My preseason Final Four predictions for the National Hockey League are an impossibility thanks to the state of Pennsylvania, but that doesn’t change the pivotal nature of the Pittsburgh v. Philadelphia first-round series. Here are my NHL Playoff predictions.
NYR over OTT in six games — The Rangers sat atop the league’s toughest division in years, so why do I feel the need to disqualify the accomplishment? Perhaps because they are not much deeper than King Henrik, the best goaltender in hockey.
WSH over BOS in five games — The Bruins believe they’ll be able to turn it on quite quickly. I think they’ll find that switch nearly impossible to flick with Alexander Ovechkin working with a healthier roster.
NJ over FLA in five games — Student, meet teacher. Shut Down City over South Beach. New Jersey shoots a sneaky-best 9.6% and sits in the top-third in goals against.
PIT over PHI in six games — If Sidney Crosby stays healthy, the Pens are the best No. 4 seed since the current playoff format began. And oh, he’s their No. 2 center right now.
VAN over LA in five games — The Kings have good goaltending, but forgive me for not buying a Carter/Richards combo for Tinsel Town.
SJ over STL in six games — WGR’s Paul Hamilton famously calls the playoffs a process. I’m a big fan of Brian Elliott, but I like San Jose here.
CHI over PHX in seven games — The Coyotes have a handful of problems in Chi-town. Phoenix will struggle to keep Mike Smith standing between the pipes.
DET over NSH in six games — Pekka Rinne is a really nice netminder and the Red Wings really struggled after their record-home run. Still, if there is a team equipped to flip the proverbial switch, it’s Motor City.
WSH over NYR in six games — Ovechtrick? Not quite, but I expect a strong run from the Capitals. Fans should feel the same way about them as if the Sabres grabbed one of those last spots.
PIT over NJ in seven games — Ultimately, Crosby & Malkin will crack the Devils system.
VAN over SJ in seven games — This should officially give NHL fans a reason to treat San Jose as a fan base and franchise deserving of a Cup. Maybe Thornton will miss a series-winner to boot.
DET over CHI in six games — Because Euros are too soft, right?
DET over VAN in seven games — It would be funny if lack of center depth did Vancouver.
PIT over WSH in six games — Because the playoffs aren’t complete until Sid gets over on A.O.
Stanley Cup Finals
PIT over DET in seven games — The rubber series goes to the young guys as Marc-Andre Fleury is the difference over Jimmy Howard. Honestly, my mind wants to pick the Wings, but while I only nailed four of eight EC playoff teams in my preseason predictions, I had the Pens over Wings. Sticking with it.