NHL Eastern Conference 2015 Playoff Series Predictions
On April 15th the NHL will kick off its 2015 Hockey playoff schedule. 16 of the 30 teams that make up the National Hockey League will begin their quests to hoist the most cherished cup in all of hockey-dom; the STANLEY CUP.
The wining team will battle through 4 gruelling, best of seven games, playoff series. A minimum of 16 games played (should the winning team sweep every best of 7 series 4-0) or 28 games played (should the winning team need a full 7 games per series to move on) will be required to lay claim to what has oft been described as “The most difficult Trophy to lay claim to”.
Of the 16 playoff teams in contention, 8 reside in the NHL’s eastern conference and 8 reside in the NHL’s western conference. In this short prediction article we will look at the eastern conference teams and its respective match ups.
Eastern Conference Teams who have made the NHL 2015 Playoffs (and their season point totals):
New York Rangers (113 Points)
Montreal Canadiens (110 Points)
Tampa Bay Lightning (108 Points)
Washington Capitals (101 Points)
New York Islanders (101 Points)
Detroit Red Wings (100 Points)
Ottawa Senators (98 Points)
Pittsburgh Penguins (96 Points)
After a long and arduous 82 game season the eastern conference 1st round playoff match-ups are as follows:
New York Rangers (113 Points) vs. Pittsburgh Penguins (96 Points)
Montreal Canadiens (110 Points) vs. Ottawa Senators (98 Points)
Tampa Bay Lightning (108 Points) vs. Detroit Red Wings (100 Points)
Washington Capitals (101 Points) vs. New York Islanders (101 Points)
Pittsburgh Penguins defeat the New York Rangers in 6 Games (4-2)
Why: A Penguins win in this series is tantamount to a momentous upset. 17 points in the standings separate these two clubs and the Pens sputtered their way into the post season, almost not making it. Why then would they be picked to upset the NHL’s 2014-2015 best regular season team?!
Both Sidney Crosby and Evgeny Malkin are coming off quiet seasons, by their all-world standards, and will have chips on their shoulders during this series. David Perron, who the Pens acquired during the season to play wing with Crosby is arguably the best scoring winger that Sid the Kid has gone into the playoffs with for quite some time, this should pay dividends.
Much maligned Marc-Andre Fleury is coming off a remarkable regular season that saw the Quebec native lead the league in goaltender shut outs and is entering the playoffs with something to prove even though he has already laid claim to one Stanley Cup in his career.
Montreal Canadiens defeat the Ottawa Senators in 6 Games (4-2)
Why: The Canadiens come into the playoffs as one of the lowest scoring clubs that have made the spring dance, yet the Montreal Canadiens finished the regular season with the 2nd best record, due in not small part to the record setting regular season that Montreal goaltender Carey Price put in during the 2014-2015 season.
When a team that struggles to score goals but sharpens their defense to the tune of Carey Price’s record setting 44 wins and the popular belief that he will take home the Vezina and Hart trophies, the scales tip in Montreal’s favor.
A interesting match up to keep an eye on during this series is the play of Senators Erik Karlsson and Canadiens P.K. Subban, two of the NHL’s most talented Dmen and both former Norris trophy winners.
Tampa Bay Lightning defeat the Detroit Red Wings in 5 Games (4-1)
Why: Tampa Bay have played the entire year with something to prove following their 0-4 sweep at the hands of the Montreal Canadiens during last year’s playoffs. 3 names jump to the forefront when a person thinks of the Lightning’s chances in this first round and the rounds to follow; Stamkos, Bishop, Hedman.
While the Red Wings have made the playoffs for a record 24th straight time, the harsh truth is that their stars (Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Kronwall) are on the grey side of their careers and the lack of stability in nets does not inspire confidence.
Victor Hedman is finally having a year that validates his draft standing (2nd overall in 2009). With 10 goals, 28 assists for 38 points and +12 rating in only 59 games played this season; the 6’6” Hedman has cemented the blue line for the Bolts. Last season’s playoff forced the Blots to play without their #1 Ben Bishop, this year he is healthy and ready to go. And of course we would be remiss not to mention Steven Stamkos who is coming off of yet another 40 goal season.
Washington Capitals defeat the New York Islanders in 7 Games (4-3)
Why: Many pundits may point to Alexander Ovechkin and John Tavares as the focal points in this playoff match up and they would be right. However those two star players will not be deciding factors in this series, that onus will rest upon goaltenders Braden Holtby and Jaroslav Halak.
Both the Capitals and Islanders have had a difficult time establish a true #1 goalie, this year those concerns seem to have been put to rest. Holtby and Halak took the bull by the proverbial horns and never looked back, leading their clubs into the sprig dance. Holtby boasts a 2.22 G.A.A. that ranked him 5th in the regular season, Halak’s 2.43 G.A.A. ranks him 23rd in the regular season. The discrepancy becomes all the more evident when you look at the two tenders Save Percentage, Holtby .923 (7th in the NHL), Halak .914 (23rd in the NHL).
Both clubs feature potent scorers and strong defensemen that arguably cancel each other out. The goaltending will be pivotal here. Will Halak go on another miracle playoff run or will Holtby continue to put any doubts to rest.
Well there you have it. The eastern Conference 2015 NHL predictions, 3 favorites and 1 underdog have been tabbed to escape the first round with victories. Will these predictions come to fruition or will they fizzle out? Only time will tell, but one thing is certain and beyond debate… the 2015 NHL playoffs are set to start tonight and the excitement is palpable!