Hockey Experts Make Playoff Picks

Playoffs.jpgEd. Note: These predictions were made before Penguins captain Sidney Crosby was sidelined with a concussion in game three of the Eastern Conference semi-finals.

Western Conference

PredsSam DiBitteto ‘18: Anaheim and Nashville will play in the Western Conference finals and Nashville will win. Nashville will make it to the Stanley Cup Finals because right now Pekka Rinne is the hottest goalie in the playoffs and can take over a game. They will be successful because of their defensive core — with Josi, Subban, and Ellis — and their scoring depth up front. They had seven forwards with over 30 points.

PredsAJ DiCesare ‘17: Nashville is my pick to win the West.  Their team play is one of the best of the remaining teams, they have solid goaltending with Pekka Rinne, and they not only produce scoring from some of their elite forwards, but also from two of the league’s best offensive defensemen, P.K. Subban and Roman Josi. Nashville’s power play had also proven to be more than lethal in game 1.  I expect them to roll over St. Louis in 5 or 6 games, as St. Louis doesn’t have the talent or the depth to hang with Nashville.  They have some very good players, such as Vladimir Tarasenko and Alex Pietrangelo, but simply, on paper, just do not compare with Nashville.  Edmonton and Anaheim is also an interesting series. Anaheim has an older group of talent with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry.  With this age and veteran quality comes experience, yet these players are also on the decline, and their age might limit their endurance in the playoff run.  Edmonton has a lot of talent, especially young talent.  Led by Connor McDavid, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Adam Larson, Jordan Eberle, and Milan Lucic, Edmonton will take the series from Anaheim in six or seven games.  Edmonton won’t have a chance against Nashville.  The Preds have a lot of playoff experience in the recent past, and their veterans are in their prime.  Edmonton’s lack of playoff experience will be the deciding factor as they move further down the stretch and closer to the cup,

PredsJesper Peltonen ‘17: The Nashville Predators will win the Conference because they have more depth than Anaheim. They have a top 5 goalie and defensemen this year. Anaheim has two really good forwards in Getzlaf and Perry, but a team needs more depth than that to win the Stanley Cup. The Predators’ Pekka Rinne is the best goalie in the playoffs right now and made the powerhouse Chicago Blackhawks look anemic.

PredsChristian DiCesare ’17: Edmonton vs. Anaheim. This is going to be a very exciting series. The Ducks have lots of veteran presence with guys like Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf, and Ryan Kesler, who will not go down without a fight. Edmonton has arguably the best guy in the league in Connor McDavid, who is playing alongside Stanley Cup Champion Milan Lucic whose combination of skill, energy and toughness defines what playoff hockey is all about. The goaltending match-up is about even. Prediction: Edmonton in 7

St Louis vs Nashville. The Nashville Predators have been the hottest team in the playoffs so far. Pekka Rinne has been essentially unbeatable. P.K. Subbing has been on fire, along with Ryan Ellis, and Roman Josi, giving the Predators a dangerous defense. Up front, the Predators have some skill as well. St. Louis has a hot goalie of their own in Jake Allen. Vladimir Tarasenko can be a game-changer in this series, but throughout the playoffs so far he has only found the back of the net once. Prediction: Nashville in 6

Eastern Conference

pensSam DiBitteto ‘18: The Ottawa Senators will beat the Rangers and face the Penguins in the Eastern Conference finals. Pittsburgh will win Eastern Conference because they have the most experience. With Crosby, Malkin, and Kessel, it’s hard to pick against them. The only question mark is if Fleury struggles; but so far he’s been strong.

pensAJ DiCesare ‘17: As of now, the most interesting series is Pittsburgh vs. Washington.  Both teams have proven to be elite in the regular season, and both teams hold top-level talent: Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Phil Kessel, etc. Pittsburgh has already taken game 1 in a close 3-2 game.  Ovi and the Caps will come back hard for game 2, knowing that if they lose their chances significantly decrease, as Pittsburgh in undefeated at home thus far in the playoffs.  New York and Ottawa are the other Eastern Conference semi-final. This series is essentially irrelevant.  Whoever wins will stand little to no chance against Washington or Pittsburgh, as both outperform New York and Ottawa in skill, speed, and scoring ability.  Many argue that goaltending and defense are what determine victory in the playoffs, and the Senators have one of the best defensive teams in the league, but at a certain point, such a difference in overall team skill and offensive firepower can allow no chance of victory for the lesser team.

CapsJesper Peltonen ‘17: The Washington Capitals will face the Ottawa Senators in the Eastern Conference finals, with the Caps making it to the Stanley Cup Finals because they have one line of all-stars and the second line is really good, their third and fourth line are good compared to other teams’ fourth lines. Their defensemen are solid: they play virtually mistake-free hockey, they can play the puck, and they join offensive rushes. Holtby, the Capitals’ goalie, is a Vezina finalist, and won it last year.

pensChristian DiCesare ’17: Pittsburgh vs. Washington. The Penguins have already beaten the Capitals in game 1 which gives them a big advantage. The Penguins won all 3 games on home ice in the first series and Fleury’s numbers have been far superior at home than on the road. Despite a respectable game 1 performance, Washington struggled to put away the young Maple Leafs, and do not seem to be atop their game. Both teams are offensive juggernauts, but to me Pittsburgh seems to be better at it. Prediction: Pittsburgh in 6

Ottawa vs. NYR. Neither of these teams has the firepower to compete with Pittsburgh or Washington. This series is more of a defensive battle and will be low-scoring, which in my opinion gives the Rangers the edge. They have a better defense, and Henrik Lundqvist has the potential to steal any game. Prediction: NYR in 7

Stanley Cup Finals

pensSam DiBitetto ‘18: The Finals will go to six games, but Pittsburgh will prevail and be the first team to win back to back championships since the Detroit Red Wings did it in 1997-98. The Penguins are just too deep at the forward position. In the Stanley Cup Final last year they had different players make an  impact including Bryan Rust and Conor Sheary. This year, we are beginning to see the same thing happen with Jake Guentzel as he’s leading the playoffs in goals. Another reason is because of their experience: almost everyone on their team has won at least one Stanley Cup. They have been in the playoffs many times and know how to get the job done. The Nashville Predators are good, but they don’t have enough experience to top the Penguins.

pensAJ DiCesare ’17: The Penguins will win again because they are simply the best team in the league.  Their top-level talent is unmatched.  Their goaltending has proven to be elite, when at its best.  Furthermore, they have proven that they know what it takes to win a Stanley Cup.  Not much has changed from last year’s championship team, and the same veteran leadership from the 08-09 cup is still present (Crosby, Malkin, Fleury).  Realistically, the Pittsburgh Penguins may have the best chance out of any team in history to earn back to back Stanley Cup titles.

CapsJesper Peltonen ‘17: The Washington Capitals will take it, because they have more depth than Nashville Predators. It will be a tight came because Predators goalie Pekka Rinne is on fire at the moment. He (a goalie) scored more points in round one than the entire Chicago Blackhawks team. Alexander Ovechkin is the best goal scorer in the league, and he will find a way to beat Pekka Rinne. The Capitals have one of the best power plays in the league, and that will make the difference on their road to hoisting the Cup.

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