2014 NHL Playoff Preview

stanley_cup

It is that time of year again as the NHL regular season is over and only 16 teams will continue to play as the Stanley Cup playoffs begin. This year the playoffs will have a different look though as the NHL moves on with their new system for the first time ever. The NHL would make some massive changes this year in the playoff system when they changed the alignment of the teams. The alignment would give some teams a chance to play where they should have been all along while other teams would see a new set of division opponents. It was a massive change that would see 6 divisions shrunk to 4 while the Eastern Conference would grow to 16 teams while the Western Conference would shrink to 14 teams. With the changes the playoff format would need to be changed as well and the old way of three divisions winners then everyone else was not gone. The new system would see three division leaders be put into the playoffs while the rest of the teams would battle for the Wild Card. In each division the top three teams would find themselves in the top spots of the playoffs while the other two playoff spots would be between the best of the rest. The playoffs would see a much different way of seeding the teams as well as it would no longer be 1 vs. 2 and on down the list. Instead the division winners would earn the right to play the weakest teams in the conference as both division winners would host the wild card teams in the first round of the playoffs. Meanwhile the two other division leaders face off with each other for the first round of the playoffs. This way the first round of the playoffs features some great matchups between division rivals. This also means that the NHL playoffs past the first round will be put into a bracket format that will keep divisions together. Three teams from each division will all be put into the same section of the bracket with the addition of one of the wild card teams. There will be no re-seeding of teams after the first round like in past years as the best from both division will meet in the conference finals to determine the team that will represent the conference in the finals. The new format is an interesting one and one that is sure to provide plenty of fireworks throughout the postseason. With familiar teams facing off against each other in the first two rounds of the playoffs there is sure to be some hate from the regular season that will only build after a potential 7 games against each other. It will give rise to new rivalries from new teams in these divisions while old rivals that remained in the same division will rekindle their rivalries with more important games. It will be an interesting year as the NHL sees the first attempt at this new format and with the matchups set it is already looking like a great year for the playoffs. The first round features plenty of great storylines and rivalries with the next few rounds sure to provide more. After a long grind to this point there are 16 teams awaiting an even longer grind to the playoffs as one of the toughest playoff roads begins now with the 2014 NHL playoffs.

 

Eastern Conference

eastern_conference_logo

The Eastern Conference would see some of the largest changes this year when the Detroit Red Wings and Columbus Blue Jackets were added to the conference. Both teams would look for the change for years especially the Detroit Red Wings who had wanted to move to the East since they were put into the Western Conference. The Red Wings would continue a 23 year playoff streak by clinching a wild card spot this year. It was doubtful that the Red Wings would be able to get into the playoffs when the season started but their youth would lift them up at the right time and push them into the playoffs. They will have to go through a tough road as they will start the playoffs against the best team in the NHL. The Boston Bruins have taken their mix of youth and experience to the top of the league this year and will be looking to continue their run deep into the playoffs. Meanwhile Tampa Bay and Montreal look to fight in what should be a close battle for the other spot in the second round. First Steve Stamkos went down with a broken leg, then captain Martin St. Louis asked for a trade, and Ryan Malone would be arrested before the playoffs. Now the Lightning try to put all of that behind them and prepare for a long playoff run. They will take on the Montreal Canadiens who will be the only Canadian team to make it into the playoffs and are hoping that they can win one for the country and for some of the most passionate fans in the league. The Detroit Red Wings were not the only team to take advantage of their move to a new conference as Columbus Blue Jackets would also clinch a playoff spot but much like the Red Wings would earn it through the wild card. The Blue Jackets will enter their second straight playoffs as they hope that the pieces they have put together can beat a strong team. The Pittsburgh Penguins will be on the other end of the ice and will be trying to get over their past failings in the playoffs. They are a talented group that will be looking to win another Stanley Cup and put their short playoff runs of the past few years behind them. They will be joined by a few familiar faces with the New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers. The Rangers have gone from Stanley Cup favourites to middle of the pack playoff team in the last few years but are trying to show that they still have the talent to win the Stanley Cup. The Flyers are hoping that they can put their recent troubles of short playoffs behind them and finally get back to the finals after years of falling short of their potential. The Eastern Conference has seen plenty of changes but the top teams remain and will fight for the conference title and eventually for the Stanley Cup. Despite the changes in the conference it may very well come down to the old favourites for the conference title as the old guard remains some of the toughest teams in the conference and are sure to be a major factor this year.

 

east_playoffs

 

Prediction

Conference Quarter-Finals:
Boston Bruins 4 – 2 Detroit Red Wings
– Both teams have a great mix of young and veteran talent making this an interesting matchup but the Red Wings will lean too much on their young talent in the series and will be overcome by the best team in hockey this year

Pittsburgh Penguins 4 – 2 Columbus Blue Jackets
– Sergei Bobrovsky will be the reason the Blue Jackets win a couple of games in this series but he will not be able to fend off the powerhouse offence of the Pens and will crumble under the pressure giving the Pens the 5-game series

Montreal Canadiens 4 – 3 Tampa Bay Lightning
– It is a terrible matchup for the Lightning who have a middle of the road special teams while the Canadiens have one of the best specials teams and that will be the difference along with a great performance by Carey Price who will out play Ben Bishop if he returns

New York Rangers 4 – 3 Philadelphia Flyers
– It comes down to the old adage of defence winning championships and with Henrik Lundqvist in net the Rangers have the advantage on this front especially with the issues that the Flyers have on their blueline and in the net

Conference Semi-Finals:
Boston Bruins 4 – 3 Montreal Canadiens
– One of the oldest rivalries in the NHL will take on another chapter when the Canadiens and the Bruins face off in the conference semi-finals in what could be a great series that will end with the more potent offence of the Bruins winning in 7 games

Pittsburgh Penguins 4 – 2 New York Rangers
– The Rangers have a great defence led by their goaltending but that will not be enough to end the constant attack of the Pittsburgh Penguins who will take this series in a commanding 5 games

Conference Finals:
Boston Bruins 4 – 3 Pittsburgh Penguins
– A rematch of last year’s series where the Bruins would sweep the Penguins will once again find the same result but the Pens will provide some better competition forcing 7 games but eventually the Bruins will punch their ticket back to the Stanley Cup finals

 

Western Conference

western_conference_logo

The Western Conference would see two of their teams skip to the other side and that would create an interesting situation for this conference. The East would have 16 total teams trying to take 8 spots in the playoffs while the West would now have 14 teams looking for 8 spots. It would mean that the Western Conference would have a lot less chance of missing the playoffs and for the 2013-14 season it would mean some great races. In the Central Division the race would come down to the final day of the season and a surprise team would take the title. The Colorado Avalanche were the second worst team in 2012-13 and would pick first overall in the draft. They would switch their entire management system and it would work as they would launch themselves to the top of the Central Division. Their young team will have to overcome a lot in the Western Conference if they hope to have a season for the ages. The top of the division would come thanks to the bad seasons of two great teams. The St. Louis Blues were considered the odds on favorite to win the Stanley Cup until they began a slide at the end of the season that put them in second place in the division. The Chicago Blackhawks are the defending champions but struggled to challenge the top teams in the division ending their season in third place. Joining these three teams on the Central bracket will be the fourth place Central Division team in the Minnesota Wild who hung on all year at the #4 spot and come into the playoffs on a hot streak. The Pacific Division race was not much different as they were considered the best division in the NHL and would see plenty of losses among the top teams thanks to the difficulty in the division. The Anaheim Ducks ended the season as the class of the division as they would fight with the Boston Bruins for the President’s Trophy but came up just short. Still they took home the top spot in the division and they would come out on top of the toughest divisions in the NHL making them an early favourite for the Stanley Cup. The San Jose Sharks would be the next best team in the division and are back in the playoffs for another run at the Stanley Cup. The Los Angeles Kings would be the team that was constantly on the outside of the fight for the top of the division but remained in the top three continuing to be a strong team. The Dallas Stars would finish fourth in the division and will squeak into the playoffs after completely rebuilding their team in the offseason as they hope to end the rebuild with a surprise win. The Western Conference was a battle for all involved and now these teams will look to extend that battle towards the playoffs as they all look to march towards the Stanley Cup. It has been a tough fight that will only get tougher as the toughest path to a championship begins again and the West might be some of the best battles of the season.

 

west_playoff

 

Prediction

Conference Quarter-Finals:
Colorado Avalanche 4 – 3 Minnesota Wild
– The Colorado Avalanche are the young guns in the playoffs and they will surprise a lot of people in moving into the second round thanks in large part to the performance of Semyon Varlamov who will outplay countryman Ilya Bryzgalov

Anaheim Ducks 4 – 2 Dallas Stars
– The Stars would handle the Ducks in the regular season winning their season series but this is the playoffs and it is a different beast than the regular season which the Ducks will show the Stars beating them in 5 games

Chicago Blackhawks 4 – 3 St. Louis Blues
– In what could be the best series of the first round the division rivals will face off once again in what promises to be a close battle as the Blackhawks will come out on top thanks to the return of their superstars

San Jose Sharks 4 – 2 Los Angeles Kings
– The Kings are just not the team they used to be and as good as Jonathan Quick can be he will not give the Kings enough time for their struggling offence to win as the sharks will take the win and hope to change their history

Conference Semi-Finals:
Chicago Blackhawks 4 – 3 Colorado Avalanche
– The Avs have had a great run so far and they will definitely give the Blackhawks a battle but in the end it will be the experience of the Blackhawks that will overwhelm the inexperienced Avalanche who will end their great run

San Jose Sharks 4 – 3 Anaheim Ducks
– The Sharks are notorious for blowing up in the playoffs but they are finally not the team that everyone is looking to while the Ducks are that team and despite concerns over their goaltending the Sharks will overcome the top team in the west

Conference Finals:
San Jose Sharks 4 – 3 Chicago Blackhawks
– The Sharks main concern will be goaltending heading into the playoffs but Antii Niemi has a habit of performing in a big way when it matters and he will do just that defeating the Blackhawks who are not the same team that won a year ago

 

2014 Stanley Cup Finals:

boston_bruins

Boston Bruins 4 – 2 San Jose Sharks
The Sharks have been in the position of the Bruins multiple times winning the President’s Trophy and suffering a curse but the Bruins will overcome that curse to beat the Sharks who will once again get close but not close enough to winning the Stanley Cup

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

  • Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 167 other followers

%d bloggers like this: