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"Quasi GM"
Moncton, NB • Canada • 35 Years Old • Male
Every year the media comes up with all these story-lines for the teams that eventually do succeed as if everyone should have known all along that they were going to. During Anaheim's miraculous 2003 run, it was that they won a lot of one goal games so they were used to playing under pressure. Some of the biggest miracle runs was not that one, but rather the Kings in 2012 and the Canadiens in 1993, both teams facing a lot of the mid-tier teams because of all the upsets. So can it happen this year? If so, this post is about how it might be possible.

West: (Because East is always first, let's put West first for a change)

Chicago Blackhawks

Momentum rank: 3rd

Chance of success: ~10%

Everything goes right if: They avoid the Ducks and Washington and Pittsburgh both get upset.

Stubbing their toe (a team that can weaken them going into the next round): St. Louis

First round match-up luck: Lucky - Chicago has had Nashville's number almost all season. Nashville is also a skill-based team that doesn't play with the grit they used to, which will leave Chicago healthy for the second round of the playoffs should they beat them in an easy 5 game series.

Essentially: The Hawks are favourites to win the West this year if merely due to that success they've previously had with their returning cast, and if they get to the finals, they're 3-0 in the Toews-Kane era, so they're looking as good as they ever have. The Ducks could end up being their downfall in the Conference Finals, however.

Minnesota Wild

Momentum rank: 15th

Chance of winning: ~3%

Everything goes right if: Dubnyk returns to form, St. Louis caves, Nashville beats Chicago, Edmonton or Calgary make it out of other division, and they play a mid-tiered team in the finals.

Stubbing their toe: Anyone... if they win the cup, it'll be a war.

First round match-up luck: Lucky - Though they finished the season cold and St. Louis hot, they matched somewhat evenly to St. Louis and might grind it out to next round.

Essentially: The Wild have a lot of veterans and had one of the highest goal differentials in the middle of the season, owing to their excellent defense which has fallen out of form lately. If they recover that defense and play disciplined hockey, it's possibly they could phalanx their way to a cup.

St. Louis Blues

Momentum rank: 5th

Chance of success: ~7.5%

Everything goes right if: Minnesota gives them a challenge to keep their game sharp going into a tough round 2 match-up.

Stubbing their toe (a team that can weaken them going into the next round): Minnesota, Nashville, Chicago - they're in rough the first two rounds

First round match-up luck: Unlucky - Minnesota plays a similar game to St. Louis and may use their experience to wear them out. If, however, St. Louis can solve the Wild, they can go far.

Essentially: The Blues have been one of the better teams coming into the playoffs, and nobody sees them coming since they tend to fail every year. If they can come out of their division, they can beat anybody out there because their hardest match-ups may well be Minnesota, Nashville, and Chicago. Boom or bust for this team.

Nashville Predators

Momentum rank: 10th

Chance of success: ~6%

Everything goes right if: They beat Chicago, Anaheim gets knocked out before final four, and a dark horse emerges in the east (like Montreal).

Stubbing their toe (a team that can weaken them going into the next round): Minnesota

First round match-up luck: Unlucky - Chicago is not only capable of beating them, but running up the score due to morale failure on this team. If they can find their offense against Chicago and their goalie stays really solid in the process, they have the kind of team that can win on the offense provided by their blue line.

Essentially: Nashville is stockpiled with talent on their blueline, but they might struggle with shutting down opposition, which means that Kane and Panarin could very well light them up and they could have a hard time doing the same. If, however, their power play is razor sharp, they can topple big teams with some solid goaltending and defense, even if they aren't exactly icing a complete team. Think 2010 Montreal Canadiens.

Anaheim Ducks

Momentum rank: 1st

Chance of success: ~12%

Everything goes right if: They avoid a first-round upset, and they avoid an emotional series against the Flames in the process.

Stubbing their toe (a team that can weaken them going into the next round): Calgary

First round match-up luck: Luckyish - I say -ish because Calgary doesn't exactly lose to Anaheim with spectacular grace. Anaheim might have Calgary's number, but Calgary's busy taking names and numbers right now and that series could end up being an iron maiden for them.

Essentially: Anaheim can easily come out of the west if they come out of the first round in one piece. They need to dispatch the Flames either as soon as possible, or as disciplined as possible. If they keep doing what they've been doing, they will either make a Finals appearance or give the conference finals seven games and make the team coming out of the west bleed in the process. The east should hope these guys make it by the Flames, because they can bloody and bruise up the rest of the conference just like the Flames can.

Edmonton Oilers

Momentum rank: 11th

Chance of success: ~5%

Everything goes right if: They play an easy series against San Jose, play battered teams from on out.

Stubbing their toe (a team that can weaken them going into the next round): Calgary/Anaheim

First round match-up luck: Very Lucky - The Sharks run last year is a thing of the past as they have looked really bad down the stretch. Edmonton could use their depleted performance as an easy stepping stone to the second round and who knows from there?

Essentially: The Oilers will need to go up 2-0 against the Sharks right away. Their fans will be crazy and if they can ride that momentum, they'll end the Sharks in 5 games, and then move on to play a team that looks like is going to be battered. There's a reasonably good chance these guys make the Conference Finals.

San Jose Sharks

Momentum rank: 16th

Chance of success: ~<1%

Everything goes right if: McDavid gets injured and they dispatch the Oilers quickly to get more time to rest. Calgary and Anaheim also need to batter each other, and then the Sharks might regain their form and passion from last year.

Stubbing their toe (a team that can weaken them going into the next round): Themselves

First round match-up luck: Didn't matter: they were going into the playoffs as the coldest team.

Essentially: Things are not altogether hopeless for the Sharks. The NHL season is so tough on guys that it's hard to go to the finals for two straight years simply because of fatigue. Sharks have definitely felt that fatigue and injury woes as the season wore on. I've seen, however, teams in this position suddenly get fired up and make a long run. The second year the Kings won the cup (2014), they were also fatigued but they recovered and fought their way hard to it, making it one of the most rigorous performances in Stanley Cup history (26 games). Perhaps the Sharks can use that as inspiration.

Calgary Flames

Momentum rank: 9th

Chance of success: ~5%

Everything goes right if: They win game 1 or 2... otherwise, they're likely to beat themselves. Then after that, who knows? The first round is their major concern right now.

Stubbing their toe (a team that can weaken them going into the next round): Anaheim

First round match-up luck: Severely Unlucky - Anaheim has had their number for a long time.

Essentially: Anaheim might be a worse nemesis to Calgary than Chicago was to Vancouver a few years ago. If they get by, they can reasonably make it to conference finals, but they're going to need the fairy godmother for this one.

THE EAST

Washington Capitals

Momentum rank: 2nd

Chance of success: ~11%

Everything goes right if: They can finally beat the Pittsburgh Penguins (or if Columbus just knocks them out).

Stubbing their toe (a team that can weaken them going into the next round): The Pittsburgh Penguins

First round match-up luck: Lucky - They're playing an incomplete Leafs team who has a bottom tier d-corps and perhaps a banged up goaltender. They can quickly end them and destroy their morale by shutting them out a couple of games.

Essentially: The Capitals don't need to change their game, but every playoffs they do, and every playoffs, they pay for it. They're the best team in the league right now, even though Anaheim edges them out in momentum. If they keep it clean against Toronto and Columbus drives Pittsburgh nuts, they can drive to the finals in three commanding series victories and play the remnants of what comes out of the west with nearly full power. Their worst enemy is themselves, right now. They simply need to focus on shutting down that Maple Leafs run n gun.

Pittsburgh Penguins

Momentum rank: 4th

Chance of success: ~8%

Everything goes right if: Their defense and goaltending step up in the miraculous way they did last year.

Stubbing their toe (a team that can weaken them going into the next round): Washington

First round match-up luck: Lucky - Columbus is cold.

Essentially: A rematch of them vs. the Capitals is almost inevitable at this point. However, they won't have Letang, and the Caps power play is going to be more formidable. They can win the cup again this year as not much has changed, but add Shattenkirk to a Caps team and take Letang away from the Pens, and that series gets much more difficult. If Montreal survives the other division, they will also make teams that beat them "pay the price". Pens will also deal with playoff fatigue from their long run last year. They have their work cut out for them.

Columbus Blue Jackets

Momentum rank: 12th

Chance of success: ~3%

Everything goes right if: Bobrovsky stands on his head and their third and fourth lines pitch in steady offense.

Stubbing their toe (a team that can weaken them going into the next round): The Metropolitan Division

First round match-up luck: Unlucky - They're cold and Pittsburgh is hot, despite having no Letang.

Essentially: If Columbus can beat the Pens, there's no reason to think they can't beat the Caps, the Canadiens, and whoever else. This team, like St. Louis, is looking at boom or bust. They have the type of team you can win with, but I feel like maybe they need one or two more forwards to be scoring threats to accomplish anything.

Toronto Maple Leafs

Momentum rank: 13th

Chance of success: ~3%

Everything goes right if: Polak comes back, throws off his Clark Kent costume, and becomes Superman. Andersen's knock to the head will also need to give him the "Green Dream" superpowers that make him impossible to beat.

Stubbing their toe (a team that can weaken them going into the next round): Tripping over their pylons

First round match-up luck: Unlucky - had they bested Columbus, they'd have played an Ottawa team that was beatable, but they ended up with the best team in the league.

Essentially: The only way they can beat the Caps and the teams that come after is if their goaltender wins them games. Andersen will have to be absolutely lights out.

Montreal Canadiens

Momentum rank: 6th

Chance of success: ~7.5%

Everything goes right if: Carey Price stays right

Stubbing their toe (a team that can weaken them going into the next round): Boston Bruins

First round match-up luck: Lucky - They've owned the Rangers; it's almost like everything the Rangers do, Montreal can do better.

Essentially: If the Sens beat the Bruins, the Canadiens almost have the bye to the Conference Finals. They have a reasonable chance of winning the Cup this year by grinding out a bunch of 6 game series'. Their team is NOT the Canadiens of the past; I believe this team is their best chance at winning since 1993. They have plenty of character, sandpaper, good defense, a few good forwards, and a world class goaltender. Keep Kreider away from the crease, and they could end up shocking the hockey world. If they could just better that pesky power play situation.

Ottawa Senators

Momentum rank: 8th

Chance of success: ~6%

Everything goes right if: New York beats Montreal, Columbus comes out of the other division

Stubbing their toe (a team that can weaken them going into the next round): Montreal Canadiens

First round match-up luck: Very Lucky - Ottawa has had the Bruins number this year so this is a favourable match up and they have home ice advantage in it.

Essentially: Ottawa's got a healthy team now and if they stay that way and the Rangers win against Montreal, the Sens can make the conference finals, kind of like the Oilers. They'd probably have to get really lucky from there to end up with good match-ups.

Boston Bruins

Momentum rank: 14th

Chance of success: ~3%

Everything goes right if: Their team steps it up. Krug miraculously heals.

Stubbing their toe (a team that can weaken them going into the next round): Montreal Canadiens

First round match-up luck: Extremely Unlucky - The Sens have pillaged and capitulated Boston.

Essentially: Should Boston pull a miracle and make it out of the first round against this nemesis, they might well make it to the conference finals. This team, however, will need to find a new gear. They match up well against the Canadiens and rather than stubbing their toes, might actually use the series to fire them up should the two meet.

New York Rangers

Momentum rank: 7th

Chance of success: ~7%

Everything goes right if: They win their first two series'.

Stubbing their toe (a team that can weaken them going into the next round): The Atlantic Division

First round match-up luck: Extremely unlucky - The Rangers GM will probably be arguing at GM meetings next year about the wildcard format. You would think "why?" but it's because the Metro division, which they play in, would have actually been easier on them given their prospective match-ups. Montreal has had their number all season and Ottawa and Boston probably won't be much kinder.

Essentially: The prognosis isn't good for the Rangers; though they are one of the better eight teams of the NHL right now, they have what looks to be the most difficult road to the Cup.

Edit: Ranking system is based on the team's record against the other eventual playoff teams from the beginning of February. I also had a few errors in my write-up where I had to reassign some ranks I had accidentally assigned twice, and I had forgotten a team (which I later added).
Filed Under:   predictions   playoffs   bettman   nhl   stanley cup  
April 12, 2017 4:34 PM ET | Delete
How does your Momentum ranking system work that it puts the 12-2-0 Oilers, with 9 straight wins at home and McDavid on a 14 game point streak at 11th? Just curious.
April 14, 2017 4:35 PM ET | Delete
So in a 16 team playoffs only 15 teams are worth your time.
April 27, 2017 2:09 PM ET | Delete
What about Colorado?
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