Puck Daddy’s 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs Predictions; who wins it all?

CUP

The seedings are set. The beards are growing. The 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs have arrived, which can only mean one thing: Time to throw a bunch of crap at the wall like hyperactive primates and see what sticks!

Here are your Puck Daddy and Yahoo Sports staff prognostications for the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs, including Stanley Cup champions and playoff MVP selections…

Sean Leahy, Puck Daddy Editor

Canadiens in 6

Lightning in 5

Rangers in 6

Capitals in 7

The opening round serves up a number of potential upset possibilities. Devan Dubnyk vs. the Blues? The Return of the Whiteout vs. the Anaheim Early Exits? J.P. Pageau and the Hamburglar vs. the Habs? It could be a wild Round 1. But I don't see much of that craziness happening and will stick with mostly chalk.

The Canadiens may have been riding Carey Price all season, but that will only take them so far -- and that will be only through the first round. Ottawa's been a great second-half story, and while they'll put up a good fight, their run will come to an end. Tampa should take care of a Red Wings side entering the playoffs not sure who their No. 1 goalie is. Today it's Petr Mrazek. Who will it be tomorrow?

You can't spell Pittsburgh Penguins without "IR." A healthy Penguins side might make for some interesting betting against the Rangers, but there are too many key parts out and New York will ride the PDO wave a bit longer. Their long-time rivals won't send-off Nassau Coliseum with a deep run. The Islanders' late-season struggles, coupled with a penalty kill that won't know what to do against Alex Ovechkin and the NHL's top power play will be their demise in Round 1.

Blues in 7

Blackhawks in 7

Ducks in 6

Canucks in 6

Dubnyk has started nearly every game for the Wild since being acquired in January. He's played himself into both the Hart and Vezina Trophy conversations and saved Mike Yeo's job. He's the reason why Minnesota will put a scare into the Blues. While St. Louis is a team some have faltering early, I think this is their best roster yet to get over that hump ... once they figure out that goaltender thing.

Patrick Kane could be back for Game 1. That means even if he isn't back for the start of the series, he'll return at some point vs. Nashville. That's a huge game-changer for Chicago, a veteran group about to go for their last ride. Radim Vrbata is going to be your Conn Smythe leader after Round 1. That, along with a healthy defense will be able to slow Sean Monahan, Jiri Hudler and Johnny Gaudreau.

Anaheim is another team may are expecting to go out early, because that's what Bruce Boudreau teams do. Winnipeg has dealt with injuries and a goaltending situation that's flipped from Ondrej Pavelec to Michael Hutchinson and now back to Pavelec. Both have been playing some good possession hockey since the trade deadline, but like the Blues, the Ducks should have enough offense to advance.

STANLEY CUP: Lightning over Blackhawks in 6 games.

CONN SMYTHE: Tyler Johnson

The bracket/divisional playoff format will mean some good teams go home early, opening the doors for others. Tampa and Chicago won't have to worry about avoiding any potential threats in my bracket, with the Lightning taking on the Canadiens and the Blackhawks knocking out the Blues in Round 2.

In the end, a Tampa team that ended top-5 in score-adjusted Fenwick during the regular season will have the firepower, defense and goaltending to win the franchise's first Cup since 2004. The underrated Johnson will continue to excel as Steven Stamkos garners most of the attention, and rightly so.

Josh Cooper, Puck Daddy Editor

Canadiens in 6

Lightning in 5

Rangers in 7

Capitals in 7

I picked the Caps to win it all at the start of the year and I have to stick with my gut.

In the past, Washington has been undone by trying to play either too offensively or too defensively. New coach Barry Trotz finally has brought a balanced attack, scoring 2.89 goals per-game and allowing 2.43 per-contest. Washington’s twin defense signings of Brooks Orpik and Matt Niskanen were much-maligned in the summer. Those deals are long, and probably won’t look good on the back end, but they’re going to add some much-needed depth in the Caps’ postseason run. While winger Alex Ovechkin deservedly gets publicity for scoring goals, this playoff we’re going to see the wonderful all-around talent of center Nicklas Backstrom at its finest.

Blues in 5

Blackhawks in 6

Ducks in 7

Canucks in 6

If the Ducks – the Western Conference’s top team – didn’t draw the Jets in the first round and drew the Flames – the Western Conference playoff team with the lowest point total – I would have taken the Ducks in the Cup Final. But alas, in the NHL’s bizarre-o world of how it structures its postseason, the best team doesn’t always play the worst team to make the playoffs? Alas …

The Ducks will be too bruised from a seven-game series over the punishing Jets. The Blues have incredible center depth in Paul Stastny, David Backes and Jori Lehtera. They have two solid goaltending options with Jake Allen and Brian Elliott and one of the most underrated defensemen in the game in Alex Pietrangelo. Also, if St. Louis is down a goal with a minute left, there are few better options for a score than Vladimir Tarasenko. I’m taking the Caps because I have to go with my preseason pick, but I could easily see the Blues winning it all.

STANLEY CUP Capitals over Blues in 7

CONN SMYTHE: Nicklas Backstrom

Jen Neale, Puck Daddy Editor

Canadiens in 6

Lightning in 5 

Penguins in 6

Capitals in 6

The first round of the playoffs seem to have laid out perfectly with the pretty even competition across the board.

My big upset pick is Pittsburgh over New York. I know what you’re saying, “But Jen, you crazy woman with your estrogen clouded judgment, the Penguins are playoff chokers, the Sharks of the East, if you will.” You’re right reader, the Penguins will eventually drop the big one, but not in the first round. Their meltdown will come after knocking off a goaltending conundrum filled New York Rangers. Trust me, I know it sound weird to give a goaltending advantage to Fleury over Lundqvist in the playoffs, but I’m riding a hunch that the King isn’t in post-season form.

Wild in 6

Blackhawks in 5

Ducks in 6

Calgary in 7

As far as upsets in the West, I have Minnesota taking St. Louis. Minny is riding a wave of Dubnyk-ian glory that will lift them over St. Louis in the first round. Chicago over Nashville isn’t really an upset. Unless Pekka Rinne is absolutely perfect, the Blackhawks are simply the better team. Calgary and Vancouver are both iffy in net, but the Flames can out-score the Canucks.

STANLEY CUP: Chicago over Montreal in 7

CONN SMYTHE: Carey Price

My final is Chicago vs. Montreal. I have Chicago winning with Carey Price going all kinds of J.S. Giguere over the series. The Blackhawks have the scoring depth that I don’t see with the Habs. Plus, by the time the conference final and Cup final roll around, Patrick Kane is going to be back in game shape. If he’s any semblance of what he was before he broke his collarbone, watch out. Even the best goaltender in the league will have a hard time stopping him.

Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos celebrates his goal against the New Jersey Devils during the second period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, April 9, 2015, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos celebrates his goal against the New Jersey Devils during the second period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, April 9, 2015, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

Ryan Lambert, Puck Daddy columnist

Senators in 7

Lightning in 5

Rangers in 6

Capitals in 7

I find these series almost impossible to pick, more or less across the board. The Senators seem to have Carey Price's number, but he's also Carey Price, and Andrew Hammond can't keep playing like this forever. Tampa's clearly better than Detroit in almost every way (so that's one of the few easy ones). I'm not in love with the Rangers but they're certainly better than the Penguins. Caps and Isles is a coin flip, but I went with the team that has Alex Ovechkin on it.

Blues in 6

Blackhawks in 6

Jets in 7

Canucks in 5

Out West, the Blues are better than the Wild, but only just, and boy could their goaltending situation bite them. Chicago's only a little bit better than Nashville without Patrick Kane, in that neither is world-beating, but they're still better. Winnipeg/Anaheim is another coin flip, but I went with the marginally hotter team (Jets have three regulation losses in the last month to Anaheim's four). The Canucks aren't good but the Flames are worse.

STANLEY CUP FINAL: Lightning over Blues in six.

CONN SMYTHE: Steven Stamkos

This year's match-ups are hard to predict and stupider than usual.

Darryl “Dobber” Dobbs, Fantasy Hockey Guru

Minnesota in 7

Chicago in 6

Anaheim in 7

Calgary in 5

The Wild taking down the Blues is a tough call to make, but how can you not make it? Devan Dubnyk is the hottest goaltender this side of Andrew Hammond and it seems like Minnesota can't lose. And what would a first-round playoff exit do to St. Louis coach Ken Hitchcock? The Jets will push the Ducks to seven games - I have the Ducks going to the final and Winnipeg could well be their toughest challenge of the first three rounds. It's a shame they meet right away. And now that Ryan Miller is healthy, I have very little confidence in the Canucks (let the hate begin). Goalie controversies are rarely a good thing. And regardless of the "certainty" that the team will go with Miller or with Lack, the question marks will linger.

Montreal in 6

Tampa Bay in 5

NY Rangers in 4

Washington in 7

The toughest one for me here is the Washington battle. I really like the Islanders and it pains me to pick them to lose. In fact, in some playoff pools I'll be going after Isles. So yes, I'm flipping a coin on this one - basically choosing the Caps because that would hurt my hockey pools more. The Rangers waltzing through their games against the Penguins is my other big prediction. The Penguins were as horrible as the Leafs in the dying weeks of the season.

STANLEY CUP: Anaheim vs. NY Rangers in the Final, with the Rangers winning in 6.

CONN SMYTHE: I'm going off the board here and calling Derick Brassard to win the Conn Smythe. I say this because he had a strong playoff performance the last two years, and Rick Nash certainly did not.

I love what the Rangers have done this year, with the biggest keys being the emergence of Kevin Hayes and the acquisition of Keith Yandle. Those were the final pieces needed.

Nick Cotsonika, Yahoo NHL Columnist

Senators in 6

Lightning in 5

Rangers in 6

Capitals in 7

The Lightning has a clear path in the Atlantic. The Bolts fared well against the Wings, Habs and Senators this season. They fared well against the Rangers, too, but they didn’t face them after Dec. 1, when the Rangers got on a roll. The Rangers are the class of the Metro and the East. Henrik Lundqvist is back in form in goal after recovering from an injury, which actually served to give him a rest before the playoffs. The Rangers made the Cup final without a productive Nash last season. They win the Cup with one this season.

Blues in 7

Blackhawks in 6

Ducks in 6

Canucks in 6

The Stanley Cup playoffs have been hard to predict for a while now. But this is ridiculous. The 16 teams were separated by 16 points in the regular season, and the Kings and Bruins are out. No one is a favorite. Everyone has a flaw. Good teams face bad matchups.

Congratulations, Blues! You finished first in the Central! Your reward is a first-round date with the Wild, the best team in the NHL since Jan. 15! Same to you, Canadiens! You finished first in the Atlantic! Your reward is a first-round date with the Senators, another red-hot team, one that dominated you in your last three meetings!

The Ducks are a trendy upset pick, but if they can get past the Jets in the first round, they should emerge from the Pacific – a relatively weak division now that the Kings and Sharks are out. The Jets are the second-best team in the division, and they’re not even from the division. They’re a crossover from the Central, which seems particularly brutal. The Blues will have to overcome the Wild, then the Blackhawks. But as long as the goaltending holds up, they have what it takes to do it. They can beat the Ducks and come out of the West.

STANLEY CUP: Rangers over Blues in 7

CONN SMYTHE: Henrik Lundqvist

St. Louis Blues center Jori Lehtera, left, is congratulated by right wing Vladimir Tarasenko after he scored an unassisted goal during the third period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, April 11, 2015, in St. Louis. The Blues won 4-2. (Chris Lee/St. Louis Post-Dispatch via AP) EDWARDSVILLE INTELLIGENCER OUT; THE ALTON TELEGRAPH OUT; MANDATORY CREDIT
St. Louis Blues center Jori Lehtera, left, is congratulated by right wing Vladimir Tarasenko after he scored an unassisted goal during the third period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, April 11, 2015, in St. Louis. The Blues won 4-2. (Chris Lee/St. Louis Post-Dispatch via AP) EDWARDSVILLE INTELLIGENCER OUT; THE ALTON TELEGRAPH OUT; MANDATORY CREDIT

Sam McCaig, Yahoo NHL Editor

Habs in 6

Bolts in 5

Rangers in 6

Isles in 7

Blues in 6

Preds in 7

Ducks in 6

Canucks in 7

Playoff prediction justification: First, the requisite reminder that the NHL is tighter than ever and trying to predict the Stanley Cup champion is a fool's game. But fools we are, so here goes: For all of the NHL's parity, we went with the favorite (to use the term loosely) in seven of the eight first-round series. The lone exception was picking the Isles to beat the Caps, and that's not really going out on a limb considering both teams ended the regular season tied with 101 points (and 40 ROW wins apiece, too).

STANLEY CUP: Blues over Rangers in 6.

CONN SMYTHE: Vladimir Tarasenko

Spoiler: My preseason pick to win the Stanley Cup was the St. Louis Blues, and since they qualified for the playoffs I should stick with them. Spoiler 2: My preseason prediction for the Rangers was that they would miss the playoffs entirely ... so there's a pretty good chance they'll be the Blues' opponent in the Cup final.

Chuck and Pants, NHL BeardWatch/What’s Up, Ya Sieve?

Senators in 7

Lightning in 6

Chuck says Rangers in 5, Pants says Pens in 6.

Capitals in 7

Carey Price is looking like the TriWizard Champion, but the Sens’ late surge and own hot goalie might just be the match for Montreal. Plus there’s no way in seven hells that Chuck is rooting for the Canadiens to win anything, ever.

In Tampa, young guns like Palat & Kucherov plus a deep forward corps will power the Lightning over the Wings - even if losing the Zetterbeard in Round One breaks our hearts.

Chuck knows the Pittsburgh bus has been grinding on its rims, heading straight for a Rick Nash who’s torn up the Pens even more than the rest of the League this season. Pants insists the Pens will win, has changed all the computer passwords to LETANG and locked herself in the office in her Crosby jersey.

The streaking Caps will upset the faltering Islanders in a battle of high-powered captains, goaltending and puck possession.

Blues in 7

Predators in 6

Ducks in 5

Flames in 7

Or the Wild in 7. Either way, the best-since January Wild and exceptional Devan Dubnyk will give Tarasenko and the Blues a long run for their money.

Unless Patrick Kane’s banked some major sparkle, the Preds will take this. Their defense is devastating, while the Hawks have been meh in front of the net, and Crawford can’t do it without them.

Just being nominated is the win for the Jets here. Paul Maurice has changed the identity and culture in Winnipeg, but they aren’t quite there...yet.

With a great coach in Bob Hartley, a hugely successful powerplay and their ability to win without Giordano, we’re betting the Flames are a dark horse.

STANLEY CUP: Rangers vs. Blues. Rangers in 7

The Rangers have the whole package this year: scoring, four solid lines, the NHL’s best group of d-men and incredible goaltending. After going out with just one win in last year’s Final, they’re taking the Cup this year at the Garden. And in Eastern time, so we’re awake to see it.

CONN SMYTHE: Rick Nash

But if Henrik Lundqvist wins, Chuck ain’t gonna be mad at it. Pants will be mad regardless (she is already).

Greg Wyshynski, Puck Daddy Editor

Senators in 6

Lightning in 5

Rangers in 5

Capitals in 7

Why tell when you can show …

Blues in 7

Blackhawks in 6

Ducks in 7

Flames in 6

Again, they’re nice enough to let me in the building to film these things, so do me a solid and watch them.

STANLEY CUP: Blues over Lightning in 6, winning their first Stanley Cup.

CONN SMYTHE: Vladimir Tarasenko. Russia, with love.

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