2010 NHL Playoff Preview

Jake WestrichSenior Writer IApril 13, 2010

Whatifsports.com presents its 2010 NHL Playoff Preview. We've redesigned the bracket layout for easier navigation. Below is the main bracket and round-by-round series breakdown. To the right of the bracket is our stats table explaining each team's chances of winning each round including the Stanley Cup.

The way our NHL Bracket Preview works is similar to our WIS NCAA Bracket Preview where the entire bracket is simulated 2,000 times. For each of those 2,000, we simulate the entire playoffs, with each matchup in each round consisting of a seven-game series. Home ice advantage is also taken into account.

Below the bracket you will find a team-by-team breakdown. As the tournament plays out, Beyond the Box Score will focus on certain matchups in the later rounds. You can toggle between the rounds by clicking on the links at the top and bottom of the page.

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Record: 54-15-13
Analysis: With two players tallying more than 100 points and two more with at least 75, Washington seems to be the prohibitive favorite after its most prolific season in franchise history. Alex Ovechkin eclipsed the 50-goal mark for the fourth time and Nicklas Backstrom followed him to 100 points as the Capitals scored more than 3.8 goals per game. That’s about half a goal more than anyone else in the league. The only question at this point is who will be between the pipes. The Capitals haven’t announced whether they’ll go with Jose Theodore or Semyon Varlamov in net to start the playoffs. However, with their offense, it may not matter.


Record: 39-33-10
Analysis: Only the Canadiens might have backed into the playoffs more than Philly. Montreal didn’t even need a victory to clinch a spot, gaining a point from an overtime loss in their regular season finale. That closed out a three-game losing streak to end the year and gave Montreal its eighth loss in the last 11 games. Nothing flashy, to say the least. Tomas Plekanec posted the best season of his career with 70 points, but if Montreal has a surprise in store, it’ll probably come from the veterans. In his first year in Montreal, Brian Gionta scored 28 goals, the most he’s tallied in five years, and Scott Gomez ranked second on the team in points.

Player of the series: Capitals - Alex Ovechkin (4 goals, 2 assists)

Winning Percentage of 2000 Simulations: Capitals 96.78% - Canadiens 3.22%

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Record: 47-28-7
Analysis: Sidney Crosby is still there. So are Evgeni Malkin and the usual Pittsburgh Penguins suspects that helped the franchise to its third Stanley Cup championship a year ago. But a repeat run is going to take a bit more consistency than the Penguins have shown this year as well as victories over the East’s top teams that proved elusive during the regular season. Crosby, again with more than 100 points, had himself in the race in just about every individual offensive category. But goalie Marc-Andre Fleury needs to get hot for a Pittsburgh team that went just 0-8-2 against Washington and New Jersey this year.


Record: 44-32-6
Analysis: In a conference chock full of flashy names, Ottawa earned the fifth seed without one. Now they’ll have to endure the postseason without their closest thing to it. Alexei Kovalev tore his ACL in a meaningless final-week game and the Senators will miss the veteran’s presence as they take on Crosby, Malkin and the Penguins in the first round. Kovalev was fourth on the team in points, putting more pressure on Daniel Alfredsson and an otherwise balanced offensive attack. The Sens will need to keep their top-10 penalty kill unit steady in front of postseason newcomer Brian Elliott .

Player of the series: Penguins - Sidney Crosby (2 goals, 2 assists, +4 +/-)

Winning Percentage of 2000 Simulations: Penguins 81.28% - Senators 18.71%

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Record: 45-27-10
Analysis: Ryan Miller doesn’t have the years of experience like Martin Brodeur , but he’s got the numbers that could make a potential second-round matchup with New Jersey interesting and the Sabres dangerous in the playoffs. The United States’ goalie during its Olympic run, Miller ranks second in the league in save percentage and goals allowed and is obviously used to pressure-packed situations. The Sabres are lacking huge numbers on offense individually, but Thomas Vanek proved he’s still got it with four goals in a game last week, and if Miller gets that kind of help, Buffalo is a legitimate contender.


Record: 39-30-13
Analysis: The complete loss of Boston’s top line has taken its toll, but it didn’t keep the Bruins out of the playoffs. They traded Phil Kessel to the Toronto Maple Leafs and lost Milan Lucic and Marc Savard to injuries. The result was a roster that didn’t even include a 60-point scorer this season. Boston also felt the losses in the power play department, where it ranks near the bottom of the barrel in the NHL, but they counteracted that with a penalty kill that ranks amongst the best. That kill set an NHL record with three shorthanded goals in just over a minute last week and it might take a similar feat for the Bruins to make a Stanley Cup run.

Player of the series: Sabres - Ryan Miller (Save% - .930, 1 SO)

Winning Percentage of 2000 Simulations: Sabres 79.60% - Bruins 20.39%

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Record: 48-27-7
Analysis: There’s no goalie question in Jersey. If a Stanley Cup is in the cards for the Devils this time around, Martin Brodeur will take them there for a fourth time. The all-time leader in wins and shutouts, amongst plenty of other marks, simply kept adding to those totals all season, leading the league in both categories. And no team gave up fewer goals per game than New Jersey, which bodes well for left wings Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise , who each scored more than 80 points. But all eyes will be on Brodeur, who beat Washington three times in four meetings this season.


Record: 41-35-6
Analysis: It was as if the Flyers and Canadiens were playing a game of “Who wants to be in the playoffs least?” Philadelphia lost eight of its last 11 games before it took the winner-take-all matchup with the New York Rangers on Sunday. Now they’ll try to quickly flip the switch on momentum. One way they could do it is on the power play. Just two teams were better on the man-advantage this season than the Flyers, but they were just 1 for their last 12 entering Sunday’s finale. It's part of the reason they nearly didn’t make the playoffs in the first place.

Player of the series: Devils - Zach Parise (2 goals, 5 assists)

Winning Percentage of 2000 Simulations: Devils 91.10% - Flyers 8.90%

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Record: 51-20-11
Analysis: Keep the “Big Line” together or split them up? That seems to be the question. Veteran Joe Thornton appears to be healthy and ready for the playoffs and with Patrick Marleau and Dany Heatley on either side of him, the San Jose Sharks have perhaps the best line in the NHL. All three have eclipsed the 80-point mark this season and Marleau and Heatley are amongst the top 10 goal-scorers in the league. But some have questioned whether the Sharks should split the three up to even out the talent level amongst all lines with the Sharks looking to erase the memory of last year’s early-round exit.


Record: 43-30-9
Analysis: Relatively no one expected the Colorado Avalanche to even be in this position. Yet, after finishing dead last in the West a year ago, they’ve found themselves in the postseason just one season later. Goalie Craig Anderson doesn’t rank amongst the league’s best in the most important categories, but nobody has seen more shots or made more saves as he’s helped propel a group of greenhorns into the playoffs. But will it all be too much for the Anderson and the youngsters, whose best stretch of the season probably came over its first month?

Player of the series: Sharks - Patrick Marleau (4 goals, 2 assists)

Winning Percentage of 2000 Simulations: Sharks 76.07% - Avalanche 23.92%

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Record: 50-25-7
Analysis: Who will take over as the new owner of the Coyotes? Will they stay in Arizona? Those are the questions off of the ice. On it, it’s all about whether Phoenix will make it out of the first round of the playoffs. Since relocating from Winnipeg in 1996, the Coyotes have made the playoffs five times but have never won a series. If they’re going to this time, netminder Ilya Bryzgalov will lead them there. In his third season in Phoenix, Bryzgalov has posted his best career numbers, making up for the fact that the Coyotes rank near the bottom of the league in goals per game.

Red Wings

Record: 44-24-14
Analysis: Don’t let a lower seed than usual fool you. The Red Wing’s decade-long stranglehold on the Central Division came to an end thanks to the Chicago Blackhawks . But Western Conference foes would like to see just about anyone but Detroit now that the postseason has arrived. The Red Wings won 12 of 15 games in the month of March, including a six-game winning streak to end it. They lack the dynamic goal-scoring of some of the other teams in the playoffs, but make up for it with goalie Jimmy Howard, who ranks in the top five in save percentage and goals allowed.

Player of the series: Coyotes - Ilya Bryzgalov (Save % - .923, 2 SO)

Winning Percentage of 2000 Simulations: Coyotes 73.01% - Red Wings 26.99%

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Record: 49-28-5
Analyis: The fate of Vancouver in the Stanley Cup playoffs may not rest with anything that the Canucks can control. Instead, it could come down to keeping their defensemen in the lineup. While most of their late-season injuries don’t appear to be completely devastating, a handful of blue-liners were listed as day-to-day as the season came to a close. With those depletions and goalie Roberto Luongo seemingly taking a step back, it will be up to the Sedin brothers—Henrik and Daniel—and Ryan Kesler to put up enough offense to erase those concerns.


Record: 46-27-9
Analysis: If the Red Wings are one of the hottest and scariest matchups for a team to see in the West, consider Los Angeles to be the polar opposite. The Kings dropped their penultimate game of the season to Edmonton, the NHL’s worst team, in a shootout. And an overtime victory in the finale left them with just four victories in their last 11 games. To advance in the playoffs, Los Angeles needs to take advantage of the power play. The Kings rank in the top five in the NHL in power play percentage and leading scorer Anze Kopitar is one of the league’s top power play threats. They’ll also have to play more inspired than what they showed over the final month of the season.

Player of the series: Canucks - Henrik Sedin (3 goals, 5 assists)

Winning Percentage of 2000 Simulations: Canucks 69.02% - Kings 30.98%

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Record: 52-22-8
Analysis: Chicago ended a decade-long span of NHL obscurity by reaching the Western Conference Finals a year ago. One year later, it parlayed that success into a record-breaking season. The Blackhawks notched franchise marks in both points and victories this season and won a division crown for the first time in nearly 20 years. With youngster Patrick Kane propelling the offense, they have the firepower to make a run to their first Stanley Cup in almost half a century, but it could come down to goaltending. Antti Niemi has the hot glove after wrestling the starting gig from Cristobal Huet .


Record: 47-29-6
Analysis: None of the numbers leap off the page to make you think, "This team has Stanley Cup written all over it." For starters, Nashville has never won a road playoff game and thereby is 0-for-4 in its quest to make the second round. The Predators rank well outside the top half of the league in goals scored per game and goals allowed per game. Yet they’ll make their fifth playoff appearance in six years. Their only hope may be momentum, as they did go 11-4 to close out the regular season with rookie netminder Pekka Rinne posted four shutouts in the last month.

Player of the series: Blackhawks - Patrick Kane (2 goals, 5 assists)

Winning Percentage of 2000 Simulations: Blackhawks 87.88% - Predators 12.12%


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