With the NHL regular season ended, it’s time for my annual tradition of embarrassing myself by picking teams for the playoffs and for winning the Stanley cup.
But first, a quick look back at my regular season predictions.
In the East, I picked five teams as guaranteed playoff teams. Four (Columbus, Pittsburgh, Toronto and Washington) made it; I missed on Carolina.
In the west, I also picked five teams as playoff teams. I got TWO right (Los Angeles and Nashville), getting Chicago, Edmonton and St. Louis wrong. I think most of the league got the Blackhawks and Edmonton wrong, too, but still, not great.
In the east, two teams (Boston and New Jersey) that I tagged as non-playoff made it. In the west, Las Vegas (wow!), Winnipeg and Colorado rose from my non-playoff category to play in the second season.
Last year, I picked Chicago and Washington for the Cup Final and, well, Chicago went out in four straight in the first round and Washington couldn’t et past Pittsburgh in the second, so, well, never mind. Overall I went 5-3 in the first round, 1-3 in the second, 2-0 in the finals and then picked Nashville to win (0-1), leaving me 8-7 in picking series.
So, kids, if you use these predictions to base your betting on the playoffs, you get what you deserve
[Update April 30: when I submitted my bracket to the NHL content, it turns out I flipped two of the picks, as I’d written there. Since that was my what I did second, and it’s the one that got locked in the system, I’m updating my picks here to match. That this takes my first round wins from 6-2 to 8-0 is just a coincidence. Really.
Not a coincidence: both of the series where I flipped choices along the way were really close in my brain. And were some really great hockey. The two series were Vegas (Los Angeles here, Vegas in the bracket challenge) and Boston/Toronto (Boston in the challenge, and Toronto here).
Tampa Bay vs New Jersey: This one should be fairly easy for Tampa. New Jersey is improving, but the Lightning are really good. Tampa in 4.
Boston vs. Toronto: likely one of my favorite watches of the first round, should be hard and tough. I’m going to give it to the Leafs, though, because I’m all for seeing Patrick Marleau do well, and go Toronto in 6 [Updated: in my challenge bracket, Boston in 6]
Washington vs. Columbus: on paper, this should be fairly easy for the Capitals. In practice, there’s no telling what the Capitals will do in the playoffs; it seems not a case of whether they’ll implode and fall apart, but when. Will this be the year they put it together? Maybe. But I wouldn’t put money on it. But… Capitals in 6.
Pittsburgh vs. Philadelphia: cross-state rivalry between two teams that don’t like each other, this will be fun to watch. I’ll give it to the Penguins in 5, but I wonder what shape they will be in for round 2.
Nashville vs. Colorado: good on Colorado for pulling it together and making the playoffs, but the dance ends here. Nashville in 5
Winnipeg vs. Minnesota: Good on the Jets for pulling it together and making the playoffs, but the dance ends here – for Minnesota. The jets are a team to watch out for, so Winnipeg in 5.
Vegas Golden Knights vs Los Angeles Kings: Having Vegas make the playoffs is amazing, and fully earned. Having them play the Kings in the first round is great because it means the Sharks won’t have to face both of them to go deep into the playoffs. How will the Golden Knights do in the playoffs? Nobody freaking knows, but it sure is going to be fun finding out. I’m going to give this one to the Kings in 6, but I expect the Kings will have a real fight getting there, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Vegas wins out. [Updated: in my bracket, it was Vegas in 6]
Anaheim vs. San Jose: so, San Jose won the season series, but basically, everything between these teams went to overtime and shootouts, so the season record doesn’t say much: very closely matched, teams that don’t like each other, teams with something to prove, and expectations to match. I vote this the series most likely to go 7 games with multiple overtimes, and stock up on ice bags, boys. I am going to pick the Sharks in 7, because that’s what I do, but it could honestly go either way. A big unknown is the injuries on both sides; the time off will help the Sharks, but don’t expect Thornton back in the first round, and who knows what that will mean?
My fantasy pick for the cup Finals is Toronto/San Jose, because, well: Marleau.
But in reality? I think it’s likely one of Tampa, Pittsburgh and Washington. I still expect Washington to implode, I don’t think Pittsburgh is the team it was a year ago, and so I’ll pick Tampa to come out of the east. If the capitals learn how not to shoot themselves in their collective feet, they SHOULD win the conference, but would I bet on that? nope.
In the west, I think any of five teams could win: Nashville, Winnipeg, Vegas, San Jose or Los Angeles. My sentimental pick is San Jose, but I don’t think so. I’m also just not convinced LA will win out. Of the other three, Vegas is a wild card: will their run continue, or will the reality of playoff pressure catch up? I dunno. I think I like Nashville the best, so I’ll pick them, and admit I’m flipping coins here.
So, Tampa and Nashville in the final? That would be a lot of fun to watch, but if that happens, I’ll say the Predators survive to hold up the cup.
And in between now and then? A lot of really good hockey. Let’s drop the puck on the second season.