Postmedia News Stanley Cup playoff predictions

 

 
 
 
 
Tampa Bay Lightning centre Tyler Johnson (9) celebrates his game-winning goal against the New Jersey Devils with centre Steve Stamkos (91) during overtime of an NHL hockey game Thursday, April 9, 2015, in Tampa, Fla. The Lightning won 4-3.
 
 

Tampa Bay Lightning centre Tyler Johnson (9) celebrates his game-winning goal against the New Jersey Devils with centre Steve Stamkos (91) during overtime of an NHL hockey game Thursday, April 9, 2015, in Tampa, Fla. The Lightning won 4-3.

Photograph by: Chris O'Meara, AP

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Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Minnesota Wild

Admittedly contrarian, but hardly anything ever works out according to plan (and the Kings are out). So we're rejecting the obvious Rangers-Ducks matchup and going with the first alternates. Tampa has looked dangerous for a while, Jon Cooper is both a heck of a coach and fun to talk to, and Ben Bishop in goal is bigger than a Shooter Tutor. Ditto Devan Dubnyk between the pipes for the Wild, who are just damned difficult to play against. Prediction: Lightning in 7. Cam Cole, Postmedia News

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New York Rangers vs. Chicago Blackhawks

The Blackhawks have had their troubles this season but remain the class of the league when they have their roster intact. And Patrick Kane will be back eventually. The Rangers are the best in the east at the moment, exceedingly deep on defence, and play a solid team game. Henrik Lundqvist is still among the goaltending elite. Prediction: Blackhawks in 7. Wayne Scanlan, Ottawa Citizen

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New York Rangers vs. Chicago Blackhawks

The Rangers were overmatched against Los Angeles last year even if they got some games to OT, but they're deeper, especially on the blueline, this season and still have Henrik Lundqvist in net. They might have the best one-through-six back-end in the NHL. The Hawks, with two Cup wins since 2010, are faster skating than LA and will survive without their No. 1 talent Patrick Kane (broken clavicle) until he returns. Prediction: Blackhawks in 7. Jim Matheson, Edmonton Journal

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New York Rangers vs. Chicago Blackhawks

Just predict the two teams that will make the Stanley Cup final was the request from higher on up. No problem ... except for the head-scratching, second-guessing exercise that comes with predicting which two teams will emerge from this spring's final 16. The Blackhawks lack the momentum that will propel the likes of Winnipeg and Calgary and Ottawa into the playoffs, but the return of Patrick Kane could be provided required spark. Prediction: Blackhawks in 6. Joanne Ireland, Edmonton Journal

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New York Rangers vs. Minnesota Wild

The Wild have been the NHL's best team since Jan. 15, going 28-9-3 as they leaned heavily on goalie Devan Dubnyk. But the Rangers have a pretty good goalie of their own in Henrik Lundqvist, who figures to round into form after missing much of the second half of the regular season. Alain Vigneault, who earned his third Presidents' Trophy as a head coach, will win his first Stanley Cup. Prediction: Rangers in 6. Brad Ziemer, Vancouver Sun

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New York Rangers vs. Chicago Blackhawks

The Blackhawks survive the formidable Central Division bracket long enough to get Patrick Kane back from injury, which turbo-boosts them to their third final in six seasons. But the Rangers, the class of the Eastern Conference, have learned a lot from their Stanley Cup near-miss last June and are too good in goal with Henrik Lundqvist, too tight defensively and too deep and fast up front to be beaten again. Prediction: Rangers in 7. Iain MacIntyre, Vancouver Sun

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Washington Capitals vs. Minnesota Wild

The Capitals have always had Alex Ovechkin to score and now they have learned to play defence under new coach Barry Trotz. Goalie Brayden Holtby has become a bonafide No. 1, posting nine shutouts along the way. The Wild have been outstanding in the second half, buoyed by the netminding of mid-season acquisition Devan Dubnyk, and they'll go on a nice playoff run. But it won't be enough. Prediction: Capitals in 6. Elliott Pap, Vancouver Sun

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Montreal Canadiens vs. Chicago Blackhawks

Goalies Carey Price and Corey Crawford shared the Jennings Trophy as the stingiest gaoltenders and they'll lead the way to the final. The difference in the series will be Chicago's firepower, bolstered by the return of Patrick Kane. Montreal will be emotionally drained after had-fought series wins over Tampa Bay and the New York Rangers, and the Canadiens' lack of size and high-end depth will be evident. Prediction: Blackhawks in 5. Pat Hickey, Montreal Gazette

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Winnipeg Jets vs. Montreal Canadiens

An all-Canadian final? Could happen. The Habs have been knocking at the door for the past two years having learned the hard way against the Stanley Cup finalists, the New York Rangers, last season. This year, they made all the right moves to improve. On the other side, the Winnipeg Jets are the loveable go-getters who are big and skilled. Combine that with Ondrej Pavelec's surprisingly good season and they could go far. Prediction: Montreal in 5. Kristen Odland, Calgary Herald

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Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Chicago Blackhawks

General manager Steve Yzerman has done a quiet, stellar job of assembling the balanced team that has every tool required to survive the playoff marathon. Goaltender Ben Bishop will anchor the back end with defence stud Victor Hedman, and Steven Stamkos will light the fuse on the NHL's most potent offence that doesn't rely solely on one or two players. Tampa's depth is outstanding, and contributions will come from where the Blackhawks will least expect them. Prediction: Lightning in 6. Dave Stubbs, Montreal Gazette

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St. Louis Blues vs. Montreal Canadiens

For Ken Hitchcock's Blues, time is certainly of the essence. Having suffered three painful playoff exits in succession, they've more than paid the requisite dues, and this year are poised to deliver, especially with their arch-nemesis Kings — who knocked them out in both 2012 and 2013 — removed from the frame. Montreal will claw out of an ultra-competitive East on the strength of Hart Trophy favorite Carey Price. So, for nostalgia buffs, a rematch of the '68 and '69 Cup finals, with a different result. Prediction: Blues in 6. George Johnson, Calgary Herald

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Ottawa Senators vs. Chicago Blackhawks

Maybe we've watched too many Disney movies. Or maybe we're just a sucker for a good Cinderella story. Either way, it's hard not to root for Bryan Murray and the Senators. They epitomize resilience. After watching them go 21-3-3 down the stretch, it's not hard to imagine them carrying that magic all the way to the Stanley Cup final, with goalie Andrew Hammond shutting out Chicago's snipers. Forget the champagne. Break out the hamburgers. Prediction: Senators in 7. Michael Traikos, National Post

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St. Louis Blues vs. Washington Capitals

They've been the next great team in waiting for a few years now, and it's finally time for the coronation of the St. Louis Blues. With a solid defence, talented forward crew, underrated goaltending and a playoff-proven coach in Ken Hitchcock, the Blues are ready to deliver the goods. Barry Trotz has the big Capitals playing L.A. Kings-style hockey and they will be a tough out this spring. Prediction: Blues in 6. Bob Duff, Windsor Star

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Winnipeg Jets vs. Tampa Bay Lightning

This may seem like a stretch — a team, with no history of doing well in the playoffs, galloping to the NHL's showdown — but the Jets are built to thrive. Big, fast, deep. They've proven to be resilient (after their blue line was strafed by injuries) and well-coached (by a man who knows the springtime drill). The Lightning, though, is no one's patsy — the highest-scoring bunch in the league. Prediction: Jets in 7. Scott Cruickshank, Calgary Herald

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New York Rangers vs. Chicago Blackhawks

Getting superstar winger Patrick Kane back early from a fractured collarbone for the first round is huge for the Hawks. Kane puts Chicago over the top in high-end skill. The Rangers were the NHL's best team in the regular season and shouldn't have any trouble getting to the East final — where both Montreal or Tampa Bay could give them a scare. In the final, we like the Hawks' playoff experience over the Rangers' excellent depth. Prediction: Hawks in 7. Jim Jamieson, The Province

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Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Anaheim Ducks

The Lightning have quietly flown under the radar all season but they have star power, depth, size and, in Ben Bishop, the goalie. Any one of the 16 teams in the tournament has a realistic shot at winning the Cup. The Lightning is just a little more realistic. Prediction: Tampa Bay in 6. Ed Willes, The Province

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Chicago Blackhawks vs. New York Rangers

The return of game-breaking, stick-handling Blackhawks winger Patrick Kane from a broken collarbone and a 21-game absence and the trade-deadline addition of Keith Yandle to the league's deepest back end are reasons why the Blackhawks and Rangers will battle for it all. While the Hawks can dazzle with offensive depth and proven playoff pedigree, the Rangers boast better goaltending in Henrik Lundqvist and the better blueline. Defence wins championships. All hail AV. Prediction: Rangers in 6. Ben Kuzma, The Province

 
 
 
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Tampa Bay Lightning centre Tyler Johnson (9) celebrates his game-winning goal against the New Jersey Devils with centre Steve Stamkos (91) during overtime of an NHL hockey game Thursday, April 9, 2015, in Tampa, Fla. The Lightning won 4-3.
 

Tampa Bay Lightning centre Tyler Johnson (9) celebrates his game-winning goal against the New Jersey Devils with centre Steve Stamkos (91) during overtime of an NHL hockey game Thursday, April 9, 2015, in Tampa, Fla. The Lightning won 4-3.

Photograph by: Chris O'Meara, AP

 
Tampa Bay Lightning centre Tyler Johnson (9) celebrates his game-winning goal against the New Jersey Devils with centre Steve Stamkos (91) during overtime of an NHL hockey game Thursday, April 9, 2015, in Tampa, Fla. The Lightning won 4-3.
Chicago Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford, right, makes a save on a shot by St. Louis Blues' Dmitrij Jaskin, of Russia.
 during the second period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, April 9, 2015, in St. Louis. Wayne Scanlan of Ottawa Citizen picks the Blackhawks.
Chicago Blackhawks goalie Scott Darling (33) and Johnny Oduya (27) let the puck slip past on a deflection by Colorado Avalanche left wing Cody McLeod (55) during an NHL game Saturday, April 11, 2015, in Denver.  Jim Matheson of Edmonton Journal picks the Blackhawks.
Chicago Blackhawks centre Andrew Shaw knocks in a rebound past St. Louis Blues goaltender Jake Allen in an NHL game Thursday, April 9, 2015, in St. Louis. Joanne Ireland of Edmonton Journal picks the Blackhawks.
New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist (30), from Sweden, makes a save against the Washington Capitals, Saturday, April 11, 2015, in Washington. The Rangers won 4-2. Brad Ziemer of Vancouver Sun picks the Rangers.
New York Rangers left wing Chris Kreider (20) has his shot blocked by Washington Capitals goalie Braden Holtby (70) in an NHL game Saturday, April 11, 2015, in Washington. The Rangers won 4-2. Iain MacIntyre of Vancouver Sun picks New York Rangers.
Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin (8), from Russia, right, signs a jersey he gave to Tom Clinch, from Potomac, Md., during a fan appreciation event after an NHL game against the New York Rangers, Saturday, April 11, 2015, in Washington. Elliott Pap of the Vancouver Sun picks Washington Capitals.
Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford makes a save as St. Louis Blues centre David Backes looks for a rebound. Pat Hickey of the Montreal Gazettee picks the Blackhawks.
Max Pacioretty of the Montreal Canadiens during practice at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard near Montreal Monday, April 13, 2015. The team is preparing for their opening round matchup in the NHL playoffs with the Ottawa Senators. Pacioretty missed the end of the regular season with an upper body injury. Kristen Odland of the Calgary Herald picks the Canadiens.
Tampa Bay Lightning centre Jonathan Marchessault (42) goes to the goal in front of Boston Bruins centre Ryan Spooner (51). Dave Stubbs of Montreal Gazette picks the Lightning.
St. Louis Blues' Vladimir Tarasenko, right, of Russia, celebrates after scoring as Minnesota Wild's Mikael Granlund, left, of Finland, looks on. George Johnson of the Calgary Herald picks the Blues.
Ottawa Senators' Mark Stone, (61), high-fives the bench after scoring against Philadelphia Flyers goalie Steve Mason on Saturday, April 11, 2015, in Philadelphia. The Senators won 3-1. Michael Traikos of National Post picks the Senators.
St. Louis Blues centre Jori Lehtera, left, is congratulated by right wing Vladimir Tarasenko after he scored an unassisted goal. Bob Duff of the Windsor Star picks the Blues.
Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Ben Bishop (30) and centre Steve Stamkos (91) work to keep out a Boston Bruins shot on Saturday, April 11, 2015 in Tampa, Fla. Scott Cruickshank of the Calgary Herald picks the Lightning.
Chicago Blackhawks' Michael Paliotta (47) collides with goalie Scott Darling (33) while trying to block a shot by the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday, April 11, 2015, in Denver. Jim Jamieson of The Province picks the Blackhawks.
Tampa Bay Lightning players salute their fans. Ed Willes of The Province picks the Lightning.
New York Rangers right wing Kevin Hayes (13) celebrates his goal with his teammates. Ben Kuzma of The Province picks the Rangers.
 
 
 
 
 
 
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