Western Conference Predictions can be found here.
Columbus (4) vs. Pittsburgh (1)
Prediction: Pittsburgh in 5
Why: This series is just ripe for overthinking, isn’t it? Columbus has been very good at times this season, and the Penguins are typically overrated. Their d-corps looks questionable at times. Marc-Andre Fleury has been a nightmare in recent playoffs to the point where he’s needed to see a sports psychologist. The Islanders pushed the Penguins pretty hard in the first round last season…the Islanders!
But c’mon now.
Pittsburgh tallied 109 points this season despite losing over 500 man-games to injury, and that speaks volumes about the coaching. The team is getting healthy at the right time, while the Blue Jackets are looking to start the series without Nathan Horton, R.J. Umberger and Nick Foligno. In Pittsburgh. The big three of Malkin, Crosby and Neal will all be in the lineup, as will Kris Letang, who’s played three games since his stroke, tallying three points and eight shots in an average of over 24 minutes a night. That Penguins powerplay is a force.
Columbus’ best hope is that Sergei Bobrovsky significantly out-performs Marc-Andre Fleury, but even if that happens I don’t see much of an upset shot here. I get it, it’s the playoffs, and anything can happen yada yada yada, but I just can’t make it work in my head.
Philadelphia (3) vs. New York Rangers (2)
Prediction: New York Rangers in 6
Why: I think the Rangers have the edge by a hair at nearly every position.
* Henrik Lundqvist or Steve Mason, who do you want in your net?
* While the difference isn’t that significant, I like a top-four of McDonagh, Girardi, Staal and Stralman over Coburn, MacDonald, Streit and Timonen.
* I think the Rangers have more game-breakers (Rick Nash, Martin St. Louis, Derek Stepan, Brad Richards and more) than Philly (Claude Giroux, Jake Voracek…Brayden Schenn?).
* The Rangers have better possession numbers.
I feel like the Rags took awhile to figure out how to play under Alain Vigneault, and now that they seem to have it, the ex-Canucks coach will have his team well-prepared for playoffs. This is Craig Berube’s first kick at the can leading the Flyers into the post-season, so I don’t really know what to expect there.
It’s not that I expect this to be a walk or anything – a Philly win would hardly be jaw-dropping. I just think Rangers have a slight edge in a lot of categories.
Detroit (4) vs. Boston (1)
Prediction: Boston in 6
Why: This was a bummer draw for both teams. The Red Wings “aren’t” an eight-seed, the way the Kings “weren’t” when they won the Cup. Sure, they technically are, but they’re better than their spot in the standings, partially because of injuries. And now, the Bruins get a tough draw, while the Wings, a team who could probably take down five other teams in the East, get the toughest matchup in hockey.
The Bruins are just too battle-tested to believe there’s any reason they’ll get upset. Yes, they have some young, unproven guys in the lineup, but the bulk of that roster is the epitome of “been there, done that.” They play hard, they play “the right way” (which is to say they know not to cheat positionally), and they wear teams down.
I like what the Wings are doing, but as things currently stand, the Bruins still The Bruins.
Montreal (3) vs. Tampa Bay (2)
Prediction: Montreal in 7
Why: This series is a virtual coin toss, but if Anders Lindback is between the pipes for Tampa staring across the ice at Carey Price, there’s reason to believe the Habs might have a leg up.
The Canadiens really needed another “game-breaker” in my mind, and the acquisition of Thomas Vanek gave them that. On their back-end, P.K. Subban strikes me as another guy from the game-breaker mold who seems unfazed by big moments, and could make the difference in a close series.
While the Lightning still have the incredible Steven Stamkos, who you may have heard of, they rely offensively on depth scoring from a couple smaller, younger players (Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat). I don’t think that’s an outright terrible thing, but to step into the Stanley Cup Playoffs in The Centre Bell as rookies, you’d expect that maybe they’d be a bit distracted for awhile. They’ll be keyed on as point-getters by Montreal, which should make things harder too.
Every game they played this year was close. I expect the same from this series.