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Stanley Cup Playoff & Awards Predictions

16 teams, 4 divisions, 2 conferences, 1 Stanley Cup Champion. Who has what it takes to emerge victorious in one of sports' most historical postseasons?

Eastern Conference


Washington Capitals (#1) v. Philadelphia Flyers (#4):

The NHL has been owned by the Washington Capitals in the 2015-16 season.  The Caps earned the President's Trophy, as the league's team with the most points, posting a 56-18-8 record for a total of 120 points. Backed by a great goaltender in Braden Holtby, it seems as though this is Washington's year. The Caps have outshot, outscored, and has earned 6 of a possible 8 points out of Philadelphia in the regular season, but don't count the Flyers out. Philadelphia, the last team to clinch a playoff spot in the East, should put up a good fight, hopefully encouraged from late, legendary owner, Ed Snider. Claude Giroux & Co. have appeared in the playoffs four times in the last six years.  In any regard, Washington is an absolute powerhouse, from Alex Ovechkin to Braden Holtby, this talented and experienced club will steamroll through this series in 5 games.

Bottom Line: WSH in 5.

Pittsburgh Penguins (#2) v. New York Rangers (#3):

For the third consecutive year, Pittsburgh and New York will meet in the Stanley Cup playoffs. After the Rangers dominance over the Penguins in the past, Pittsburgh looks forward to redemption. The Pens took 6 of a possible 8 points in the regular season series and is a great possession team. While Pittsburgh leads the Eastern Conference in SAT% (52.72), SAT% Close (53.11), and SAT differential (389), the Rangers sit first in SPSV% (1025). As we have seen in the past, (Calgary 2015 and Colorado 2014), having high shooting and goalie percentages is never a good stat to rely on success. Pittsburgh has been the dominant team all season, and are itching to face classic rival, Washington, in the second round of the playoffs; Pittsburgh in 7 games.

Bottom Line: PIT in 7.

Florida Panthers (#1) v. New York Islanders (#4):

Two patient franchises that have waited years to regain power in the NHL will face off in the first round. Florida and New York are the up and coming powerhouses of the league and look to gain serious recognition with a first round playoff victory. While Florida is the top seed in this series, there might not be a more similar set of teams in the first round than this series. Possession-wise, neither team is spectacular, but have more upside than most. With captain John Tavares leading the way, the Islanders are a step ahead of the the Cats this season. They have the experience, complete team, (and if healthy down the road), enough goaltending necessary to advance far into these playoffs. The New York Islanders will take this exciting series in 7 games.

Bottom Line: NYI in 7.

Tampa Bay Lightning (#2) v. Detroit Red Wings (#3):

For a second straight season, Tampa Bay and Detroit meet in the Eastern Quarterfinals. Last season in midst goaltending problems, Detroit had given the then-to-be Stanley Cup Finalists a run for their money early on in the payoffs. With a younger and as experienced team, the Wings look to reverse last year's series in their favor. In the regular season, both teams split the season series at two wins apiece, winning both games on the road. Both teams are just about equal possession-wise, but Tampa loses out big time on captain Steven Stamkos' blood clot injury that will keep him out for at least another month. He is a huge part to the offense and although secondary scoring is present in Tampa, losing your captain is a big blow to team chemistry. Vezina Trophy candidate Ben Bishop has the ability to win this team games, but at the other end of the ice Petr Mrazek has been just as on top of his game for Detroit for the majority of the season. This series will be low scoring and will come down to the wire, but the Red Wings will come out on top in 7 games.

Bottom Line: DET in 7.

Western Conference


Dallas Stars (#1) v. Minnesota Wild (#4):

Minnesota looks to capitalize in the postseason, but first they must get past the West's top seeded Dallas Stars. In the regular season, 3 of the 5 meetings between these two clubs went into overtime, with Dallas winning all 3 in overtime in addition to a regulation win as well. Of a possible 10 points, Dallas claimed 8 while Minnesota generated 2 points from wins and 3 points from overtime losses. The real differences between these teams lies in raw statistics. Dallas is by far the better possession team with great SAT% (52.56) and have more to prove based on SPSV% (996 ). Unless for some reason the 2008 versions of major Wild players come back from their various injuries and play like they did 8 years ago, there is no question Dallas will take this series in 5 games or less.

Bottom Line: DAL in 5.

St. Louis Blues (#2) v. Chicago Blackhawks (#3):

For the second time in the last three seasons, the Blues meet the Blackhawks in the playoffs. Chicago has won both playoff meetings in the past, but in the regular season St. Louis has won 3 of the 5 games played. While Chicago has lost more than won in the regular season, all three losses were in either overtime or a shootout. In addition, Chicago had as many if not more shots on goal than 3 of the 5 regular season games. These teams know each other well and will without a doubt play in yet another hard fought, highly skilled, rivalry series to advance to the next round. As is tradition, the higher seeded Blues will ultimately once again lose to Chicago in the playoffs. The Blackhawks will take this series in 6 games and questions regarding change in coaching and veteran presence will once again return after the season in St. Louis.

Bottom Line: CHI in 6.

Anaheim Ducks (#1) v. Nashville Predators (#4):

After a shaky start to the season and a major regular season turnaround, Anaheim will take on Nashville in the first round of the playoffs. These teams have met once before in playoffs, remember Bobby Ryan's goal, right? Of course you do. That series has housed highlight reel goals and will have many more to come as both teams are at the top of the league in shot attempts. Nashville (52.56) and Anaheim (52.48) are 4th and 5th respectively overall in league SAT%. In three regular season meetings, Nashville won 4 of a possible 6 points, but total shots on goal were even throughout. Additionally, Anaheim holds a 990 SPSV%, indicating that they still have a lot left to prove moving forward. With a core group that has been there before, a bottom six that holds experience and playoff skill, a strong defense, and two solid options between the pipes Anaheim is slated to defeat a team that isn't ready to make the jump to elite tier Stanley Cup hockey just yet in the Nashville Predators. Anaheim will win this series in 6 games.

Bottom Line: ANA in 6.

Los Angeles Kings (#2) v. San Jose Sharks (#3):

In their return to the playoffs, the San Jose Sharks will have to get past the team they have been elimintaed by in their last two playoff appearences, the Los Angeles Kings. Despite constant regular season success from San Jose, it always seems as though once come playoff time the Kings have always had it out for the Sharks. Coming in as the two seed, Los Angeles also enters as the top posession team in the league. As the team with the best percentages in almost every shot attempts categories, it is no surprise that the Kings are a reoccuring factor in the playoffs year after year. Yes, the Sharks have had a great year led by 36-year-old Joe Thornton, but if you look back, come playoff time Los Angeles has had the edge in the past and will have the edge once again this time around. San Jose will undoubtebly put up a fight, but the Kings will take it in 7 games.

Bottom Line: LAK in 7.


Remainder of Playoffs & Stanley Cup Playoff Awards

Round

Team

Team

Result

Eastern Conference Semis

Washington Capitals (#1)

Pittsburgh Penguins (#2)

WSH in 7 games

Eastern Conference Semis

New York Islanders (#4)

Detroit Red Wings (#3)

NYI in 6 games

Western Conference Semis

Dallas Stars (#1)

Chicago Blackhawks (#3)

DAL in 7 games

Western Conference Semis

Anaheim Ducks (#1)

Los Angeles Kings (#2)

ANA in 7 games

Eastern Conference Finals

Washington Capitals (#1)

New York Islanders (#4)

WSH in 5 games

Western Conference Finals

Dallas Stars (#1)

Anaheim Ducks (#1)

ANA in 7 games

Stanley Cup Finals

Washington Capitals (#1)

Anaheim Ducks (#1)

WSH in 6 games

NHL Awards Predictions

Award

Player

Hart Trophy

Patrick Kane, CHI

Norris Trophy

Erik Karlsson, OTT

Vezina Trophy

Ben Bishop, TBL

Selke Trophy

Patrice Bergeron, BOS

Calder Trophy

Connor McDavid, EDM

Lady Byng Trophy

Ryan O'Rielly, BUF

Jack Adams Trophy

Darryl Sutter, LAK

After each round, new analysis and predictions will be released, including a guide as to which of the Conference Finals teams are structured to become champions.

Check out my other work at The Quinnipiac Chronicle

Check out my work at VAVEL USA

Follow me on Twitter @justin_cait

Justin Cait - The Hockey Stuff

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Brendan Shanahan preaching patience for Maple Leafs [via ATB - 8.14.15]

They have failed five times, but the Toronto Maple Leafs will be successful under their sixth general manager since making a full season’s Stanley Cup Playoffs back in 2004.

Pat Quinn, John Ferguson, Jr., Cliff Fletcher, Brian Burke and Dave Nonis are all victims to losing their jobs as Toronto’s general manager after failing to make the playoffs with the Maple Leafs. Lou Lamoriello will join them in not making the playoffs; however, his Leafs will make the playoffs more times than they miss. The mastermind behind the hiring of Lamoriello, and the eventual success of the Leafs is Brendan Shanahan.

Although he has never been the GM, Shanahan has done something brilliant nobody else in his position ever has. The key to success and the brilliance Shanahan has brought to the Maple Leafs is patience.

With that, let’s look back at the announcements of different new Leafs GMs. Ex-President of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Richard Peddie said of the Fletcher hiring in 2008, “We are pleased and confident that Cliff is the ideal person to lead us through this time of transition and to lay the groundwork upon which the next leader of the Leafs can build a Stanley Cup winner”

The focal point of Fletcher’s welcoming includes false hope to the fans that this is just one more step away from a Cup contending team. Fletcher’s stint as GM was short; his biggest moves included trading for Mikhail Grabovski and trading away Bryan McCabe and Alex Steen in separate deals.

On Nov. 27, 2008, the Leafs hired Brian Burke, and assigned him to a pretty daunting task. Peddie said very similar things about Burke that he did about Fletcher’s hiring. “He [Burke] will be charged with the task of leading the Leafs to their 14th Stanley Cup.”

Once again, Peddie gives the fans of Toronto unrealistic expectations, when he basically ensures a Stanley Cup under Brian Burke. Burke went on to build the strongest team in Toronto since 2004, but his efforts could not bring together a Cup contender. He was fired in 2013.

For the third time in a row, Toronto’s newest general manager assures the fans that everything is on the right track and better than it is in reality. To his credit, the Leafs went on to make the playoffs that half-season; however, Nonis traded and let go a good chunk of “the group” that offseason. Nonis completely took apart the team Burke built, and ironically with his firing this offseason, the Leafs are gutting their franchise and starting all over again.

Notice the difference in Brendan Shanahan’s announcement of the various management firings, the Mike Babcock hiring and the Lamariello hiring compared to the ones prior. “The challenge here in Toronto is not to come up with the plan; the challenge in Toronto is to stick to it,” Shanahan said. “You have to have a stomach to get through it in a place with this much passion.”

Shanahan recognizes there needs to be patience throughout Leafs Nation and is not afraid to say it. From early on, he recognized what needs to be done in this organization and has gone out and acquired some of the tools to do so in Babcock and Lamoriello. Babcock said at his hiring, “I look forward to the process, the battle, the pain, the fun, the journey, and it’s gonna be a long one, but it’s gonna be a lot of fun”

Not only does Shanahan make a point of rebuilding, but he has his head coach let Leafs Nation know as well. Babcock comes into Toronto knowing what he is getting himself into but allows everyone to know that he is committed despite the circumstances.

Lamoriello expresses the same sentiments. “I understand it’s gonna take some patience, it’s not gonna happen overnight.”

Like Shanahan and Babcock, Lamoriello makes the rebuilding process and the time it takes to complete a major point of emphasis. By having three of the main faces of the franchise instill the idea of persistent patience to the media and fans, it allows them to work with less pressure; the players to play with less pressure; and most importantly, the fans to watch with no sense of false hope.

Over a span of four months, Brendan Shanahan has turned this franchise around. He has assembled an elite front office and staff and has acquired some of the beginning pieces necessary to obtain on-ice success. Shanahan is the Leafs’ savior. Leafs Nation doesn’t know how monumental his presence in Toronto has been and will continue to be as the rebuild continues and the success starts to come.

To read original article, follow this link: http://alongtheboards.com/2015/08/brendan-shanahan-preaching-patience-maple-leafs/

Check out my other work at The Quinnipiac Chronicle

Check out my work at VAVEL USA

Follow me on Twitter @justin_cait

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Game #12: Can You Feel The Pain Yet?

Mike Babcock has said it, everyone has heard it, but the pain of losing still hurts. . .a lot.

Recap

It only took 3:41 for the Winnipeg Jets to make themselves comfortable in Toronto when Dustin Byfuglien snuck a weak one by James Reimer.

This has almost become routine of the Leafs now; let up a soft one early and play from behind from basically the start .

Luckily for Toronto, an Alex Burmistrov penalty would lead to a P.A. Parenteau goal. Parenteau has been pretty quiet this season with only 2 goals on the year, but that's exactly what he needs to do in Toronto; add to the secondary scoring and not make mistakes that stick out like a sore thumb.

Just when you thought the Leafs were going somwhere, 37 seconds later Mark Scheifele scores on a terrible defensive play by the Maple Leafs. Yes, the Leafs goalies are. . .not the best at times, but you can't blame Reimer for this one.

Going into the 2nd period Toronto would be down 1 goal until Roman Polak, of all people, shoves one in off of Leo Komarov's skate to tie it at 2. Roman Polak actually made a pretty nice play on the wing here, but he definitely wasn't trying to make a pass to Komarov; either way, they knotted the score up.

After the 2nd, a hard fought 3rd period was to come.

Chances were there for both sides, but after a failed Leafs powerplay, Burmistrov jumped out of the box, created a two-on-one chance, and buried a perfect pass from Blake Wheeler to absolutely deflate the Leafs and all Leaf fans of any possible hope.

Dustin Byfuglien pumped a little bit of life back into the Leafs with 35 seconds left when he took a penalty, putting the Leafs on a 6-on-4 for the last moments of the game.

The Leafs were Leafs; lost the faceoff, gave up an empty-netter shortly afterwards.

Opinion

I'm going to keep this short and. . .bittersweet.

The Leafs are a bad team that are really trying to do the right things. I give them credit, but it is so difficult to be content with their results.

Yes, Kadri's playing well.

Yes, Rielly's a star.

Yes, both goalies aren't great especially with the little support from their defenseman, but still this is a tough team to watch. 

The pain has arrived, and it's staying for a while.


Next up the Leafs take on Detroit in Toronto. This will be Babcock's first meeting with his old club at home, hopefully the pain is limited.

Check out my work on Along The Boards

Follow me on Twitter @jcait_hockey

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