First Round of the NHL Playoffs

Now that the season has ended with the Ottawa Senators defeating Boston Bruins 4-2, the final Standings for the NHL are as follows:

Eastern Conference

#1 Pittsburgh Penguins 36-12-0 for 72 points
#2 Montreal Canadiens 29-14-5 for 63 points
#3 Washington Capitals 27-18-3 for 57 points
#4 Boston Bruins 28-14-6 for 62 points
#5 Toronto Maple Leafs 26-17-5 for 57 points
#6 New York Rangers 26-18-4 foe 56 pojnts
#7 Ottawa Senators 25-17-6 for 56 points
#8 New York Islanders 24-17-7 for 55 points

Western Conference

#1 Chicago Blackhawks 36-7-5 for 77 points
#2 Anaheim Ducks 30-12-6 for 66 points
#3 Vancouver Canucks 26-15-7 for 59 points
#4 St. Louis Blues 29-17-2 for 60 points
#5 Los Angeles Kings 27-16-5 for 59 points
#6 San Jose Sharks 25-16-7 for 57 points
#7 Detroit Red Wings 24-16-8 for 56 points
#8 Minnesota Wild 26-19-3 for 55 points

The Stanley Cup.

The Stanley Cup.

That means that the following matchups will occur for Round 1 of the playoffs:

Eastern Conference

New York Islanders (8) vs. Pittsburght Penguins (1)
Ottawa Senators (7) vs. Montreal Canadiens (2)
New York Rangers (6) vs. Washington Capitals (3)
Toronto Maple Leafs (5) vs. Boston Bruins (4)

Western Conference

Minnesota Wild (8) vs. Chicago Blackhawks (1)
Detroit Red Wings (7) vs. Anaheim Ducks (2)
San Jose Sharks (6) vs. Vancouver Canucks (3)
Los Angeles Kings (5) vs. St. Louis Blues (4)

Chicago is the best team in the NHL with a record of 36 wins, seven losses, and five overtime losses for 77 points, winning the President’s Trophy.  They scored 155 goals while giving up 102.  They set an NHL record by starting the season with at least one point in each of the first of their 24 games, with 21 wins, no losses, and 3 overtime losses.  This included a 10 game win streak.

The Pittsburgh Penguins are led by their captain Sidney Crosby, Jerome Iginla, Brenden Morrow, and Douglas Murray.  The later three were acquired through trades over the course of the season.  The team also boist goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury and centre Evgeni Malkin.

On paper, both Chicago and Pittsburgh ran away in their Conferences.  As such, I would expect both to go deep into the playoffs, possibly meeting up in the finals.

All of the ‘Original Six’ teams have made it to the playoffs.  Although Boston and Toronto meet in the first round which both guarantees that at least one ‘Original Six’ team will make it to the second round but also that at least one ‘Original Six’ team will not make it past the first round.

Based on the results of the regular season, I\ expect the Chicago Blackhawks to make it to the Stanley Cup final as they have dominated the league for the entire season.  While I am a Maple Leafs fan, the Bruins have a record of 3-1-0 against the Maple Leafs during the regular season, so I expect that either Boston will win in five games, or it will be a full seven game series for the Maple Leafs to make it to the second round.  I expect the Montreal Canadiens to have the best chance to represent the Eastern Conference.

The Los Angeles Kings are the defending Stanley Cup Champions and have the incentive to try and win again.  And they won the Cup after finishing in eigth place last year, and only the Washington Capitals and Ottawa Senators qualified for the postseason with less points las year (the Kings had 95 points while the Capitals and the Senators both had 92.)  The ‘new era’ of the NHL with a salary cap means that the eigth place team can possibly represent their Conference in the Stanley Cup Final.

Of the 16 teams competing in the postseason this year, 11 made it to the postseason last year.  Only the Maple Leafs, Canadiens, Islanders,  Wild, and Ducks did not qualify last year.  And the Canadiens went from finishing 15th in the Eastern Conference last year to finishing second this year.

The first round matchup between the Rangers and the Capitals is a rematch of the Conference Semi-Finals last year, which the Rangers won 4-3.  So the Capitals have a reason to want to win this year and I would expect them to win in six games.

The Blues-Kings matchup is also a repeat of last year’s Westenr Conference Semi-Final.  The Kings won the series 4-0 enroute to winning the Cup.  The Blues are likely to give them more competition this year, but I would still expect the Kings to make it past the Blues again, probably in six.

The Red Wings are looking to make it past the first round this year, fter being defeated four games to one last year by the Nashville Predators.  The Blackhawks lost in six games to the Coyotes in the first round last year, so it will also be an improvement for them to make it past the first round this year.

My opinion is that the following teams will make it past the first round:  Penguins, Canadiens, Capitals, and Maple Leafs in the East, and the Blackhawks, Red Wings, Canucks, and Kings from the West.  We will now by May 14th at the latest who makes it to the next round and who does not.  Let’s see what happens.

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