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
Thomas Owen – Pucknology.net Writer
This article will be our predictions for the Western Conference first-round playoff series going east to west starting with the Central Division.
Central Division Playoffs
#1 Dallas Stars vs. WC1 Minnesota Wild
Ian Reid: Dallas Stars in five
Why: The Wild backed into the playoffs and have not looked overly spectacular down the stretch, Thomas Vanek is out of the lineup and hasn’t been overly noticeable while in the lineup and Zach Parise even if healthy couldn’t will this team through on its own. The Stars seem to be getting healthy at the right time with Tyler Seguin looking like he could somehow work his way back into the lineup. Kari Lehtonen seemed to be heating up down the stretch but if he falters I do not like Niemi having to carry this team’s expectations. The Dallas Stars have been able to outscore many of their problems all year and will likely have to do it again in a couple of games to make it out of this series, fortunately against the Wild that shouldn’t be an issue.
Erik Kuhre: Minnesota Wild
Why: Minnesota is primed for an upset against the team that called the state home for 26 years.
Wendell McGowan: Dallas Stars
Why: With the Wild kind of slipping into their playoff spot, they are not as impressive as I would like them to be. I want the Wild to get through and upset the Stars, I don’t think they will.
Aidan Carlsen: Dallas Stars in five
Why: The Stars have the best offense in the entire league and have been able to manhandle teams all season (see: Blackhawks). Now with Seguin likely returning for this season, they will be even more dangerous. While their goaltending is suspect right now, they’ll score against the Wild enough to comfortably win.
Chris: Dallas Stars in five
Why: Dallas is rolling right now with an 8-2-0 record in their last ten. The Wild managed to qualify but it certainly helped that the Avs imploded down the stretch. Had the Avs merely gone 5-5-0 instead of 2-8-0, they would have beat out the Wild by a point. The Wild have lost 5 straight, and honestly, I’ll be surprised if they win more than one against Dallas without the services of Zach Parise. The season matchup with tilted heavily in Dallas’ favor, going 4-1-0 for the Stars despite Parise playing four of those games. Dallas takes this one without a lot of trouble, I wouldn’t be shocked if it were a sweep.
AJ Strong: Dallas Stars in six
Why: While I don’t have a lot of faith in Lehtonen or Niemi to steal a game, I doubt either will be called upon to do so. While Dallas has a lot of speed and firepower, goals are at a premium as teams tighten up in the postseason. I think the Wild could stretch this to 7, but won’t have enough to defeat the Stars.
Thomas Owen: Minnesota Wild in six
Why: I have never been a believer in the Stars this season, not that the Wild have been that great. Tyler Seguin is going to play through a serious injury and probably will start off great, only to fizzle out. Devan Dubnyk proved that last year’s glory was not a fluke and as long as he remains steady, the Stars will likely lose their composure and the series.
#2 St. Louis Blues vs. #3 Chicago Blackhawks
Ian Reid: Chicago Blackhawks in six
Why: Chicago seems to have basically everyone coming back into the lineup at just the right time and at full strength they should not have anything to fear from the St. Louis Blues. This is a battle tested team that knows not only how to win in general but how to beat the Blues. St. Louis has a good team that has just been stonewalled by facing Chicago or Los Angeles early on in their playoff runs and there has to be a mental factor here. The Blues also have goalies that appear to be made out of glass as anytime I heard the Blues on the news it was because Jake Allen or series starter Brian Elliot were injured. I’m just not sold that they can stay healthy enough to stop the playoff juggernaut that has been the Blackhawks
Erik Kuhre: Chicago Blackhawks
Why: Chicago has St. Louis’ number for the past few seasons now.
Wendell McGowan: Chicago Blackhawks
Why: Although I do think this will go to 7. The Blues will play a heavy game and it will be to the benefit of whoever plays the Hawks in round two.
Aidan Carlsen: Chicago Blackhawks in seven
Why: This one was tougher than most because both teams are so evenly matched. Chicago has been struggling lately, but they will be pretty much fully healthy for game 1. And even though Brian Elliot has been on a tear recently, I see the Hawks finding enough chemistry again to top the Blues.
Chris: Chicago Blackhawks in seven
Why: From the Blues perspective they took the season series 3-2-0 unless you flip that to the Blackhawks side where that line is 2-0-3 with one shootout loss in the last column. These teams are pretty evenly matched, especially with how Chicago has been limping in the final month of the season. Full strength with the momentum I’d love Chicago, but with the Blues being on a strong run of late and having home ice I expect a competitive series with the Blackhawks outlasting the Blues for a game seven win.
AJ Strong: Chicago Blackhawks in six
Why: Chicago knows playoffs. Yes, Keith is out for game 1. Big deal. They have the talent to overcome that. Whether it’s Crawford or Darling in Chi’s net, there is just too much experienced talent in front of them not to beat the Blues. However, any team that employs Christian Ehrhoff has to at least be questioned.
Thomas Owen: Chicago Blackhawks in six
Why: It was a bit worrisome that Chicago lost quite a bit with Crawford injured. He should be fine, though. The Blues are more healthy than they have in the past, but everything else seems the same — too much disparity between the top-6 and bottom-6. Brian Elliott will be great and still be blamed somehow for losing.
Pacific Division Playoffs
#1 Anaheim Ducks vs. WC2 Nashville Predators
Ian Reid: Anaheim Ducks in five
Why: I don’t really like this matchup for the Predators at all because while I think the defense of the Predators is formidable I’m not sold they can completely shut down the Ducks who are also pretty good on the defensive end of the puck. I think that the Ducks can get through this series in short order with some low scoring games. Special teams will likely be the difference here as even though the Ducks can take some stupid penalties they can usually take care of business and goat the other team into taking some penalties of their own. Pekka Rinne has been so inconsistent this season that I would even give the edge in goal to John Gibson or Frederik Andersen.
Erik Kuhre: Anaheim Ducks
Why: Anaheim’s special teams can carry the weight over Nashville.
Wendell McGowan: Anaheim Ducks
Why: I feel like their skill game will definitely break through, the strong defensive game of Nashville
Aidan Carlsen: Anaheim Ducks in six
Why: Nashville looks to be poised to exit the playoffs early again as they take on the red-hot Ducks. These past couple months the Ducks have been incredible and the whole team is on fire.(Yes that did hurt to type). Even though Pekka Rinne is back on his game, if Anaheim can get some hurt players back, it won’t matter and the Ducks will smother the Predators.
Chris: Anaheim Ducks in six
Why: The Ducks have the #1 PP and the Predators are 16th ranked in the league. Despite fewer opportunities, the handful of goals they could add likely means all the difference. The Ducks are limping into this, but I don’t put a lot of stock in the Predators play of late with a 5-4-1 record in their last ten. The Ducks are a better team on paper and Nashville has historically struggled to get out of even the first round. The Predators did win the season series 2-1-0, but that was during the stretch of 6-9-4 the Ducks had to open the season. This isn’t the same Ducks team they saw the first time, and I like Anaheim to handle them in a competitive but inevitable 6 game series win.
AJ Strong: Anaheim Ducks in six
Why: While it pains me to say it, Anaheim is my pick to win the cup. They’re a nasty team with guys, like Perry and Kesler, that play on the edge and get under your skin. While Rinne has had great regular seasons, he’s never gotten past the 2nd round. Facing the #1 power play and penalty kill means Rinne and the Preds won’t get past the 1st round this season.
Thomas Owen: Anaheim Ducks in six
Why: Even with two often-hurt goalies, the Ducks have been a wrecking ball. The Predators should play well in this series (I will even say that it will be tied 2-2 going into Game 5), but they haven’t been able to prove an “it” factor in their history. The Predators will need to take advantage of the short fuses on the Ducks roster to have a chance at winning.
#2 Los Angeles Kings vs. #3 San Jose Sharks
Ian Reid: Los Angeles Kings in seven
Why: Good-bye Twitter followers, Facebook friends, Teal Tinted Glasses listeners and my Pucknology.net readership. Alright, I know you have probably already stopped reading but let me explain… First, I DO NOT WANT the Kings to win this series and I’d never be more happy to be wrong. This series is likely a coin toss The Kings are not as deep as the they were when these teams faced last and the Sharks are probably better but I don’t know if they are better enough to get through to the second round. This is a bad match-up for the Sharks who if they get through could likely contend with 75% of the playoff field. Maybe the playoff disappointments have made me cynical about this team and they are not at the show me and I’ll believe it stage but if sat me down and told me my life depended on me picking the winner of this series I wouldn’t feel comfortable with that pick being the San Jose Sharks.
Erik Kuhre: San Jose Sharks
Why: I’d be an idiot and not a fan of Team Teal if I didn’t pick San Jose.
Wendell McGowan: San Jose Sharks
Why: Other than the fact that my glasses are the most teal tinted ever, I think they have all the right pieces getting hot at the right time. The injuries are done and Marleau is going on a hot trend. I also feel that Quick will be a Jon issue with how we played against him all year.
Aidan Carlsen: San Jose Sharks in seven
Why: Possibly the hardest match-up to predict is the Sharks vs Kings. San Jose handled LA this regular season, winning the series 3-1-1 and looked really good against their rivals. But, the Kings always turn it up in the playoffs and I’m sure this year will be no different. Yet, the Sharks look like the more dangerous team, with DeBoer able to roll four lines that can score and have goaltending tandem Jones and Reimer in net, they should win a hard fought 7-game series.
Chris: San Jose Sharks in seven
Why: My heart says Sharks and my head says this is a near coin flip of a series. Without getting overly stats oriented, I’ll say that the Sharks are a good possession team but the Kings are the best in the league at even strength. Despite the gripes about the PP, the Sharks are 3rd in the league and one of the most effective teams with the man advantage. They were 5th in the league in opportunities while the Kings (8th %) were 27th. The Sharks depend too much on the PP for my liking, as I think what happens at even strength dictates this series. Now, the Sharks aren’t slouches at even strength. In fact, they’re top ten by most metrics, but still behind the Kings. My concern is that Joe Thornton was on the ice for 70% of their 5v5 goals this season (highest for a forward in 12 years). As Joe goes, so will the Sharks, more than ever. Now, what bodes well for the Sharks is that in 5 games against the Kings this season, Thornton has 8 points. I’ll go with the Sharks winning a very close series in game 7 overtime. Maybe triple overtime.
AJ Strong: San Jose Sharks in seven
Why: Neither of these teams is the same as they were 2 years ago. Of the 22 Sharks who played in the 2014 series, 12 are gone. Special teams are a concern for both teams. The Sharks have a top 5 PP while LA gives opponents the third-highest number of power-play opportunities in the NHL. On the flip side, LA has a top 10 PP while the Sharks PK has been dreadful for most of the season. If the Sharks can dictate games, make LA play their style, and stay out of the box, I think the Sharks can take this series in 7, maybe even 6. San Jose really has nothing to lose at this point while LA might be a little overconfident. But after what’s happened between these teams the last few series, can you blame them?
Thomas Owen: San Jose Sharks in seven
Why: The series is destined to go 7 games and I am thrilled to FINALLY be picking the Sharks this time after correctly predicting the Kings in 7 in both 2013 and 2014. This series won’t be pretty. The hatred and history are there. Jarret Stoll won’t be there to cheap shot anyone, but Milan Lucic sure will. The Sharks’ confident offense should be able to overtake an overrated Kings defense, as long as they try to score PLAYOFF goals and not PRETTY goals.