The 2013 NHL Playoffs begin tonight. The New Jersey Devils will not be participating, but if you’re like me, and you enjoy hockey first, you’ll be watching anyway.
We’ll start with the Western Conference since those are easier to pick because there’s little to no emotional connection. I’ll write a little about each series, followed by something I’m trying out: my win probability score.
I use various stats and my own formula to come up with this number.
As a reference point, a score of around 75+ would be the most likely to be a series sweep, while a score closer to 0 is most likely to see a seven game series as the teams are almost evenly matched.
I’m just beginning to try this out, but let’s see how it works.
Series: Chicago wins 4-1
The Blackhawks won the season series 2-0-1 and outscored the Wild 8-6.
The Wild went 4-5-1 in their last 10, but were also faced with playoff-like games down the stretch to even make it in to the playoffs. This could help, or it could hurt them.
Minnesota was 7th worst in the NHL (0.88) and only one of two teams to make the playoffs (Isles – 0.98) in 5-on-5 goals for/against ratio. Chicago had a NHL best 1.52 ratio.
Chicago is a deep team, and that will be the difference. I see some close games, and the Blackhawks have the type of players that make the difference in those games.
Speaking of the Devils win probability score: Chicago 78.0
Probability prediction: Blackhawks in four.
My Prediction: Blackhawks in four.
Series: Detroit wins 4-3
The Red Wings won the season series 2-1, outscoring Anaheim 9-7.
The Ducks were somewhat of a surprising team this season, as were the Wings, for different reasons.
Anaheim got scoring from a wide variety of players this season, but their top line players are still the key for them. Detroit had been in somewhat of a scoring slump towards the end of the season, but picked it up right when they needed it most.
Jimmy Howard is the key as I can see him stealing a game or two and being the difference in this series.
Speaking of the Devils win probability score: Anaheim 34.0
Probability prediction: Ducks in six.
My Prediction: Red Wings in seven.
Series: San Jose wins 4-0
The Sharks swept the season series 3-0 and doubled up the Canucks in goals 10-5.
This might be the most evenly matched of all first round series. The only advantage I see is the Sharks’ slight edge in depth scoring.
While Schneider is the top goalie in Vancouver, the fact that Luongo is there to step right in at the first hint of struggle might not necessarily be a good thing.
If the series goes seven, Vancouver could pull it out as the home team.
Speaking of the Devils win probability score: Sharks 52.1
Probability prediction: San Jose in five.
My Prediction: Sharks in six.
Series: Los Angeles wins 4-2
The Kings won the season series 3-0 and outscored the Blues 14-7.
The Kings seem to have the Blues’ number, as they have won eight in a row against them, including a sweep last season’s playoffs.
While that may seem like an advantage, the law of averages says the Blues are due for a few wins.
Goaltending might be the key to this series as both Quick and Elliott have played below their expectations. If one of them can get hot, it will likely be the difference.
St. Louis starting at home might be the slight edge the Blues (and Elliott) need.
Speaking of the Devils win probability score: St. Louis 08.5
Probability prediction: Blues in seven.
My Prediction: Blues in seven.
And now, the Eastern Conference…
Series: Pittsburgh wins 4-2
The Penguins won the season series 4-1 and outscored the Islanders 17-9.
It looks like Sidney Crosby won’t be ready for this series, but the Penguins didn’t miss a beat without him. If other key guys like Malkin and Letang can stay healthy, it could be all they need to advance.
The Islanders always seem to play the Pens well, and being able to steal a game on the road might be huge for their confidence. Getting to Fleury early might be the best way to get to the Penguins, and the Islanders special teams might be a good way to do that.
Overall, the Penguins are just way too deep and should win this series against a young Islanders team.
Speaking of the Devils win probability score: Pittsburgh 57.6
Probability prediction: Penguins in five.
My Prediction: Penguins in six.
Series: Ottawa wins 4-1
The teams split the season series with each team winning in regulation once, and once in the shootout. Ottawa outscored Montreal 11-8.
Montreal has been struggling lately, and no one has struggled more than Carey Price. If he can’t find his game soon, this series might get ugly for the Habs.
Ottawa won games that they needed to down the stretch, and they won games during the season that many thought they wouldn’t after some big injuries. Getting Karlsson back is huge, and might be just what the Sens need to pull off an upset.
Speaking of the Devils win probability score: Ottawa 27.5
Probability prediction: Senators in six.
My Prediction: Ottawa in six.
Series: NY wins 4-3
New York won the season series 2-1 and outscored the Caps 8-5.
Two of the hottest teams coming into the playoffs, and two teams that are very familiar with each other in the playoffs in recent years.
The difference in this one may be special teams, as the Caps have the best PP% of any playoff team, but also the worst PK%. The Rangers come in with the second worst PP% of all playoff teams, and their PK% isn’t exactly near the top either.
If Washington can get solid play from their defense and Holtby can be the same Holtby we saw previously in the playoffs, it might give the Caps an edge. That is a big “if” though…
I see this being one of the most wide open and highest scoring series in round one, and thus pretty hard to get a good idea of just who comes out on top.
Speaking of the Devils win probability score: Capitals 74.0
Probability prediction: Washington in four.
My Prediction: Rangers in seven.
Series: Boston wins 4-3
The Bruins won the season series 3-1 and outscored the Leafs 10-7.
The Bruins limped into the playoffs so the hope is they can shake that off quickly. Tuukka Rask put up Vezina-worthy numbers this season, so he can certainly carry the team until the scoring comes around. Their PP%, worst of all playoff teams, is troubling, but Boston has the personnel to turn that around.
While Boston’s experience is definitely a good thing, Toronto’s playoff inexperience, and the pressure that will be put on them, may ultimately be what decides this series. Starting off on the road may be much better for them than starting at home.
Experience matters and I think that’s what ends up being the difference.
Speaking of the Devils win probability score: Toronto 41.5
Probability prediction: Maple Leafs in five.
My Prediction: Bruins in seven.