This is one of my favorite articles I write all year and I'm not sure how prevalent it is to many of the leagues you participate in. Personally there is a great bracket challenge on Nhl.com I will be running off the very simple notion from that. Pick a winning team, pick the number of games.
Chicago Blackhawks vs. Nashville Predators. This is a tough draw for the Predators, Chicago is unbelievably stacked with great chemistry. Nashville will have a fighting chance if they can utilize their non-5 vs 5 talents with great Power Play and PK units. Chicago wraps this one up in 5 games.
Minnesota Wild vs. St. Louis Blues. Normally in the playoffs I will give an edge to the team with the better goalie. Devan Dubnyk is arguably a top 2 goalie in the league right now but he's getting no help from the squad in front of him. Due to this, I give a nod to the Blues who are my dark horse to go deep this year. Blues win in 6.
Anaheim Ducks vs. Calgary Flames. The Flames have the offense and the momentum but the Ducks have Jonathan Bernier who is lights out in net and the experience. Watch for his strength in net to be a big factor in how far the Ducks go this year. I go with the goalie and experience here. Ducks in 5.
Edmonton Oilers vs. San Jose Sharks. Not going to lie, I'm really excited for this matchup. First to get a true taste of Playoff Connor McDavid, second to see how a star studed experienced Sharks team does with a new, fresh faced but very talented Oilers squad. To me it's like watching a Varsity face off against a JV squad who has a lot of up and coming players. Again I will give the edge to the better defensive, more experienced team. Sharks win in 7.
Montreal Canadiens vs. New York Rangers. UPSET ALERT! The best part about this pick is everything points to Montreal - Montreal won all 3 matchups this season, Montreal has fewer Goals Against, Better PK, Better Save %, Better Face-off Win %, Better Shot Attempt % and yet I think the Rangers are a team built for the playoffs. They have the grit, experience and chemistry to come alive at the right time. Rangers in 6
Ottawa Senators vs. Boston Bruins. The Bruins took any hopes that the Tampa Bay Lightning, Carolina Hurricanes, New York Islanders and Philadelphia Flyers had of making the playoffs and squashed it cold. They are one of the best teams over the last 3 weeks and I don't see the Senators stopping them in this round. Watch for Brad Marchand to continue his excellent year with a handful of goals in this series. Bruins sweep it in 4.
Washington Capitals vs. Toronto Maple Leafs. Chalk this up to "glad we made it" for the Maple Leafs. I think Washington is on a mission and no one is stopping them this year. Goalies will be the pivitol difference in this matchup, Braden Holtby is night and day better than Frederik Andersen (assuming Frederik is cleared from his concussion). Capitals in 5.
Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Columbus Blue Jackets. Given the recent downfall of the Blue Jackets one would think the Penguins will walk through this matchup but I think Sergei Bobrovsky can be a difference maker, shutting down Sidney Crosby. In addition I think there is a moxy to the Blue Jackets group that is built for gritty playoff hockey. In addition to the in addition, the Penguins are really banged up right now. Blue Jackets in 7.
Chicago Blackhawks vs. St. Louis Blues. Here is where I really get crazy. I have the Blues edging this one out. They always bring a weird playoff performance and this year I think they pull it off. They went 2-2-1 against Chicago in the regular season and I say they win this in 6 games.
Anaheim Ducks vs. San Jose Sharks. I'll reiterate - I'm bullish on Jonathan Bernier and his ability to carry the Ducks. On paper the Ducks have better metrics (more goals for, fewer goal against, better PP and PK units, save percentages etc..) and I think they continue to the Western Conference Finals. Ducks in 6
Eastern Conference: Washington Capitals vs. Columbus Blue Jackets. Well Columbus, it was a fun run and you effectively eliminated the dream Penguins vs. Capitals matchup everyone wanted to see. Time for the Capitals to take the next step towards destiny. Capitals in 4. Western Conference:
New York Rangers vs. Boston Bruins. Bruins are on a train. I think Tuuka Rask plays out of his mind in this series to let Boston advance to the Eastern Conference Finals. Bruins in 5
Stanley Cup Semi-Finals
St. Louis Blues vs. Anaheim Ducks. The Blues depth is just too strong for Jonathan Bernier as they pepper him with 3 lines deep of talent. Blues in 6.
Boston Bruins vs. Washington Capitals. Getting to this point has already taken a lot of the pressure off the Capitals and they are able to capitalize on that. They've had a few extra days of rest over the Bruins which helps them have fresh legs. Capitals over Bruins in 6 games.
Stanley Cup Finals:
St. Louis Blues vs. Washington Capitals. Remember how great the Cubs vs. Indians series was? No matter who won you were breaking an astronomically long streak without a Championship. This is like that. The story tale ends with the Blues and Capitals who are a collective 0-4 in Stanley Cup Finals. Alex Ovehckin and the Capitals win the oh-so-elusive, highly sought Lord Stanley's Cup.
Washington Capitals vs. Columbus Blue Jackets. Well Columbus, it was a fun run and you effectively eliminated the dream Penguins vs. Capitals matchup everyone wanted to see. Time for the Capitals to take the next step towards destiny. Capitals in 4.