The best time of the year to love hockey starts this week with the NHL playoffs. As usual, I'll do my best to try to predict the winner of every rounds. Last year I got a 60% success rate (9 good predictions out of 15) while in 2013 I had a score of 80%. Let's get started!
With their Presidents' trophy, the New York Rangers enter the playoffs with a lot of confidence. I surely didn't think the Pittsburgh Penguins would be in such a bad spot at this time of the year when the season started. They barely made the playoffs because of many factors. The biggest one is the fact that their depth is thin besides Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. If the way the Pens played in the last couple of weeks is any indication of things to come, I can't pick them to win many games comes playoff time. The Rangers will win.
The matchup between the Capitals and the Islanders should be a good one. John Tavares is now a complete leader for his team and is amongst the best players in the whole league. Garth Snow shut many mouths with his moves this year as he was able to put a very competitive team on the ice. However I love the way the Caps played this year under Barry Trotz. Alex Ovechkin had an awesome season and their depth at defence has never been better for as long as I can remember. I also believe that Braden Holtby is a more complete goaltender than Jaroslav Halak. I pick the Capitals to triumph.
I don't think there's a better offensive team in the East than the Tampa Bay Lightning. Their depth is scary. Last year was a fluke with the injury of Ben Bishop. Victor Hedman is a sleeper and is in my mind in the top-10 defensemen in the league. Mike Babcock is the center of many rumours and he'll probably want to leave the Red Wings organisation on a high note but unfortunately for him he doesn't have the elements to compete against the Lightning.
In February many people would have called you a crazy person if you told them that the Senators would be in the playoff picture. They are and nobody wants them to fail. The task will be huge against the Canadiens, especially with Carey Price who's the backbone of this organisation. If Andrew Hammond continues his stellar play, that matchup could be a classic. I'll pick the Sens but it's not a rational choice.
St. Louis against Minnesota will be a long, long series. As an Edmonton Oilers fan, I don't know how to feel about Devan Dubnyk's successes. I'm happy for him but he always remind me of how much my beloved team struggles to develop their own draft choices in their organisation. One of my biggest factor in evaluating the playoffs is the depth of a team. The Blues have arguably the biggest depth of the playoff entries this year and therefore should win against the Wild but that's not a bet I'd make with money on the line.
Even if Barry Trotz made a big job with the Capitals this year, his departure from the Predators was a blessing because they had to reinvent themselves and it paid off. Their defence is still unparalleled and with Pekka Rinne on top, it's hard to argue that they have a good chance to go far. However they have to face the Chicago Blackhawks, a well oiled team comes this time of the year. Rinne will probably steals a couple of games but I doubt the Hawks will lose four games in a best-of-seven format.
The Ducks were good all-year long and have probably the greatest pair of forwards in the West with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. Winnipeg fans will explode this year and that factor alone will probably make the Jets with a game or two at home. Anaheim is the safest choice but my heart can't go against the Jets so therefore my pick goes to Manitoba's team.
In the second all-Canadian matchup the Canucks will square-off against the Calgary Flames. Both teams had surprising seasons and fully deserve their playoff birth. The Canucks have more experience in the playoffs and that's something to take into consideration for the first game. However I'd like to see Johnny Gaudreau plays as much as possible and Bob Hartley is the kind of coach to get the best of his players. This matchup will go to 6 or 7 games and I pick the cinderella Flames to come on top.
New York Rangers vs Pittsburgh
Washington vs New York Islanders
Tampa Bay vs Detroit
Montreal vs Ottawa
St. Louis vs Minnesota
Nashville vs Chicago
Anaheim vs Winnipeg
Vancouver vs Calgary
Even tought the Philadelphia Flyers entered the NHL in 1967, they had very conservative and classic designs throughtout their history. I believe that the Flyers are one of the rare team who can have a design with only one logo. Their main logo never changed and it's a good thing.
I went with a very classic design for them. In the 1990's, they introduced a black design of their main template and went that way other times in the 2000's. I went in the same route. Their design is based on the very first jerseys they had but with some minor twists. The additionnal stripe at the bottom was added to symbolize their two Stanley Cups and to add more details to an otherwise minimalist design.
I wasn't satisfied with the look of my first version for the Calgary Flames. I think they deserve a more classic look than what I did. This time around, I didn't change their iconic logo since it's still a great branding. However, I deleted black completely from their color scheme. By doing that, the look is more straightforward. The home and away jerseys are based on their first historic jerseys of the 80s. I added some outlines to the logo and bars to give it a more modern twist. The font I used is the same as the font the Flames introduced for their 3rd jersey in the 2013-2014 season as is the shoulder logo.
For the 3rd jersey, I went in the same direction as the Flames did in the 2011 Winters Classic but with some minor changes. This jersey is based on the Calgary Tigers one, the first professional team to compete for the Stanley Cup in the 1920s.
I was wrong all along in the last round so you can definitely stop reading my Stanley Cup finals predictions right away! My rating in these 2014 playoffs is now at 57,14% (8 out of 14). I won't beat my 2013 rating of 80%, that's for sure.
Gary Bettman is probably the happiest man on the planet right now. He has a finals with the two biggest cities in his league. Now, will we have a show or will it be a blend matchup? I believe that the Kings will win this thing, but to do so they'll have to do it quick. They played 7 game series since the beginning of their journey and the health of their top guys will suffer in a matter of time. The Rangers didn't have it easy either so I might be completely wrong by believing it could be an issue for L.A. in the long run.
From top to bottom, I think that the Kings have a better team. Sure, Henrik Lundqvist might steal a game or two, but I can't see the Kings losing four games to New York. The Kings will beat the king.
Los Angeles vs New York
We're down to four teams in the NHL playoffs. In the last round, I predicted correctly the matchups in the west but got completely wrong in the east. I now sit at a 66,67% rate (8 out of 12 rounds).
Both matchups are very hard to predict, which is normal at this stage of the playoffs. In the east, both teams seem fired up for different reasons. The Rangers got behind Martin St-Louis whit the tragic loss of his mother. On the other end, the Canadiens got rid of their arch rivals and arguably the best team in the NHL. The Rangers don't have much success in the Bell Centre and that arena will be way louder than normal. New York came from two 7 matches series and that might be a factor down the road. Once again, we'll have a great goaltending matchup. I'll give the advantage to the Habs in this one because they have the home-ice advantage and if it goes a long way, I believe they're in better shape.
On the other side of the continent, the Kings won easily their 7th game versus the Ducks. However, in each of their series, they had many brain cramps and when you play with fire, you eventually get burn. Both teams had many success in the playoffs in recent memory and the fans should be excited about this matchup. The Blackhawks have a well balanced team and also have the firepower to mess with the Kings defensive core. I prefer Jonathan Quick to Corey Crawford however. Once again, it will be a close one but I'll give the edge to the Hawks and if it's the case, we'll have another orignal six matchup in the Stanley Cup finals!
Montreal vs New York
Chicago vs Los Angeles