It’s (finally) my favorite time of the year: STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS! With the regular season ending (and the goofy playoff marketing campaigns starting), the playoff matchups have been set! I have predicted the first-round series of the Eastern Conference based on a few things: regular-season matchup record, home-ice advantage (based on the first game), player injuries, post-season experience, specific player’s strengths or weaknesses and overall team defense or offense. So, here are the matchups!
Columbus Blue Jackets & Pittsburgh Penguins
Prediction: Penguins in 6. Clearly the Blue Jackets are the underdogs in the series, with a regular-season record of 0-5 against the Penguins. It goes even further, considering 13 players are about to play in their first post-season series ever. This lack of experience will really hurt the Blue Jackets, especially considering Pittsburgh’s extensive playoff experience. With numerous defensive players out with injuries and basically the reliance on just one goalie, Pittsburgh does have some concerns. However, the lack of offense and experience from Columbus will most likely hinder the team’s success in the series.
Philadelphia Flyers & New York Rangers
Prediction: Rangers in 7. The two teams split the regular season series 2-2, so I based my prediction off of a few other factors. To start, New York will have home-ice advantage. Adding to that, the Flyers have lost the past eight games in a row at Madison Square Garden. Though the Flyers have a strong offensive trio (Giroux, Voracek and Hartnell), the defense might be a bit shaky. Steve Mason, Philadelphia’s regular goaltender, was taken out of the game after the second period Saturday against Pittsburgh with an upper-body injury. He also did not play Sunday, and the Flyers ended up losing to the Hurricanes. Though sitting Mason was most likely precautionary, it could affect the energy going into game one.
Montreal Canadiens & Tampa Bay Lightning
Prediction: Canadiens in 7. This may be the most difficult matchup to predict. On one hand, Tampa Bay will be taking all of its youngsters to Montreal, giving the Habs home-ice advantage for the first game. Also, Tampa Bay is potentially missing a few of its key players, including goalie Ben Bishop, who had a wrist injury. And while we’re comparing netminders, the Habs have Carey Price, the top goaltender of the 2014 Olympics, on their side. On the other hand, the Lightning won the overall season series against the Canadiens 3-1, and a recent trade, getting Ryan Callahan to the Lightning, has benefitted the team immensely. Also, the Habs have not had the best full-strength scoring this season.
Detroit Red Wings & Boston Bruins
Prediction: Bruins in 6. The Red Wings won the regular-season series with a 3-1 record. However, playoffs call for another level of play, and the two teams haven’t met in the playoffs in more than 50 years! I am predicting a Bruins victory for two reasons: the team’s experience in post-season play and the standout defense. The Bruins have been in the playoffs two times in the past three seasons, even making it to the finals in 2013. Also, when Boston’s defense is on, the team is near unstoppable. This isn’t even considering Tuukka Rask’s .930 save percentage in goal this season. I’m not saying Detroit won’t put up a fight, but I am predicting that the Bruins will come out of this series.
Do you have your own predictions or possibly even different reasons for the outcomes? Leave your comments below!
Stanley Cup Playoffs begin Wednesday, April 16. Be sure to check back and see how I did!