by PuckStopsHere on 04/30/13 at 01:39 AM ET
The Stanley Cup playoffs are upon us after a shortened season. The shortened season has been somewhat unpredictable. Random chance has shuffled the standings a bit from the way it probably should have been. Random chance is more significant than in normal seasons because it was only 48 games long. The first round of the playoffs will be over in four to seven games so it should be clear that random chance is even more significant now than it was in the regular season and it was clearly visible in the final regular season statistics.
Here are my predictions for the eight first round series:
Pittsburgh Penguins defeat New York Islanders. The Islanders are the playoff team that is most likely to be there. They are the only playoff team that had a losing record at home in the regular season. They don't have what it takes to be a successful playoffs team. Pittsburgh is the most likely team to win the Stanley Cup playoffs. This shouldn't be a close series. Pittsburgh's biggest question mark is the health of Sidney Crosby, their best player, but with or without his presence, the pens should win this series.
Ottawa Senators defeat Montreal Canadiens. Montreal is the division winner with the least talent. Their success in the regular season has been a surprise. Ottawa stayed strong this season despite playing without Erik Karlsson most of the season and Craig Anderson for a large part of the season as well. Those two players are difference makers and if Ottawa was only four wins behind Montreal without them, \I think they can beat them with them playing.
Washington Capitals defeat New York Rangers. Washington had a slow start but they caught fire in the end of the season. Alexander Ovechkin was the best player in the league for the last few weeks and that will be extremely hard to stop. Nicklas Backstrom and Mike Ribiero provide offensive depth that should make the Washington offence hard to stop. If anyone can stop it, Henrik Lundqvist in the Rangers goal is the man, but I think Washington with a hot Ovechkin will prove too much to handle.
Boston Bruins defeat Toronto Maple Leafs. Toronto is happy to be in the playoffs for the first time since 2004. Boston is two years removed from their last victory. They have much bigger expectations and will play with better poise. Boston's goaltending and defence should be too much for Toronto to succeed against.
Chicago Blackhawks defeat Minnesota Wild. Chicago may be the best team in the league. If Crosby is not 100%, they become the team to beat. Minnesota is an improved team with Zach Parise and Ryan Suter but they are a borderline playoff team at this point. Chicago should have little trouble winning.
Detroit Red Wings defeat Anaheim Ducks. Anaheim was a surprise division winner after a strong start. They slowed down in the second half of the season. Detroit has the better offensive stars in Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg. Their question mark is their defence with Nicklas Lidstrom's retirement, but it's no worse than Anaheim's defence. I think Detroit should survive here.
Vancouver Canucks defeat San Jose Sharks. Vancouver was a two-time Presidents Trophy winner before this season. The loss of Ryan Kesler to injury kept them back from that level this year, but Kesler is back for the playoffs. San Jose has been consistently a good team in the past few years but they have not been able to match Vancouver's success and they shouldn't be able to start doing it in a playoff series.
Los Angeles Kings defeat St Louis Blues. Los Angeles is the defending Stanley Cup champions. They had a bit of a hangover at the beginning of the year and are a better team than their record would show. St Louis doesn't have the same level of frontline talent as the Kings have and that should keep them short in this series.
More than likely a few of these series will end in upsets that go against my predictions. That is the nature of short playoff series. It is why we watch the games.
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