by PuckStopsHere on 04/09/12 at 03:19 PM ET
It is time to make my first round playoff predictions. Before doing so I want to explain a bit about predictions in hockey. In the regular season, I have never seen anyone capable of predicting the winner in as many as 60% of the games in the season. If we take that number as a theoretical limit for the maximum number of correct predictions one can make by picking the team that is most likely to win each night, then we can conclude that 20% of the time the winning team in a game is the team that is the better team. The other 80% of the time the game is decided by random luck. Either team has an equal chance of winning when a game comes down to random luck. 40% of the time the favorite wins by luck and 40% of the time the underdog wins by luck. One in five games is decided based on the talent of the better team. In the playoffs the worst teams are gone, so the difference in talent between the best and worst playoff teams is smaller. Thus any playoff predictions are a crapshoot. With that said, here we go:
New York Rangers defeat Ottawa Senators On many levels Ottawa is happy just to have made the playoffs. Nobody predicted that. They were supposed to be a bottom feeder. The Rangers are the better team. The biggest difference is in goal where Henrik Lundqvist is head and shoulders above Craig Anderson.
Boston Bruins defeat Washington Capitals Washington is an offensively powerful team for a low seed. If Alexander Ovechkin, Mike Green, Nicklas Backstrom and Alexander Semin (or a significant portion of these stars) get hot they could push the Stanley Cup champions to the limit. The biggest difference is in goal. Washington will be without Tomas Vokoun and Michal Neuvirth is questionable to start the series. There is a big difference between Tim Thomas and Braden Holtby.
New Jersey Devils defeat Florida Panthers This is a series of two teams that under most circumstances would likely be first round fodder for a better team but since they are matched up against one another, one must survive to the second round. I see Florida as the weakest team that made the playoffs. They are in third seed because they come from the weak Southeast Division, which they overachieved a bit to win. New Jersey won ten more games than Florida in the regular season. They are a better team.
Pittsburgh Penguins defeat Philadelphia Flyers The Pens offence is flying on all cylinders with Sidney Crosby and Kris Letang back from injury to join Evgeni Malkin and James Neal. Philadelphia will be a tough first round opponent and the battle of Pennsylvania will be a nice first round story, but they cannot match the Pens offence even with Claude Giroux who finished third in the league in scoring (though he slowed down in the second half).
Vancouver Canucks defeat Los Angeles Kings Many fans think Vancouver has underachieved in the last couple years despite winning the Presidents Trophy twice and going to game seven in the Stanley Cup finals. That is a sign of a very talented team. Los Angeles is the lowest scoring team to make the playoffs and as such should be an ideal first round opponent to get the Canucks started. Roberto Luongo is a top goalie who has been questioned by much of the media and their fanbase. A good series against the Kings could get him set for a strong playoff run.
San Jose Sharks defeat St Louis Blues Before the season if I told you San Jose and St Louis were meeting in the first round; you would have assumed San Jose had home ice advantage. St Louis overachieved in their regular season and San Jose underachieved. The Sharks have more top offensive weapons led by Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau and a deeper defence with Dan Boyle and Brent Burns. This may be seen as a mild upset after the regular season but San Jose is the more talented team.
Chicago Blackhawks defeat Phoenix Coyotes Phoenix earned the third seed by winning the weak Pacific Division. Chicago has the better frontline talent with Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa and Duncan Keith as the best three position players likely to play in this series. Jonathan Toews is still questionable for the Hawks, but if he is healthy it further increases the Hawks chances.
Detroit Red Wings defeat Nashville Predators This may be the closest first round series from a talent perspective. Detroit had some problems down the stretch run with Nicklas Lidstrom and Pavel Datsyuk suffering injuries. They are back and the Wings should be firing on all cylinders again. Nashville has a strong defence led by Shea Weber and Ryan Suter but they don’t the offensive players to match the Wings forwards. Alexander Radulov will be an interesting story as he is back from the KHL, but i don’t think he is a difference maker.
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