2014 Stanley Cup Playoff Predictions – First Round

The NHL’s 82-game season has come to a close, and the Red Wings take the ice for the opening round of the playoffs on Friday.  Lou and Austin already made their picks for the Wings-Bruins series on Monday, but how do they think the rest of the first round will shake-out?  Take a look and see who Austin and Lou pick to win each series in the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Eastern Conference

1. Boston Bruins – 117 Pts Vs. 4. Detroit Red Wings – 93 Pts                                          

Austin: Red Wings in Seven

The Red Wings, Bruins series is going to be a legendary first round match-up between two original six teams. The series is going to come down to the play of the Detroit Red Wings young forwards against the veterans of the Bruins defense. Tuukka Rask is one of the best goalies in the league, giving a solid backbone to the Bruins strong defense. Yet, the Red Wings have seen breakout seasons from Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar, Riley Sheahan and Tomas Jurco; all of whom are top point producers for the team. With the recent return of Pavel Datsyuk and a potential late comeback for Henrik Zetterberg, the team has more firepower than the Bruins can match-up against. Patrice Bergeron, Zdeno Chara and David Krejci all are going to have to have great series to stop the speedy-youth of the Red Wings new and improved team. I have the Red Wings stunning the President Trophy winners in seven games.

Lou: Bruins in Six

A lot has been made of the alleged “President’s Trophy curse,” but the Boston Bruins are a team thrives on the attention and scrutiny that comes with the best record in the NHL.  Detroit comes into the series in a completely different situation, almost missing the playoffs for the first time in 22 years.  But both teams are built similarly, and will make for a great matchup.  Without any players in the top-40 for league-wide scoring, the Bruins and Red Wings are both well rounded. But the difference lies in one statistic, plus/minus.  Boston finished the year at +84 as a team, Detroit at -11.  Boston has only three players who have a minus for the season, but none of these players are active. Detroit, on the other hand has nine players who will start Friday’s game as minus players in regular season.  Boston will shutdown the time and space of Detroit’s speedy youngsters and Jarome Iginla will take advantage of his first chance at significant post-season ice-time in many years.

2. Tampa Bay Lighting – 101 Pts Vs. 3. Montreal Canadiens – 100 Pts                          

Austin: Canadiens in Seven

The Montreal Canadiens and the Tampa Bay Lightning have had several close match-ups this season. The Lighting are a different team right now then they were a couple of weeks ago with the late fall of starting goaltender, Ben Bishop. The Canadiens have been given a massive advantage with the fall of Bishop and ultimately were handed the series if he is unable to return. Steven Stamkos and Valterri Filpulla have their work cut out for them coming into game one. If the Lightning does not see a return in their goaltender, the Canadiens will take the series in six. If Bishop can make a return, there may be a different outcome.

Lou: Canadiens in Six

Austin said it. If Bishop can make an appearance, this series will be different, but if not, Tampa is going golfing after the first round.  Thomas Vanek was the best deadline pickup this year, and he’s going to be the reason Montreal takes round one.  With Patioretty sniping from the left-side, and Vanek from the right, Montreal is in business. And oh, yeah. Carey Price is their goalie. Habs in Six.

1. Pittsburgh Penguins – 109 Pts Vs. 4. Columbus Blue Jackets – 94 Pts 

Austin: Penguins in Five

I think this is the clearest series for a victor in all of round one. The Columbus Blue Jackets are weak up front, but strong in the net. Although Bobrovsky in one of the better goalies in the league, so are the forward core from the Penguins; led by one of the leagues best all-around players in Sidney Crosby followed closely by Evgeni Malkin. Marc-Andre Fleury is going to be a deciding factor in regards to the length of the series, having two very poor playoff show-outs the past couple of seasons, following a great regular season performance. The Blue Jackets are going to be without R.J. Umberger, Nick Foligno and Nathan Horton for at least the first couple of games of the series, which is going to show the result of an already lacking forward front.

Lou: Penguins in Six

It is tough for me to think much of Pittsburgh after last year’s choppy first round, and the sweep in the Conference Finals.  Marc Andre Fleury has not been an elite goaltender for a few years, and he will cost the Penguins again this year.  But, not before they knock off Columbus.  The Jackets are a good young team, and one that will be around for years to come, but they don’t quite have enough to get past Sid and the Pens this year.  Without Crosby, I would seriously consider the Blue Jackets.

2. New York Rangers – 96 Pts Vs. 3. Philadelphia Flyers – 94 Pts

Austin: Rangers in Seven

The New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers are going to have a great match-up that is going to be heavily televised by the media and all NHL fans. Henrik Lundqvist is going to have to be a stud to be able to stop the seven, 20+ goal scorers from the Flyers. Although the Flyers can score, they have trouble defending their own net and only have a decent goaltender in Steve Mason. Both of these teams have their benefits and their downfalls, which come to an equal balance that is going to make for a great first round match-up.

Lou:  Flyers in Seven

Philadelphia had a terrible start to their regular season, which led to the firing of Stanley Cup Winning head coach, Peter Laviolette.  Since his departure, Philly has regained their form as an offensive power.  New York has had a mediocre year, and so has their star, Rick Nash.  Nash is more than capable of taking over a series, but it won’t happen this year.  Flyer captain, Claude Giroux, will be the one stealing the show.  After being left off the Canadian Olympic team, Giroux has been challenging his doubters, scoring 29 points in his last 22 games.  Philly’s offense will be too much for the defensively suspect Rangers.


Western Conference

1. Anaheim Ducks – 116 Pts Vs. 4. Dallas Stars – 91 Pts

Austin: Ducks in Six

The Anaheim Ducks are a team that is stacked with veterans who are big, strong and competitive. The Dallas Stars have Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin at the forefront of their team’s leadership; both of these players have reached their career highs in points and goals in the 2013-2014 regular season. Yet, the playoffs are a time where team organization and veteran leadership comes into play. The Ducks have a solid crew with Selanne, Getzlaf and Perry although they do not have a definite No. 1 goaltender, I believe the Ducks will take the series in six games, in Dallas.

Lou: Ducks in Five 

The Dallas Stars were one of my favorite teams to watch this season.  The ability for Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin to takeover games made Dallas one of the most exciting teams in the NHL, but exciting doesn’t win you playoff games.  The Stars will steal one game from the powerful Ducks, but Getzlaf and Perry aren’t going to let anything more slip away.  The Ducks are one of my Stanley Cup favorites, and Dallas will not be able to control them in their own zone.

2. San Jose Shark – 111 Pts Vs. 3. Los Angeles Kings – 100 Pts

Austin: Kings in Six

With the firepower and intensity that the Kings bring to the table against the hard-hitting Sharks, led by Joe Pavelski and Joe Thorton, the series is going to be a long-brutal match-up. Yet, the Kings team is not much different than it was when they went on to win the 2012 Stanley Cup. Johnathan Quick is arguably one of the best goaltenders in the playoffs, right behind Semyon Varlamov, Carey Price and Tukka Rask; this gives a massive edge in favor of the Kings. I believe that with the new edition of Marion Gaborik to the Kings and the consistent play from Dustin Brown, Drew Doughty, Anze Kopitar, Mike Richards and Jeff Carter leading the team, the Sharks are going to be out powered by the Los Angeles Kings in six games.

Lou:  Sharks in Seven 

Despite having some of the best forwards in the game, Los Angeles has had serious trouble scoring this season.  Dustin Brown has been injured off and on all year, and has not produced like he can.  Jonathan Quick will keep the Kings in the series, but San Jose is too much.  Joe Thornton has had another 70+ point season, quietly.  Unlike Giroux, he wasn’t even considered for the Canadian National team, but he doesn’t care.  The Stanley Cup is all Thornton wants, and with the help of Marleau, Pavelski, Burns, and a resurgent Havlat, this year is the Sharks best chance in many years to reach the Cup Finals.

1. Colorado Avalanche – 112 Pts Vs. 4. Minnesota Wild – 98 Pts

Austin: Avalanche in Five

The Colorado Avalanche has had a very successful season under new head coach and NHL veteran goaltender, Patrick Roy. Today, Semyon Varlamov is the Avalanches backbone posting 41 wins, breaking Roy’s record, which was set in 2000-2001.  The Minnesota Wild have a solid and well disciplined defense while their offense lacks in production. The fact that Minnesota has trouble scoring, playing against arguably the best goaltender in the league is going to be a challenge in and of itself. Varlamov and the Avalanche are going to have a very easy first round, knocking the Wild out of Cup contention in five games.

Lou: Avalanche in Six 

Colorado is enjoying a terrific season after securing last year’s first pick in the draft.  They are quick at the forward rank, and their goaltender has the most wins in the NHL.  but, don’t count out Minnesota.  A lot of USA fans are holding a grudge for Parise’s lack-luster Olympics, but the Zach Attack have a quality series for the Wild.  Mikko Koivu is one of the most underrated center ice-men in the game, and Ilya Bryzgalov looks to be enjoying the Minnesota Universe.  This series is the most likely for upset, but Colorado’s combination of speed, skill, and grit will be too much for the Wild.

2. St. Louis Blues – 111 Pts Vs. 3. Chicago Blackhawks – 107 Pts

Austin: Blackhawks in Five 

The St. Louis Blues are a depleted version of the team that they were in mid-March. T.J. Oshie, David Backes, Vladimir Taresenko, Vladimir Sobotka, Barret Jackman, Brenden Morrow and Patrick Berglund are all injured; which as a list, represents the heart and soul of the St. Louis Blues lineup.  If all of the players listed above were going to play within the first round, the outcome might be a little bit different. While Ryan Miller of St. Louis has lowered his glove hand and has been struggling in net, the Blackhawks have a boost of confidence with the return of goal-scorer Patrick Kane and captain, Johnathan Toews. The Blackhawks are going to take this series in five games; if the Blues see a return in any of their top players off of the injury list, the outcome might stretch the series out to Game six.

Lou: Blackhawks in Six 

The Defending Stanley Cup Champions have spent most of this season in the shadows.  Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews have spent some time on the injured list, which allow them to be more rested for the playoffs.  Unfortunately or St. Louis, the players on their disabled list are not rejoining the active roster anytime soon.  What was once the deepest Western Conference team upfront, is now a shell of its previous elf.  Ryan Miller is the only Chance the Blues have of getting past the Hawks.