Stanley Cup Playoffs 2016: Puck Daddy picks the champions

Stanley Cup Playoffs 2016: Puck Daddy picks the champions

The previews are over. The games are here. It’s time to find out who survives the greatest postseason in sports to hoist the Stanley Cup!

But first, some nonsensical prognostications from a bunch of people who never played the game …

Sean Leahy, Editor, Puck Daddy

EAST

Capitals in 6

Penguins in 5

Panthers in 6

Lightning in 7

WEST

Stars in 5

Blackhawks in 6

Ducks in 5

Kings in 7

The Kings and Sharks will provide us one of the more entertaining series in the first-round, but the biggest ripples will come out of the Chicago-St. Louis series. A series loss for the Blues means no more Ken Hitchcock and who knows what kind of changes GM Doug Armstrong makes to that core this summer.

It's going to get hairy for the Capitals in Round 1, as is tradition, but they'll survive Philadelphia to set up two weeks of Sid vs. Ovi coverage. Even without Steven Stamkos and a lineup that's been hit with injuries, the Lightning should be able to get by a Red Wings team that nearly ended their 25-season playoff streak. Unless, of course, Jimmy Howard or Petr Mrazek get hot.

Which series are you most looking forward to and why?

Kings vs. Sharks. Last two series between them have gone seven games in LA's favor. The Sharks are improved from last year and the Kings are still the Kings.

Has your Cup Final matchup changed from earlier this year? Why has it changed? What is your new Cup Final? 

I had Tampa vs. Anaheim back in October and am coming off of one of those teams. The Stamkos-less Lightning and other injuries they're experiencing have made me decide a new East representative. With that, I'm going straight chalk with the Capitals breezing through the conference to set up the Bruce Boudreau Cup.

Who wins the 2016 Stanley Cup, in how many games, and who is the Conn Smythe winner?

Anaheim Ducks in six games. Finally, Bruce Boudreau gets over the hump and wins a Stanley Cup title. For a coach who's never not won a division title while behind the bench for a full season, he's come up empty in the postseason far too often. After surviving the disastrous first two months of the season, Boudreau's Ducks have been incredible since Christmas. It won't be easy getting out of the West, especially -- going by my bracket picks -- matchups with the Kings and Stars looming to get to the Final. Conn Smythe: Corey Perry.

Jen Neale, Editor, Puck Daddy

WEST

Stars in 6

Blackhawks in 7

Ducks in 6

Kings in 7

EAST

Capitals in 5

Penguins in 5

Panthers in 7

Lightning in 6

Pretty much every prediction I ever make on hockey is entirely on gut feeling and a few outstanding issues I think that might cause problems for a team.

In the West: I gave the Stars six games to beat a Zach Parise-less (for now) Wild because of their goaltending. I simply don't trust Kari Lehtonen as a tandem you want to take into the playoffs. I've said it all season, the Stars can score a million goals, but it doesn't matter if their goaltender(s) can't stop a million and one. The Ducks are also riding a goaltending tandem, and that could be a problem as we saw back in the 2014 playoffs. Still, I think the team is clicking at the right time - as long as everyone stays healthy. For the Kings and Sharks, I just want a bloodbath. Ultimately, the Kings will stymie the Sharks' offense for another series win.

In the East: The first Flyers home game is going to be emotionally charged as any after the passing of Ed Snider. I see that as the only game they're going to drop against the Capitals. The Rangers lurched into the post-season; whereas the Penguins are much like the Ducks, clicking at the right time, and hope that everyone stays healthy. The most difficult pick for me was the Islanders/Panthers series. Perhaps I've had too much to drink of the Jaromir Jagr Kool-Aid, but I just love the Panthers. Roberto Luongo can steal a game or two, and I expect the young kids to run up the score. The injuries to the Islanders puts even more pressure on John Tavares and Kyle Okposo to carry the team. Speaking of injuries, the are going to bite the Lightning, but not in the first round. Detroit squeaked into the playoffs, and are carrying two goaltenders who have looked shaky at best more often than not.

Which series are you most looking forward to and why?

I am really fascinated by the St. Louis/Chicago series. For the first time in what feels like forever, the St. Louis Blues are healthy. Brian Elliott has been stellar down the stretch for the team. I think their grind game is something that could wear on the Blackhawks who have played a hell of a lot of hockey in the past couple years.

Has your Cup Final matchup changed from earlier this year? Why has it changed? What is your new Cup Final? 

My Cup final before the season was Anaheim and Washington. I have changed it to Chicago and Washington. The Blackhawks have shown they can win with anyone in net - anyone remember Antti Niemi?! - even a partially healthy Corey Crawford is better than nothing. They can win in front of Scott Darling, too. Suspending Duncan Keith was the right thing for the NHL to do, but at the same time, he's being rested. The cyborg that is Keith can play even more minutes on a defense that isn't as strong as it was. Love my Ducks, but they aren't the team we expected them to be. It's going to come down to goaltending choices. Is Frederik Andersen or John Gibson ready to carry Anaheim to the promised land? Not just yet, especially when we don't know how healthy the two are.

Who wins the 2016 Stanley Cup, in how many games, and who is the Conn Smythe winner?

Washington win the Cup in six games and Justin Williams is your Conn Smythe.

Josh Cooper, Editor, Puck Daddy

WEST

Stars in 5

Blues in 6

Ducks in 6

Kings in 7

EAST

Capitals in 6

Penguins in 5

Panthers in 6

Red Wings in 6

I have the Blackhawks losing in the first round because they have too many questions not enough answers going into this postseason. They struggled down the stretch and I don’t think they have the same type of seasoned depth as their past Cup teams. The Wild are the weakest team in the Western Conference and I think the Stars will dispatch them quickly.

The Predators are stronger than their past teams at center with Ryan Johansen, but they can’t handle the 1-2 punch of Ryan Getzlaf and Ryan Kesler down the middle. Kings/Sharks is going to be a battle. I can see the Sharks winning this year, but in the end I can’t pick against the Kings against San Jose. LA has too much championship-level winning experience in their locker room.

The Philadelphia Flyers will put up a fight against the Capitals, but Washington has too much depth and too much skill to lose that matchup. The Penguins have been one of the better second-half teams this year and have sharpened their game without the injured Evgeni Malkin. I see them beating the Rangers rather easily – though I wouldn’t be surprised if Henrik Lundqvist steals a game or two for New York.

The Islanders are a little too banged up to beat the Panthers in the first-round – same goes for the Tampa Bay Lightning against the Detroit Red Wings. It’s hard to see the Lightning going deep in the playoffs without Steven Stamkos and Anton Stralman.

Which series are you most looking forward to and why?

Kings/Sharks is going to be the best first-round series since the last time these two teams played in the postseason. In 2014, the Sharks raced ahead to a 3-0 lead, then saw the Kings grind their way back into the series. Los Angeles beat San Jose in Game 7, and went all the way to win a Stanley Cup.

I can see either one of these teams making a run to the Stanley Cup Final. It’s almost unfortunate they have to play one another so early in the postseason. This series will either be redemption for the Sharks or provide validation that the Kings are the dominant team in this rivalry.

Has your Cup Final matchup changed from earlier this year? Why has it changed? What is your new Cup Final? 

I’m keeping the Anaheim Ducks in my Stanley Cup Final matchup, but I have them facing the Washington Capitals instead of the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Capitals have been the NHL’s best team all season. Their blend of depth and star power is simply better than Pittsburgh’s. The Ducks, when healthy, can roll four lines and three defense pairs. They’re the most complete team in the West and it feels like this is their year to make a run.

Who wins the 2016 Stanley Cup, in how many games, and who is the Conn Smythe winner?

Capitals in 7. Alex Ovechkin finally hoists the Stanley Cup, beating his former coach, Bruce Boudreau, in the process. It will be a bruising series between the two deepest teams in the NHL, but ultimately the Caps’ star power will win out. Justin Williams will score the game-winning goal in the third period to clinch the Cup for the Caps on home ice. Conn Smythe: Evgeny Kuznetsov

Ryan Lambert, Columnist, Puck Daddy

WEST

Dallas  in 5

St. Louis in 6

Anaheim  in 6

Kings in 7

EAST

Florida in 7

Tampa  in 7

Washington in 6

Pittsburgh in 6

Injuries play such a huge role in the East this time around. I might like the Islanders over the Panthers if everyone were healthy. I would pick Tampa over Detroit in a rout if the Bolts weren't missing half an All-Star lineup. Healthy Washington and Pittsburgh (pending Fleury's status, obviously) should walk over healthy Philly and Rangers, but the goaltenders for the two underdogs make such a huge difference that the series will be closer than they appear.

I almost picked a Dallas sweep, but Dubnyk is a difference-maker. Injuries really cloud Chicago's chances (as does the fact that they've played like trash for two months). Anaheim has probably the best team in the league, but the Preds are tough to put down, especially if Rinne actually shows up. Sharks/Kings is a coin flip, so I went with home ice.

Which series are you most looking forward to and why?

I hope Sharks/Kings never ends. Two of the best teams in the league going head-to-head for seven games doesn't seem fair for a first-round matchup, but hey, divisional playoffs are..... good? That can't be right.

Has your Cup Final matchup changed from earlier this year? Why has it changed? What is your new Cup Final? 

I picked Ducks/Caps in October and the only thing that gives me pause is how well the Pens have played lately, and the fact that there's not a lot separating the best team in the West from the sixth-best team in it. I'll change my pick to a Ducks/Pens final, but my original is still perfectly plausible.

Who wins the 2016 Stanley Cup, in how many games, and who is the Conn Smythe winner?

Ducks over Pens in 7, Corey Perry wins Conn Smythe.

Darryl “Dobber” Dobbs, Puck Daddy Fantasy Columnist

WEST

Dallas in 7

St. Louis in 7

Anaheim in 6

San Jose in 5

EAST

Washington in 4

Pittsburgh in 5

NY Islanders in 5

Tampa Bay in 7

Despite the Jaroslav Halak injury news (out first round), I still like the Isles here. They haven't been playing to dominate, nor have they been playing to score a ton of goals. They've been player, all year long, to eke out close wins. They're ready for playoff hockey... The Penguins move on because they're on a roll like nothing I've seen from them in over a year...The Sharks dominate on the road and I think they take out the Kings this year because of it. A very underrated team...I take the Lightning over the Red Wings even though TB is struggling with injuries. This is because Detroit has been unimpressive over the last few weeks (to put it politely) and they 'backed' into their playoff spot.

Which series are you most looking forward to and why?

Looking forward to the Chicago - St. Louis series because it's two elite teams and I'm honestly stumped as to who will win it. I chose St. Louis on the chance that Brian Elliott continues dominating the way he has (when healthy) since January 9. His numbers have been ridiculous: 18-4-2, 1.87 GAA, 0.937 SV%. On the other hand, Chicago is...well, Chicago. Bet against them at your own peril.

Has your Cup Final matchup changed from earlier this year? Why has it changed? What is your new Cup Final? 

Anaheim vs. Washington. My preseason prediction was Anaheim vs. Tampa Bay. It took until November to convince me that the Caps were for real and at that point my view shifted. This would seem to be their year. Meanwhile the Lightning have been decimated by injuries and have an uphill battle.

Who wins the 2016 Stanley Cup, in how many games, and who is the Conn Smythe winner?

The Caps will win the Cup with Alex Ovechkin taking that MVP (Smythe) home.

Sam McCaig, NHL Editor, Yahoo Sports

WEST

Stars in 5

Ducks in 6

Blues in 7

Kings in 6

EAST

Capitals in 5

Panthers in 6

Penguins in 6

Lightning in 7

I’m going out on a limb and picking the higher seed in each and every first-round series. The Caps and Stars, the No. 1 seeds in the East and West, respectively, deserve the easiest opponents -- and they have them in the Flyers and Wild (respectively). Washington should overpower a fatigued Philadelphia team that had to battle hard down the stretch just to qualify for the postseason; Dallas gets a Minnesota club that backed into the playoffs. Of course, it’s the NHL playoffs so there’s always a chance for the upset – Steve Mason, Claude Giroux and Wayne Simmonds could carry the Flyers past the Caps, while Devan Dubnyk could give the Wild (much) better goaltending than the Stars might receive from Antti Niemi and/or Kari Lehtonen. But I’m going to err on the side of the heavy favorites, and that’s Washington and Dallas winning in five games in Round 1.

And on it goes. In the East, give me the Panthers over Islanders, Penguins over Rangers and Lightning over Red Wings. Would it come as a shock if any -- or all -- of these series went the other way? Of course not. If the Isles get healthy, if Henrik Lundqvist does what he often does, if the Wings take advantage of the Bolts’ injuries, the so-called underdogs could be moving on to the second round. But I like Florida’s advantage in goal, defensive acumen and overall scoring depth against John Tavares & Co. I think the Penguins are a better team than the Rangers, period, even if they don’t have Evgeni Malkin for the whole series. And despite being without Steven Stamkos and Anton Stralman – two huge losses for Tampa Bay – I’m going with Ben Bishop over Jimmy Howard.

The rest of West? The rest of the West is ridiculous. Blues-Blackhawks? That’s as heavyweight as it gets, and it’s the first round. Kings-Sharks? The hate is strong in this one. And don’t overlook the Ducks-Preds, which could easily produce a Stanley Cup finalist this spring. I’m going with the Blues over the Blackhawks – but even as I write this, I kinda want to flip-flop and take the Blackhawks because they’re the Blackhawks and it’s tough to bet against the defending champs. I’m picking the Kings over the Sharks, because L.A. has won two Cups in the past four years and they’ve got the mental edge on the Sharks after rallying from a 3-0 series deficit in 2014. (Hey, maybe now that nobody’s expecting San Jose to do much, they’ll win the whole thing. We shouldn’t be surprised if they do.) And I went with Anaheim because Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry are tough to stop, even if you’re named Shea Weber and Pekka Rinne.

Which series are you most looking forward to and why?

The Blues versus the Blackhawks. Two supremely talented teams that could go on to win the Stanley Cup. Two teams that have a history and don’t like each other. Two teams with game-breakers up and down their lineups. Two teams that are going to beat the stuffing out of each other each and every game. Here’s hoping it goes seven, with lots of overtime.

Has your Cup Final matchup changed from earlier this year? Why has it changed? What is your new Cup Final? 

Best guess: At the start of the season, I picked the Blues over the Penguins in the Cup final. I’m sticking with it.

Who wins the 2016 Stanley Cup, in how many games, and who is the Conn Smythe winner?

I’ll say it goes seven games and Vladimir Tarasenko claims the Conn Smythe Trophy. (Plan B: Kings over Capitals in six games, Drew Doughty named playoff MVP.)

Greg Wyshynski, Editor, Puck Daddy

WEST

Stars in 5

Ducks in 6

Blackhawks in 7

Kings in 6

EAST

 

Capitals in 7

Panthers in 6

Penguins in 5

Red Wings in 6

Which series are you most looking forward to and why?

The San Jose Sharks vs. the Los Angeles Kings is one of the most fascinating series in recent memory because so many pundits are willfully forgetting how many times the Sharks have broken their hearts and are selecting them to defeat Jonathan “One Of The Best Playoff Goalies Of All-Time” Quick and the dynastic Kings.

I, however, will never forget:

Has your Cup Final matchup changed from earlier this year? Why has it changed? What is your new Cup Final?

Well, considering I picked the Canadiens out of the East and it’s impossible for them to win, yes.

My new Cup Final is the Anaheim Ducks, my original West pick, and the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Who wins the 2016 Stanley Cup, in how many games, and who is the Conn Smythe winner?

I’ll go Anaheim Ducks in six games, with the lovely and talented Ryan Getzlaf as the MVP.