Despite the Habs being eliminated from the playoffs, the show must go on. The HabsWorld team share their forecasts about the final eight teams and who they expect will move on to the Conference finals.
Ottawa Senators vs New York Rangers
Brian La Rose predicts: Rangers in 5 games
Alexander Létourneau predicts: Rangers in 6 games
Hilding Gnanapragasam predicts: Rangers in 6 games
Craig Scharien predicts: Rangers in 5 games
Norm Szcyrek predicts: Rangers in 6 games
Paul MacLeod predicts: Senators in 6 games
Jonathan Rebelo predicts: Rangers in 6 games
Gordon Black predicts: Senators in 7 games
(Brian) I feel inclined to pick one of the series in five and this is the one I could see ending the quickest. The Senators didn’t exactly light up the Bruins who were icing several blueliners who weren’t by any means proven at the NHL level. The Rangers did a solid job at holding Montreal back for the most part and while Ottawa’s attack is deeper, they should still be able to get the job done.
(Alex) Seeing as I expected neither of these teams to be in the second round, I’m not sure how confident I’d be taking any of this at face value. I don’t think either of these teams are that good, frankly. I didn’t think the Rangers were anything special against the Canadiens. I thought they played smarter and rode a hot, and lucky goalie, past a team even more devoid of scoring thatn previously thought. Lundqvist was good, no doubt, but he was battling pucks the entire series. Ottawa, unlike Montreal, can score, I expect he’ll have a tougher go. Then again, can Ottawa score? I thought Boston would handle them in a tight series, but a defensive injury crisis limited them. But Ottawa still didn’t score at will like I expected, and they have a few guys that can find the back of the net. Bottom line is I like New York’s back end compared to Ottawa’s. I think the Rangers offense will get going again and Ottawa will struggle to assert themselves consistently in the series. Erik Karlsson playing on a bum foot can only carry them for so long.
(Hilding) The Rangers depth players stepped up against Montreal when their big guns weren’t finding the back of the net. This, and the fact that Henrik Lundquist is on fire give them the edge here. The fact that Erik Karlsson is banged up doesn’t do Ottawa any favours.
(Craig) The Rangers depth players stepped up against Montreal when their big guns weren’t finding the back of the net. This, and the fact that Henrik Lundquist is on fire give them the edge here. The fact that Erik Karlsson is banged up doesn’t do Ottawa any favours.
(Norm) This series is the one I struggled the most to select a winner. The Ottawa/Boston series was a bit of a snoozer relatively speaking. The Rangers defeated the Habs with good defence and solid goaltending albeit with a goalie that produced a lot of rebounds. On the other hand, how long can Ottawa rely on Karlsson and his micro-fractured foot? The performances of forwards Mika Zibanejad and Derrick Brassard will be interesting to follow, since the players were traded for each other last off season. I’ll lean towards the more experienced team in this match, and select New York to win this one.
(Paul) Meh. Since they both can’t lose I look for Anderson to do to Lundquist what Lundquist just did to Price.
Pittsburgh Penguins vs Washington Capitals
Brian La Rose predicts: Penguins in 6 games
Alexander Létourneau predicts: Penguins in 7 games
Hilding Gnanapragasam predicts: Penguins in 7 games
Craig Scharien predicts: Penguins in 6 games
Norm Szcyrek predicts: Penguins in 7 games
Paul MacLeod predicts: Penguins in 7 games
Jonathan Rebelo predicts: Penguins in 7 games
Gordon Black predicts: Capitals in 5 games
(Brian) It wasn’t easy for Washington to get by Toronto who admittedly fared a lot better than I thought they were. The Penguins aren’t the Leafs; they’re more talented and a lot more playoff-proven which gives them the edge on paper.
Braden Holtby wasn’t at his sharpest against the Leafs but if he rediscovers his form, he could be the equalizer, especially with Pittsburgh’s situation between the pipes at the moment. Barring that happening though, I think the Caps will fall short once again.
(Alex) Again, I didn’t think Pittsburgh would be even close to as ruthless as they were against Columbus and I didn’t think Washington would have such difficulty with Toronto – which kills me to say was so much fun to watch. Defensive injuries and Matt Murray having to take a back seat before the series started was enough to convince me of an upset. For shame. The Penguins look lethal at the moment and they’ll be confident against a team they know they can beat when it matters most. For the Capitals, that Toronto series might’ve been the best thing that could’ve happend. Immediate pressure and an early reminder that they won’t run the table like they did in the regular season. While their ability to take over a game is impressive, their inability to keep riding momentum was startling. Against a team of upstart kids, you can get away with it, against the defending Stanley Cup champions, you’ll be punished for it. Braden Holtby will need to be miraculous. Fleury will need to not let his team down with lapses.
(Hilding) This series should be the ultimate culmination of the Sid vs. Ovie story. Both teams are as strong as they’ve ever been, but in the end, the Penguins’ experience should be the difference. Ovechkin and the Capitals have yet to prove that they can win when it counts and Crosby’s Penguins may once again foil Washington’s silver dreams.
(Craig) Great that we get a classic Ovechkin vs Crosby battle in the second round. The Pens looked great against Columbus, while the Caps were lucky to get out of the series against the Leafs. Washington will need to bring a lot more to the table if they want to get past the champs.
(Norm) This is the series I’m looking forward to watching the most. The two teams have some history in the playoffs where Pittsburgh has won every previous series. Washington had a very dominant team during the regular season, and to a somewhat lesser extent so did Pittsburgh. In the first round, Washington disposed of the Leafs in 6 games, which surprised many experts that predicted a 4 game sweep. The Capitals at times had difficulties containing some of the speedy Leafs forwards. The Penguins managed to defeat the Blue Jackets in 5 games, where they dominated their opposition in most of those wins, with their backup goalie. Although the Capitals should be very motivated to beat the Penguins, I’ll say that history will repeat itself and Pittsburgh will advance.
(Paul) Crosby and Malking outduel Ovi in a 7 game classic.
Edmonton Oilers vs Anaheim Ducks
Brian La Rose predicts: Ducks in 6 games
Alexander Létourneau predicts: Ducks in 6 games
Hilding Gnanapragasam predicts: Oilers in 7 games
Craig Scharien predicts: Oilers in 7 games
Norm Szcyrek predicts: Oilers in 7 games
Paul MacLeod predicts: Oilers in 5 games
Jonathan Rebelo predicts: Ducks in 6 games
Gordon Black predicts: Ducks in 6 games
(Brian) Anaheim made quick work of Calgary despite missing multiple key defenders. I doubt they’ll get by the Oilers as easily but with the likes of Fowler and Vatanen expected back in the series, it’s hard not to think of them as the favourite here.
I’m one of those people who thinks experience can really make a difference, especially as the rounds progress and the pressure increases. Young, upstart teams don’t often go deep into the postseason in their first try so I’m inclined to think that Edmonton’s run will end here.
(Alex) Easier than anticipated for Anaheim and a bit of shock for me with Edmonton. Especially since they did it with balanced scoring. Very impressive from the Oilers. But this isn’t a beaten up veteran team, this is a Ducks team that brushed aside what could have been a very emotionally charged series with ease. They’re big, they play hard and they have finesse to compliment it all. Not to mention two goaltenders that showed they can play at a very high level. Edmonton has McDavid and that could be enough to tilt the scales. I was very impressed with the team’s professional display to snuff out the Sharks, but I still see this as a sink or swim on how well their captain plays. San Jose got under his skin and he got off his game. Maybe San Jose weren’t expecting so many Oilers to step up offensively, but Anaheim will know they’re now capable of it and will plan accordingly. Corey Perry lives to get under your skin, which is what he’ll do with McDavid. They’ve been fun to watch but I don’t see them getting past a Ducks team that is firing on all cylinders at the moment.
(Hilding) The Ducks have the experience, but there’s just too much to like about the way the young Oilers handled themselves against the Sharks in the first round. There is no city in the West as hungry as Edmonton and no player in the league as exciting as Connor McDavid. Call it a hunch, but this Oilers story doesn’t feel as though it’s done quite yet.
(Craig) The Ducks may be a little banged up on the back end, with Cam Fowler injured in the first round, but their impressive young defensemen (Manson, Theodore and Montour) picked up the slack. That said, I think Connor McDavid still has some magic left to show us this year and the Oilers sneak through.
(Norm) This is my underdog series. There’s a lot to like about the plucky Oilers this year. It’s an exciting team with their young players seeming to overachieve in the regular season and finally make the playoffs, then knock off one of last season’s finalists. How will Connor McDavid manage to score against a defensively superb Ryan Kesler? Anaheim dominated Calgary in round one, but the Oilers showed they can win games in different ways. Look for Edmonton to win this hard fought matchup.
(Paul) The Ducks look like the Ducks of old rather than the old Ducks schooling the upstart Oilers
St. Louis Blues vs Nashville Predators
Brian La Rose predicts: Blues in 7 games
Alexander Létourneau predicts: Predators in 5 games
Hilding Gnanapragasam predicts: Predators in 6 games
Craig Scharien predicts: Predators in 6 games
Norm Szcyrek predicts: Predators in 6 games
Paul MacLeod predicts: Blues in 6 games
Jonathan Rebelo predicts: Blues in 7 games
Gordon Black predicts: Predators in 7 games
(Brian) Both teams really surprised me in the first round. No one, even the most ardent Nashville fans, could have realistically expected them to sweep Chicago. As for St. Louis, they made short work of the Wild, the team out West that had basically gone all-in.
I have a hard time thinking that the Preds are going to roll through the Blues though. The extra-long rest probably won’t help them and I can’t see Pekka Rinne being that good for another entire round. On paper, Nashville arguably has the better team but something’s telling me St. Louis is going to make it to their second straight Western final.
(Alex) Credit mus be given where it is due. Nashville pulled the rug out from under Chicago so viciously that media is asking if this Blackhawks era of dominance has ended. They beat them like gongs. Pekka Rinne took direct aim at my comments that he would barely be able to steal games, let alone a series, and made a mockery of it all. Beyond impressed. This is a strong lineup top to bottom now fueled with belief. The only weakness I would nail them with at the moment would be overconfidence, but I wouldn’t worry too much about that. St-Louis, despite their strong turnaround, doesn’t have a hope against the Predators if they play the way they did against Chicago. It would take some real dominance from Tarasenko and an absolute shut down performance from the backend, and even then I don’t think there’s much hope for the Blues. The Sobotka extension at year’s end for the Blues was a stroke of genius, maybe he’s the wild card factor, but I can’t see this going further than five games at the moment.
(Hilding) This is a very close matchup between two teams coming off of convincing first round wins. The Predators’ sweep of the Blackhawks is definitely the more impressive of the two, which should provide some major confidence in the Nashville locker room heading into this series. Ultimately, the Predators boast the better defence corps and likely the better goaltender, which should give them the edge over the Blues.
(Craig) Both of these clubs looked great in the first round, taking out impressive opponents. However the Predators destruction of the Blackhawks was easily the more impressive feat. I think the Preds keeps rolling into the Conference finals.
(Norm) This series should be highlighted by strong goaltending performances on both ends. Jake Allen was superb in round one, and Pekka Rinne was also excellent in the first round. Both teams are evenly matched all around. It’s likely a high number of Habs fans will swap their playoff alliance now to Nashville. I think the Predators will win this round, based on a somewhat better defensive squad.
(Paul) The overdue Blues outmuscle the Preds in a nasty six game battle.