Earlier this month and last, I looked at each team individually and predicted where they would finish in the standings. In case you missed it, here is the grid with my predicted standings, and you can click the team to see why I put them where I did.
Then I went the next step and predicted the 16 teams that would be involved in post-season action.
Now it is time to take the next step, and predict, very early mind you, who will be in the mix towards the end of the playoffs, and who will ultimately hoist the Silver Chalice that makes the grind worthwhile.
EASTERN CONFERENCE PLAYOFFS
So, based on my predictions, here are the first round matchups:
BOS vs TOR- A rematch of last season’s first round, the Bruins will not make the same mistake and underestimate the Leafs. BOS in 6
OTT vs DET – A new rivalry kicks off big time with Daniel Alfredsson facing his old team, and the chance to legitimize his reason for leaving. The Senators depth and stifling defense lets them edge the Eastern onferences newest contender. OTT in 7
PIT vs MTL – Whether or not Marc-Andre Fleury is still a factor, the Habs don’t have the horses to match up with the run and gun Penguins. PIT in 5
NYR vs PHI – The irresistabe force of the Flyers’ offense meets the immovable object that is the Rangers’ defense. How the Flyers goaltending holds up will be the key, but if they get anything at all out of Emery and Mason (or whoever occupies that position), the Flyers have the offense to oust the Blueshirts. PHI in 6
And then the second round:
BOS vs OTT – The Sens expend a lot of energy in ousting the Wings, and the depth on the top two lines for the Bruins is too big a task to overcome as the goaltending battle is a saw-off. BOS in 7
PIT vs PHI – Fireworks abound as two teams that simply don’t like each other square off again. Not as crazy scoring-wise as the last time they met in a playoff series, but power vs power in a knock-down, drag out series with the Flyers again ending the Penguins hopes. PHI in 6
The Conference Finals comes down to a battle between the Bruins, who were Stanley Cup finalists a season ago, and the Flyers, who missed the playoffs a season ago. The additions of Vincent Lecavalier and Mark Streit are instrumental in stopping the Bruins’ chances at a return trip to the finals. PHI in 7
WESTERN CONFERENCE PLAYOFFS
In the first round…
CHI vs EDM – The Oilers are satisfied with a return to the postseason after missing for so long, and it is a learning experience for the young club as many of them get their first taste of playoff action. The defending champs are more than happy to teach them a lesson. CHI in 5.
STL vs NSH – Under Ken Hitchcock, the Blues have become a team built for the playoffs. After getting knocked off by the defending champs in the first round last season, the Blues know what it takes to advance, and they do. STL in 6
SJS vs VAN – The Sharks continue their mastery over the declining Canucks, with Logan Couture leading the way, further cementing his place among the NHL elite. SJS in 5
The second round will go like….
CHI vs STL – The Blues get on a roll and the difficulty of playing with a target on their chest as the defending champs catches up to the Blackhawks. STL in 6
LAK vs SJS – Another hard fought affair that will likely go the distance. It might even come down to a next goal wins, and since there is so little to choose between the teams, its Shark time. SJS in 7
And for the right to face the Flyers in the Stanley Cup final, two teams with high and overdue expectations clash. The Blues’ defensive depth and Hitchcock’s system gives them the edge and the Blues make the finals for the first time since they lost their third straight final in 1970. STL in 6
THE STANLEY CUP FINAL
For the 5th time in the last 10 times the Stanley Cup has been handed out, a franchise will hoist the trophy for the first time. The Blues put it all together, and without a true offensive star use scoring by committee and grit along with airtight defense and goaltending to reach the pinnacle for their first title since joining the league in 1967. STL in 7