As is tradition around here, it’s time to embarass myself by attempting to predict the NHL playoffs. So herewith is my official bracket.
Over time, if you exclude my tendency to pick the Sharks to win things out of loyalty, my success rate is between 60-70%, which isn’t bad, but a good reminder not to put real money down on these choices — I sure don’t.
Now some quick thoughts on why I picked the way I picked….
Over in the east, I really like both the Capitals and the Rangers, and I think Tampa has a team that can make it interesting as well. That said, no team in the East has impressed me for their professional attitude year as the Caps, which feel to me like they’ve put it all together. I expect that to carry them through the pressure of the playoffs and barring injury they should win the Cup this year. If anyone can beat them, I think it’s the Rangers and Lundqvist. Washington needs to watch out for Philly in the first round, but if they play to their potential, the Flyers won’t be able to stop them. Detroit, unfortunately, both barely squeaked into the playoffs and won’t stay around too long, not against Tampa. And I like the potential the Islanders are starting to show, but they’re not yet in the class of the top three teams on my list. Pittsburgh lives or dies on Fleury playing well, and right now, that’s a huge question mark.
In the West where I spend most of my viewing time, the brackets are going to be fascinating and full of lots of great play.
Minnesota is the only weak team in the Western first rounds, and that’s only in comparison with the other teams — they’re a good team, but I don’t see them getting past Dallas or making things too tough for the Stars. Chicago’s impressed me a lot but shows inconsistencies and depends heavily on Crawford in net; too heavily for my taste. the Blues may well take Chicago out in the first round, this one to me is basically a coin flip, but since Laurie is a die-hard Hawks fan, I won’t pick against the team (I hate sleeping on the couch).
Anaheim should take Nashville, but it won’t be easy. This is another one that could go the other way and I won’t feel terrible at being wrong.
The Kings probably ought to be my pick coming out of the West and may well take it all, but Anaheim just looks scary good and firing on all cylinders. Anaheim/Los Angeles in the second round might be epic if it happens, a real no-prisoneers series.
San Jose? Well… I picked the Sharks to barely squeak into the playoffs, 7th seed if they were lucky. And they’ve been a lot better than I expected, and I think they can legitimately go into the second round here — but I think they could beat either LA or Anaheim but not both. To me clearly the three best teams in the West, and only one gets out of the second round. The Sharks might surprise me and go deeper, but I won’t be disappointed if they compete well but lose to the Kings. They have beaten my expectations by a wide margin this year already.
Assuming I’m correct and Anaheim comes out of the West and Washington the East, I think Anaheim is probably the better team, but the Capitals will be the more rested and healthy team, and that’s going to make a huge difference. And that’s why I’ll go for the Caps to take it all, even though I think the West is the stronger conference by far. In this case, getting out of the West is going to hinder the Western team actually winning the Cup.
Three or four of the first round series are effectively coin-flips, and a couple of them (SJ/LA and Wash/Philly) could be epic to watch. Any of five teams (Washington, NYR, Anaheim, SJ or LA) could be a legitimate cup winner, and three others (Tampa, Chicago, Nashville) qualify as Dark Horses to me that could win this without me being too surprised. There’s a lot of great talent in the league, and this year’s playoff is going to showcase it off well.
And so, let’s drop the puck, good luck to the Ducks, and I’m curious as hell to see what San Jose can accomplish…