Here are my Stanley Cup predictions.
Montreal Canadiens vs. New York Rangers
WINNER: NEW YORK RANGERS IN 7
This was a really hard choice but if you compare the two teams at every position, New York breaks the stalemate in the offensive category. Both goalies are top notch, both defenses are sound, but New York’s offence is more mobile and physically stronger. New York scores an average of 3.09 goals a game versus the 2.72 goals a game scored by Montreal. New York has fast players like Michael Grabner and Mats Zuccarello and strong, heavy forecheckers like Rick Nash and Derek Stepan. Montreal has some offensive threats like Max Pacioretty and Alex Radulov, but their lineup isn’t as versatile and deep as the Rangers.
In the playoffs, the specialty teams are the difference between life and death. The Rangers have the edge in the powerplay (20.17% vs Montreal’s 19.65%) but the Canadiens have the edge in the penalty kill. (81.12% vs New York’s 79.82%).
This is going to be one of the best series to watch in the first round. Both teams are so evenly matched in every position and it’s going to be a fight to the seventh game.
Ottawa vs Boston
WINNER: BOSTON BRUINS IN 5
I feel so bad for Ottawa. They had such a strong second half of the season and then got plagued by unfortunate injuries to Methot and Karlsson. By the time the playoffs roll around, most of the players should be back, but Boston still has the advantage. They have a lot of playoff experience and both of their specialty units are better than Ottawa’s (PK: 85.66% vs 79.67% PP: 21.72% vs 16.99%) It also helps Boston’s case that they have the best faceoff man in the league in Patrice Beregron and a reemerging star in Brad Marchand *shudder*
Ottawa does have the advantage in goaltending. Craig Anderson has a .926 SV% against Tukka Rask’s .915 SV%, but in the end, Boston has more offensive power and playoff experience under their belt.
Washington Capitals vs Toronto Maple Leafs
WINNER: WASHINGTON IN 6 GAMES
This is going to hurt to write, but this is Washington’s last chance. Big contracts are expiring at the end of this season and they will never be as complete and strong as they are now. They dominate Toronto in every category, but there is no doubt in my mind that Toronto will put up a substantial fight because that’s what Mike Babcock expects from this team.
The only major category Toronto dominates in is the powerplay. (2nd best in the league) but other than that, this is Washington’s series to win. If Toronto can pull an upset, that will totally be on Washington for not taking care of business.
Pittsburg Penguins vs. Columbus Blue Jackets
WINNER: PITTSBURG PENGUINS IN 7
This is definitely going to be a battle to the end. They split the season series and the Penguins lost their #1 defenceman in Kris Letang, but this Pittsburg is one of the deepest teams in the salary cap era.
Columbus is going into the playoffs with a 1-7 record in their last 8 games. They have been ice cold while Pittsburg went 6-2 in their last 8. Pittsburg also has all the edge in every offensive stat. They have the better powerplay (23.07% versus 19.9%) and they score more goals on average than Columbus (3.39 vs 3.01).
Both teams love playing a hard cycle so it will be interesting to see how both coaches try to combat that. Keep your eye on this series as well. It’s going to be a doozy.
The Eastern Conference is going to be one bloody battle after the other and as the playoffs continue, they’re going to really test the endurance and mental strength of every team.
The Stanley Cup is the hardest trophy to win in the sports world so this is not going to be a cake walk for anybody.
Image retrieved from: https://bracketchallenge.nhl.com/brackets/create