Picking the winners of the Stanley Cup playoff series is somewhat of a fool’s errand (unless you’re Dave Lozo, who has gone a perfect 12-for-12 thus far after allegedly making a deal with the devil), but for us here at Madhouse Enforcer, it’s been an all-or-nothing affair.
In the first round of the postseason, we nailed four series exactly correctly (correct team, correct number of games) and also picked the winner of the Montreal-Tampa Bay series, albeit in the wrong number of games. In the last three series to conclude however, we missed on all three, as the Los Angeles Kings, Colorado Avalanche, and New York Rangers all made us look silly.
As the second round got underway, we got off to a good start once again. The Rangers ended up winning their series in seven games, and the Chicago Blackhawks won in six games over the Minnesota Wild, making us a perfect 2-for-2. Then the Montreal Canadiens upset the Boston Bruins (who were also our pick as Stanley Cup champions before the season started), and even though the Kings saved us by beating the Ducks, we are a mere 8-4 through 12 playoff series.
Unfortunately for us, the NHL schedule-makers have not given us ample time to lick our wounds, and the conference final series will be kicking off this weekend. Without further adieu, here are our picks to advance to the Stanley Cup Final.
Montreal Over New York, Seven Games
In a battle between teams with red hot goaltenders, we are predicting that this series will go the distance, but we are going with the Habs for a few reasons. For starters, their offense is a speedy pain in the rear for any team to deal with, and the Rangers may have a tough time keeping up with guys like Brian Gionta and Thomas Vanek as they fly up and down the ice.
There is also the fact that they happen to have arguably the best blue liner in the game today with PK Subban manning the point for them. He put on an offensive clinic against the Bruins as the Canadiens scored the upset, and he could be a big difference-maker as they attempt to reach their first Stanley Cup Final since they won the championship in 1993.
The goaltending matchup between the two teams is essentially a wash, with both Henrik Lundqvist and Carey Price playing some of the best hockey of their careers. We aren’t picking the series based on that, but if one of them gets hot, we could either look like geniuses or complete idiots.
Chicago Over Los Angeles, Six Games
Just like in the last round against the Wild, we believe that the Blackhawks will be in for a much tougher challenge than they were last season against the Kings. Los Angeles has added a key weapon to their offense in Marian Gaborik, and along with Jeff Carter and Anze Kopitar he creates some match-up questions for the Blackhawks.
Fortunately for Chicago, they have been through this wringer before, and they know what it takes to get it done. Corey Crawford has been on top of his game lately, and with players like Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa both having excellent postseasons thus far, the Blackhawks will have plenty of scoring throughout their lineup to give them a great chance to win.
Ultimately, this series will come down to how well the two teams adapt to the other’s strategy. The Kings are going to do everything they can to clog up the neutral zone and slow down the Hawks’ transition game, but with defensemen like Niklas Hjalmarsson and Duncan Keith that are capable of moving the puck up the ice quickly, the Blackhawks have the offensive talent to overcome that obstacle.