Since we now know every first round match-up, I am going to take you into my picks for this years Stanley Cup Playoffs. Most of you will find them shocking, I am sure, but I have been analyzing picks this way for a couple years now. I play in a bracket challenge with some people and usually do well given this method.
I take into consideration as the biggest factor the regular season record between the two teams. I then look at how many of those wins came in regulation vs OT or a shoot-out. If it is still close, which many of them are, then I look at the goal differential. If team A outscored team B during the regular season, they have a good chance of outscoring them during the playoffs. I look at which team is hot going into the post-season and also injury concerns.
Western Conference Quarterfinals:
Dallas over Minnesota, 4-1 – Dallas owned the regular season against the Wild, however, three of their wins came in OT. The one Minnesota win was by a one goal margin. Minnesota never scored more than 3 goals against Dallas, while Dallas scored 3+ every game besides one.
St. Louis over Chicago, 4-3 – This is going to be a tight series. The regular season match-up was close with STL winning the last two games they have played against each other. Everyone is aware of Chicago’s ability in the post-season and they have Crawford back so anything can happen. I chose the Blues in this spot simply because of how hot they have been as of late 8-2-0 in their last ten games and Elliott is 13-1-1 since the John Scott weekend.
Anaheim over Nashville, 4-3 – This will also be a tight series despite the fact that it’s a #7 seed going against a division winner. Anaheim started off slow and had everyone questioning whether they would even make the playoffs a month into the season. They had one of the biggest turn-arounds in recent years and didn’t just limp into the playoffs but won their division on the last day of the season. Despite a terrific effort by Nashville, led by Rinne, Neal and Forsberg, Anaheim prevails.
San Jose over Los Angeles, 4-2 – This one probably is the first real shocker for people. I will admit I think LA is wired for playoff success and it freaks me out a bit that I have them out in the first round. Looking at the regular season record, SJ has beat LA three times with all three victories coming by a margin of 2 or more goals. One of LA’s wins was an OT winner and the Sharks have a +5 goal differential.
Eastern Conference Quarterfinals:
Florida over New York Islanders, 4-0 – This is my only sweep pick for the entire playoffs. The teams only met three times with the favor going to the Panthers. I think they have been consistent all season long and not a fluke like many people thought. They have a veteran goaltender and veteran leadership in Jagr. The Islanders are without a bonafide #1 goalie which is crucial in the playoffs. I would have not thought it was a big deal mid-season when Griess and Halak were both playing well, but with Halak injured and Griess not playing as good as he was, I think Florida overpowers them.
Tampa Bay over Detroit, 4-3 – A repeat of the first round from a year ago, Tampa Bay again defeats the Red Wings in 7 close games. The absence of Stamkos has to be a concern, though I think the Triplets begin their normal playoff form despite a slower season. When it comes down to it, TB is better on the back end in whole with goaltending and defense. Detroit does not have the firepower to break it.
Washington over Philly, 4-1 – I would really like to think that Philly can give Washington a run for its money, but my analysis simply doesn’t prove that. They played four times during the regular season and Philly needed extra time to beat them in both their wins. Despite the regular season match-up being even, Washington is just too good to beat a Philly team that barely made the playoffs.
Pittsburgh over New York Rangers, 4-2 – This match-up may not even go to six games. I thought Pittsburgh would falter when they lost Marc-Andre Fluery to a concussion, but they have been on a surge for the last month. Hagelin and Kessel are working magic, Crosby is doing his thing and they have been good on defense. Considering they have been so successful without Malkin is pretty unreal. On the other hand, I think the Rangers are a playoff team, but not the Rangers of two seasons ago. They have been too stagnant and haven’t changed much, doesn’t mean they cant win, but I think it’s a long shot.
Western Conference Semifinals:
St. Louis over Dallas, 4-2 – STL dominated the regular season winning four of five games against the Stars. Three of the five games took OT or a shootout to determine. STL has a +3 goal differential and a better back end than Dallas. It will be a lot closer than a 4-2 series would reveal, but the bounces go in favor of the Blues and Dallas gets an early exit from the playoffs.
Anaheim over San Jose, 4-2 – Out of the four times they played each other, three of the games were shut-outs. The last time they played was back in February I believe in which Anaheim won 3-2. I think San Jose could pull it out and like the other match-up will probably be a lot closer than a 4-2 series would reveal, but Anaheim is built for playoff success. This match-up will come down to who plays better between Jones and Andersen/Gibson.
Eastern Conference Semifinals:
Florida over Tampa Bay, 4-1 – Florida wins the battle of the state pretty handily. They have had the Lightning’s number all season long and will continue to do so in the playoffs. They are a young team, but so was the Lightning one year ago. This is the series where Florida really makes a believer out of some people. Not to mention, according to my predictions they will have only lost 1 game through the first two rounds.
Washington over Pittsburgh, 4-3 – Going against my analytics, where Pittsburgh has the regular season record and goal differential, I think they run into a roadblock against the Caps. If Fluery is back they have a chance, however, the offensive jaugernaut that is the Caps will make quick work of any combination of backups, including Murray, Zatkoff and Jarry.
Western Conference Finals:
St. Louis over Anaheim, 4-2 – A small sample size of only three games to analyze gives the favor to STL. They have a +3 goal differential and Anaheim needed a shootout in their only win against the Blues. Again, if he remains healthy, Elliott continues his stout play with help from one of the deepest defensive corps in the league. The Blues can match Anaheim’s offensive prowess with Tarasenko, Steen and company.
Eastern Conference Finals:
Florida over Washington, 4-2 – As with the other match-up it is a small sample size. Of the three games, Washington won the first one in OT 2-1, while Florida trounced them 4-1 and 5-2 in the last two meetings. Given that Florida held them to two or fewer goals and have a +5 goal differential, I give them the nod. Again, we see a young, new team come out of the East and make the Stanley Cup Finals.
STANLEY CUP FINALS:
Honestly this was a very difficult pick for me. I think Florida and St. Louis are both very evenly matched. They split their two meetings with each other this season. They both have veteran goaltending. I think in the end, St. Louis has a deeper roster. I cannot see them making it out of the West and falling in the Finals. Despite a valiant effort by the young Eastern Conference champs, like TB last season, they fall to the St. Louis Blues 4-2. This was actually one of the most difficult picks to analyze. I went all the way to SAT% in which the Blues are considerably higher.
There is always room in my bracket challenge pool to make your statement on who is going to hoist Lord Stanley’s Cup.