NHL Playoff Picks 2016: Round One


Two of the five teams for which Johan Hedberg played are 2016 playoff teams (sorry, Canucks, Devils, and “Winnipeg Jets” fans).

As always, it’s mostly goaltending (with the Detroit exception, then the Chicago exception, only both Detroit and Chicago now have good goaltenders), but also possession, along with puck luck (again, flip a caribou).  As always, an American team will win (sorry).

Eastern Conference

Tampa Bay/Detroit: The Red Wings are one of two playoff teams in 2016 that was outscored (hello Flyers, only Detroit was 9 goals worse than Philadelphia).  Normally this series wouldn’t be close—the Lightning are better at scoring and better at preventing the other team from scoring—but Stamkos and Stralman are out and Hedman, Kucherov, Callahan, and Tyler Johnson are day-to-day.  On the other hand, Jonathan Drouin is healthy.  Lightning in five.

Florida/New York Islanders: The Panthers have Jagr and Luongo, and Barkov and Huberdeau and Ekblad and other non-names who should be.  The Islanders have better special teams and John Tavares.  I think the key to this series will be Thomas Greiss, and I expect he will be very good.  @68Jagr and @strombone1 rock, but Islanders in six.

Washington/Philadelphia: On paper this is a total mismatch of two teams further apart in the standings than any other matchup (24 points, two more than Dallas-Minnesota), the difference between the second best offense and third best defense on one hand, and the 24th best offense and too much Radko Gudas facepunching on the other.  I can imagine a series where Claude Giroux is the best forward on the ice and Shayne Gostisbehere is the best defenseman and Mason (I guess it’s Mason, unless it’s Neuvirth) is just good enough and the Flyers win.  But I don’t think it’s this one, though I’ll give them two home games for Mr. SniderCaps in six.

Pittsburgh/New York Rangers: The Penguins could be missing Malkin and Fleury (and Maatta and Bennett), or not, but this is still a huge possession mismatch for the Rangers, whose CorsiFor of 47.4% ranked 26th (the Penguins ranked 4th at 52.3% and were even better at 5v5).  On the other hand, the Rangers have Lundqvist and an even crazier PDO than the Pens (101.3, 3rd in the league); the two are related. They shouldn’t, but Rangers in six.

Western Conference

Dallas/Minnesota: This is the other huge mismatch—22 points’ difference and the league’s best offense vs. the 16th best—only I don’t think it is a mismatch, since the Stars’ goaltending has been terrible.  They’re the only playoff team worse than league average in goals allowed and the worst of four playoff teams below league average in save percentage at an abysmal .904, tied with the Maple Leafs and Coyotes.  Devan Dubnyk (.918, 2.33) wasn’t quite as good as he was last year but with Kari Lehtonen or Antti Niemi on the other end of the ice, I think he will be good enough to make up for the possession and special teams mismatches.  Call me crazy, but Wild in six.

St. Louis/Chicago: Every year I pick the Blues to win the Cup or make the finals and every year they lose to the Blackhawks in the first round, unless they’re losing to the Kings or the Wild in the first round.  I picked the Caps to beat the Blues in the finals this year.  So of course, St. Louis is playing Chicago in the first round.  The Blues have home ice, Brian Elliott (league-leading .930) will be in goal, Duncan Keith is suspended for Game One, Crawford may not be 100%, and despite Panarin-Anisimov-Kane the Blackhawks overall were outscored at 5v5.  And yet.  I want to say I’m wrong about this, but Blackhawks in six.

Anaheim/Nashville: a.k.a. the Series No One Is Watching.  This year, I don’t think they will miss much, unless they are Ducks fans.  Pekka Rinne hasn’t been very good (.908) and the Ducks led the league in goals-against (who knew?).  The Predators scored more goals (again, who knew?), but the Ducks had the league’s best power play and penalty kill.  I’ll give the fans in Nashville one, but otherwise, bring on the Battle of California, round two.  Anaheim in five.

Los Angeles/San Jose: Speaking of the Battle of California, the numbers, recent history, and two Stanley Cups (plus Vinny LeCavalier’s je ne sais quoi) suggest the Kings will win the rematch.  The Kings are still the best possession team in the league (54.9 CorsiFor)—but the Sharks are top ten.  The Kings allowed fewer goals and have the better penalty kill—but the Sharks scored more goals and have the better power play (and yes, the Kings D includes Luke Schenn and 37 year old Rob Scuderi).  The Kings have home ice—but the Sharks were an NHL-best 28-10-3 on the road.  The Sharks have to win one of these, right?  Expect the unexpected.  Sharks in four.


One Response to “NHL Playoff Picks 2016: Round One”

  1. […] don’t lose first round Game 7s at home to teams that speak English, etc. and in fact a year ago I did pick the Rangers to beat the Penguins in the first round.  That didn’t happen, and the Rangers’ terrible possession numbers from last year are still […]

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