I had 3 good predictions out of 4 in the 2nd round so I now sit at a 66.67% rate (8 good predictions out of 12). We're in the final four and both matchups should be long. Here's my predictions for the Conference finals.
In the East, both the New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Lightning came out of their series in a lot of matches. The Rangers definitely have the advantage in the defensive side of things and usually it's that part of the game that makes the difference. However, I love the Lightning and their depth on offense. They arguably have the best second line in hockey with Kucherov, Johnson and Palat. If Steven Stamkos can give them some clutch goals (he obviously played injured against the Habs) and if Ben Bishop stays sharp, I think they can cause a surprise. The Capitals are a lot like the Lightning and the Rangers had to win it in OT in the seventh game so I believe it's possible for the Lightning to win it.
On the other side, both the Anaheim Ducks and the Chicago Blackhawks came out of the 2nd round with relative ease. They will be fresh and it will be a hard fought battle, that's for sure. I believe that the window for the Blackhawks is closing with the bad contracts they gave to Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews so if they have to win it, this year is their best bet. However the Ducks are a well oiled hockey team. I love their depth on defense. They have the perfect centerman for the playoffs in Ryan Getzlaf and their goalie Frederik Andersen seems in his zone. At that time of the year, offense generated by defensemen can make the difference and the Ducks have a lot of gifted D in that regard. It will be a long series but the Californian based team will win it when it's all said and done.
New York Rangers vs Tampa Bay
Anaheim vs Chicago
With a 62.5% success rate (5 good predictions out of 8) in the first round, I'm still above the 50% mark. The second round seems really hard to predict each and every year and it doesn't seem to change this time around.
In the East, I believe that the Capitals have all the tools to go with an upset against the Rangers. Washington has a much better D this year and I like the balance in their forward group. They will probably need to use four lines and all of their defensemen to keep the pace since they won in 7 against the Islanders. The Rangers do have a well-built team but I'm going with the underdogs in this one.
In the other matchup, Tampa Bay was barely able to beat the Detroit Red Wings yesterday and they'll play tomorrow. Montreal needs to win the first match to take advantage of this fact. However, Jon Cooper's team was really good against the Habs this year. The Lightning will probably be able to score more goals than Ottawa since they have more firepower upfront. If Tampa Bay defence doesn't allow too many chances to Montreal, they should come on top.
Anaheim was able to finish the Jets in four matches and they will be fresh against the Calgary Flames. I do like how Bob Hartley is able to make his team compete but the Ducks are a much better team than the Canucks. The cinderella story of the Flames will vanish in this round.
In what I believe will be the best series in this round, the Blackhawks will square off against the Wild. I thought that the Blues would go a lot farther this year but the Wild played a good style against them. I also believe that the Blackhawks window to win the Stanley Cup is shutting down but in this year playoffs, I have to take Chicago. It should go in six or seven games.
New York Rangers vs Washington
Montreal vs Tampa Bay
Anaheim vs Calgary
Chicago vs Minnesota
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.