2016 NHL Opening Round Predictions

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Eastern Conference

Washington Capitals vs. Philadelphia Flyers

Why the Capitals will win:

They are the Presidents’ Trophy winner, have the leading goal scorer in the NHL, and Braden Holtby tied the record for most wins in a single season for a goalie. They are top to bottom loaded and on paper there is no way they should lose this series.

Why the Flyers will win:

They are playing the Capitals, and the Capitals have a long history of falling short in the playoffs. The Flyers have also been hot (15-6-2 to close the regular season) and also have the physical style of play, which could take a toll on the Capitals if the series goes long enough. If the Flyers can steal one of the first two games in Washington and then win the first game in Philadelphia, the Capitals will grip their sticks even tighter thinking to themselves, “Here we go again.”

Who will win:

The Flyers will win not because of anything they’re going to do, but rather because it’s the playoffs and it’s the Capitals which means a collapse will surely ensue.

Number of games: 6

Florida Panthers vs. New York Islanders

Why the Panthers will win:

If Jaromir Jagr and Roberto Luongo play how they did in the regular season without burning out, and can guide the young players on their roster, then they should be just fine. They will get into trouble though if 2011 Stanley Cup Finals Luongo shows up.

Why the Islanders will win:

The Islanders have not won a playoff series since 1993 (Jagr was on that Penguins team the Islanders beat in 1993, so maybe that is a good sign for the Islanders) and are undoubtedly looking to finally get over that hump and put those disastrous years in the rear view mirror. Their strengths are controlling faceoffs and possession so they will need to continue to lean on that.  Jack Capuano could also be coaching for his job so expect no lack of effort from the superstar John Tavares-lead group.

Who will win:

The Panthers. No, wait, the Islanders. Actually, I have zero clue who is going to win this series, and if you somehow do then good for you. *flips coin* Islanders it is!

Number of games: 7

Pittsburgh Penguins vs. New York Rangers

Why the Penguins will win:

They have arguably two of the best players in the world in Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin (if he gets back from injury in time) and have been red-hot, going 8-2 in their last ten games heading into the playoffs. They also have home ice advantage, which is key in a series like this that will probably go seven games, and the Rangers and Penguins have two of the best three home records in the league.

Why the Rangers will win:

The Rangers have a huge goaltending advantage over the Penguins in this series. The Penguins don’t even know who they are going to play with Matt Murray just sustaining an injury and Marc-Andre Fleury possibly not ready in time. The Rangers have Henrik Lundqvist in net and have a veteran core that has been to either the Stanley Cup finals or Eastern Conference Finals three of the past four playoff seasons. Their window to win is also quickly closing and the urgency will be there.

Who will win:

The Rangers will win because they have the goaltending advantage and a veteran group who has made deep runs in the playoffs before.

Number of games: 7

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Detroit Red Wings

Why the Lightning will win:

They need to have Ben Bishop continue to play how he did in the regular season and get guys back from injury. The Lightning have been not bitten, but mauled by the injury bug recently and most notably lost Steven Stamkos for probably the rest of the season due to a blood clot.  Still, they have many of the pieces from last year’s Stanley Cup Finals team lead by Victor Hedman, so hopefully for the Lightning’s sake they can survive the injuries.

Why the Red Wings will win:

They have a plethora of young players up front as well as some veterans from their last Stanley Cup in Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg. If the Red Wings can get out to an early series lead and utilize the young legs and depth up front to wear down the depleted Lightning lineup, they will be in great shape to win this series.

Who will win:

The Red Wings will win because the Lightning’s injuries will be too much for them to overcome.

Number of games: 6

Western Conference

Dallas Stars vs. Minnesota Wild

Why the Stars will win:

They are the #1 team in a Western Conference that is way more loaded than the Eastern Conference. Even with Tyler Seguin potentially out for part of the series, the offense is just too high-powered with players like the league’s second best point scorer in Jamie Benn, which could potentially mask a goaltending deficiency.

Why the Wild will win:

Devan Dubnyk plays out of his mind and has the series of his life. That’s it. That’s the only way. The Wild struggle with scoring and the Stars surely do not, so if they need to score a lot of goals to win games then their chances of winning this series went from 1% to 0%.

Who will win:

This is probably the easiest series to predict out of the opening round. A team that has the best offense in the league against a team that struggles to score, it is a no brainer. The Stars will win this series easily.

Number of games: 4

Anaheim Ducks vs. Nashville Predators

Why the Ducks will win:

After a catastrophic start at the beginning of the season, no one has been scarier than the Ducks as of late. Their offense has picked up and if their defense plays like it did in the regular season (1st in the league), then they will be just fine.

Why the Predators will win:

The only way the Predators can win this series is if Pekka Rinne can stand on his head and they can get sufficient enough scoring to beat the Ducks goalies whether that’s John Gibson or Frederik Anderson (both are very, very good). It will also increase their chances if they stay out of the penalty box because the Ducks have the top rated power play in the league.

Who will win:

The Ducks will win because if they could survive the disastrous start they had at the beginning of the year, then they can survive anything. Plus, they are just way better on paper than the Predators in almost every statistical category.

Number of games: 5

Los Angeles Kings vs. San Jose Sharks

Why the Kings will win:

The Kings still have more than enough of the core from their two Stanley Cups in 2012 and 2014. Oh, and they still have that guy Jonathan Quick who my sources have told me is pretty good in the playoffs.

Why the Sharks will win:

Joe Thornton still will have that bad taste in his mouth after that disastrous 3-0 blown series lead to the Kings from two years ago, and will be as motivated as ever to put to rest that Sharks can’t get it done in the playoff stigma. The Sharks owned the Kings at 3-1-1 in the regular season, so if the Sharks can just pretend it’s the regular season and not playoffs while at the same time getting decent play from their goalie Martin Jones, then they will be able to move onto the next round.

Who will win:

The Kings will win because they have the Stanley Cup experience and have one of the best playoff goalies in the postseason ever. Goalies are the single most important players in a series and the Kings have the advantage there. That combined with the fact that the Sharks are the Sharks, I’m going with the Kings.

Number of games: 6

St. Louis Blues vs. Chicago Blackhawks

Why the Blues will win:

The Blues are one of the favorites to finally make a run this playoffs and they roll four lines which will be crucial in this series especially with Duncan Keith suspended for Game 1. Game 1 is a must win for the Blues in order to get that confidence going because the Blackhawks are not a team you want to fall behind against.

Why the Blackhawks will win:

They have all the pieces to once again make a run at yet another Stanley Cup. Patrick Kane has been on fire all season, they have one of the best young offensive talents in Artemi Panarin, and one of the best centers in the league in Jonathan Toews. Combine talented players like that, solid play from Corey Crawford, their experience and you have a very, very tough team to beat.

Who will win:

This is the most intriguing first round matchup and will go down to the wire but there is a reason why the Blackhawks have won three of the last six Stanley Cups. The Blues are good, but not good enough, especially when it comes to the knowledge of how to win. This is why the Blackhawks will win this series.

Number of games: 7

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