Stanley Cup Playoff Predictions: First Round

It is time! The 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs begin tonight, so it’s time to reveal our predictions for the first round. These picks can been seen and compared against the rest of the staff at The Fourth Period.

Eastern Conference

Boston over Detroit in 7
Why – Boston might be the best team in the NHL this year, but Detroit’s been playing well and might be getting healthy at the right time. The Wings gave the Hawks all they could handle last year, and could do the same against the Bruins this time around.

Montreal over Tampa in 5
Why – lots of folks are piling on the Tampa bandwagon, and they have certainly earned respect. But Carey Price is playing too well and the addition of Thomas Vanek has taken some of the offensive pressure off Max Pacioretty.

Pittsburgh over Columbus in 6
Why – Columbus taking the series to six games would be the best postseason performance in franchise history. This is a series where, on paper, the matchups favor Pittsburgh almost across the board – except in net. If Marc-Andre Fleury falls apart again, the Jackets could advance.

NY Rangers over Philadelphia in 5
Why – like the Montreal-Tampa series, this series has most fans and analysts split. If you look at my pick for series MVP at TFP, though, I believe Martin St. Louis will explode out of his funk and have a strong series against the Flyers. Why only five games? I don’t trust either goaltender in Philly.

Western Conference

Dallas over Anaheim in 7
Why – Tyler Seguin brought a Boston-size dose of swagger to Dallas, and the Stars might be young and naïve enough to not know they’re supposed to lose this series. Add to that the questions that exist between the three goaltenders the Ducks could play in the series, and I think Dallas has a shot at the upset.

Los Angeles over San Jose in 6
Why – can we agree that the Sharks disappointing in the playoffs has become an annual rite of passage? The Sharks have Tomas Hertl back, and Joe Pavelski had a magnificent season, but they also have issues in net and LA has experience on their side. This will be a great, physical series with the better defensive team coming out on top.

Colorado over Minnesota in 5
Why – the Avs might not have Matt Duchene for the first round, but they have too much depth for the Wild. Minnesota will need Ilya Bryzgalov to stand on his head for this series to go the distance.

Chicago over St. Louis in 5
Why – as we wrote a couple of days ago, the difference in this series will likely come in net, and Corey Crawford has been the better of the two goaltenders over the last month. If – a huge if – both teams are physically ready to go on Thursday night, this will be a nasty series between two teams that legitimately don’t like each other. But the Hawks’ depth will serve them well in a war of attrition.

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30 Responses to Stanley Cup Playoff Predictions: First Round

  1. Peter says:

    Tab, I wait for and put more weight on your picks than any other person in the business!

  2. Tim G says:

    Bos-5: While Detroit is getting healthy, I just dont see Boston losing at home. The wings will give a dog fight every night, but Boston WILL get one on the road and close out early.

    Mon-6 – I would almost go 5, but TB does have a very loud and loyal group down there. While small, i expect them to turn out well , and TB plays well when they get the home juices flowing. Montreal will take it back to canada and close out at home. Price/Pac/Vanek will be too much in the end.

    Pit-5 – Sweeps are just too rare to call… so i’ll go with 5 here. Tab, did allude to if M-AF falls apart Cbus can make this interesting, but it looks like Malkin might be back sooner than later, so im leaning towards 5 games.

    NYR-7- I agree with St. Louis being the difference maker here, but Philly is always pesky this time of year.

    ANA-6- This is one i hope on wrong with. If dallas wins it will have nothing to do with offense. Lehtonen will need to be Conn Smyth worthy, but i think the Ducks come through

    SJ-6- The only series i disagree with Tab. This will be the best series of the first round as a whole. Every game should be entertaining. I think the Sharks will get through one round before their yearly implode…

    COL-7- The wild will make it interesting for sure. I think Bryz finds some mojo for a few games, but Colorado should know they have nothing to lose. The weren’t expected to be here and they will let it all hang out. they survive.

    HAWKS-6 – I already said i could see 5 here, but i’m going on the record for 6. While he hasn’t been sharp of late, i just dont see Miller losing 4 of 5. maybe if 19/88 are TRUELY 100% and ready to go. Im a betting man, and if im betting the series, im taking over 5.5 games in a rivalry like this.

  3. Negzz says:

    So… the most important question for all us Hawks fan prognosticators is who will win OUR series, so I’ll start with that:

    1. Hawks in 7: Unfortunately, the Blues push us to 7 and deliver a physical pounding in the process. Toews is likely not yet fully healed and Backes will hammer him in StL early, likely taking 19 out of his game. Regardless, Miller is faltering and Hawks speed will ultimately prevail on the road to clinch this series, as Blues choke under the weight of the media’s expectations. We pull thru but pay the price as we head into round 2 a bit battered.

    The others:
    * Ducks 4-1 over Dal (the far better team prevails)
    * Sharks win 4-3 over Kings (they’re due and ready)
    * Avs over Minny 4-2 (tougher matchup than Col thinks)
    * Pens 4-2 over BJ’s (grinder, but no contest)
    * Flyers beat playoff choking Rangers 4-2 (Philly is dangerous right now)
    * Lightning eliminate Habs in 7 (Lindback fills Bishop’s shoes in this series)
    * Bruins move on 4-2 over Wings.. (no problemo)

  4. Dickie Dunn says:

    Tab, I believe you nailed it.

    I think Detroit could shock Boston if Howard plays his best. I hope the Hawks can get thru in just five games. Backes is a real DICK.

  5. AJ says:

    Um I still say sweep for the Hawks. Not to be redundant though crazy things can happen which is why PLAYOFFS!!!!!!!!!!!

    So exciting.

    Weird Handzus is playing. I mean come on man. Is there a certain amount of playoff appearances you need to make to get name on the Cup or is it regular season only because this is perplexing.

    Move the Garbage Man / Fire Hydrant (Smith) up and toss Regin and JMO out there with Kooga. Bing Bang Boom. Killing for fun.

  6. Mike says:

    Negzz I think you are right about Backes hitting Toews as often as he can. Wall’s post yesterday with a top line of 23/19/20 scares me. Saad is strong but not really a physical player. Versteeg has never been one to hit anything really. That leaves the Captain with little protection. 29, as much as I hate to say it, needs to play some top line minutes.

  7. Rufus T. Firefly says:

    Blues are deep and are getting guys back. They will being highly physical in this series when they need to be too. Hawks must play smart and live to play the next game if the wheels come off in any one game. Must win one game in St Louis to open up this thing. That is the imperative. To underestimate Miller in this series in a fool’s exercise. With that defense he could stone even a hi powered offense. Key will be diversified shots on net. And net presence even when it means paying a heavy price in pain.

  8. Mike says:

    My lines for the StL series (One can dream)
    29 / 19 / 88
    10 / 65 / 81
    20 / 12 / 23
    11 / 16 / 28

  9. Tim G says:

    If only, mike… lol

    The word over on hockeybuzz was that the lines are the same from yesterday…

    20/19/23
    10/26/81
    29/65/88
    52/16/28

  10. goldenbladz says:

    Is Handzus a son in law to Q as he seems to get a lot of love. This is not the best lineup that Chicago can ice. I still think the Hawks win but seriously you go with your BEST always!!!

  11. Dickie Dunn says:

    Ken Hitchcock says that his team can’t afford to be overly aggressive…”This is a team we’re going to play, if we think we’re going to go out in a seek and destroy mission, like both teams did with LA and us last year, this team will just laugh at you. They’ve had people been running at them for five years; they know how to deal with it. From our standpoint, we have to play the game the right way and hope for good results. But going out and thinking we’re going to intimidate the Chicago Blackhawks is nuts. They’ve seen all of that before and they just play right through it.” (St.L Post-Dispatch)

  12. AJ says:

    “I think the most important thing is to try to play our game and try not to be anyone else. We’re not going to try to go up against them and try to play like the St. Louis Blues or the L.A. Kings. That’s not the way we play around here. Obviously we want to be physical when we get a chance, especially on their top guys. And play hard. If we meet it, great, but the most important thing is to try and score more goals than them.”
    ~Kane

    Which is really what it comes down to.

  13. Negzz says:

    Mike- I like your lines, particularly including Bickell on line with Toews and/or Kane. Worked last year and 19 is going to need protection and someone to pay the price in front of net. As for my preferences, I also would want 52 on L4 with 16/28 as they’re an effective dangerous group. As for Morin, I’d rotate him with 23 and see who shows up more frequently. As is the case with most of us, sitting Zues most nights would be the plan..

    DD- Hitchcock says the right thing there, but speculate that will not stop the cheapshots or the pounding from happening. Just hope we do not lose a key piece in the series and we get through both victorious and reasonably healthy..

  14. Mike says:

    I have no problem with 52 in the line up. He has earned it (most nights). 11 and 23 duking it out to see who responds is a great idea. Same should go with 12, 42 and 26. BUT does anyone know if 11, 12 and /or 42 are even on the roster?

    If I understand the roster stands at 23 just like regular season. That roster stands unless a player is injured. We know who 20 of them are gonna be, so who are the other 3? Hopefully 2 forwards and a D man in the press box each night.

  15. Dickie Dunn says:

    Mike, Brookbank, Morin, and Regin?

  16. Tab Bamford says:

    As posted on another topic – Here’s the latest from the Blues’ Wednesday practice:
    STL lines today:
    29-20-42
    9-17-91
    10-12-75
    32-40-79
    D
    19-27
    5-22
    33-46

    Tarasenko skated today, looked fine, skated on the first PP unit. Backes and Sobotka skated today. Oshie & Berglund did not.

    STL PP units (w/out Oshie):
    9-17-42-20-22
    12-10-91-19-27

  17. morrison says:

    I think we will have the centers move around when needed/want. Q said something like that today. So, Bicks and Kaner & Sharpy and Hoss will be with Tazer at times. Its really smart because its only a couple of guys in different spot, not the half the fw.

    I like how we always have those weapons (29-19-88) to use mid-way in a series. It takes us to another level and last year LOS and BOS couldn’t match it when we did it. If we did it to start each round, then its not a surprise/weapon like it is.

  18. Rufus T. Firefly says:

    So incredibly tired of the idiot brigade ripping the mix of 12 forwards that Q puts on the ice. The man knows what he is doing. This isn’t fantasy hockey boys and girls. Handzus helped this team to a Cup last year. Bollig has been a quality role player all damned season. I’m sorry if that doesn’t align with several moron’s view of who should lace up the skates each game.

  19. ebonyraptor says:

    Well it was a fun few days of laughing at the Blues misfortunes, but all of a sudden the puck hits the ice tomorrow and it looks like the Blues injury report isn’t as bad for them as we thought. Getting Tarasenko back for the first game has to raise their spirits and that more than anything could get them out of the tailspin they’ve been in.

    Whereas a few days ago I had very little doubt the Hawks would win, now there’s some doubt creeping in. I still think the Hawks have the better A game than the Blues but there’s no guarantee they can summon up that A game for 60 minutes, let alone 60 minutes times 4 games.

    I like that the Hawks are starting on the road – actually to put it a better way – I like that the Blues will have the pressure of being the home team for Game#1. I think more than any other series, it is crucial for the Blues to grab momentum as the home team because if they don’t win the first game the monkey that jumped on their back during the 6-game losing streak will feel like he’s been joining Hitchcock at the buffet table. On the other hand, if the Blues grab Game#1, than all that negativity is forgotten and they play with renewed confidence.

    I still like the Hawks to win the series though. I’ll say they finish off the series at home in Game#6 with a 4-2 win.

  20. AJ says:

    Q came very close to losing to Detroit last year getting cute with his line up and tried to do it again with Boston instead of going with what consistently worked. It has been demonstrated quite clearly that Handzus does not have much left in the tank and there are better options than Bollig on the roster in terms of both skill and statistics.

    Pretty incredible opportunity to repeat and the best players need to be on the ice to accomplish that.

  21. goldenbladz says:

    Rufus you need anger management man. Just because Handzus was on the SC winning team last year doesn’t give him an automatic spot again. If thats the case bring back John Madden. Q is a great coach but all coachs can be stubborn and even make mistakes. They are human. What Morin did at the end of the season is worth exploring and everyone in the hockey world took notice.

  22. Tim G says:

    T-Minus 12 hours…. Let’s get it Hawks.

  23. Mike says:

    RTF…..WTF….This is a blog, not a management meeting. We like to read opinions. Most of us know what Q WILL do. The entertainment here is to speculate what could be. So calm down and have fun with it. In the end Tab will keep us straight

  24. John Wangsauce says:

    I guess RTF would prefer that commenting is not allowed unless it’s “I agree with Q.” That’d make for a pretty boring board!

    We’ll see whose right about the lineup tomorrow morning!

  25. John Wangsauce says:

    *Who’s….ooops

  26. Cam says:

    Here are my lines for tonight:

    RTF-RTF-RTF
    RTF-RTF-RTF
    RTF-RTF-RTF
    RTF-RTF-RTF

    Let’s go Hawks!

  27. Tim G says:

    While we know Zus and Steeger will be in, but I do feel Morin has played his way into the cat bird seat.

    In all honesty, if we dont lose game, the roster from practice will stay together. If we go down 0-2, then i think Morin gets his shot over Bollig. Regin/Nordstrom wont get in unless there is an injury or someone just completly S*****g the bed on top of being down in the series.

  28. AJ says:

    JS is apparently blocked, can someone please help him out

  29. Tab Bamford says:

    Blues lines at morning skate:
    Ott-Backes-Steen
    Schwartz-Sobotka-Tarasenko
    Morrow-Roy-Reaves
    Porter-Lapierre-Cracknell

    Defensive pairings:
    Bouw-Pietrangelo
    Jackman-Shattenkirk
    Leopold-Polak

  30. Mike says:

    StL not as wounded as we might have thought, so much the better. Not many holes in that line up. Hawks better come in with speed and tenacity. Go Hawks

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