The NHL season is finally upon us, and every writer and pundit worth their salt is making their picks as to who will hoist the Stanley Cup next June.
Unfortunately, all those worthy writers are busy with other things, so you’re stuck with our picks for the NHL playoffs next spring.
Eastern Conference First Round:
Pittsburgh over Philadelphia
Columbus over Washington
Tampa Bay over New York Islanders
Montreal over Boston
No real surprises here, other than we have the Canadiens knocking off the Bruins. A couple of those series could turn out to be real doozies, as the Penguins and Flyers loathe each other the way the Bruins and Canadiens do. The Lightning and Islanders will showcase some of the best young talent in the NHL, but we have the Bolts knocking the Isles off.
Western Conference First Round:
Anaheim over San Jose
Los Angeles over Minnesota
Chicago over Dallas
St. Louis over Colorado
No upsets on the Western Conference end for our first round, but the Stars could certainly give the Blackhawks fits, and the Avalanche could do the same for the Blues. It’s just really hard to pick against the top four teams in the conference, so we went with the coward’s way out and didn’t.
Eastern Conference Second Round:
Pittsburgh over Columbus
Montreal over Tampa Bay
We have our first big upset of the playoffs so far with the Habs knocking off the Bolts. Plenty of experts have picked the Lightning to reach the Stanley Cup Final, or even to win it, this year, but we’re gambling on Carey Price stepping up in a big way. The other series wasn’t as close in our eyes, but the Blue Jackets are an up-and-coming team that could pull an upset if they get a great series out of Ryan Johansen and Sergei Bobrovsky.
Western Conference Second Round:
Los Angeles over Anaheim
Chicago over St. Louis
For the third year in a row, we’re predicting that the Western Conference Final will feature the Blackhawks and the Kings. Los Angeles is simply too strong in all facets of the game, and the Ducks, while improved over last year, still won’t have enough. As for the Hawks, the questions about their defensive depth won’t be as pertinent come playoff time, and with the loads of experience they have in all phases of the game, they should be able to outlast St. Louis.
Montreal over Pittsburgh
Chicago over Los Angeles
In another surprise, we’re picking Montreal to win the Prince of Wales Trophy over the favored Penguins. Both teams move the puck well, so we should see a fascinating battle. As for the Blackhawks, the Kings are always going to be a really tough team to play against, but we’ll bet that the Hawks will have what it takes to avenge last season’s Game 7 defeat.
Stanley Cup Final:
Chicago over Montreal
Breaking news: Blackhawks blog picks Blackhawks to win the Stanley Cup. It’s hardly an original thought, and plenty of commentators are picking the Hawks to win their third championship in six seasons, but the evidence is there to support the claim. The team bolstered their center depth with Brad Richards, still have arguably the best 1-2 punch in terms of defensive pairings, and their special teams’ play is a huge asset. The Canadiens are a good team, but it’s hard to see them beating Chicago in a seven game series.