Puck Daddy’s 2014 Stanley Cup Playoff staff prognostications: Who wins?

Greg Wyshynski
April 16, 2014
Cup kiss
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VANCOUVER, CANADA - MARCH 2: (EDITORIAL USE ONLY) Liz Barry reaches to kiss the Stanley Cup in the BC Sports Hall of Fame at the 2014 Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic between the Vancouver Canucks and Ottawa Senators at BC Place on March 2, 2014 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo by Graig Abel/NHLI via Getty Images)

Happy Hockey Christmas every!

The Stanley Cup Playoffs begin Wednesday night, so tell your family you’ll catch up with them sometime in June. As a reminder, here are the first-round battles:

EASTERN CONFERENCE

Boston Bruins vs. Detroit Red Wings

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Montreal Canadiens

Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Columbus Blue Jackets

New York Rangers vs. Philadelphia Flyers

WESTERN CONFERENCE

Anaheim Ducks vs. Dallas Stars

San Jose Sharks vs. Los Angeles Kings

Colorado Avalanche vs. Minnesota Wild

St. Louis Blues vs. Chicago Blackhawks

Who wins the first round battles? Who wins the big prize?

Glad you asked … here are the official Puck Daddy playoff picks from our editors, writers and friends.

Greg Wyshynski, Editor

Bruins in 7
Lightning in 7
Blue Jackets in 6
Rangers in 5

Ducks in 5
Sharks in 7
Avalanche in 5
Blackhawks in 6

Stanley Cup: Sharks over Bruins in 6

Conn Smythe: Patrick Marleau

This actually marks the 40th season that I’ve selected the Sharks to win the Cup. I know this might seem amazing given my age and the age of that franchise, but that doesn’t take into account those years in which I traveled back through time to re-select the Sharks at the start of the playoffs, convinced the outcome would somehow be different due to the Butterfly Effect. Which I believe is the definition of insanity. Or that of a man obsessed with murdering butterflies.

Anyhoo, the Kings series is going to be a war, but home ice wins in the end. I think the top seeds hold serve, with the Avalanche haven’t a surprisingly easy time with the Wild due to their goaltending advantage. The Blues getting healthy might throw that Blackhawks series on its ear, but just because you’re healthy doesn’t mean you can necessarily score in the playoffs.

The Blue Jackets pick is, obviously, my transparent wearing of a heart on my sleeve, as a I feel it would be a franchise-transforming moment for the BJs. But I also think their tenacity, goaltending and coaching – the teacher over the student as Todd Richards faces Dan Bylsma – are a recipe for an upset, with another MAF meltdown always a possibility.

The Bolts win is under the assumption that Ben Bishop plays a few games in the series, which I think he will. The Rangers are a going to be able to take out Claude Giroux and get to the Flyers’ goaltending. As for the Bruins, it’s a really, really odd series: One that you can’t believe the top seed juggernaut would lose, yet you can easily imagine they can.

Also, Patrick Marleau as playoff MVP would the cherry on the absurd sundae that is a Sharks Stanley Cup. Go teal!

Sean Leahy, Editor

Bruins in 6
Lightning in 7
Penguins in 6
Rangers in 7

Stars in 7
Sharks in 7
Avalanche in 5
Blackhawks in 6

Stanley Cup: Sharks over Bruins in 6

Conn Smythe: Joe Pavelski

The key for the Sharks is if they can survive their first-round match-up with the LA Kings. That will not be an easy series to get out of. If they do, it should be smooth sailing en route to the franchise's first Stanley Cup Final where they'll meet the Boston Bruins, a team who's been consistently dominant all season in the Eastern Conference.

San Jose will continue to get heavy production from their top end guys, but it's the secondary ones like Matt Nieto, the now-healthy Tomas Hertl and Tommy Wingels that will help them claim their first Cup.

Harrison Mooney, Editor

Bruins in 6
Lightning in 7
Penguins in 6
Rangers in 7

Stars in 7
Sharks in 6
Avalanche in 5
Blackhawks in 7

Stanley Cup: Sharks over Bruins in 6.

Conn Smythe: Joe Thornton.

I'm picking the Sharks for the Stanley Cup again this year, and let me explain why: they're a fantastic team -- in my opinion, the best in hockey -- but they're also crazy due. You can't be this good for this long and not eventually get there. I'm going to keep picking them for years to come, and the way I see it, I either eventually get vindicated, or the Sharks reward my lowalty with a set of those sweet paper teeth.

But here's how bad San Jose's luck is: they're drawing the best possession team in the NHL in round one. Thus, if they lose to pretty much the only team they might struggle with, it'll look like another
first-round choke. That's crazy. But I think think they survive on the strength of their ability to score goals, and once they get past the Kings, they make quick work of the Stars, who will shock the Ducks, battle their way past the Blackhawks, who can't shake that Sochi hangover, and have enough left to beat the Bruins, who slice through the East like a lightsaber through flesh.

And at the end of the day, because Thornton's big points totals and all the chatter he gets, leading his current team over his former team to Stanley Cup glory, he hoists the Conn Smythe, along with his long-awaited first Cup.

Jen Neale, Writer

Bruins in 6
Canadiens in 5
Blue Jackets in 6
Flyers in 4

Avalanche in 5
Blackhawks in 6
Ducks in 6
Kings in 6

Stanley Cup: Boston over Chicago in 7

Conn Smythe: Patrice Bergeron

"The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior." This applies to Marc-Andre Fleury and the rest of the Penguins, including the coach. The Sharks are given a hard time because they're always falling short of expectations. What about the Penguins? Last year was the first time they made it to the conference finals since winning the Cup. Don't discount Columbus; a young team with nothing to lose who are just happy to be there. The rest of the teams are gimmies except for Philly. They draw the Rangers, but with Alain Vigneault behind the bench. We all know what happened in Vancouver when he had a superstar goalie...

Los Angeles is built for the playoffs. They're a solid defensive team that can crush you, and even if they don't score a lot of goals, they've got a goalie who can keep the score low enough to win. The Sharks won't be able to keep up physically, and Antti Niemi has a serious case of the yips at the worst time. In the conference finals, Chicago can score in bunches and that will irritate Quick. Throw him off his game and get Doughty emotionally involved to where he makes stupid mistakes, and Chicago is off to the Cup finals again.

It's going to be LA vs. Chicago in the West and Boston vs. Philly in the East, with the Blackhawks and Bruins coming out on top. Even if they are getting Toews and Kane back from injury, the Blackhawks are banged up and looking a bit tired. A majority of that team has played a helluva lot of hockey and they tailed off after the Olympics. There were Olympians on the Bruins, too, but they're clicking at the perfect time. Plus there is a slight possibility of getting Dennis Seidenberg back to help out a tired Big Z.

Patrice Bergeron is indispensable to the Bruins. He's going to play a pivotal role for Boston (again). He should get a couple extra Conn Smythe votes for just how seriously injured he was in last season's Cup run and managed to play through it.

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Ryan Lambert, Columnist

Bruins in 5
Canadiens in 6
Penguins in 6
Rangers in 6

Stars in 7
Sharks in 7
Wild in 7
Blackhawks in 5

Stanley Cup: Bruins over the Blackhawks in 6

Conn Smythe: Patrice Bergeron

The East is garbage and the West is full of great teams, all of which will end up beating up on each other to the point that whichever team limps out of it will have played a lot more games against far tougher opponents than their Eastern rivals.

Most of the playoff matchups in the East are coin flips, all things considered. No one is particularly better than anyone else, with the exception of the Bruins being so much better than everyone else that they might as well give them a bye to the final. You saw how it went last year, with the Bruins needing just 16 games to get through to the Cup Final, and that team wasn't as good as this one. The rest of the East is likewise notably worse.

Out west, you have to feel for any team that goes through that gauntlet. They're going to have a lot taken out of them. But with Chicago playing a Blues team in sharp decline, the winner of Minnesota/Colorado (maybe the worst first-round matchup), then whoever comes out of the other bracket, they're going to be hurting. And probably easy pickings.

Darryl “Dobber” Dobbs, Fantasy Writer

Bruins in 7
Canadiens in 6
Penguins in 7
Rangers in 5

Avalanche in 6
Blues in 7
Ducks in 4
Sharks in 6

Stanley Cup: Blues over Bruins

Conn Smythe: Alex Steen

In one of the toughest first rounds to call in years, this is an easy 3-5 win/loss record for me I just know it. But these are where the darts landed when I threw them at the board my results after some lengthy analysis. The Chicago - St. Louis series is possibly your Stanley Cup Final right off the bat. Or maybe it's the San Jose - Los Angeles series. I don't think anyone can say that Chicago or Los Angeles deserves to be golfing before May.

I like Montreal here because of Carey Price. And if he's in full-on game-stealing mode, then watch the Habs get to the Conference Final. The Rangers are 43-25-6 after their rocky start, whereas the Flyers are 41-23-10 after theirs. I'm calling this one as a rather quick series, though, because of the Steve Mason factor. He's had some great games and has turned his career around, but I'm just not 'there' yet with him. Not for the NHL playoffs.

A couple of weeks ago, I Tweeted a statement about how flawless I thought the Blues were. The perfect team, from goaltending on out. And then Ryan Miller et al peeled off six losses in a row to end the year. And so I've gone from being 100% certain that this team was coming out of the West to a mere 50/50. If they get past Chicago it will be in no small part to the soon-to-be Smythe winner Steen, who has emerged as a star thanks to his 25 goals scored by mid-December.

Nick Cotsonika, NHL writer

Bruins in 6
Canadiens in 7
Penguins in 5
Rangers in 6

Ducks in 6
Sharks in 7
Avs in 6
Blackhawks in 7

Stanley Cup: Bruins over Sharks in 7

Conn Smythe: Patrice Bergeron

The Bruins are the class of the East by far. Their closest competitors are the Penguins, whom they swept last year in the conference final. Right now the Bruins are healthy and humming, and their biggest concerns are: 1. Focus. If they slip and don’t play their system, they become vulnerable. 2. Fatigue. They have played a lot of hockey over the past year and a half. 3. Emotion. If they face the Canadiens in the second round, they cannot lose their cool.

The West is best, but it’s a mess, a meat grinder. Four or five teams have legitimate championship chops. The thing is, two will be gone after the first round, with San Jose playing Los Angeles and St. Louis playing Chicago. Why is this the Sharks’ year to make the final after so many cycles of hype and disappointment? Because they are a faster team now, and guys like Joe Pavelski and Marc-Edouard Vlasic have reached new levels, and Antti Niemi will be all right, and well, uh, a team this good for so long has to do it sometime, right?

What, you think this is scientific? Also, the other major contenders have major question marks at the moment: The Kings still struggle to score. The Blues and ‘Hawks have injuries. Though several players are expected to return for the playoffs, from David Backes and Vladimir Tarasenko to Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, we can’t be sure if they will return and how well they will play if they do. The Ducks and Avs have a lot to prove despite their outstanding regular seasons.

Why not the Jumbo Joe Bowl in the Stanley Cup final? The Boston Globe will have fun with the Thornton-returns-to-Boston storyline. Meanwhile, Patrice Bergeron will cement his status as one of the best players in the game.

Sam McCaig, NHL Editor

Bruins in 5
Canadiens in 6
Penguins in 6
Rangers in 7

Ducks in 6
Sharks in 7
Wild in 6
Blues in 7

Stanley Cup: Sharks over Bruins

Conn Smythe: Joe Thornton

The East is tight, the West is war. There isn’t a single NHL playoff series that’s easy to predict, never mind trying to forecast four rounds into the future and guess the Stanley Cup champion. They’ve fooled us before (many times), but the Sharks’ star power, depth, experience and chemistry makes a compelling case for a Cup breakthrough. (On the other hand, it wouldn’t be much of a surprise if L.A. dispatched of San Jose in five quick games, would it?)

If the Sharks can fend off the Kings, it might be the confidence boost they need to power them to their first NHL final. The Bruins have played for the Stanley Cup twice in the past three seasons, and Jarome Iginla’s presence gives them extra motivation for another spring run. Despite the Blues’ stumbles at the end of the regular season, we think they’ll knock off the defending champion Blackhawks in a lulu of a first-round matchup.

And it says here the Wild have the best shot at a first-round upset – and Minnesota will, indeed, knock off the surprising Avs.