The 2014-2015 regular season of the National Hockey League (NHL) has been completed and we are now ready for the first round of the playoffs.
The New York Rangers won the Presidents’ Trophy, finishing the regular season with a league leading 113 points beating out the Montreal Canadiens by three points for the trophy and guaranteeing themselves home ice advantage throughout the playoffs.
For the first time since 2004, five Canadian teams are advancing to the playoffs – Montreal (110 points), Vancouver Canuaks (101), Ottawa Senators (99), Winnipeg Jets (99), and Calgary Flames (97). This is the first playoff series for a Winnipeg based team since 1996 (the original Jets team moved to Phoenix to become the Coyotes after this) and only the second time that the Altanta Thrashers/Winnipeg Jets franchise has made the playoffs.
The Los Angeles Kings, the defending Stanley Cup Champions, failed to make the postseason. This is the first time since the 2007 Carolina Hurricanes to fail to make the playoffs the year after making the playoffs.
The Detroit Red Wings have now qualified for their 24th consecutive postseason appearance, the longest current streak in the NHL. They are now tied for fourth on the All-Time list for consecutive postseason appearances.
The Boston Bruins are only the third team to fail to make the playoffs the year after they won the Presidents’ Trophy.
The Conference Quarterfinals breakdown as follows:
Montreal Canadiens (110 points) vs. Ottawa Senators (99). In four regular season matches this season, Ottawa one three. And Ottawa won the only postseason meeting two years ago, four games to one. Expect Ottawa to win in six.
Tampa Bay Lightning (108) vs. Detroit Red Wings (100). During the regular season, Tampa Bay won three games with Detroit winning one. This is the first postseason series between the two teams. Expect Detroit to use their experience to win in five.
New York Rangers (113) vs. Pittsburgh Penguins (98). The Rangers won three out of four regular season match-ups between the teams enroute to the Presidents’ Trophy. The two teams have faced off five teams in the postseason, with Pittsburgh winning the first four meetings, and the Rangers winning last year’s Eastern Conference Semifinals in seven games. Look for the Rangers to continue their winning ways in a six game series.
Washington Capitals (101) vs. the New York Islanders (101). Both teams won two home games against the other team and ended the season tied in the standings. Washington received home game advantage thanks to points differential. The two teams have met six times in the postseason, the last time in 1993. The Islanders have won five of those series and played in the Stanley Cup Finals after two of their victories. This is the last season for the Islanders in the Nassau Coliseum. Look for the Islanders to upset Washington in a close seven game series.
St. Louis Blues (109) vs. Minnesota Wild (100). Each team won two games, one at home and one in the other team’s arena, during the regular season. This also marks the first meeting between the two teams. Expect St. Louis to come out ahead in six games.
Nashville Predators (104) vs. Chicago Blackhawks (102). Chicago won three out of four meetings this year, plus won the only previous meeting between the two teams during the first round of the 2010 playoffs. Chicago won the Stanley Cup most recently in 2010 and 2013. Expect Chicago to win in five.
Anaheim Ducks (109) vs. Winnipeg Jets (99). Anaheim won all three regular season matches this year. But this is also an important series for Winnipeg. It is only the second time the franchise has advanced to the postseason (the other time was in 2007 when the team was in Atlanta) and is the first postseason series to take place in Winnipeg since 1996 prior to the original Winnipeg Jets moving to Phoenix. Expect Winnipeg to win in six.
Vancouver Canucks (101) vs. Calgary Flames (97). An all-Canadian battle. The two teams met four times during the regular season. Each time won twice, once at home and once in the other team’s arena. The teams have met six times before in the postseason, with Calgary winning four of those series. The last time they met in the postseason Calgary won a first round series in seven games in 2004. When the teams met in 1989, Calgary eliminated Vancouver enroute to meeting, and ultimately beating, Montreal in the Finals. In 1994, Vancouver would beat Calgary enroute to the Stanley Cup Finals. Expect Calgary to win another seven game series.
So, my predictions breakdown as follows:
Eastern Conference: Detroit Red Wings, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, & Ottawa Senators.
Western Conference: Calgary Flames, Chicago Blackhawks, St. Louis Blues, & Winnipeg Jets.