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NHL Stanley Cup Playoff Predictions

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Our prayers have been answered, the Stanley Cup Playoff’s are here. The most difficult trophy to win in all of sports will be raised about two months from now. 16 teams reached the post season, which one will be hoisting the cup when it is all said and done?

Here are my picks to advance to the 2nd Round of the playoffs:

 

Western Conference

stars

(1)  vs (WC2)

wild

Player to Watch

Stars Defenseman John Klingberg

Pick to Win

Dallas

How Many Games

5

No Thomas Vanek or Zach Parise to open up a series versus the top seed in the West is reason to panic in of itself. Tyler Seguin or no Tyler Seguin the Stars will roll through Minnesota in five. Dallas has far too much fire power for the Minnesota defense that is simply outmatched and turn the puck over far too often.

stl

(2) vs (3)

chi

Player to Watch

Hawks Rookie Phenom Artemi Panarin

Pick to Win

Chicago

How Many Games

7

The Blackhawks are defending Stanley Cup champs. The Blues have been playoff busts for far too long. This won’t be considered an upset if St. Louis can advance but until I see them manhandle Chicago in games that matter, I can’t/won’t pick them. We will soon find out though just how much of an impact the losses of Johnny Oduya, Brandon Saad and Patrick Sharp will have on the Blackhawks. Not having Duncan Keith in the series opener isn’t going to help matters either. Tarasenko needs to have a HUGE impact or it will be another early exit for the Blues. The Hawks youthfulness seemed to be at times throughout the season a source of strength. That will be key in making up for the loss of three players that played pivotal roles last season. I like Chicago in 7.

On paper this looks like it could be a great series. The Predators took 2 of 3 during the regular season from the Ducks. However two of those wins came at the beginning of the season when the Ducks were struggling and Bruce Boudreau was on the verge of being fired. No question the Ducks are a much better team now then back in November. Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry are dialed in and they have one of the best defenseman in the league in Hampus Lindholm. The addition of power forward Jamie McGinn was clutch, he’s added 8 goals since being acquired at the deadline. The Preds are running into a buzz saw. I expect the series to go six games but Anaheim will be moving on.
If history truly repeats itself than the LA Kings are due to win its 3rd Stanley Cup. But, this is pro sports and nothing is guaranteed. If LA wants another ring they will have to get through the San Jose Sharks. Martin Jones has been given the nod for game 1 between the pipes for the Sharks. Up front the cast of characters on offense haven’t changed much for San Jose. Joe Thornton is still the top line center and he has another Joe on his right wing, as in Pavelski. Logan Couture has returned from a broken leg, Patrick Marleau is still dangerous as ever and Tomas Hertl is a nice compliment on the top line with the Joe’s. Brent Burns is my favorite Shark and aside from Drew Doughty the best defenseman in the series. The x-factor for the Sharks is Joel Ward, signed in the off-season from the Washington Capitals. He has generated his share of big goals in past years and will be expected to contribute here.L.A. is still L.A., they have all of the returning pieces and then some. Milan Lucic, the toughest forward in the league, was acquired via trade last offseason. He brings not only toughness but playoff experience and a cup ring. The Kings can match offensive might with San Jose any day and twice on Sunday. Defensively speaking they have a slight edge. This series comes down to goaltending and there isn’t a better goalie in the league this time of year than Jonathon Quick and that’s why I like the Kings in a 7 game series. The Sharks need to find another team to play in the post-season as the Kings will continue to haunt them.

 ana (1)  vs (WC2)  nash
Player to Watch Ducks Forward Jamie McGinn
Pick to Win Anaheim
How Many Games  6

On paper this looks like it could be a great series. The Predators took 2 of 3 during the regular season from the Ducks. However two of those wins came at the beginning of the season when the Ducks were struggling and Bruce Boudreau was on the verge of being fired. No question the Ducks are a much better team now then back in November. Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry are dialed in and they have one of the best defenseman in the league in Hampus Lindholm. The addition of power forward Jamie McGinn was clutch, he’s added 8 goals since being acquired at the deadline. The Preds are running into a buzz saw. I expect the series to go six games but Anaheim will be moving on.

lak

(2)  vs  (3)

sjs

Player to Watch

Kings Forward Milan Lucic

Pick to Win

Los Angeles

How Many Games

7

If history truly repeats itself than the LA Kings are due to win its 3rd Stanley Cup. But, this is pro sports and nothing is guaranteed. If LA wants another ring they will have to get through the San Jose Sharks. Martin Jones has been given the nod for game 1 between the pipes for the Sharks. Up front the cast of characters on offense haven’t changed much for San Jose. Joe Thornton is still the top line center and he has another Joe on his right wing, as in Pavelski. Logan Couture has returned from a broken leg, Patrick Marleau is still dangerous as ever and Tomas Hertl is a nice compliment on the top line with the Joe’s. Brent Burns is my favorite Shark and aside from Drew Doughty the best defenseman in the series. The x-factor for the Sharks is Joel Ward, signed in the off-season from the Washington Capitals. He has generated his share of big goals in past years and will be expected to contribute here.

L.A. is still L.A., they have all of the returning pieces and then some. Milan Lucic, the toughest forward in the league, was acquired via trade last offseason. He brings not just toughness but heart and soul, playoff experience and a cup ring. Which are several reasons why the Bruins did not reach the post season. The Kings can match offensive might with San Jose any day and twice on Sunday. Defensively speaking they have a slight edge. This series comes down to goaltending and there isn’t a better goalie in the league this time of year than Jonathon Quick and that’s why I like the Kings in a 7 game series. The Sharks need to find another team to play in the post-season as the Kings will continue to haunt them.

Eastern Conference

fla

(1)    Vs (WC1)

nyi

Player to Watch

Panthers Defenseman Aaron Ekblad

Pick to Win

Florida

How Many Games

5

Florida and the NY Islanders could be an interesting series. The Isles have serious goaltending issues but with a veteran defensive core and a host of good two-way players up front they could give the favored Panthers a run for their money. They can score goals too. Captain John Tavares is the center piece of the franchise and will need to play like the first overall selection in this series if they expect to advance. Frans Nielsen and Kyle Okposo are good complimentary pieces but not enough to keep pace with Florida.

Jaromir Jagr is playing in his 18th Stanley Cup playoffs. He had a year for the ages registering a team high 66 points (27/39). He has a great supporting cast in youngsters Jonathon Huberdeau, Vincent Trochek, Aleksander Barkov and Aaron Ekblad. Brian Campbell, no stranger to the post season himself recently played in his 1000th game. Roberto Luongo now 36, was the 2nd best goalie in the EC, ranked just behing the Lightning’s Ben Bishop.

The Panthers may not go deep but they will cruise past the Islanders in 5.

tbl

(2)  vs (3)

det

Player to Watch

Red Wings Defenseman Justin Abdelkader

Pick to Win

Detroit

How Many Games

7

No Steven Stamkos or Anton Stralman for the Lightning? If the Detroit Red Wings ever had a chance to steal a series this could be it. Ben Bishop will need to be at his very best. The Red Wings have not forgotten about blowing last years playoff series lead to Tampa. Pavel Datsyuk will presumably retire after the playoff’s, you know he won’t want to go out early. Detroit has a host of youngsters looking to avenge the 2015 debacle. Top rookie Dylan Larkin has been turning heads and has gelled nicely with former cup winner Brad Richards.

In addition to the loss of Stamkos and Stralman, 2nd year player Tyler Johnson battled through injuries as well and left the last game of the season with a lower body injury. He’ll play Wednesday but won’t be 100%. Jonathon Drouin was recalled from the Syracuse Crunch and played well in the final three games. I’m calling upset here, Detroit in 7.

wsh

(1)  vs  (WC2)

phi

Player to Watch

Caps Forward Justin Williams

Pick to Win

Washington

How Many Games

4

The Capitals were the best team in the NHL this season. Braden Holtby had an incredible year between the pipes and has emerged as one of the best goaltenders in hockey. The Caps added Justin Williams last summer for this reason, to win the Stanley Cup. It will be Stanley Cup or bust for Washington, make no mistake about it. They also added TJ O’Shei to add depth to an already explosive offense. The Flyers are a good story, clinching a playoff berth in the final weekend of the regular season. Rookie head coach Dave Hakstol has done an incredible job. This is a tall order and with the passing of owner Ed Snider in recent days will weigh heavily on the Flyers mind and that’s a lot to deal with heading into the opening round. The magic will run out as I expect the Caps to sweep Philadelphia to set up a 2nd round match-up with the Penguins.

pit

(2) vs (3)

nyr

Player to Watch

Pens Forward Patrick Hornqvist

Pick to Win

Pittsburgh

How Many Games

6

Pittsburgh is starting a rookie goaltender at home Wednesday night to open their first round series against the NY Rangers. Jeff Zatkoff went 4-7 for the Pens but confident and ready for the challenge. Pittsburgh was the best team in the EC down the stretch.  Sidney Crosby has been nothing short of spectacular since January and with a supporting cast that includes Phil Kessel, Patrick Hornqvist , Nick Bonino and Kris Letang, that’s huge trouble for the Rangers. Oh, and Evgeni Malkin should be back any day now.

We’ve seen NY goaltender Henrik Lundqvist stand on his head before. He can do it again but this is really not the team he wanted to open up with. The Rangers are still a force but they are older than they need to be. They resorted to an old bad habit of bringing in aging veterans in pursuit of a cup run and as it has since the late 90’s, it will back fire. Missing defenseman Ryan McDonagh is a huge loss for the Rangers on the back end. I’m going Pens in 6.

wolfFrank Wolf

@wolf3328

fromthe300level.com

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