. Nashville Predators vs. 3. St. Louis Blues
Prediction: Predators defeat Blues in 6
Why Nashville wins: In by far the lowest-scoring series of the first round, the Predators will get exceptional goaltending Pekka Rinne as the Blues will be vanquished in the first round for the third time in four years.
Dave's details: Rinne will record three shutouts, and the loss will cost coach Ken Hitchcock his job, as Paul Stastny will go without a point in the series.
Western Conference, 1st Round: 1. Anaheim Ducks vs. 4. Dallas Stars
Prediction: Stars defeat Ducks in 7
Why Dallas wins: The Stars will get revenge after allowing the Ducks to slip past them in six games last season. Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn will be mostly silenced by Anaheim's top line, but Jason Spezza and Ales Hemsky will provide the scoring depth that was lacking a season ago.
Dave's details: The disappointing loss will lead to rumors about coach Bruce Boudreau losing his job, but he will survive one more season.
Western Conference, 1st Round: 2. Los Angeles Kings vs. 3. San Jose Sharks
Prediction: Kings defeat Sharks in 5
Why Los Angeles wins: The Kings will win because this is a series against the Sharks and can only end one way. The Sharks aren't as good as they were last year, and the Kings are arguably better, so this series won't get past a fifth game.
Dave's details: Even with the star power in this series, Tanner Pearson will lead all playoff scorers with eight points (three goals).
Eastern Conference, 2nd Round: 1. Tampa Bay Lightning vs. 3. Montreal Canadiens
Prediction: Canadiens defeat Lightning in 6
Why Montreal wins: For the second straight series, the Canadiens will beat a team they beat in the 2014 playoffs. The difference will be in net, as Carey Price will outplay Ben Bishop, who will finally succumb to the pressure of his first postseason action.
Dave's details: Steven Stamkos will awaken for four goals in the series, but there will be very little help for him.
2. New Jersey Devils vs. 4. New York Islanders:
Prediction: Devils defeat Islanders in 5
Why New Jersey wins: The veterans will make the difference for the Devils, who will get the best of a less experienced Islanders squad. Cory Schneider will make people quickly forget Martin Brodeur as he guides them back to the conference finals for the first time since 2012.
Dave's details: Jaromir Jagr will move into the Conn Smythe discussion with his three game-winning goals in the series. John Tavares will be held without a goal for the Islanders.
Western Conference, 2nd Round: 1. Chicago Blackhawks vs. 2. Nashville Predators
Prediction: Blackhawks defeat Predators in 5
Why Chicago wins: The Predators' Cinderella season will come to a crashing halt as the Blackhawks' talent proves to be too much.
Dave's details: Pekka Rinne will steal Game 4 to stave off a sweep, but the Blackhawks will march back to a third straight conference finals appearance. Through two rounds, Patrick Kane will lead the league in goals.
Western Conference, 2nd Round: 2. Los Angeles Kings vs. 3. Dallas Stars
Prediction: Kings defeat Stars in 7
Why Los Angeles wins: Many will expect the vastly experienced Kings to make quick work of the Stars, but this will be the most exciting series of the postseason. As was the case during last year's Cup run, when their season is on the line, the Kings will be at their best.
Dave's details: The teams will alternate wins, with the Stars forcing a Game 7 with a thrilling overtime win in Game 6 in Dallas. An upset will appear to be on the horizon when the Stars take a 2-0 lead in the first period, but the Kings will respond with four goals over the final two periods to reach their fourth straight conference finals.
Eastern Conference Final: 2. New Jersey Devils vs. 3. Montreal Canadiens
Prediction: Canadiens defeat Devils in 5
Why Montreal wins: All that experience and veteran leadership will turn into advanced age and tired legs as the Canadiens' speed gives the Devils fits.
Dave's details: Carey Price will move into the Conn Smythe lead with two overtime shutouts in Montreal. Alex Galchenyuk will become a household name outside Montreal, continuing his excellent playoffs by scoring the series-clinching goal.
Western Conference Final: 1. Chicago Blackhawks vs. 2. Los Angeles Kings
Prediction: Kings defeat Blackhawks in 6
Why Los Angeles wins: In what is the de facto Stanley Cup for a third straight season, the Kings will once again prevail because Jonathan Quick is a better goaltender than Corey Crawford.
Dave's details: Game 7 won't be needed this time around, as the Kings will once again eliminate the Blackhawks at United Center. After a dormant first two rounds, Marian Gaborik will revive himself and the Kings with four goals over the final four games of the series.
Crawford will have five years and $25 million remaining on his contract after the season.
Stanley Cup Final: 3. Montreal Canadiens vs. 2. Los Angeles Kings
Prediction: Kings defeat Canadiens in 5
Why Los Angeles wins: There's no way to sugarcoat it: The West is miles ahead of the East, and despite the outstanding play of Carey Price through three rounds, the Habs will be overmatched against the bigger, better Kings.
Dave's details: The Canadiens will steal a game in Montreal, but for the most part these games won't even be contests. The Kings will have three championships in four seasons and officially become the newest NHL dynasty.