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Wednesday, April 11, 2018

PI Staff 2018 Stanley Cup Predictions



The Stanley Cup Playoffs kick off with three games on Wednesday night and five games on Thursday. The puck drops at 7:30 on Wednesday night at PPG Paints Arena as the Pens take on the baton-holding Claude Giroux and the Philadelphia Flyers (insert eye roll). The Pens Initiative staff took a stab at predicting how the next couple months will play out. The last two years we've almost unanimously picked the Penguins to win it all. Read on to see if we think the Penguins will three-peat.

We used a variety of methods to make our picks including analysis, research, coin tosses, asking our cats, and the classic and reliable eenie meenie miney moe. Fingers crossed that the NHL Bracket Challenge site doesn't collapse like it did last year.

Bill Manley (@disgruntledbill)


West: The Avalanche are a good young team. Nathan McKinnon will drag the series to 6 games, but ultimately the Predators have depth that the Avs do not. The Avs can hang their hats on a successful season making the post season.

The Jets have superstar talent in Patrick Laine. The Wild don’t have any scoring talent close to that on the roster.  Jets in 5.

Vegas will beat the Kings in 6 games. LA has the experience, but Vegas runs on adrenaline through the first round. Home ice advantage will help too.

Nashville versus the Jets will be the best hockey of the playoff. Laine and Forsberg will turn heads. This will be a legendary series, but the Jets (now Canada’s team) will squeak this one out.
Vegas versus the Sharks is where the Golden Knights will bust. The Sharks depth will win out in the end. Brent Burns Dad strength will give the Sharks the edge.

Jets will beat the Sharks in the WCF.  The Jets stars are younger, faster, and will be healthier than the Sharks. Winnipeg’s going to melt though because the Jets are going to the Final.

East:
For the Flyers taking out the defending two-time Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins would be like winning the Stanley Cup, which is exactly the reason the Flyers won’t be able to beat the Pens. The Pens are winners right now. On swagger alone, the Pens will beat the Flyers in 7 games, but it won’t  be easy and these games will take a toll on the Pens.

The Blue Jackets purposely had their players not show up for the last game of the season. The Blue Jackets will also forget to show up for this series.  Caps in 5.

Everyone has the Pens going to the 2nd round against the Caps and everyone is correct. The Pens will beat the Caps. It is known.

The Lightning have quietly hidden a major deficit in goaltending. Vasilevskiy is worn out. The Devils have Kincaid who is playing the best hockey of his career, and Schneider to fall back on in net. Goaltending wins this series for the Devils.

The Bruins are a dirty team. This dirtiness will come out in full force against the Leafs. Canada will be upset. Toronto will be crushed, and the B’s make it to the 2nd round.
The Bruins get a free pass in round two over the Devils. This will be the worst hockey of the playoffs. B’s in 4.

The Bruins will face the Pens in the Eastern Conference Finals. Like 2013 this series will not go well for the Pens. The Bruins will be much healthier and less tired after facing the Leafs and Devils than the Pens who had to face the Caps and the Flyers.

The Bruins will face the Jets in the Final. The Bruins will wear away at the Jets stars much like they did with the Canucks in 2011. The Bruins will win the Cup. 


Matt Steiner (@msteiner90)

Let me premise my bracket with a few things.  First, I can't in my heart pick against the Penguins...and second, there's always a "bracket buster" and I really didn't pick any massive upsets.

The Atlantic Bracket should be the most entertaining hockey for the first two rounds.  Whereas the Pacific may be the most boring, in my opinion.  The Atlantic has four of the hottest teams this season with some high-octane offenses all squared off against each other.  The only two Original Six teams are facing off in the first round, and something even tells me that the New Jersey Devils will put up a good fight against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Ultimately, I see the Toronto Maple Leafs making their way out of the Atlantic to meet the Penguins.  The Penguins, overall, are much more experienced and ready to take on a Toronto Maple Leafs.

In the West, I think my bracket will fall apart quickly.  My gut feel is that the Winnipeg Jets are going to barnstorm through the West, and everything else will not matter.  Last year the lowest seed went on and marched straight to the Stanley Cup Final.

I do imagine that Vegas, much to the chagrin of hockey analysts, will fizzle out after the first round.  And I think that Nashville has been going too strong for too long.

And aside from the horribly small markets, who doesn't want to see Pittsburgh and Winnipeg playing for the Stanley Cup in June?


Medina (@MedinaMarie_PI)





This year seems different than other years team-wise. I feel like there is no clear favorite. It really is up for grabs to whoever wants it more. In any case, it would be great to see the Penguins win again and I hope for the best outcome.


William Hirsch (@williamahirsch)


Like Medina mentioned, anything can happen. We've seen that every single year in the NHL playoffs. Excuse my language, but, shit can get wild. That has been the best part of the playoffs and it's why hockey fans go wild, and non-fans tune in.

Some quick things of notoriety from my bracket:

The Nashville Predators will avenge last years loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins and win the 2018 Stanley Cup.

The Washington Capitals still won't get over their second round hump. Call it a curse on Alex Ovechkin, laugh at them, or cry uncontrollably for them, they just don't have the roster to get past the Penguins who have so much experience and an unbeatable clutch gene. The goaltender situation between Philip Grubauer and Braden Holtby will ultimately be a massive distraction.

The Las Vegas Golden Knights will make it to the Western Conference Finals in the franchises first year of existence. How exciting for them. Great for the game of hockey and what a roster General Manager George McPhee has put together.

The only series pick that I'm not sure about it the Lightning vs Bruins series. That's a toss-up. Either could win and face the Pens in the Eastern Conference Finals.






 Nick Case (@Nick422)


East: It seems pretty cut and dry in the first round. Philly's goaltending sucks and as nervous as Murray may make me, the Pens pull this one out by superior ability. The Capitals find a way to get over the inferior Blue Jackets, who are still out in the first round despite tanking to avoid the Pens. Tampa Bay is too good and Taylor Hall is but one person. The Bruins beat the Leafs in what will be a fire wagon first round. Tampa will break Tuukka Rask and make it to the Conference Finals and whether it's Columbus or Washington the Penguins are so deep in their heads each team pays them rent so the Pens advance to the conference finals. Unfortunately that's where the threepeat fantasy ends for the Pens as Tampa's too deep and the Pens defense just isn't good enough, or patchwork enough, this year.

West: Colorado... not great! Easy series for Nashville. Minnesota? Also not great! Congrats to the Atlanta Thrashers on their first playoff series win. As far as the Pacific, things are interesting. While Vegas has been floundering a bit I like the first round of playoff adrenaline alone to propel them past the Kings (with Fleury being first round MVP). The Sharks and Ducks will be a banger but Anaheim is finally getting it together so on they go. At this point the Golden Knights are starting to wear out and the Ducks go on by, ending their dream season. Nashville/Winnipeg is your defacto Western Conference champion and I still just have a hard time believing in Winnipeg so off goes Nashville, where they trounce the Ducks in the conference finals.

Cup Final: Let's be real- Nashville should have won last year. Rinne gifted the Penguins two games and allowed them to get their heels under them. You know it, they know it, and the team won't let history repeat itself. While Tampa will prove to be a worthy foe, the Sunbelt Stanley Cup will be raised by Nashville for the first time ever and we'll all eat hot chicken from its fabled chalice.


Stacey (@SpinMeWrite)



I would love to be wrong. I would love for the Pens to win it again. But our goaltending is shaky and our blue line is anemic. And I'm okay with that. GMJR can spend some time and money in the offseason picking up a defenseman whose name is not Matt Hunwick.

I think Nashville comes back with a vengeance and take it this year. Unless our boy Fleury has a repeat playoff performance and pulls off an upset.


Ryan Klassen (@ryank_119)

East: I'm predicting Tampa to come out of the East this year.  They have been dominant in every position all year and I believe they are especially motivated after missing the playoffs last year.  Sorry Pittsburgh, but Tampa is just too good this time around.

West:
I'm not taking the Predators for the West this year.  As good as they have been this year (best record in the league) I don't think they can overcome a hot Winnipeg team and rarely has the President's Trophy winner gone on to win the Cup.

Cup Final:
I believe Tampa will win the Cup this year in either 5 or 6 games against a young, inexperienced Winnipeg team.  The playoffs are grueling and I don't think the Jets can keep the magic going deep into a fourth round.



Jon Rudder (@JonRudder)


I find myself wrestling back.

Last year I tried to get all logical with my picks and took Chicago to win it all. Clearly I was wrong.
This year, since I waited until the last minute... I went impulse all the way. I'll probably be more successful that way, anway.

Cheers!
Let's do 'dat hockey.


David Bytnar @here4pghsports



West: Nashville may be the deepest team in the league. Unfortunately, what will end up being an easy series against a not ready for prime time Colorado team, and a regular season that everyone expected, will set them up to be upset by a really good Winnipeg Jets team.

Minnesota is coached by Bruce Boudreau......nuff said.

Vegas is good but faltered late in the year and I have my doubts about who steps up in the playoffs. My gut says they get ousted by a veteran-laden Anaheim team that still has a bit of gas left in the tank....but not enough.

San Jose is on it's last legs.

So the Jets will take on the Ducks and burn them up in their engines on their way to the Finals.

East: Tampa is going to be surprised by New Jersey's speed, and I can see this series going to 6 or 7 games. I don't think New Jersey has the horses if Tampa can find a way to neutralize Taylor Hall. He would be my MVP because of sheer consistency throughout the year.

Toronto will get revenge on Boston for 2013 and take notes from New Jersey to manage an upset against Tampa.

The Capitals might erase Columbus in five games if the Jackets go full Tortorella. But, I wouldn't be surprised if the Jackets pull the upset, they got hot at the right time of year. This was probably the toughest series to pick.

Yeah, I chose the Pens -- they're in the name of our blog for crying out loud. I have almost as many superstitions as the Penguins' captain.

Winnipeg will be the most well-rounded team the Penguins have faced since the Capitals in 15-16 or 16-17. These finals will be the kind of stage Patrick Laine is meant for but his Jets will fall because of the overwhelming setting and Pittsburgh's elite center depth.

Yuck. I'm more worried now than I was before.








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