Kukla's Korner

The Puck Stops Here

First Round Playoff Predictions

The first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs is upon us.  So I will try to make my predictions.

First a note about hockey predictions.  It’s often a futile game.  In the regular season, it is very hard to have a successful prediction rate much about 50%.  The best anyone ever accomplishes might be around 60% (and I am unable to find anyone documented who managed as high as 60%).  Nevertheless, I will use that number to make a point.  A 60% success rate would mean that only 20% of the time is a game decided by talent.  The better team wins 20% of the time.  The remaining 80% of the games are decided by chance.  Either team has an equal chance to win a game when it is decided by chance.  So there is a 40% chance the favorite wins by chance and a 40% chance the underdog wins by chance.  The moral is that if we accept these numbers, only 1 in 5 games is won because the winning team is the better team.

These numbers do not exactly correspond to the playoffs.  The spread between favorites and underdogs is not as big in the playoffs because the worst teams do not make them.  However, I am predicting playoff series instead of individual games, so the effect of random chance is reduced with the larger sample size.  In the end, the 60% success rate is a ballpark figure for the playoffs.  Due to the small sample size (only 15 series) it is not impossible to beat that success rate by a significant margin one year and then when luck turns itself around, it is quite possible to fall well below that number and even below a 50% success rate (which would be an expectation value with a random guess and no insight whatsoever).

With that said, here are my first round playoff predictions:

Vancouver defeats Chicago   The storyline here is Roberto Luongo.  He has received a lot of the blame for it, but the idea that comes from that where Luongo is not a good playoff goalie is farfetched.  This is a chance for him to redeem himself or to show that narrative to be true.  Most likely that means he will play a good series, but not carry his team on his back and thus give an inconclusive result that lets anyone believe whatever they believed before the series begins.  Luongo won’t carry the Canucks on his back because they are too good a team to need to be carried by their goalie.  Vancouver has been the best team in the league this year.  Chicago is very good for a bottom seed.  They will push their first round opponents.  They are a good team but clearly not as good as last year’s Stanley Cup winner.  They should be beaten by the Canucks, but it is quite a good first round opponent.  It is possible that in a potential Canuck cup run, their first round opponent will be tougher than any other opponent throughout the entire playoffs.

San Jose defeats Los Angeles   Of the division winners, San Jose is one of the weaker looking ones.  They could lose to a top first round opponent, such as Chicago, but Los Angeles with their top scorer Anze Kopitar out isn’t it.  Joe Thornton finds himself as the Luongo in this series.  He is a player who has been unfairly called a playoff choker.  He hasn’t had his best career performances in the playoffs, but it is revisionist history to suggest that San Jose was ever the strongest team in the NHL and would have won if not for Thornton.  I expect an inconclusive result from Thornton as well.  He hasn’t carried San Jose on his back this season.  Those days are gone.  San Jose has too many weapons in Patrick Marleau, Dany Heatley, Thornton and others.  I don’t see Los Angeles shutting them all down and I am not sure who will provide the offence Los Angeles needs to win the series.

Detroit defeats Phoenix   These teams met last year and Detroit won a tough seven game series.  The same key players are back.  The major difference is that Phoenix is not the Cinderella team that surprised everyone by showing they are not dead despite serious financial issues.  The financial issues are still there and could lead to Phoenix moving.  It will be quite the achievement for the Coyotes to overcome those issues and be able to push Detroit as hard this year.  Likely they won’t.

Nashville defeats Anaheim   Anaheim has the frontline talent.  They have the top goal scorer in the league this season in Corey Perry and the top defenceman this year in Lubomir Visnovsky.  They also have question marks in goal.  Jonas Hiller has suffered vertigo and not played much or at a high level during the stretch of the season.  Ray Emery played well during his short run at the end of the season and he too is hurt.  Nashville meanwhile has a strong goalie in Pekka Rinne.  A strong playoff run could establish him as one of the great goalies in the NHL in many people’s minds.  Nashville has a very good defensive system and a good defence led by Shea Weber and Ryan Suter.  I think they are more likely to win this series under the circumstances.

Washington defeats NY Rangers   The Rangers are a very dangerous first round opponent.  Neither eighth seed is a pushover.  Henrik Lundqvist is a strong enough goalie that he might get hot and steal games.  If that happens, the Rangers will be hard to beat.  That said; the Washington Capitals will be very hard to stop.  Alexander Ovechkin has scored well lately.  He seems to have recovered from mid-season injury that kept his goal total down this season.  Nicklas Backstrom and Alexander Semin are both coming off of worse seasons than last year, but they are both dangerous scorers.  Mike Green is expected to come back from a concussion for the series.  Most likely, Washington has too much firepower to be stopped in the first round.  I think Ovechkin could be the top scorer of the first round.

Buffalo defeats Philadelphia   Of all the playoff teams, the Flyers limped down the stretch with the weakest performances.  It isn’t clear than any of their goalies will give them top performances.  That didn’t stop them last year as they made the finals with replacement level goalies in Michael Leighton and Brian Boucher.  They look weaker this year with Chris Pronger recovering from hand surgery and not necessarily available to play.  Buffalo has played quite well under new ownership.  Ryan Miller is likely healthy enough to provide strong goaltending and Tomas Vanek, Jason Pominville and Tyler Myers played well down the stretch.  I think Buffalo is the better team right now and will likely show it this season.

Boston defeats Montreal   Boston has a very strong defence led by Zdeno Chara and Tomas Kaberle.  Tim Thomas is coming off a season where he posted the best saves percentage ever.  Boston had the best +/- in the East Conference and will be a tough opponent.  Montreal has done well with a strong season from Carey Price in goal, but Montreal is outmatched at this position.  These two teams have had classic series in the past and this could be another, but Boston is clearly the team to beat.  Throughout most of the NHL’s history, Montreal has been the team to beat in these series.

Pittsburgh defeats Tampa Bay   Pittsburgh is playing without Evgeni Malkin and possibly Sidney Crosby too.  That makes this a much more even series.  Pittsburgh has the stronger defence led by Kris Letang, Paul Martin and Zbynek Michalek.  Tampa does not have a strong a defence and could be exploited.  It will be tough to stop Martin St Louis and Steve Stamkos (who has not been able to continue to score at his early season rate), but I think the Penguins can do it well enough to win the series.  I think Marc-Andre Fleury will outplay the aging Dwayne Roloson.  Pittsburgh has more depth and it will likely pay off.

Time will tell if I am right.  I think I have picked the better team at this point in each series, but the best team does not always win.

Filed in: | The Puck Stops Here | Permalink
 

Comments

Avatar

Washington defeats NY Rangers   The Rangers are a very dangerous first round opponent.  Neither eighth seed is a pushover.  Henrik Lundqvist is a strong enough goalie that he might get hot and steal games.  If that happens, the Rangers will be hard to beat.  That said; the Washington Capitals will be very hard to stop.  Alexander Ovechkin has scored well lately.  He seems to have recovered from mid-season injury that kept his goal total down this season.  Nicklas Backstrom and Alexander Semin are both coming off of worse seasons than last year, but they are both dangerous scorers.  Mike Green is expected to come back from a concussion for the series.  Most likely, Washington has too much firepower to be stopped in the first round.  I think Ovechkin could be the top scorer of the first round.

Ovechkin, the top scorer?  I mean it’s definitely plausable but the guy doesn’t have a goal all regular season against the Rangers.  Yes, it’s a different season now but Staal and Girardi are a solid shut down pair that will be assigned to stopping Ovechkin.  Hell, even their rookie pair of Sauer & McDonagh are very capable.

The Rangers also beat the caps 3-1 in the season series.  This is a good match up for the Rangers.

Posted by Adam on 04/12/11 at 09:46 AM ET

K24's avatar

Adam—
Season series doesn’t mean much now that it’s the playoffs.  And this is Sauer’s and McDonagh’s first playoffs.  We’ll see how “capable” they are.

Posted by K24 from NYC on 04/12/11 at 11:18 AM ET

Avatar

Adam—I guess you don’t know who the active leader in playoff points-per-game is.

I am also skeptical Ovechkin will be the 1st round top scorer, but that’s more because I think the series will be low scoring and relatively short.

Posted by Ralph on 04/16/11 at 01:04 PM ET

Steve Strowbridge's avatar

6/8 . . . . pretty good!

Posted by Steve Strowbridge from St. John's, NL, CA on 04/28/11 at 11:32 AM ET

Tripwire32's avatar

6/8 . . . . pretty good!
Posted by Steve Strowbridge from St. John’s, NL, CA on 04/28/11 at 09:32 AM ET

Still only 75% accurate; a C effort. wink
I would’ve extended kudos if he predicted and nailed 3/4 of the series length too

Posted by Tripwire32 from Kay He Mar Heart on 04/28/11 at 11:48 AM ET

Add a Comment

Please limit embedded image or media size to 575 pixels wide.

Add your own avatar by joining Kukla's Korner, or logging in and uploading one in your member control panel.

Captchas bug you? Join KK or log in and you won't have to bother.

Smileys

Notify me of follow-up comments?

Feed

Most Recent Blog Posts

About The Puck Stops Here

imageThe Puck Stops Here was founded during the 2004/05 lockout as a place to rant about hockey. The original site contains over 1000 posts, some of which were also published on FoxSports.com.

Who am I? A diehard hockey fan.

Why am I blogging? I want to.

Why are you reading it? ???

Email: y2kfhl@hotmail.com