NHL 2014 Playoff Picks
By Orion Grove (Twitter: @OvG_)
It’s the most wonderful time of the year, no I’m not talking about Christmas; I’m talking about the NHL playoffs. Beards will grow, dream with be shattered, and at the end of it all, someone will be crowned the 2014 Stanley Cup Champions. Let’s break down each series starting with the East.
Boston Bruins (-333) VS Detroit Redwings (+220)
Vegas sets Boston as a heavy favorites, respectably, even though the Redwings leads the season series 3-1. Arguably the best goaltender in the NHL, Boston’s Tuuka Rask (.930 save percentage) leads the Bruins to another post season. With a little help from Tuuka’s friends, Boston ranks in the top three in goals, goals against, and power play percentage. In order for Detroit to maintain The Black and Gold, Detroit’s’ goaltender, Jimmy Howard will have to come to play, and stop the NHL’s deepest forwards, and the league’s third highest scoring team. With Detroit’s forward, Henrik Zetterberg expecting not to be in the lineup until mid-way through the first series, and Zetterberg, and forward Stephen Weiss out, all the pressures lies with the Detroit’s Veterans; Datsyuk, Alfredsson, and Nyquist. Although, the Redwings are well disciplined under head coach Babcock, expect the Redwings to fall short.
Prediction: Boston Bruins Win 4-2
Pittsburgh Penguins (-385) VS Columbus Bluejackets (+250)
Pittsburgh leads the season series 5-0, but don’t get it twisted, the Bluejackets come in with the 8th best goaltender, Sergei Bobrovsky (.923 save percentage), and strong physical centers in, Dubinsky, Anisimov, and Letestu. Can these physical centers maintain, Sidney Crosby, and Evgeni Malking? We think not. Columbus will have their hands full with Crosby and Malking. The only way Columbus can pull an upset is to play physical, physical, and play more physical. Columbus never won a playoff series, and only made two appearances in the post season. The five times these two teams faced off, Pittsburgh outscored Columbus 16-7, and only led one game out of the season series for a whopping 56 seconds. Pittsburgh didn’t really look to hot towards the end of the season, and Pitts goaltender, Marc-Andre Fluerry looked flustered towards the end of the season allowing 15 goals in 157 shots. Pittsburg get veteran defensemen, Kris Letang back, and it looks like everyone is going to be healthy for the Pens in the post season. Pittsburg gets complacent, and the physical, young, excited, motivated Bluejackets gives Pitt a run for their money, and these two teams go the distance, but Pittsburg prevailing at home 4 games to 3.
Prediction: Pittsburgh Penguins Win 4-3
Montreal Canadians (-110) VS Tampa Bay Lighting (-110)
There might be trouble in Tampa, even though they lead the season series 3 games to 1. Tampa’s Ben Bishop (.924 save percentage) was injured towards the end of the season against Toronto, and it’s confirmed he’s out for the playoffs. Tampa won 43 games this season, and 37 of those games, Bishop was in the net…Uh oh. On the contrary, Montreal has Olympic gold medal goalie, Carey Price (.927 save percentage) in the net. Confidence is huge for a goalie and this is what Price has. Tampa looks at their back-up, Anders (.878 save percentage), he’s the only one they got, and it’s looking bad for Tampa and the back-up. Montreal is flying high, and it’s the first time they reached 100 points since winning the cup in 1993. The Habs finished the season on a 7-2-1 run, and expect them to bring that streak into this series. The Lightning are much bigger than the Canadians, but Montreal makes up in experience and skill. Since Tampa’s all-star Stamkos broken shin, the trade of Marty St. Louis, and the injured Bishop, Tampa needs to call houdhini to take this series. If Montreal doesn’t sweep this series, they’ll win in 5.
Prediction: Montreal Canadians win 4-0 or 4-1.
New York Rangers (-141) VS Philadelphia Flyers (+100)
The only advantage The Rangers have in this series is goaltender, Henrik Lundqvist (.920 save percentage). This inner-state Pennsylvania rivalry should be a good one, and if you’re a betting man, you probably should just watch and enjoy. Ranger’s key defensive men, Ryan Mcdonagh is back in the lineup, which is key in maintaining Flyers all-star Claude Giroux. The flyers really don’t have any defense, and their goalie, Steve Mason (.917 save percentage) was injured this past Saturday, and didn’t return to the game. Although their back-up, Ray Emery won a ring last year with Chicago, The man has been horrible as back-up in the net this season. These two teams match up evenly (IMO), the difference is going to be the fans, and which fans are going to be louder at home… The Broadway Blue shirts or The Broad Street Bullies? These two teams met up in the 97’ conference finals, when Eric Lindros of the flyers took out Mark Messier and Gretzky in 5 games. This should be an exciting match up, with the Rangers winning 8 straight at the garden VS the Flyers. Expect 27 goal scorer, Wayne Simmonds for the Flyers to bring some offensive power for the Flyers, and bring some havoc to the Rangers. This series is going the distance. Flyers in 7. If you look at the two sides (West and East) it looks like the East is David and the West is Goliath. When one of these teams prevails and meet Boston in the Stanley Cup Finals, will any of these teams have any gas left?
Prediction: Philadelphia Flyers win 4-3
Anaheim Ducks (-330) VS Dallas Stars (+220)
This is kind of a high line, considering Dallas leads the season 2-1, outscoring the Ducks 11-9. The Ducks have decisions to make with their goalie situation. They got a rookie who only played three games (.954 save percentage), their starter who hasn’t played in the final four games, Jonas Hiller (.836 Save percentage), and Frederick Anderson, who won his last four starts (.924 Save percentage). The Ducks have a deeper lineup than the Stars, with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry being their all-stars. Stars’ goalie, Kari Lehtonen (.923 Save percentage) will have to step up to the net for any chance Dallas is going to prevail in the series. Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin for the stars are 30+ goal scorers, and have been the key of success for the Dallas Stars this season. Although, the stars have won the series, these two Stars, haven’t fared well against Anaheim. This series isn’t going to be the Ducks VS the Stars, it’s going to be Seguin and Benn Vs Getzlaf and Perry. Getzlaf and Perry get the Job done for the Stars, and gets the upset in 6.
Prediction: Dallas Stars win in 4-2
San Jose Sharks (-160) VS Los Angeles Kings (+120)
The LA Kings won the Williams M. Jennings Trophy this year for the fewest goals against. Goaltending is Key in the playoffs, and Jonathan Quick is one of the best in the game, and has a proven track record in the NHL playoffs, capturing Lord Stanley in 2012. The 2014 teams is much like the 2012 championship team. LA doesn’t seem like a high scoring team, but defense makes up for it. They struggled early scoring goals, but since acquiring Marian Gaborik, the scoring has improved. The San Jose Sharks counter with Antti Niemi, who finished the season on a 10-4-1 run in his last 15 starts. Niemi has struggled with consistency this season, but their back-up, Alex Stalock has been superb. The Sharks are deep, and have a 40 goal scorer, Joe Pavelski, a 30 goal scorer, Patrick Marleau, and two 20 goal scorers, Couture, and Burns. The only way to defeat a team that’s deep is to counter with more depth, and the Kings match up well. Goals win games, the key player of this match up will be Jonathan Quick, and his ability to stop the puck-slingers of San Jose. San Jose breaks Quicks mojo, and takes the series in 7.
Prediction: San Jose Sharks win 4-3
Colorado Avalanche (-175) VS Minnesota Wild (+125)
Both these teams ended the season on a steak, the Avs 8-2-1 and the Wild winning six of eight. Colorado took the season series 5-4. The Wild have been bi polar this season with scoring, but Wild’s goaltender, Josh Harding has stepped up and played above average for Minnesota behind the net. The wild will have to utilize veteran, Bryzgalov, 56 point left-winger, Zach Praise, NHL leading ice-time defensive men, Ryan Suter, and 30 goal-scorer Jason Pominville to have any chance in this series. Former goalie, Patrick Roy leads the Avs to the post season in his first season as the head coach. The Avs come into the playoffs as the fourth highest scoring team in the league, which goalie, Semyon Varlamov (.927 save percentage) leads the NHL in wins. The only downside for the Avs coming into the post season is the absence of their leading scorer, Matt Duchene (expected to play in game 3). IF the Wild takes their bi-polar medicine, it’s going to come down to goal-tending. Bryzgalov has had a great year, but the main event type venue might be too much for the goalie who’s struggled in recent years. The edge goes to Varlamov. Colorado gives Minnesota one game due to Minnesota taking their bi-polar medication The Avs in 5.
Prediction: Colorado Avalanche win 4-1
Chicago Blackhawks (-115) VS St. Louis Blues (-115)
This is has got to be the best match up in the first round. The winner of this series could arguably win the cup. St. Louis comes into the playoffs losing six straight to end the season, While Chicago, lost Captain Jonathan Towes, and leading scorer Patrick Kane. The Blue took the season series 3-2, but two of those wins had to go to a shootout. It looks like the tides have changed to St Louis with the injuries, Olympian, TJ Oshie is out with a head injury, and there no telling when he’ll be back, Captain David Backes, hurt his foot and is questionable for game 1, Forward, and leading face-off guy for the team, Vladimir is out, and veteran Brendan Morrow is out. Since acquiring Ryan Miller (.856 save percentage), the Blues looked like the team to beat, but the last 5 games Miller has been behind the net, he’s given up 18 goals in just 125 shots. To win games, you have to be healthy, and that what the Hawks are bringing to this series. Both Jonathan Towes and Patrick Kane will return to the lineup, which makes the Chicago Blackhawks healthy and dangerous. Chicago lacked a ‘real’ center with the absence of Towes, but he’s back. With players like Patrick Shark, who led the team with 78 points, Duncan Keith, who led all defensive men in the NHL with 55 assists, and multiple of other quality players, the slumping Blues might not want to mess with a healthy 2013 Stanley Cup Champions. Blues give it all, but fall short in game six in the Madhouse on Madison.
Prediction: Chicago Blackhawks win 4-2
Come back each round for more picks and insight from Orion Grove! Please feel free to like/share this article. Good luck to all and if you're gambling please remember to always play responsibly!