Tuesday, April 08, 2008

First Round Playoff Predictions

Last year, I was an amazing 14-1 in my playoff predictions. Doing that well with predictions requires a lot of luck to go with any prediction skill. When I made my predictions I didn't have anywhere near the certainty that would appear from the results. Just to prove that I do not have superior hockey prediction skills, I had a fairly middle of the road set of results in my regular season predictions (when compared to other bloggers and media members).

Here are my first round playoff predictions. I fully expect to get more series wrong in the first round this year than I did all of last season.

Detroit Red Wings defeat Nashville Predators Detroit is the first place team in the NHL and fully expects to have a Stanley Cup playoff run. Nashville is just happy to be here and prove that their franchise isn't dead. They can still win despite offloading considerable talent in the off-season and struggling to get an ownership group in place that has kept the team in town so far. Detroit has several players on their roster (Lidstrom, Zetterberg, Datsyuk, Rafalski) who should be better than any Nashville player in this round. Detroit should win.

San Jose Sharks defeat Calgary Flames If Jarome Iginla, Dion Phaneuf and Miikka Kiprusoff are at their best, Calgary should be hard to beat, but San Jose has been an incredibly hot team down the stretch (they have the best record in the league since the beginning of February). Joe Thornton, Brian Campbell and Evgeni Nabokov are approximately equal to the big three in Calgary when both are at their best, and Kiprusoff has never really looked his best this season. The Sharks should win, but Calgary will be a formidable first round opponent.

Colorado Avalanche defeat Minnesota Wild Colorado really improved down the stretch adding Peter Forsberg and Adam Foote and having Paul Stastny, Joe Sakic and Ryan Smyth return from injury. Forsberg is yet to play three games in a row, but he seems to have been saving himself for playoffs and is playing very well. Minnesota is a very disciplined team led by Marian Gaborik, but I don't think its enough. Avs should win this.

Anaheim Ducks defeat Dallas Stars The defending Stanley Cup champions face the coldest team in the NHL. Anaheim has looked very good once Scott Niedermayer returned. Dallas has really struggled of late. Anaheim should win this one in what could be one of the more lopsided playoff series.

Montreal Canadiens defeat Boston Bruins This is a classic rivalry matchup from the original six days, but it doesn't look as classic anymore despite the unbalanced schedule which is supposed to be able to create rivalry. I think the expansion of the NHL has really diluted the rivalries of the original six days. Montreal is a surprise conference champion with far more depth than Boston has. It will be interesting to see if Carey Price can carry the team in the playoffs. I think he can take them further than one round.

Pittsburgh Penguins defeat Ottawa Senators A few months ago, if you told me these two teams were going to meet in a playoff series, I would have told you it would likely have been the East Conference Final. It isn't. These teams are meeting in the first round. Ottawa fell apart in the stretch and lost Daniel Alfredsson to injury. Pittsburgh may still have questions in goal, but they made a big trade adding Marian Hossa to go with Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby (who may not be 100% healthy). Pittsburgh looks like the team to beat here.

Washington Capitals defeat Philadelphia Flyers The Southeast Division was by far the weakest division in the NHL this year. For a while it looked like their champion might not have qualified for playoffs had they not been a division champion. Washington has been the best team in the east for the last couple months of the season and needed that run to barely make the playoffs. The will match up with a Philadelphia team who struggled down the stretch. This is a match Washington can win, which is quite a shock. Even a few weeks ago, I would have told you that there was little chance of a southeast team winning a playoff series.

New Jersey Devils defeat New York Rangers The Devils have the best goaltender in the NHL in Martin Brodeur (the Rangers have a good goalie in Henrik Lundqvist but he is not Brodeur's equal). The Devils have a younger (but experienced) core in Zach Parise, Brian Gionta, Patrik Elias and Jamie Langenbrunner than the Rangers Jaromir Jagr, Brendan Shanahan, Scott Gomez and Chris Drury. I think the Devils have the better team and should win, but this on paper is possibly the closest of the first round series.

I think Calgary will upset the Sharks (History vs talent) and NY Rangers and NJ Devils will go 7...too close to call, otherwise I pretty much agree with you right down the line.
(I expect my Habs to beat the Bear 4-1...might go 6 gamesif the Bruins get a lucky OT win.)
1) Philadelphia struggled down the stretch? If only losing twice in their last 10 is struggling, probably most teams would love to 'struggle' as well. LOL
2) Other than your NJ pick, our choices are in agreement
When I said Philadelphia struggled down the stretch I was looking at a longer time period. From February 1st to the end of the season, Philadelphia has the second worst record of all playoff teams (Ottawa having the worst one). During that period they were 21st in the league. That is struggling.
After thinking about it a little longer, I'm ready to pick between NJ and NYR.....I'll take the Rangers (in 6), which I think have a little more talent, Martin Brodeur can only do SO MUCH on his own.
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