2015 NHL 1st Round Playoff Preview
By JOSH ROTHSTEIN
The 2015 NHL playoffs are set to begin today with 16 teams hoping to win Lord Stanley’s Cup. Read on to see which teams I believe will be advancing to the second round.
Round 1-Western Conference
Winnipeg Jets (WC2) vs Anaheim Ducks (P1)
The Anaheim Ducks won the Western Conference with 109 points and enter the competition hoping to improve on their playoff run from last year. The Winnipeg Jets are in the playoffs for the first time since 2007 and looking to pull the upset. The MTS Centre will certainly be a raucous environment for any opposing team. Behind the momentum coming from a hot run to end the season and the atmosphere in their building, I smell an upset. Winnipeg in 7 games.
Minnesota Wild (WC1) vs St. Louis Blues (C1)
The Minnesota Wild were in turmoil earlier this year and were close to firing head coach Mike Yeo. With the help of goaltender Devan Dubnyk, the Wild charged towards the playoffs. Unfortunately, they will be versing who I believe is the most competent team in the playoffs, the St. Louis Blues. Dubnyk will steal a few games for the Wild, but the Blues will simply be too much. St. Louis in 7 games.
Calgary Flames (P3) vs Vancouver Canucks (P2)
The Calgary Flames enter the playoffs as a popular sleeper pick. Jack Adams Award Coach of the Year candidate Bob Hartley has created a young team built for the future. On the contrary, the Vancouver Canucks’ window of opportunity may be drawing towards a close as their two starters, Daniel and Henrik Sedin, are not the promising players they once were. Ultimately, I feel that the Canucks’ experience gives the team a slight edge. Vancouver in 7 games.
Chicago Blackhawks (C3) vs Nashville Predators (C2)
Winners of two Stanley Cups since 2010, the Chicago Blackhawks seem once again poised to take the title. Reports confirm that star right-winger Patrick Kane will be ready for Game 1. Like the Flames, the Predators have been a surprise team this year. Near the top of the standings for most of the year, the Predators lost the division to St. Louis, and I believe that will cost them. I was initially certain that this series would be tight and go seven games, but with Patrick Kane returning, the Blackhawks should win the series somewhat comfortably. Chicago in 6 games.
Round 1- Eastern Conference
Pittsburgh Penguins (WC2) vs New York Rangers (M1)
After a mediocre start to the season, 2015 has been one for the record books for the New York Rangers. On January 31st, the Rangers were seven points behind the division-leading Penguins. Since then, they have picked up 20 points on the Penguins and won the division by 12 points. The Penguins are the coldest team entering the field. However, with superstars Sydney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, the Penguins may be able to steal a game or two for their club. Even with the aforementioned stars, Pittsburgh is no match for the Rangers. Rangers in 5 games.
Ottawa Senators (WC1) vs Montreal Canadiens (A1)
Although I have already mentioned a few surprise teams to make the playoffs, there is no doubt that the Ottawa Senators are the one team that no one expected to succeed. However, between February 16th and March 26th, the Senators only lost three times and won 15. Most of this success was due to the relatively unknown goaltender Andrew Hammond, who sports a 20-1-2 record with a 1.74 GAA and .941 SV%. The other half of this all Canadian series is the Montreal Canadiens with goalie Carey Price who carried Montreal to an Atlantic division title. The Senators have been a nice story, but I give Price a slight edge over Hammond purely due to experience. Montreal in 7 games.
Detroit Red Wings (A3) vs Tampa Bay Lightning (A2)
The Detroit Red Wings are heading to the playoffs for an unprecedented 24th straight season. Though their winning streak is remarkable, they have not been at their best this season. Making the playoffs by only four points, the Red Wings’ real problem is their goaltending. They have yet to find a solid starter between Petr Mrazek and Stanley Cup winner Jimmy Howard. Last season, the Lightning made the playoffs but were forced to play without their starting goalie Ben Bishop. Along with Steven Stamkos, Bishop should be able to lead the Lightning to a tight series victory. Tampa Bay in 6 games.
New York Islanders (M3) vs Washington Capitals (M2)
After making the playoffs in 2013, the New York Islanders were expected to contend last year. That came one year late as the Islanders enjoyed a fantastic first half of the season that propelled them to the playoffs. John Tavares is on the verge of becoming a superstar in this league and the off-season additions of Nick Leddy, Johhny Boychuck and Jaroslav Halak have helped improve a once horrid defense. The Capitals have a star of their own in Alex Ovechkin. In addition, Washington has ridden Braden Holtby a lot this year to much success. However, Holtby has played nearly all of Washington’s games, and I think he may be slightly worn out. Islanders in 7 games.