2014-15 nhl playoffs preview: round one

The playoffs are finally here and I’ve already written about the best way to pick winners (analytics) and who the favourites are (there aren’t any really). Now I want to take a look at each individual series and what I think will happen and why it will.

For that, I’m using a method that has predicted 73 percent of playoff results since 2007-08 and 27 of 30 over the last two years which is pretty good. It’s a small amount of series so far, but it’s an encouraging number nonetheless.

This year’s playoff teams are super close so predicting who’s going to win seems absolutely foolish, so let’s do it anyways.

The East

New York Rangers vs. Pittsburgh Penguins

The Lowdown

Why New York Wins: Henrik Lundqvist is the King and continues to assert that. The Rangers continue to shoot the lights out, PDO regression be damned.

Why Pittsburgh Wins: They embrace the underdog mentality and play keep away against the Rangers’ weak possession game. Oh yeah, Sid and Geno are pretty good.

Why New York Won’t: PDO regression be not damned, and the team falters because they never have the puck.

Why Pittsburgh Won’t: Kris Letang is the engine that motors the Pens and they go nowhere without it.

The Odds

Most think this’ll be a cakewalk for the Rangers, but it’ll be a lot closer than that. This doesn’t factor an Letang’s injury, but even with that the Penguins should still keep it close, if not win it.

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The Numbers

Penguins started out red hot, but ever since about the halfway mark the Rangers have been the better team. Much of that is percentage-based and it’s uncertain whether that continues.

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The Call

Pittsburgh Penguins in 7, although I may regret that.


 

Washington Capitals vs. New York Islanders

The Lowdown

Why Washington Wins: They activate star-power (TBT). Ovechkin, Backstrom and Holtby lead the charge and are too much for the Islanders to handle. Top-rated powerplay runs over one of the league’s worst.

Why New York Wins: Islanders are stacked on offence and have the puck more than the Caps generally. If this series is a track meet, Islanders have the firepower to win it. Also, they have Washington’s kryptonite: Jaroslav Halak.

Why Washington Won’t: Not many flaws to their game, so just blame it on the Europeans.

Why New York Won’t: Defensive issues are huge for this team and Halak hasn’t been spectacular either.

The Odds

Dead. Even.

Are you excited for this series yet? You should be. Slightest of leans to the Capitals though.

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The Numbers

Again, these two teams have been extremely similar, but Washington has been better of late.Screen Shot 2015-04-13 at 3.02.05 PM

The Call

Washington Capitals in 7, with an overtime series winner by ______ (someone remind me to fill this out later so I look super smart.


 

Montreal Canadiens vs. Ottawa Senators

The Lowdown

Why Montreal Wins: Carey Price.

Why Ottawa Wins: Andrew Hammond.

Why Montreal Won’t: Carey Price is any shade of normal.

Why Ottawa Won’t: Andrew Hammond shows why he was a sub. 900 goalie in the minors.

The Odds

I’m confident Montreal wins the goaltending battle here, and while the Sens have been exciting, the clock has to strike twelve at some point.

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The Numbers

Try to guess when Dave Cameron was hired.

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The Call

Montreal Canadiens in 5


 

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Detroit Red Wings

The Lowdown

Why Tampa Bay Wins: So. Much. Depth. The best second line in hockey, plus Stamkos, plus maybe a breakout from Jonathan Drouin? And they’re a good possession team. And they’re great on D. What’s not to like?

Why Detroit Wins: Detroit is so stingy on defence that Tampa Bay may not even be able to unleash that offence. That’ll be the key to this series along with all that veteran experience that matters so much I’m told.

Why Tampa Bay Won’t: Ben Bishop has not been good this year and if he even falters slightly, Tampa Bay won’t go far. Lack of experience hurts too.

Why Detroit Won’t: Again, it’s the goaltending. Mrazek is a risk but Howard has been terrible lately. That and this team just can’t score at 5-on-5.

The Odds

This is the second most lopsided series, but even then it’s still close. Similar possession teams, but Tampa has the firepower that Detroit can’t match.

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The Numbers

Tampa Bay has consistently been one of the best teams in the league by this model, while Detroit has slipped of late.Screen Shot 2015-04-13 at 2.42.44 PM

The Call

Tampa Bay Lightning in 6


 

The West

Anaheim Ducks vs. Winnipeg Jets

The Lowdown

Why Anaheim Wins: They keep the one-goal-game magic alive. They’ve also been surprisingly good of late by their underlying numbers and owned the Jets during the season.

Why Winnipeg Wins: Shot suppression is the key here as limiting shots against will be the key to their success.

Why Anaheim Won’t: Not as good as their record indicates, but then again we’ve been saying that for three years.

Why Winnipeg Won’t: They’re depending on Ondrej Pavelec in net. Good. Luck. That and they’re extremely undisciplined.

The Odds

This’ll surprise some, but Winnipeg is heavily favoured here. They’re a dominant possession team that got good goaltending this year. The only question is whether that continues.

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The Numbers

Winnipeg started off terribly, but quickly became one of the better teams in the league one they started giving Hutchinson some starts. One of the better teams in recent games too.Screen Shot 2015-04-13 at 3.43.03 PM

The Call

Winnipeg Jets in 6, please don’t let me down boys.


 

 

Vancouver Canucks vs. Calgary Flames

The Lowdown

Why Vancouver Wins: The second worst team in the West lucked into drawing the worst.

Why Calgary Wins: They score on 15 percent of their shots. Business as usual.

Why Vancouver Won’t: They’ll have a hard time shutting down that top line that’s been… on fire. That and maybe they just don’t have an answer for all the magic.

Why Calgary Won’t: I really don’t have time to list all the reasons.

The Odds

The most lopsided series, so just imagine if Calgary had to actually play a strong team.

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The Numbers

Both these teams made the playoffs! One of them will make it to round two!

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The Call

Vancouver Canucks in 5, because someone has to win.


 

St. Louis Blues vs. Minnesota Wild

The Lowdown

Why St. Louis Wins: They’re arguably the strongest team in the West and have the better d-corps in the series.

Why Minnesota Wins: Devan Dubnyk somehow, someway, keeps it up. The Wild were a strong team at the start of the season, but goaltending sunk them. Now they’ve got it and they’re terrifying.

Why St. Louis Won’t: Have as many series wins since 2005-06 as the Edmonton Oilers. I saw that on Twitter once, maybe I should fcat-check it.

Why Minnesota Won’t: Do we really think Dubnyk can keep this up much longer? That and the team has sunk a bit possession wise lately.

The Odds

It’ll be super close, but the Blues are one of the best in the league so they get the edge.

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The Numbers

Devan Dubnyk kind of made a pretty big impact on this team, huh? The Wild have been the better team of late, but it looks like they’re starting to decline.

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The Call

St. Louis Blues in 6


 

Nashville Predators vs. Chicago Blackhawks

The Lowdown

Why Nashville Wins: Pekka Rinne is better than Corey Crawford. That’s not debatable right? The two teams are even otherwise and the goaltending gives them the edge. That and an absolutely stacked d-corps.

Why Chicago Wins: If they get Patrick Kane back that’s absolutely huge for this team. He’s the x-factor in this very close series. On paper they look much better than Nashville, especially at forward.

Why Nashville Won’t: No experience really, and they’ve been in free-fall since adding two Maple Leafs to their roster. Just a coincidence, I’m sure.

Why Chicago Won’t: When Chicago has won in the playoffs, it was because of defence. This year they’ve been just average in that regard. That might be the difference.

The Odds

A very close series, which is what we all predicted at the beginning of the season.

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The Numbers

Both these teams have not been very good of late, but still remain among the top teams. Their play this year has followed a similar pattern so it’ll be interesting to see who steps it up a notch for the playoffs.

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The Call

Nashville Predators in 7

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