NHL Playoff Predictions
by Trevor Whenham - 4/13/2011
It’s time for another run to the Stanley Cup -- the hardest trophy to win in North American sports. As we get ready for two grueling months of action, here are seven bold NHL playoff predictions I’m ready to make:
Home ice won’t be an advantage in the East - Home ice advantage hasn’t offered much of an advantage lately -- last year the home team won just one more than half of the 15 series. In the East, in particular, I don’t think it’s going to be a big advantage this year, either. There isn’t a top four team that makes me think that they can’t possibly lose the first round, and there isn’t a bottom four seed in the conference that I don’t think could win a series or two.
Steven Stamkos will wake up again - Stamkos was MIA in the second half of the season -- he scored six goals in his last 30 games after tallying 39 before that point. It’s hard to put a finger on what has been wrong with him, but I expect him to be much better in the playoffs. He scored a goal in his last game to bolster his confidence, and that combined with his fitness and the intensity of the playoffs should get him back on track and playing like what he is -- one of the top pure goal scorers in the league.
Tim Thomas is ready to shine - Thomas has been super-human in the nets the last couple of years for Boston, but the team hasn’t gained a lot of traction in the playoffs. I like where the Bruins are this year a lot, though, and I think that this is going to be the year that the Bruins really shine and Thomas really steps up and shows what he is capable of. Boston has as good a chance as any team of winning the East.
Look out for the Predators - Nashville is the one team in the West that doesn’t seem to be getting a lot of attention. I think that that could be a mistake. They come into the playoffs red hot -- 7-2-1 in their last 10. They have very good goaltending, decent balance, excellent defense, and some solid leadership. They have a tough first round matchup against the Ducks, but they have the chance to make some really surprising noise.
Montreal and Boston are going to war - This is the series I am most looking forward to. These two teams hate each other -- they always have since their Original Six days. Add in the fact that Zdeno Chara will be a hunted man for his brutal hit last time he was in Montreal and you are going to have an intense, fierce matchup. It doesn’t hurt that the best goalie on the planet, Tim Thomas, is up against the resurgent and impressive Carey Price. This one is going to be a whole lot of fun. If only they could play more than seven games.
Buffalo is dangerous - I really like how Buffalo is playing coming into these playoffs. They have just one loss in their last 10 games, so they are obviously in good form. They have great chemistry, nice talent, and a good defense. Ryan Miller is a world-class goaltender, and he comes into the playoffs well rested after recovering from an injury down the stretch. They are very well coached, and they are certainly buying into what the coaching staff has to say. They drew nicely, too -- Philadelphia has been lousy down the stretch and doesn’t seem to be nearly as sharp as they were earlier in the season.
Vancouver will win it all - I live in Calgary, so I hate the Canucks -- almost as much as I hate the Oilers. It kills me, then, to say this, but this Cup is Vancouver’s to lose. They are by far the deepest and most impressive team in the league. Their top line is tops. Their depth is impressive. Their defense is strong. Roberto Luongo is exceptional in the nets. They are very well coached. If they decide they really want to win it then they will be able to do so. That’s a big ‘if,’ though. This is a team that -- like San Jose -- always finds a way to disappoint in the face of very high expectations. That needs to change, and they can start by beating up on the Blackhawks in the first round -- the team that knocked them out last year. Vancouver is dominant enough that I don’t find betting on other teams in the futures pool very attractive, but not trustworthy enough given their past to make their 5/2 price particularly attractive.
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