1) Pittsburgh Penguins vs. 8) New York Islanders
The Penguins took four out of five in the regular season and despite their electric powerplay, only scored two powerplay goals in the entire season series, meaning they dominated 5-on-5 play. The Penguins are the second best 5-on-5 team in the league with a 1.35 goals for/goals against ratio in those situations. The Penguins biggest weakness is their penalty killing (25th in the league) but the Islanders only managed to score two PP goals in the season series. That said, both of those goals came in the lone Islanders win. The Penguins spend plenty of time on the PK when they’re on the road. It should also be noted that the Islanders were the third-best road team in the Eastern Conference this year. However, they also allowed 2.83 goals per game, the most among all playoff teams.
Prediction: Islanders steal one using their PP, Penguins in five.
2) Montreal Canadiens vs. 7) Ottawa Senators
This one’s a classic matchup between a potent offense versus a stout defense. Ottawa allowed 2.08 goals per game (best in the east) and had a PK rate of 88 percent (best in the league). Meanwhile, Montreal scored 3.04 goals per game (4th in the league) and had the fifth best PP, clicking at just over 20 percent. This series will likely be won on special teams. The Canadiens and Senators were two of the three most penalized teams in terms of time spent killing penalties. In their season series, Montreal clicked at their season average of 20 percent on the powerplay, but Ottawa clicked at a remarkable 41.6 percent. Three of the four games were decided by one goal and two went to shootouts.
Prediction: Series like this are generally decided by better goaltending, Ottawa wins in 7
3) Washington Capitals vs. 6) New York Rangers
The league’s best powerplay was stifled by the Rangers in the season series as the Capitals scored just one PP goal in ten opportunities. The Rangers won the season series 2-0-1, with their one loss coming in the shootout. The Rangers clearly have the goaltending edge in this one with Henrik Lundqvist and they also have a 1.30 goals for/goals against ratio in 5-on-5 ratio (3rd best in the NHL). Also, the Rangers may have had trouble winning on the road, but they also spent the fewest amount of minutes killing penalties away from Madison Square Garden this year. They don’t take penalties and that’s a key factor when you’re up against the league’s best powerplay.
Prediction: Rangers in 5
4) Boston Bruins vs. 5) Toronto Maple Leafs
The Boston Bruins limp to the Stanley Cup playoffs having won only three of their last ten games. Bad news for them: No team since the 2002 Detroit Red Wings has finished sub .500 in the last ten games of the season and won the Stanley Cup. Boston also has the worst powerplay rate among all playoff teams, but that shouldn’t matter too much since they also spent the least amount of time in the league with the man advantage. In fact, both Toronto and Boston are fantastic on the penalty kill. Only one power play goal was scored in the season series between the two teams. Special teams should not be a huge factor in this series. So we look at the 5-on-5 numbers, which Boston dominates. The Bruins had a 1.28 goals for/goals against ratio in 5-on-5 situations (4th best in the NHL). Meanwhile, Toronto was in the middle of the pack with a 1.05 GF/GA in 5-on-5 situations. The Bruins also have tremendous amount of playoff experience compared to the Leafs, who make their first appearance in the big dance since 2004.
Prediction: Bruins in 6
1) Chicago Blackhawks vs. 8) Minnesota Wild
The Chicago Blackhawks boast the league’s best 5-on-5 goals for/goals against ratio and the league’s best defense/goaltending having allowed just 2.02 goals per game. All of these are important ingredients for any championship team. Minnesota is a lousy 5-on-5 team with the worst 5-on-5 goals for/ goals against ratio among all playoff teams. With all of that said, the Wild have kept it close in games against the Blackhawks. They won once in a shootout and were in striking distance in their other two losses. Heck, even Game 1 was close.
Prediction: Blackhawks in five
2) Anaheim Ducks vs. 7) Detroit Red Wings
Both teams play a solid five-on-five brand of hockey, but Anaheim has been better throughout the season. The difference of this series may come in special teams. The Ducks have the fourth best powerplay in the league, but they spent the second least amount of time on the powerplay this year. Detroit had the 15th best powerplay in the league, but they spent the second most amount of time on the powerplay. Essentially, whoever gets on the powerplay more may win the series. Game 1 agrees. Anaheim went on the powerplay more and they won the game, scoring two PP goals. The regular season agrees, too. Anaheim had 11 penalties compared to the Red Wings’ 9 and as a result lost two of the three meetings. In the long run, it’s conceivable that Detroit will be on the PP more often because of the season averages. Detroit was also 3-of-11 on the PP against the Ducks in the regular season and despite not being the better 5-on-5 team, they have Jimmy Howard in net. The Red Wings allowed 2.29 goals per game (5th lowest in NHL).
Prediction: Red Wings in 7, but I’m the least confident in this selection
3) Vancouver Canucks vs. 6) San Jose Sharks
Both teams are average on the 5-on-5. The Canucks have spent the third-most time killing penalties among all playoff teams and that doesn’t bode well against the Sharks, who have the seventh best powerplay in the NHL. My only questions regarding the Sharks is their awful road record and the aid they received from the shootout. They have the worst road record among all playoff teams and they won a league best eight games on the shootout. Last season, they had 12 shootout wins and were ousted in the first round. That being said, the Sharks took all three games in the regular season (albeit one was in the shootout) and the Canucks failed to score a single powerplay goal. The Sharks scored three with the man advantage.
Prediction: Sharks in 7.
4) St. Louis Blues vs. 5) Los Angeles Kings
The Kings dominated the playoff series last year, but they’ve shown an inability to win on the road this season. The Kings have the second worst road record among all playoff teams. That being said, they swept the season series and only lost in Game 1 because of a terrible gaffe by Jonathan Quick. Both teams are similarly strong defensively. In fact, they each allowed 2.38 goals per game, which was tied for 7th best in the NHL. However, the Kings (just like last year) have more scoring output, scoring 2.73 goals per game (10th best in the NHL). Special teams wise, both teams are even, but the Kings spent a little bit more time on the powerplay, which may aid them throughout the series.
Prediction: Low scoring games, but the Kings scoring punch helps them comeback and win the series. Kings in 7