Roundtable: NHL playoff predictions

Joel Auerbach

A breakdown of every first round playoff match-up.

SB Nation 2014 NHL Playoff Bracket

EAST

Detroit Red Wings vs. Boston Bruins

Jaime Eisner: The Red Wings - the team that never seems to go away. Despite a smorgasbord of injuries and a negative goal differential, Detroit is back in the playoffs for the 23rd time in a row. But, the B's have been better from start to finish and, in my estimation, are better than even a healthy Detroit team. Great goaltending, defense and more than enough offense will lead the Beantown boys to victory. Bruins in 6

Brendan Porter: I think this will be an unexpectedly competitive series. Detroit has gotten a lot of their regulars back recently and has played extraordinarily well down the stretch thanks in large part to Mike Babcock (my pick for the Jack Adams Trophy). Still, Boston is the best in the East, and will probably win thanks to its superb depth. Bruins in 6

Christopher Hair: I'm going out on a huge limb (where's the sarcasm font for roundtables?) in picking the Bruins in this one. Detroit is just too banged up and probably used up all its mojo just to make the playoffs and continue their own streak, unlike the Undertaker. Detroit plays tough but doesn't have enough to challenge here. Boston in 5

Montreal Canadiens vs. Tampa Bay Lightning

Brendan: If Ben Bishop is healthy enough to play in the first round, this could be the best goalie matchup of the playoffs. He is 37-14-7 with a 2.23 GAA and a .924 save percentage. His counterpart, Carey Price, is no slouch either: he went 34-20-5 with a 2.32 GAA and a .927 save percentage. This one could easily go the distance, but if Bishop isn't 100%, I have a hard time seeing the Lightning winning this series. Montreal in 7

Christopher: This should be a dandy of a series. Tampa Bay added some needed grit and sandpaper in acquiring Ryan Callahan, but lost a lot of playoff experience in trading Marty St. Louis. The Canadiens enjoy playing long and winding playoff series. I think the Canadiens win this series no matter what, but the caveat for me is Ben Bishop's health. A good Bishop takes this series to the limit, but a banged up on lets Le Habitants win. Montreal in 5

Jaime: This series may become the forgotten one as it goes head-to-head against a few other quality match-ups throughout the opening round. The goaltending in this series is superb, but one of those superb goaltenders (Ben Bishop) will miss at least Game 1 and who knows how much longer. Tampa has the best player in the series (Steven Stamkos) but the Habs have the edge as a team. Montreal in 6

Columbus Blue Jackets vs. Pittsburgh Penguins

Christopher: This is a series that is getting a lot of upset buzz, especially with the way #Lumbus looked down the stretch. But not having Nathan Horton in this series is going to hurt. Marc-Andre Fleury has been a living nightmare in the postseason the last two seasons, so anything is possible, but I believe that Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are just too much for the scrappy Jackets to handle. At least last season's Islanders had John Tavares. Ryan Johansen is a good young player, but he's not that good. Pittsburgh in 6

Jaime: The Penguins come into this series criminally underrated. Are they banged up? Yes. Has their goaltender replaced Roberto Luongo as the personification of playoff woes? Yes. But despite all that, Pittsburgh won 51 games in the regular season and has the best player in the world. Columbus is inexperienced and will have to rely on Sergei Bobrovsky to be sensational every night. Ryan Johansen is a future super star, but it will have to come another year. Pittsburgh in 5

Brendan: This is the trendy upset pick right now. Evgeni Malkin is likely to miss the start of the series, Marcel Goc is probably injured, and Brooks Orpik may not be 100 percent when the series starts either. The other concern is that Marc-Andre Fleury has a penchant for struggling in the first round of the playoffs. By contrast, Sergei Bobrovsky has revived his career in Columbus, and they are a scrappy bunch with good defense and some potent offensive talent. I like Columbus to win their first playoff series in franchise history. Columbus in 6

Philadelphia Flyers vs. New York Rangers

Jaime: After rebounding from slow starts, the Rangers and Flyers come into the playoffs as serious threats to get to the Cup Final. This match-up will be a battle of strengths as the Flyers' offensive muscle will attempt to overpower the Rangers' defensive might. The X-factor of this series is Steve Mason. If Mason can not sustain the high level of play he displayed in the regular season, the Flyers will not have a chance. New York in 7

Brendan:This will probably be a hard-fought, hard-hitting series. I'd give the goaltending edge to New York with Henrik Lundqvist, but Philadelphia has some very potent weapons in Claude Giroux, Scott Hartnell, and the perennially underrated Jakub Voracek. This is another series I could see going the distance, but right now I'm going to go with Philly. Philadelphia in 7

Christopher: This is the premier match-up in the Eastern Conference. The Rangers have been a roller coaster most of the season, oscillating between great and what the heck was that? The Flyers recovered wonderfully from a disastrous start to their season and were among the league's elite teams from January on. The Flyers definitely have more talented forwards, but the Rangers hold a huge edge on the blueline. Then it comes down to goaltending. Steve Mason has been really good for the Flyers, but he's no King Henrik. It's not close. This series goes seven games, that I guarantee, and in the end, I see Claude Giroux scoring an overtime winner that breaks the heart of the MSG faithful. Pittsburgh/Philly here we come. Philadelphia in 7

WEST

Dallas Stars vs. Anaheim Ducks

Brendan: Dallas is a team whose record does not indicate how good they really are. Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn have both been exceptional forwards for this team, and Kari Lehtonen has finally been healthy down the stretch. They could give Anaheim a run for their money. I still think that the Ducks are an improved team over last year's club that laid an egg to Detroit in the playoffs, and ultimately I think the Ducks win this one. Anaheim in 6

Jaime: Do you like offense? This series has plenty. Four of the top 10 point scorers are playing in this series (Getzlaf, Seguin, Perry, Benn) and both teams have young up-and-coming forwards who can score as well. Dallas is a year away from making a postseason splash, while Anaheim is in win now mode. The Pacific Division champions have the edge in this one. Anaheim in 6

Christopher: Oh what could have been. Anaheim has surprised me this year, and they have experience and so much talent to make a really deep run. Dallas returns to the playoffs after a five-year hiatus with Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin ready to rock. The Stars have enough scoring to contend with the Ducks talent, but I don't think they have enough on the blueline to keep the Ducks honest. This will be an entertaining, high scoring series but it will be short. Anaheim in 5

Los Angeles Kings vs. San Jose Sharks

Carl Pavlock: In my mind, this is the series most likely to produce a playoff suspension, and not because of Raffi Torres. San Jose and LA do not like each other, which was compounded with the injury to Tomas Hertl earlier this year at the knee of Dustin Brown. Although I think San Jose is good, their penchant for choking in the playoffs makes it hard to pick them, and although I have broken almost every rule in gambling, the one I will never break is betting against Jonathan Quick. Los Angeles in 7

Christopher: This is my pick for the best first round match-up this year. These two teams will grind each other down and play physical, edge of your seat exciting hockey from start to finish. The Sharks's window is closing and the Kings are only one year removed from winning it all. This is must see TV from start to finish. The Kings size will be the deciding factor and they will win in LA. Los Angeles in 6

Jaime: It is a little sad one of these teams has to leave the dance so early, but so is life under the new divisional playoff system. Both teams have forwards who can score and be responsible in their own end. I have concerns about San Jose's bottom-six and goaltending. Los Angeles is the most complete team in the conference, with the edge in net, and is my pick to win it all. Los Angeles in 6

Chicago Blackhawks vs. St. Louis Blues

Brendan: If you had told me that this would be the first round match-up in the Central Division even a month ago, I would've laughed. Since then, St. Louis has found itself in a world of hurt. Literally. That's a lot of positive possession players that they're missing on an offense many thought was already a little too thin to be a legitimate Stanley Cup contender. This might be the least competitive series of the first round if St. Louis can't get healthy. Chicago in 5

Jaime: How the mighty have fallen. Anointed the greatest team of all time just seven weeks ago, the Blues have succumbed to the injury bug. I would not count them out just yet, but the Blackhawks are certainly not the dance partner conducive to the Blues re-finding their mojo. Chicago is too deep and has too much talent to not face at full strength. St. Louis has the edge in goal, but it may not matter. Chicago in 6

Carl: A few years ago I attempted to place a voodoo curse on the Blackhawks so it is bound to start kicking in eventually. This is probably the match-up to watch though, both teams are favorites to play for the Cup and it seems likely that the winner of this game will be the overall winner. I think this is the Blues' year though, they have a lot of talent, defensively they are very good, and I give them the advantage in goal. St. Louis in 6

Minnesota Wild vs. Colorado Avalanche

Jaime: Colorado scares me. That team screams 2013 Ducks. A poor possession team with a very high PDO is the poster child for regression. Fortunately for the Avs, Minnesota is nothing special in the puck possession department either. Colorado's offensive and goaltending advantage will be enough to carry them through this match-up, but it is likely the Avalanche find themselves on the other side of the handshake line in round two. Colorado in 6

Brendan: Colorado has now become Toronto West. Their advanced stats are horrible; the only teams worse than them in unblocked shot attempts when the score is close are Edmonton, Toronto and Buffalo. Their PDO is No. 1 in the league, which historically speaking means regression is on the horizon. But two things make me think they will win this series. First, with a sample size of four to seven games, long-term trends like Fenwick or PDO are probably less applicable, so I wouldn't expect a sharp drop off immediately. Second, Minnesota ranks 21st in unblocked shot attempts when the score is close, so this is probably the best scenario for Colorado to draw in the first round. Colorado in 6

Christopher: The Avs have shocked the hockey world with their season, winning the Central Division that everyone and their mother thought was rightfully Chicago's. They massively overachieved, both in expectations and in actual performance. The advanced stats expect Colorado to be a middle of the road team, but they have defied all expectations and are hosting a playoff series against the Wild. It's actually a great matchup for Colorado, but I think that the cinderella story comes to an end early. Minnesota is pretty good, Ilya Bryzgalov has found a rhythm, and the Matt Moulson acquisition helps the Wild in series like this. Colorado is well ahead of schedule, their young guys get a much needed taste of Stanley Cup Playoff hockey. Minnesota in 6

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