It’s the second day of the first round of the playoffs, with three games scheduled for Thursday night. Here are the rest of the predictions from the Habsworld experts, describing who they expect will win these series.
Washington Capitals vs Toronto Maple Leafs
Brian La Rose predicts: Capitals in 5 games
Alexander Létourneau predicts: Capitals in 5 games
Hilding Gnanapragasam predicts: Capitals in 5 games
Craig Scharien predicts: Capitals in 5 games
Gordon Black predicts: Capitals in 5 games
Norm Szcyrek predicts: Capitals in 4 games
Dave Woodward predicts: Capitals in 5 games
Jonathan Rebelo predicts: Maple Leafs in 7 games
Paul MacLeod predicts: Capitals in 6 games
(Brian) If the Leafs had made it into the 2-3 game, they’d have really made things interesting. While they’re an unproven team, they feature the firepower to give them a chance. However, the Capitals also have plenty of firepower and know this is their last kick at the can with this core group. I’d also give Washington the goalie advantage here so while this could potentially be one of the more entertaining series to watch in terms of excitement, it should be one of the shorter ones as well.
(Alex) A little disappointed that Toronto got the Wild Card and won’t be playing the Sens in round 1, but what can you do? Not much. Just like the Leafs against Washington. Full marks to Toronto and their young team, they achieved some truly big things this season. But their inability to hold leads, their youth and their leaky defence against the best team in the NHL with possibly the biggest chip on their shoulder’s will see them bow out with a better idea on how to achieve success. Take a pick on who can bury you in the Capitals lineup. I expect some fun games but I can’t see this one being very close. Holtby keeps it close early on as wave after wave of Caps offence wears down and punishes Toronto in five.
(Hilding) The Maple Leafs’ surprising season has generated a ton of energy and momentum in the city as well as in the locker room, which is why I believe they’ll be able to squeeze one more bit of magic out of 2016-17 by posting a win against Washington. Beyond that, the Capitals are a far superior team and Barry Trotz is not likely to allow his squad to drop more than one game to this season’s Cinderella story.
(Craig) The Leafs may have made the dance, but the missed a huge opportunity when they were unable to beat an undermanned Blue Jackets club to end the season. As a result they draw the powerhouse Capitals, and they are in tough. They may feed off the energy at the ACC and steal one at home, but that’s about it – the Caps are just too good and have the advantage throughout their lineup.
(Gordon) This should be a fun and fast paced series that some people are predicting could be an upset because… technically, anything is possible (and TSN needs to justify their ridiculously lopsided coverage with 5 Canadian teams in the playoffs). Washington is deep at every position, gets solid coaching and has a sure-fire Vezina nominee (and reigning trophy holder) in net. Nuff said, as Toronto will get some important playoff experience and nothing more unless the hubris gets a hold of the Caps again. I’m betting there are still too many players on their team that remember what can happen in the first round if you don’t treat each game like a game 7. Toronto puts up a well coached and full-marks effort, but its not enough.
(Norm) Both teams have high scoring offences, and Toronto’s rookie forwards are often fun to watch. However Washington has a huge advantage in goal and on defence. To add to the Maple Leaf’s woes, their starting goalie (Frederik Anderson) and two of their starting defencemen (Nikita Zaitsev and Roman Polak) were injured at the end of the season, and questionable to start the series. In the end, when this series is over, Toronto will not be unhappy to gain the valuable playoff experience.
(Dave) The playoffs will be a good learning experience for the Leafs’ young guns. The Leafs have already surpassed expectations. The Leafs can play loose. They have nothing to lose and nothing is expected of them against a Capitals’ team that should dominate them on paper. For the Capitals, the future is now. With the player contracts they have expiring this season, it will be near impossible to keep this formidable team together. In almost every category and area, the Capitals should dominate this series. If the Leafs can stay in the series for a while, perhaps the ghosts of failed past playoff performances may haunt the Capitals but I view that as very unlikely against a talented but young and inexperienced Leafs team.
(Jonathan) This is my big upset pick. The young leafs have nothing to lose. They’ll win one of the first two games in Washington then look out!
(Paul) The Capitals will dash Leafs’ fans hopes for another year.
Anaheim Ducks vs Calgary Flames
Brian La Rose predicts: Ducks in 5 games
Alexander Létourneau predicts: Ducks in 6 games
Hilding Gnanapragasam predicts: Ducks in 6 games
Craig Scharien predicts: Ducks in 6 games
Gordon Black predicts: Flames in 6 games
Norm Szcyrek predicts: Ducks in 5 games
Dave Woodward predicts: Ducks in 6 games
Jonathan Rebelo predicts: Ducks in 7 games
Paul MacLeod predicts: Flames in 5 games
(Brian) Calgary hasn’t been able to win in Anaheim in a long time. While these are the playoffs and not the regular season, it’s plausible to think that this could continue. The Ducks are a playoff-tested team and are more than capable of stepping up and playing a physical style as well. Not having Cam Fowler to start could hurt but their back end is deep enough to overcome his absence to start. Calgary made some noise in the playoffs a couple of years ago but I think the flames will be fanned quicker this time around.
(Alex) This one’s going to be fun. There is no love lost between these two teams. There’s going to be hard hits, cheap shots and at least one game out of hand when either team puts it out of reach score wise. The most jarring stat of this series is that Calgary has not won in Anaheim in 13 years. That’s insane. They will win a game there during these playoffs, but I don’t see the Ducks losing all three in Calgary, and I don’t see Calgary winning more than one in Anaheim. So, math has sorted this out for me. That said, don’t forget this young team won a playoff series two years ago before getting dumped by the Ducks in five. This is a good young team but they don’t match up well with Anaheim. Things could change, as they tend to do, but I’m not convinced this Flames team can knock off a very good and tough Ducks team this year.
(Hilding) While it’s nice to see the Flames back in the postseason, the Ducks get the slight edge here, based not only on their playoff experience, but also on the fact that they have had a great deal of success against Calgary this season. Johnny “Hockey” Gaudreau and Sean Monahan will no doubt gain some valuable postseason experience, but will likely need another year or two before they’re ready to lead this team deep into the dance.
(Craig) I would love to see the Flames prevail, potentially setting up an epic battle of Alberta, but I just don’t see it. The Flames goaltending has been spotty all season, and when you look the centre depth, the Ducks have a clear advantage with Getzlaf and Kesler going up against Monahan and Backlund. Throw in the fact that the Flames have lost 25 straight games in Anaheim and the writing may be on the wall.
(Gordon) Do you like aggressive and punishing hits? How about fighting? Does a deep and abiding hatred that is mutually shared by players, coaches and fans get you into a series? What if I told you that for a limited time, you could get all you could handle and more with a side order of sizzling saves and top-end displays of goal-scoring prowess? This series should be full value for entertainment and is the closest thing the first round has on offer for a true grudge match between teams that have both a long history, and very recent memories, of distaste for each other. The biggest x-factor here will be the special teams because the penalty boxes should stay nice and warm throughout. With Cam Fowler doubtful to start the series healthy, youth will be served.
(Norm) The plucky Flames can be an interesting team to watch at times. Their forwards have speed and may be a factor against Anaheim’s less mobile defence. The Ducks dominance at home over the Flames in the past 25 consecutive games will be a huge factor in this series. During the last week of the season, a knee on knee collision between Cam Fowler and Mark Giordano, knocked Fowler out and he’s expected not to return until the second round at the earliest. While Anaheim’s depth on defence can absorb the loss, the animosity between the two teams ramped up due to that hit, which should give the Ducks extra motivation to defeat Calgary.
(Dave) Calgary is a team on the rise but I cannot see them advancing against a seasoned and experienced Anaheim squad. Teams led by players like Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry tend not underachieve in the playoffs.
(Jonathan) I think the Ducks will surprise. Corey Perry will come alive and be a force.
(Paul) The Ducks look like the Ducks of old rather than the old Ducks schooling the upstart Flames.
Chicago Blackhawks vs Nashville Predators
Brian La Rose predicts: Blackhawks in 5 games
Alexander Létourneau predicts: Blackhawks in 6 games
Hilding Gnanapragasam predicts: Blackhawks in 4 games
Craig Scharien predicts: Blackhawks in 7 games
Gordon Black predicts: Blackhawks in 7 games
Norm Szcyrek predicts: Blackhawks in 6 games
Dave Woodward predicts: Blackhawks in 5 games
Jonathan Rebelo predicts: Blackhawks in 6 games
Paul MacLeod predicts: Blackhawks in 5 games
(Brian) The Preds have been a hit-or-miss team all season long while Chicago has been cruising along and appear to be peaking at the perfect time once again. On paper, Nashville is a good team that’s capable of doing some damage, especially with their back end which will be crucial if they’re going to advance. If they can shut down the Blackhawks’ top players, they’ll have a good chance. That said, I don’t think that’s going to happen and I suspect this will be over quickly as a result.
(Alex) Business as usual for Chicago and a nice turnaround for Nashville after a real tough time adjusting to life without Shea Weber. But they adjusted, and they’ll give Chicago a run for their money, but not for very long. This is a good looking Chicago team and they’re rolling. They dropped a few games with big leads, but aside from that, they’ve got a very good, experienced hockey team, so no reason to worry. Nashville on the other hand will need Pekka Rinne to be outstanding for the entirety of the series, which won’t happen. Some P.K. Subban theatrics will ignite the Nashville crowd for a bit, but there’s little chance this Predators team can win four out of seven against a well-oiled, battle tested group with championship pedigree.
(Hilding) No disrespect to P.K. Subban, but the Predators simply don’t have the stuff to match up with the powerhouse Hawks. Not only does Chicago know exactly what they’re doing at this time of year, but they’ve also handled the Nashville all season long, dominating their season series with the Preds. The Blackhawks very quietly climbed to the top of the Western Conference standings this year and will look to remind the hockey world why they are the class of the current NHL generation.
(Craig) For me this is the toughest series to call, both teams have the depth and talent to make some serious noise in the playoffs. While the Preds are known for their impressive defensive core, they have made improvements up front and the like of Forsberg and Johansen are dangerous enough to make it interesting. But in the end Chicago’s old guard of Toews, Kane, Keith and Crawford (not to mention Hossa and Seabrook) have the experience to prevail.
(Gordon) I’m really looking forward to following this series. Nashville is an underdog here – but is there an underdog that any team would want to play less? I think the forwards depth does fall a bit in Chicago’s favour as does the high end skill – but not by a huge margin in either case. The defensive edge goes to the Predators, and they sport scary amounts of game-breaking talent on each pair. Chicago meanwhile, has a solid and veteran d-group that wont rattle and still brings good skill, especially in the top-4. This series should ultimately be decided in net, where neither goalie is a world-beater but Crawford has proven he can elevate when he needs to (which is arguably the best skill for a goalie to have). Unless Rinne can turn back the clock, Ill give this to the Hawks – but if Nashville gets hot in the crease, they are my pick to come out of the West.
(Norm) Nashville has a lot of good things going for them, and PK Subban is a known playoff performer who elevates his game in the post season. To me, Pekka Rinne’s play is questionable in the playoffs. The Hawks mostly dominated the Predators in the regular season, with a 4-1-0 record, with a 20-13 goals scored advantage in the 5 games. Their veterans have the lowest panic threshold in the league, which is the perfect approach for any post season. Chicago has too much going for them not to win this series.
(Dave) This writer would pick Chicago against any opponent in the West or East. The Predators have a fine team but they are no match for the Hawks. At some point, the sheer wear and tear of many successful and deep playoff runs will eventually take its toll. But Toews, Kane, Keith, Seabrook, Crawford and the rest of their core players are not done yet.
(Jonathan) PK Subban may score a goal or two but the Hawks are too good to be stopped by fang fingers and cell block 303.
(Paul) Chicago will crush the Preds in 5, leaving Nashville lamenting the loss of Shea Weber.