Last year I reached out to a bunch of Sharks Writers/Bloggers to do a playoff round-table making predictions round by round. I thought about doing that again but with all the smart people that contribute under the Pucknology umbrella including the Pucknology.net writing group, Teal Tinted Glasses, and Pucknology After Dark I decided to keep it in-house.
Here are this year’s participants:
Ian Reid (@IReidPucknology) – Pucknology Management Team
Erik Kuhre (@Puckguy14) – Pucknology Managing Editor
Wendell McGowan (@ComicNotGeek) – Teal Tinted Glasses
Aidan Carlsen (@Sharkaiders) – Pucknology.net Writer
Chris (@Chrisjws) – Pucknology After Dark
AJ Strong (@aj_strong) – Pucknology After Dark / Pucknology.net Writer
Tomas Owen – Pucknology.net Writer
This article will be our predictions for the Eastern Conference first-round playoff series going east to west starting with the Atlantic Division.
Atlantic Division Playoffs
#1 Florida Panthers vs. WC1 New York Islanders
Ian Reid: Florida Panthers in five
Why: The Islanders are always a team that I really want to see get over the hump, unfortunately, this won’t be that year. Starting goaltender Jaroslav Halak is likely to miss the first round. Defenseman Travis Hamonic is questionable while Anders Lee and Mikael Grabovski are out. The Panthers are not 100% healthy but I’ll happily take Roberto Luongo over Thomas Griess any day of the week. This won’t be a long series as the Panthers are the real deal and will move on.
Erik Kuhre: Florida Panthers
Why: Florida just seems more dominant in net-minding.
Wendell McGowan: New York Islanders
Why: Panthers will get the upset. This is more of a gut feeling for me.
Aidan Carlsen: Florida Panthers in six
Why: While the Islanders starting goalie is injured, the team has still been playing well, but the Panthers are still the stronger team. Luongo has been having a fantastic year, along with Jagr and Barkov and they will handle the Islanders. Also, I hate Barclays Center, so the sooner they’re out the better.
Chris: Florida Panthers in seven
Why: The team that no one cares about vs. the team that no one cares about despite being from New York. Do I have to pick? Neither team is all that impressive for possessing the puck. Neither team is much for special teams outside of the Islanders strong PK. Goaltending goes to the Panthers by a hair. Head to head was a dead heat. In the end, I give it to the Panthers based on the body of work and a slight edge in some areas. This looks like a coin flip to me, though.
AJ Strong: Florida Panthers in five
Why: The Isles’ haven’t won a playoff series since 1993. And they won’t this year either. I boil this series down to one thing… are you betting on Griess or Luongo? I’ll take Bobby Lou for the win and the power of Kevin Spacey!
Thomas Owen: Florida Panthers in six
Why: The Panthers far exceeded everyone’s expectations this season, including my own as a sleeper pick. They ooze confidence and Roberto Luongo has only gotten better with age. The Islanders don’t even know which goalie they will use and Anders Lee is gone with a broken leg.
#2 Tampa Bay Lightning vs. #3 Detroit Red Wings
Ian Reid: Detroit Red Wings in six
Why: I really like the Lightning and earlier in the season thought that they might even be able to get back to the Stanley Cup finals in what is probably Steven Stamkos’s last season in Tampa Bay, however, they just have too many injuries to overcome. Combined with the for sure losses of Stamkos and Stralman and the potential loss of Tyler Johnson. Ben Bishop is the x-factor here and could win the series on his own. For the Red Wings, it’s a going away party for one of the greatest to ever play the game as Pavel Datsyuk will return to Russia following the postseason. As long as the Red Wings can keep some stability in net they should be the team that proceeds to the second round.
Erik Kuhre: Tampa Bay Lightning
Why: Tampa has Ben Bishop to steal a series with a good nucleus minus Stamkos.
Wendell McGowan: Tampa Bay Lightning
Why: This one goes to Tampa Bay. While the Bolts may be missing Stamkos, the Wings made this by the skin of their teeth and are just a shadow of their former selves.
Aidan Carlsen: Tampa Bay Lightning in seven
Why: Tampa is so beat up right now, with Stamkos, Stralman and Callahan out, I don’t think they have the power to beat the Wings.
Chris: Tampa Bay Lightning in six
Why: The keys in this series are the play of Ben Bishop and the ability of the TB depth players to produce. I like both of these things to go Tampa’s way against a mediocre Detroit team that nearly missed the playoffs for the first time in decades. If the Lightning weren’t so banged up, I’d pick a 4 or 5 game series win in their favor.
AJ Strong: Detroit Red Wings in seven
Why: With all the turmoil in TB, between Stamkos going down to Drouin’s pouting, Bishop will have to singlehandedly win TB some games for them to advance. Both teams went 7 last year with TB getting the final game. I think Detroit takes it this time and Larkin with the GWG.
Thomas Owen: Lightning in six
Why: I am tempted to even say Tampa in 5 for this. Detroit has a great roster and a great coach. For whatever reason, things just haven’t gelled for them. This season was their most impotent offensively that I can ever remember and they have a lousy goal differential of -13 as well.
Metropolitan Division Playoffs
#1 Washington Capitals vs. WC2 Philadelphia Flyers
Ian Reid: Washington Capitals in five
Why: The only reason I think that the Flyers will push this series to five is because I have a hard time seeing them lose in Philadelphia in game three when the Flyers will celebrate the life of Ed Snyder who passed away on Monday. The Flyers fought their way into the post season but I don’t think they are as good as they have appeared and while Shane Gostisbehere has been impressive, he has excelled on power plays and three on three situations that are rare or basically don’t exist in the playoffs. I won’t believe that this Capitals team can go all the way until I see it with my own eyes but I have no doubt they will move on to the second round.
Erik Kuhre: Washington Capitals
Why: Capitals will take care of the flyers with ease.
Wendell McGowan: Washington Capitals
Why: Although I don’t think that Washington will live up to their season potential after this round, the Flyers will not put up much of a fight.
Aidan Carlsen: Washington Capitals in four
Why: The Capitals are better in pretty much every aspect. I don’t see any aspect where the Flyers win unless all the Capitals starters get hurt.
Chris: Washington in five
Why: Ovechkin could do his usual zero f**ks given on defense and I still like the Capitals to win this one without many issues. Philly has a bad PK (22nd) and we all know the Capitals dissect even good PKs. Holtby is clearly better than Steve Mason. I’m really struggling to find any reason to like the Flyers in this matchup. The Flyers have been the hotter team down the stretch, but that’s mostly because they had to and the Capitals were able to coast home. Only way Philadephia pulls this one out is if the Capitals can’t get it off cruise control. Given what we’ve seen with Presidents Trophy winners in the past, that’s not entirely out of the question.
AJ Strong: Washington in six
Why: Washington is the President’s Trophy winner for a reason. Holtby, the likely Vezina winner, will outplay Mason/Neuvirth. The only way I see Philly out dueling Wash is if they sustain a key injury.
Thomas Owen: Washington Capitals in five
Why: While the Flyers are riding hot into the playoffs and should be further inspired by the death of their owner, I do not believe in their depth or that they are even a real playoff team. The Capitals have been undeniably the best team this season and will make quick work of the Flyers.
#2 Pittsburgh Penguins vs. #3 New York Rangers
Ian Reid: Pittsburgh Penguins in five
Why: No matter what seems to happen to the Penguins this year they just get hotter. Malkin out still wins a bunch of straight games. Lose Marc-Andre Fleury, rookie Matt Murray goes in the net and they roll continues. The Penguins are playing so well right now that it scares me to think of what they might look like at full strength. The Rangers, on the other hand, have not looked as good down the stretch and their banged-up defense corps will make it difficult for them to get out of the first round. Henrik Lundqvist could steal the series of course provided that he was in fact just ill at practice and not actually hurt.
Erik Kuhre: Pittsburgh Penguins
Why: Pittsburgh is a toss up with the Rangers in a matchup NBC dreams of.
Wendell McGowan: New York Rangers
Why: This is a tough call but I will give it to the Rangers just because of the strength of King Henry.
Aidan Carlsen: Pittsburgh Penguins in seven
Why: The Pens are so hot right now, that they will probably be too much even for The King to handle. Plus, the Rangers defense has been a weak spot the entire season and could end up being the teams downfall.
Chris: Pittsburgh Penguins in seven
Why: All aboard the NBC boner train! Expect to see this one in every prime slot, if execs could sacrifice their grandmothers to put this on three consecutive Sunday mornings you know they would. For reals, though, I love the Penguins attack and I think that’s what will carry the day. Henrik will stand on his head like Henrik does and make it a series. Goaltending questions on the Penguins side and strength on the Rangers side will make this series competitive, but I like Pittsburgh to win.
AJ Strong: Pittsburgh Penguins in six
Why: Pittsburgh is on fire right now while NY has key pieces banged up. While Lundqvist can usually be counted on to steal a game or two in a series, he’s also been pulled more times this season than all his previous seasons combined.
Thomas Owen: New York Rangers in seven
Why: The Rangers were my preseason Stanley Cup winner but have struggled mightily with consistency since mid-November. They might be that team that sucks during the season and then turns it on in the playoffs, though. The health of the Penguins goaltending is of great concern right now, which doesn’t help that they’ve only made it past the first round once since 2010