Day two of the 2016 NHL playoffs begin Thursday night. The HabsWorld writers share their predictions on the rest of the first round series.
Florida Panthers vs. New York Islanders
Brian La Rose predicts: Panthers in 6
Alexander Létourneau predicts: Panthers in 5
Craig Scharien predicts: Panthers in 5
Gordon Black predicts: Panthers in 5
Norm Szcyrek predicts: Panthers in 5
(Brian) I must admit, I don’t fully trust the Panthers despite an impressive 103 point season. Their goaltending is strong, their blueline underrated, and they have a deep forward group. But something doesn’t sit right with me for some reason. That said, I don’t think it should come back to bite them in this series. Thomas Greiss isn’t a good enough goalie to steal games. It’s really hard to win any round with a backup goalie and the Isles just don’t have that good of a team to overcome Halak’s injury.
(Alex) I like this Florida team. I like what Dave Tallon has done and I think this team is going to surprise a few teams during this postseason. Not sold on Capuano behind the bench and I’m not overly impressed with what this Islanders team has done. Not a bad team but a humbling exit should lead to a change in philosophy behind the bench. And who doesn’t want to see Jaromir Jagr keep chugging along. Rockstar.
(Craig) There’s something about this Panthers team that makes me think they’ll stick around awhile – maybe it’s Jagr, maybe it’s Luongo or maybe it’s the excellent young depth. Either way the Islanders are in trouble and the Panthers take it to them. The Islanders are a little banged up and haven’t been all that impressive down the stretch and this Panthers squad is only getting better.
(Gordon) I keep forgetting the Islanders are in the playoffs. I haven’t been impressed by any game I’ve seen them in this year. With Halak out for the first round, the climb gets even harder. There is a lot of youth on the Panthers but Jagr Campbell and Luongo should steady the ship.
(Norm) Florida finished the season strong, while the Islanders did not. The Panthers have the edge in goal, on the blueline and up front. The Islanders struggled through the last few weeks of the season, leading their head coach to publicly call out some of their young veterans for better performances. There’s little reason to believe the Islanders will get past Florida.
Washington Capitals vs. Philadelphia Flyers
Brian La Rose predicts: Capitals in 5
Alexander Létourneau predicts:Capitals in 6
Craig Scharien predicts: Capitals in 7
Gordon Black predicts: Capitals in 6
Norm Szcyrek predicts: Capitals in 4
(Brian) The Capitals have been the dominant team in the league all season long and more or less have been on cruise control for a month. The Flyers, meanwhile, have been tough to get a read on. Some nights they look dominant while others they’re rather pedestrian. I have concerns about Philly’s defence corps and goaltending while both of those happen to be major strengths for the Caps. Philly goaltending going up against a high-end offence should equal a quick series win for the Presidents Trophy winners.
(Alex) Can’t see a cakewalk for the President’s trophy winners but I can’t fathom them bowing out to Philadelphia, who to their credit have been a very difficult team to play against lately. Ultimately there’s too much fire power in Washington’s lineup for Steve Mason or Michal Neuvirth to handle. Spirited effort, but ultimately not enough. And if things do get a little dicey for the Capitals : Justin Williams.
(Craig) This one should be great. The best team in the league up against one of, if not the, hottest down the stretch. The Flyers aren’t going to give the Caps an inch, and Gostisbehere may be the worth the price of admission alone – not to mention Giroux, Simmonds and co. But Washington is just too good and built for a deep playoff run. It’ll be a tight, tough series but the Capitals’ depth is simply too much – and I’m sure Braden Holtby will be just fine.
(Gordon) This may finally be the Caps year. They have looked good all season and with the return of Carlson they lack any glaring holes. Philly has some nice pieces but the roulette goalie play and lack of relative depth is too much to overcome. Still, closer than many think here as I think Washington is more fragile than they appear and Philly is playing with house money.
(Norm) Although the Flyers turned their fortunes around during the second half of this season to help propel them into the playoffs, they could not have asked for a worse opponent. Washington has been the cream of the league this season, dominating in most categories. I predict their domination will continue over their first playoff opponent.
Dallas Stars vs. Minnesota Wild
Brian La Rose predicts: Stars in 6
Alexander Létourneau predicts: Stars in 6
Craig Scharien predicts: Stars in 5
Gordon Black predicts: Stars in 4
Norm Szcyrek predicts: Stars in 4
(Brian) If you like watching teams with very different styles, this could be the series for you. The Stars are all about a%acking while Minnesota is much more defensive oriented. As much as I don’t think too highly of either goalie for Dallas, they should do well enough. Can Devan Dubnyk steal a series for the Wild? He might be good for a game or two but the Stars just have too much fire power while Minnesota doesn’t have enough of it.
(Alex) Even with Tyler Seguin out to start the series, you have to like Dallas’ chances of moving forward. Minnesota quietly put together a strong campaign and there’s lots of weapons there to snag a few games. In the end the Stars have better cards in the deck which I expect to be the difference in this series. This is a series where goaltending on either side could be suspect and a momentum changer.
(Craig) Even without Tyler Seguin (who’s already back on the ice), Dallas is simply too much for Minnesota. Dubnyk may be able to pull a few miracle saves out, but I just can’t see the Wild hanging with the Stars – especially with Parise on the shelf.
(Gordon) This could have been an interesting matchup before the Parise injury that will keep him out for at least the first two games if not longer. Add Vanek to that and its not exactly what fans in Minnesota were hoping to hear. Dallas has played extremely well and also had stretches where it doesn’t look like they even cared. If you’ve watched Jamie Benn over the last few weeks, you know that’s not a concern though – Dallas comes out of the first round looking like the team you hope somebody else takes care of for you.
(Norm) Dallas has been a fun team to watch this season for their offence. Their key player will be Tyler Seguin, who has been hampered by an achilles injury since the middle of March. He’s expected to play in game 1, but it’s difficult to say how effective he’ll be. Minnesota is a low scoring team, and has 3 offensive players with a day-to-day status in Zach Parise,Thomas Vanek, and Erik Haula. The Wild may have an edge on the blueline, but they are equal in goal and Dallas’ forwards represent a huge advantage.
Anaheim Ducks vs. Nashville Predators
Brian La Rose predicts: Predators in 7
Alexander Létourneau predicts: Ducks in 5
Craig Scharien predicts: Ducks in 6
Gordon Black predicts: Ducks in 7
Norm Szcyrek predicts: Ducks in 6
(Brian) First off, I have to applaud Anaheim for sticking with Bruce Boudreau and not taking the easy way out. Not enough teams do that and the Ducks have been rewarded for their patience – and a change in style, one that is more like playoff hockey. However, they still have a relatively unproven goalie tandem. Nashville, meanwhile, doesn’t have as many big names up front but they have a strong blueline and Pekka Rinne. Despite his struggles this year, I trust him more than Gibson/Andersen. This should be a low scoring series which ultimately should work out well for Nashville. I think they can pull off the upset here.
(Alex) The Ducks figured it out after a terrible start to the year. Nashville has been all over the map. Anything aside from Anaheim cruising in this one would surprise me. Lots of secondary and tertiary scoring potential with the Ducks to compliment a stingy defence. I can’t see the Predators matching up to that. I also had Rinne in one of my pools, so I’m bitter.
(Craig) I really like this Nashville team. With an incredible defensive core featuring Shea Weber and Roman Josi in front of Pekka Rinne they’re hard to count out. However, meeting the Ducks in the first round is a tough match-up. With a great young D of their own and an excellent goalie tandem in Andersen and Gibson Anaheim has been the strongest team around in the second half of the season.
(Gordon) Another potentially epic series. I was going to take the Preds here because their defense is so deep and complete. I also think that Forsberg, Neal and Johansen are under-rated by most pundits – they are built for the playoffs. Still, with news that Vatanen is back and available for round 1 I’ll give a slight edge to the Ducks. Vatanen is only just scratching the surface of what he can do and if he’s fully recovered I think he’s the difference (not that having Perry and Getzlaf can really hurt their chances).
(Norm) Although Nashville held the edge in games played against Anaheim during the regular season, all of those games were played early in the season when the Ducks were in a big funk. Since December, Anaheim has been one of the league’s best teams. I like Anaheim’s goaltenders over Nashville’s. Both teams have excellent defencemen but Nashville has a slight edge in physicality. At forward, Anaheim is superior, and these assets combined will be enough to be victorious over the Ducks.
Los Angeles Kings vs. San Jose Sharks
Brian La Rose predicts: Kings in 7
Alexander Létourneau predicts: Kings in 6
Craig Scharien predicts: Sharks in 6
Gordon Black predicts: Kings in 7
Norm Szcyrek predicts: Kings in 7
(Brian) I find the goalie matchup in this one particularly interesting. LA moved Martin Jones in the offseason and now they play against him in Round 1. That’s not something you see all that often.
Despite missing the playoffs last year, the Kings are still viewed as a battle-tested postseason squad. On the other hand, San Jose has had their struggles in the past and it’s largely the same core now as it was then. Surely they have to shed that label at some point, don’t they? Some point doesn’t have to be at this point in time though. As I did with Chicago, I’m trusting LA’s postseason experience (and Jonathan Quick) to get them through this round.
(Alex) I’m sticking with the past repeating itself. Not San Jose blowing a three games to none lead but another difficult exit. The two Joe’s were great this year but the Kings have the pedigree to get the job done. Quick’s been up and down this year, if he doesn’t pull it all together, they could find themselves on the opposite end of this prediction.
(Craig) While I don’t think the Blues will be able to shake off the post-season ghosts this season, I feel like the Sharks can get it done in this battle of California. With Quick in goal, Doughty on defense and the usual cast of stars up front the Kings are hard to handle. But beyond Doughty and Muzzin they lack depth on the back end and the Sharks have an impressive attacking group of forwards and their own star defensemen in Burns and Vlasic. And don’t we all want to see how amazing Thornton’s beard can get?
(Gordon) This should be a battle! My heart wants the Sharks to win this one (maybe after coming back from 3 – 0 down in the series…) but the Kings don’t rattle. They are so good at what they do – winning tight playoff games well after most of the Leafs players have shaken the rust off their short game. Biggest question is what kind of goaltending do the Sharks get? I’m betting the answer is: inconsistent.
(Norm) This series is going to be must see hockey watching. Both teams struggled a little at the start of the season but eventually righted their ships. San Jose has a terrible playoff record, and several times they’ve been the team expected to win but have been upset. This series is the toughest one for me to predict, as I am very close to choosing the Sharks to be the successful underdog this year. But I cannot bet against LA this post season, who I predict will win this epic series.