RotoWire Hockey Staff Playoff Predictions
The best time of year has arrived; the Stanley Cup playoffs begin Tuesday. We've done a quick poll of our hockey writers to get their sense of how the playoffs will unfold. I've asked the staff six questions:
Who's your pick for a first-round upset in the Eastern Conference?
How about in the West?
Who wins the Eastern Conference and goes on to the Stanley Cup Final?
Who's your Western Conference champ?
Who wins the Cup?
Who's your playoff scoring leader?
I've tallied the results and can report on whatever consensus we can muster. Staff writers' votes will remain anonymous, except for my own; I have no intention of hiding behind a veil of anonymity in something as important as this.
First-round upset - Eastern Conference
The staff sees a Rangers victory over the Caps as the likeliest upset here, although there was substantial support for an Ottawa win over Montreal, and less of a sense of Leafs over Bruins. Exactly no one picked the Islanders to beat the Penguins. What, doesn't anyone remember the last time a No. 8 seed won the Stanley Cup? I'm fairly confident that it happened relatively recently . . . My pick: I'm going with Toronto over Boston. The Bruins limped into the playoffs after a tremendous start. Their extra game Sunday (a product of the Boston Marathon bombing) will cost them a day of rest.
First-round upset - Western Conference
By a plurality vote, it's Red Wings over Ducks. Despite Anaheim's terrific season, it's hard to pick against the league's current flagship franchise. There was substantial support for LA over St. Louis and San Jose over Vancouver; once again, no one picked the No. 1 seeded Blackhawks to fall in the first round. My pick: This was the easiest pick of the six categories for me. I'm going with San Jose over Vancouver. The Sharks owned Vancouver this season, and the Canucks don't even know who their Game 1 goalie will be yet. If it's Robbie Lu, be afraid; be very afraid.
Eastern Conference champs
The staff shows its frontrunner colors here, picking the Pens by an overwhelming margin to win the East and play for the Stanley Cup. Montreal, Toronto, and Washington got token mentions, but it was Pittsburgh by a landslide here. My pick: What, have you forgotten recent history? How many No. 1 seeds have gone on to win the conference playoffs? (Not many; at least, not recently) I'll go with the Canadiens, trusting them to reverse their late-season funk. Carey Price is the kind of goaltender who can get hot and carry a team all the way. (Exhibit A: Jonathan Quick, circa 2012.)
Western Conference champs
Once again, the staff proves to be stocked with frontrunners. By an overwhelming margin, the Blackhawks are the choice to represent the West in the Final. Vancouver, St. Louis, and San Jose also get some support. But when was the last time the President's Trophy winner brought home the Cup? (Hint: It's been a while.) My pick: I think the St. Louis Blues have the talent and the karma to pull this off.
Stanley Cup champions
Predictably, our staff is almost equally divided between the Pens and the Hawks to take the title, with the Penguins enjoying a slim one-vote lead. The Canucks (the Canucks!) and Leafs each get a token mention as a dark horse. My pick: Gotta be the Habs. Montreal becomes the first Canadian team to bring home the hardware since . . . well, since the Canadiens did so, way back in 1993. Their goalie back then was a fellow named Patrick Roy; this year, Carey Price takes home the Conn Smythe.
Playoff Scoring leader
This is the category that produced the most Balkanized voting. By a slim margin, the frontrunners among us choose Evgeni Malkin to log the most points in the playoffs; Patrick Kane and Sidney Crosby come in tied for a close second. Other mentions: Jarome Iginla, Alex Ovechkin, Marian Hossa, Chris Kunitz, and Jonathan Toews. My pick: The advantage here goes to players on teams who make it all the way to the Final, for the obvious reason that those guys play more games. Since I don't exactly find any elite scorers on the Montreal lineup, I'll go with David Backes of St. Louis. He centers a line that will generate a lot of points in a lot of games, and if the Blues make it as far as I think they will, he'll have plenty of opportunities to pad his scoring totals. Keep in mind that any team that sweeps its opponent thereby deprives its elite scorers of an opportunity to register more points, so be leery of those No. 1 seeds unless you're convinced they'll make it all the way.