NHL 2017 Playoff Predictions

It’s that time of year again, where the NHL regular season has ended and the playoffs are about to begin. As is my tradition, it’s also time for me to publish my predictions for the playoffs, so we can all look at them and laugh as I show just how wrong I got it. Again. As I have been going back to the 1990s.

My prediction this year: there’s going to be a lot of great hockey, and potentially epic hockey. Some of the matchups might be historic — for the first time in almost forever, there’s a legitimate chance for a Montreal-Toronto series, for instance. And both brackets look to be incredibly tough paths to get to the Cup Final.

By the way, I should mention how absolutely thrilled I am to see five Canadian teams in the playoffs this year. That’s a great thing for the game. And congratulations Edmonton and Toronto for joining the post-season again.

This is gonna be fun. So without further ado….

First Round

Western Conference

Chicago/Nashville: Chicago in 6

If you stop and think about it, Nashville being the second wildcard team says a lot about how hard the West is. It’s hard to see them beating the Blackhawks; fast and physical vs. not so fast and physical, but I do think the Predators are good enough that with a couple of lucky bounces they could put a big scare into the Blackhawks. And lets not forget, the harder the earlier rounds are, the more difficult later rounds get because of the bruises and bangs and exhaustion. So despite this being a 1st seed vs 2nd wildcard, seeing the Preds in the first round is doing Chicago no favors.

Minnesota/St. Louis: St. Louis in 6

Midway through the season I would have called this for Minnesota as an easy series. Unfortunately, Minnesota’s lost its game and has been struggling, and it’s unclear if they’re back on track going into the playoffs. My guess is not, and I really like this Blues team. This is one that could turn into a 4 game blowout, but honestly, there’s a chance that blowout could go either way depending on how these two teams deal with the playoff pressure. I think ultimately this will be a Blues victory and a fairly drawn out and fairly close series.

Anaheim/Calgary: Anaheim in 5

Sorry, Flames fans, while I’m thrilled to see them in the playoffs, I think this is the easiest first round series in the West, and the Ducks should win it. Doesn’t mean it’s not going to be physical and I can see a Flames upset as possible, but I don’t think there’s much question about how this series will end up.

San Jose/Edmonton: San Jose in 6

And the series I’ll be watching most closely. Connor McDavid and Todd McLellan pull the Oilers back in the playoffs, and they get to face: San Jose, McLellan’s former team. San Jose has struggled in the last month, lost its two top centers to injury (but both seem to think they’ll be back, if not 100%, for this round), and simply haven’t been playing great hockey.

That said, a bit of time off to rest up and get some practice in should do San Jose wonders. Assuming we get one of the Couture/Thornton back and maybe both, that’ll help as well. I expect San Jose to spend the couple of days before the playoffs start working on their play structure and refocussing their heads.

I expect this to be a fun and interesting series. I can make a case for both teams winning it. I believe San Jose will be the underdog in the eyes of most hockey writers and I can’t argue that, but I think San Jose will find its game and the experience in that team ought to win out over the youth and enthusiasm of the Oilers — depending on the contributions of Thornton and Couture. But if Edmonton wins? More power to them. But even if it’s a heart pick and not a head pick, I’m going with San Jose in 6.

Eastern Conference

Montreal/New York Rangers: Montreal in 6

Okay off to the east, and we start with an Epic matchup: Montreal and the Rangers. Price and Lundqvist. One of the classic, potentially epic matchups and definitely on my short list to watch. I think Price will be the difference here, as Lundqvist hasn’t shown he’s on his game yet, but it ought to be fun and hard fought.

Ottawa/Boston: Ottawa in 6

Oh, I know I’m going to get yelled at by Bruins fans, but I really want to see some Canadian teams go deeper into the playoffs. I also really like the Ottawa team, and I think this series will be close (and could go both ways) but I think Ottawa is somewhat better. So, Ottawa in six. And this sets up in my bracket a second round match-up between Montreal and Ottawa, which would be awesome, second only to a Montreal and Toronto matchup, which I’d love to see, except…

Washington/Toronto: Washington in 5

I would really love to see Toronto face Montreal in the playoffs (Beyond Epic) but it’s not going to happen, because they’re up against Washington and I don’t see any way the Capitals lose to the Maple Leafs this year. I’m really loving how Washington plays, and I’m thinking this is the year they finally don’t fall apart under playoff pressure and make a run. Hey, the Sharks did it, right? So can Ovechkin.

Pittsburgh/Columbus: Pittsburgh in 5

And this might be the easiest (relatively speaking) series in the playoffs. I think the Penguins are playing well and I like Columbus, but I don’t see how the Blue Jackets beat the Penguins this year.

Playoff Prediction Summary

First round:

Chicago/Nashville

Minnesota/St. Louis

Anaheim/Calgary

Edmonton/San Jose

Montreal/New York Rangers

Ottawa/Boston

Washington/Toronto

Pittsburgh/Columbus

Second Round:

Chicago/St. Louis

Anaheim/San Jose

Montreal/Ottawa

Washington/Pittsburgh

Conference Finals:

Chicago/Anaheim

Washington/Montreal

Cup final:

Chicago/Washington

Yes, folks, this year I think the Capitals are going to take it. And yes, I fully expect to be proven wrong because there are lots of other teams that can take them out if things fall their way, including Montreal, Pittsburgh, Chicago and Anaheim. So I expect bracket carnage and a lot of fun, and isn’t that really what the playoffs are about?

Now, drop the puck!