April 16, 2014

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Bold NHL Playoff Predictions

By: Matt Bowen

The 2014 NHL playoffs bring a jolt of energy to the league that it’s been looking for. Along with revamped divisions this season is a new-look playoff format. Gone are the days of reseeding and here are the days of the NHL bracket. Matchups are determined by divisions with each quadrant of the bracket representing a division.

There are still eight playoff-eligible teams with the top three teams in each division guaranteeing themselves a spot with two final wild card spots available. The division winner with the best record will play the lesser of the wild card teams in the first round.

That being said it’s the greatest postseason in all of professional sports. The new format is nice but diehard hockey fans with ice in their veins know anything can happen. Expect the unexpected. Here are some bold predictions for this year’s NHL playoffs.

Boston Bruins

Will the Boston Bruins hoist the Stanley Cup in 2014?

There will Be 4 Series That Go to Game-7 in Round 1

Your eyes aren’t playing tricks on you—there will be four series that go to Game 7 in Round 1. With the new format there are despised rivals pitting off against one another right off the bat. Not wanting to give an inch these series will go the distance.

They are as follows:

Montreal Canadiens vs. Tampa Bay Lightning

Philadelphia Flyers vs. New York Rangers

Los Angeles Kings vs. San Jose Sharks

Minnesota Wild vs. Colorado Avalanche

The most surprising matchup to go seven out of this group is the Wild v. Avalanche.  Minnesota is the hockey state and the pride of natives like Zach Parise and Ryan Suter will show through. In the end the Avalanche will get the series win because of the young bevy of talent they have. Matt Duchene, Paul Stastny, Gabriel Landeskog and Nathan MacKinnon along with others will be too much to tame for the Wild.

Other game seven winners will be the Canadiens, Rangers and Kings.

Speaking of Nathan MacKinnon, He’ll Take the Hockey World by Storm

He was selected No. 1 overall in the 2013 NHL draft. He scored the most points by a rookie this season with 63. He also set a record once set by Wayne Gretzky for most consecutive games with a point by an 18-year-old. Yet, Nate MacKinnon is just about to be discovered by the hockey masses.

He’s being mentioned in the same breath as Gretzky and is from the same town, Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia, as Sydney Crosby. Reminder, he’s only 18 but like The Great One and The Next One before him he’s living up to the hype.

MacKinnon will explode in the playoffs with nine goals and 11 assist as he leads the Avalanche to a Stanley Cup Finals appearance.

The Philadelphia Flyers vs. New York Rangers will Feature 4 OT Games

Let’s get something straight—the Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers hate each other. It’s okay, it’s hockey and that’s why we love it.

One thing that didn’t about the NHL playoffs this season is that overtime will be played as 20 minute periods until a winner is determined. There’s not an abbreviated period possibly followed by a shootout. There’s sudden-death hockey until the lamp is lit. What’s not to love about nearly endless hockey?

This series will not disappoint in that department, Games 2, 3, 4 and 6 will got to OT with each team splitting the affairs. The Rangers will win game 6 with a goal by Carl Hagelin in the second OT and laugh last in Game 7 as they’ll survive and advance.

This one will be intense throughout.

The Boston Bruins will win the Stanley Cup

Before you become outraged with the selection of the regular season’s best team being chosen to hoist the Cup hear us out.

The winner of the President’s Trophy for most points during the regular season doesn’t mean postseason success. Nothing is guaranteed in the playoffs. Since 1920 only 40 teams have won both the President’s Trophy and the Stanley Cup in the same season. Since 1985 this has only happened eight times. Keep in mind the league has expanded from 21 to 30 teams since 1991.

The Chicago Blackhawks did it in 2013 and the Boston Bruins will do it again this year. The Bruins fell in six games last year in stunning fashion to the Blackhawks and have unfinished business this time around.

The Bruins have four solid lines and a goaltender in Tuukka Rask that has been the best in the league this season. They’re loaded with veteran leadership with just enough youth to keep them fresh.

They’ll face the Colorado Avalanche you will capture the hearts of many on their way to the Cup but fall short to the experience of the Bruins.

Bruins in six games

Jarome Iginla will win the Conn Smythe Trophy

The Conn Smythe Trophy, awarded to the most valuable player in the playoffs will belong to Jarome Iginla this postseason.

Iginla is a Hall of Famer who is after his first Cup. He signed with the Bruins this offseason on a one-year deal to capture every player’s dream. Even at the age of 36 he scored 30 goals this season. The fact that he knows he’s still a prolific scorer and this is his shot at glory will ignite Iginla.

Expect him to have the look of a kid in a candy store when he’s on the ice this postseason. In the end he’ll have 12 goals, 11 assists and one Cup.

April 30, 2013

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Bold Predictions for the 2013 NHL Playoffs

By: Matt Bowen

The 2013 NHL playoffs promise to be as fast paced as the abbreviated season. The strike-shortened season was roughly only 100 days long and the league carries plenty of momentum into the “second season.”

The league began the season with a black eye but with a jammed packed schedule that went down to the wire, the NHL recovered nicely from a near catastrophe.

With fans back on board the playoffs will be as captivating as ever. The Pittsburgh Penguins and Chicago Blackhawks dominated their respective conferences this season, but that doesn’t mean they’re destined to meet in the Finals.

Remember, it was just last season when the Los Angeles Kings were the first team in history to win it all as a No. 8 seed.

Who will hoist the Stanley Cup in 2013?

If there’s one thing that’s for certain, expect the unexpected during the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The New York Rangers vs. Washington Capitals Will be the Best Round 1 Matchup

As a hockey fan, one can’t help but lose sleep over this series. Coming into the season this was an all-or-nothing type of season for both sides. After a poor start, both teams rebounded well to finish the season on a strong note.

Now, two teams under the microscope will duke it out in a series that screams seven games. The CapitalsAlex Ovechkin finished the year with a league-best 32 goals and needs to continue that trend if his team is to advance.

The Rangers spent a ton of money in the offseason only to be seller’s at the trade deadline. What’s done is done and the team found a way to manage the No. 6 seed in the Eastern Conference. New to New York, star Rick Nash led the team in goals with 21, now it’s his duty to lead his team to a Stanley Cup victory.

So, who will win the series?

Capitals in seven games

The Rangers may be facing an intense amount of pressure, but Ovechkin and the Capitals have their backs against the wall.

The Detroit Red Wings Will Upset the Anaheim Ducks in Round 1

The Detroit Red Wings didn’t play consistently good hockey until a week ago, but now they’re hot at the right time.

Spoiled by decades of success, Wings fans were looking lost until recently. The playoffs seemed like a mirage, but the good organizations always seem to get their way and the Wings are in as the No. 7 seed in the West.

Now, the Anaheim Ducks are the underdog in the series even though they are the No. 2 seed. The Wings took the season series 2-1 and have too much momentum right now for Corey Perry and company to stop. Wings stars Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg are carrying their team nicely right now.

The Wings won four straight games to make the playoffs and in that time Zetterberg notched 10 points.

Red Wings in six games

The Wings are too hot to lose in the first round but will run out of gas shortly after.

One Not So Bold Pick–Sidney Crosby Will be Sidney Crosby

The Pittsburgh Penguins have been without their captain Sydney Crosby since March 30 due to a broken jaw, but he’ll be on the ice in the playoffs.

He may have missed the final 12 games of the season, but he scored 56 points in just 36 games. The Penguins should be considered great without him and with his presence on the ice they are the most dangerous team in the league.

It may take a game or two to get back into the groove, but Crosby is the best all-around player in the league. Even with missing the final 12 games, Crosby only lost out on the Art Ross Trophy (most points/season) by four points. Tampa Bay Lightning star Martin St. Louis took the trophy with 60 points. St. Louis was then followed by teammate Steven Stamkos’ 57 and then Alexander Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby with 56.

Crosby makes everyone better and knowing that Penguins acquisition Jarome Iginla has only played a total of :50 seconds with Crosby, the best is yet to come.

Crosby tallies 17 playoff points—6 goals, 11 assist

The Toronto Maple Leafs Will Win Their Series against the Boston Bruins

A classic Original Six matchup here, the Toronto Maple Leafs square off against the Boston Bruins in an instant classic.

These rivals won’t back down, but the Maple Leafs will surprise most when they survive and advance. The Maple Leafs haven’t made the playoffs since 2004 and although both teams stumbled to the finish line, the Leafs carry positive momentum because the city is buzzing.

The Bruins have looked incomplete of late and can’t seem to finish the game. They have dominated the series between the two of late, winning 9-of-10, but the tides will turn here.

The Leafs are well balanced across the score sheet. Expect Nazem Kadri, a 22-year-old center to get under the Bruins skin and light the lamp. In the end, the Bruins won’t know what hit them.

Maple Leafs in five games

Montreal Canadiens vs. Vancouver Canucks in the Finals

What?!

That’s correct, an all Canadian final is in store.

How?

The Montreal Canadiens are almost forgotten about but the finished second in the Eastern Conference. The have a goalie in Carey Price who is made for these moments and a perfect blend of toughness and finesse. They are the team that doesn’t have a scoring sensation but rather a group of guys who pitch in at the right moment. A number of players could get hot and spell disaster for their opponents.

The Vancouver Canucks are playoff tested and feel disrespected. They’re almost forgotten about at the moment. Don’t make a mistake by overlooking  them and consider them a “has been.” Remember, they have the Sedin twins. Last time I checked they have some weird twin thing going on that gets the puck to the back of the net with regularity.  The Canucks X-factor is Ryan Kesler. He’s a world-class player coming off of injury. With only 17 games played this year, he’s seen just enough ice time to make a big difference in the playoffs.

This series will be a slugfest. Plenty of grit combined with a series littered with scrappy goals will make for a memorable final.

Canadiens in six games

Carey Price wins the Conn Smythe as playoff MVP

April 24, 2013

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NHL PLAYOFF RACES

By: Tyler Vespa

With 5 nights left in the 2012-13 NHL regular season, the final spots in both conferences are still up for grabs. 6 teams in the Eastern Conference have clinched playoff berths, as well as 6 teams in the Western Conference.

Can Henrik Lundqvist and the Rangers hold on and make the NHL playoffs?

This is where the fun begins. In the Eastern Conference, it’s 3 teams for two spots involving the Ottawa Senators, the New York Rangers, and the Winnipeg Jets. Ottawa and New York sit 7th and 8th in the conference, each with 52 points. Ottawa has a game in hand on the Rangers.

The story for the Jets took a turn for the worst with their loss last night to the Washington Capitals. Winnipeg must win its final game of the season and hope for the Rangers and Senators to each lose all of their remaining games.

Out West, the game of musical chairs is much more complicated. It’s 5 teams for 2 spots. The Minnesota Wild are 7th with 53 points. With 2 games left, the Wild need at least 2 points to clinch a playoff spot. In the precious 8th spot are the Columbus Blue Jackets. With 2 games left, the Jackets sit 1 point in front of the Detroit Red Wings, who have made the playoffs in 21 straight seasons. The Red Wings have a game in hand on Columbus.

The 4th team still in the mix is the Dallas Stars. However, the stars did not align last night as Dallas lost a heartbreaker 3-2 in regulation to the San Jose Sharks. With 2 games left, the Stars need to win out, and hope Detroit loses 2 of their final 3 in regulation, and Columbus loses their final 2.

The final team will need a miracle. It’s the Phoenix Coyotes. The Yotes’ must win out and have Detroit, Dallas, and Columbus all basically lose out. Except for the Stars, if Columbus and Detroit lose out in regulation and Dallas loses 1 of 2 in regulation and earns just one point in its final game, the Coyotes are in.

Western Conference

7. Minnesota  53 points- 46 GP

8. Columbus   51 points- 46 GP

9. Detroit        50 points- 45 GP

10. Dallas       48 points- 46 GP

11. Phoenix    46 points- 45 GP

Eastern Conference

7. Ottawa        52 points- 45 GP

8. NY Rangers 52points- 46 GP

9. Winnipeg    51 points- 47 GP

April 12, 2012

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NHL Playoffs – Eastern Conference First Round Picks

By: Junior

The NHL playoffs begin tonight, considered by many to be the best playoff atmosphere of any sport. Each first round series has a compelling storyline and even the 8th seeds have a shot at advancing. So who will win each series? That is exactly what I will tell you in the following predictions. After breakind down the Western Conference yesterday (to read it, click here.), we take a look at the Eastern Conference.

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Which teams will advance past the first round on their quest for the Stanley Cup?

Eastern Conference

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(1)Rangers vs. (8)Senators

A 1vs.8 series should be a no-brainer, right? Wrong. Ottawa took 3 of 4 from the Rangers during the regular season. The Senators have a solid combination of young stars (Erik Karlsson) and veteran leadership (Daniel Alfredsson), which makes them a very dangerous 8 seed. The Rangers, though, have a great goalie in Henrik Lundqvist and that could be the deciding factor in this series.

Prediction: Rangers in 6.

 

(2)Bruins vs. (7)Capitals

I will point to goalies as the key in almost all of these breakdowns, and the Capitals goalie situation is in dire straits. With Thomas Vokoun and Michal Neuvirth out, the Capitals will be likely be relying on a rookie early on. The Capitals will get Nicklas Backstrom back to team with Alex Ovechkin, but with Tim Thomas in net and Zdeno Chara on defense, I like the Bruins to escape this series.

Prediction: Bruins in 5.

 

(3)Panthers vs. (6)Devils

The Devils are hot (no pun intended). They are on a six game winning streak and actually scored more points in the regular season than their higher seeded opponent. Add that with veteran goaltender Martin Brodeur and they are a dangerous team. The Panthers haven’t been to the playoffs since 2000, and will be looking to prove they belong back in the postseason. Unfortunately, they won’t get that chance this year.

Prediction: Devils in 6.

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(4)Penguins vs. (5) Flyers

For many, this is the series to watch during the first round. It is always great when in-state rivals go head to head in the playoffs and this series shouldn’t be an exception. This should be a very physical series and also be very high scoring. Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin will make things difficult for Ilya Bryzgalov and the Flyers, who are missing a lot of pieces heading into the playoffs. However, the Flyers have talented young players who, if they can step up, will make a big decision in this series. With so many “ifs” on the Flyers side, the Penguins seem to be in a better spot in this series.

Prediction: Penguins in 7.

April 11, 2012

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NHL Playoffs – Western Conference First Round Predictions

By: Junior

The NHL playoffs begin tonight, considered by many to be the best playoff atmosphere of any sport. Each first round series has a compelling storyline and even the 8th seeds have a shot at advancing. So who will win each series? That is exactly what I will tell you in the following predictions. We start with the Western Conference.

Which teams will advance past the first round on their quest for the Stanley Cup?

Western Conference

 

(1)Canucks vs. (8)Kings

These two teams split their season series, which is about how easy this pick is to make. The Kings have been one of the best defensive teams in hockey this season, and I am not a big fan of Roberto Luongo in the Playoffs. There are big injuries on both sides: Daniel Sedin may not be ready for the Canucks, while Jeff Carter might not go for the Kings. Both are key players for their teams and will impact this series greatly. The Canucks are the deeper team, and with injuries a big factor, I like them to advance.

Prediction: Canucks in 5.

 

(2)Blues vs. (7)Sharks

The Sharks have been one of the bets playoff teams in the NHL the past few seasons, and will look to continue that streak as an underdog this series. They might find that hard against the Blues, who swept the regular season series. The Blues allowed the fewest goals in the regular season and have two solid goalies ready to take the net. The Sharks were brutal on the penalty kill and will need Annti Niemi to step up big if they want to pull the upset.

Prediction: Blues in 6.

 

(3)Coyotes vs. (6)Blackhawks

Another weird 3vs.6 matchup where the 6 seed scored more points than the 3 seed. Regardless, the Coyotes have home-ice and a goalie who has been playing lights out lately in Mike Smith. The Blackhawks, on the other hand, are waiting to see if captain Jonathan Toews will be able to return to the ice for this series. The Blackhawks are the deeper team, yet Smith and the Coyotes have more of a chance than many people will give them credit for.

Prediction:  Blackhawks in 6.

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(4)Predators vs. (5)Red Wings

Jimmy Howard vs. Pekka Rinne. This series will test both these solid goaltenders and will rest heavily on their shoulders. The Predators have a lot of pressure to succeed after the moves they made this season. They can’t be excited to have to advance against the Red Wings, who are finally back healthy. A lot of people are picking the Predators to win, but while they have home ice, I think the Red Wings have a chip on their shoulders because of this sudden underdog role they are being cast in.

Prediction: Red Wings in 7.

(To read our Eastern Conference First Round predictions, click here.)