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Make your predictions for the 2015 NHL playoffs

It’s that wonderful, bittersweet time of the year again. It’s NHL playoff time. Families and friends will gather around decked out in their favorite teams’ gear to watch the games, compare predictions, drink, eat and enjoy each other’s company. For dedicated hockey fans, like me, it’s a season that definitely holds a candle to Christmas. As part of tradition, here are my predictions for the first round.

Eastern Conference

No. 1 Montreal Canadiens versus No. 4 Ottawa Senators

Montreal may have home-ice advantage and Carey Price, but Ottawa is a serious threat. In the last two months, the Senators have only lost three games in regulation, going 6-0-1 in their last seven games. Even though Ottawa has looked like a pretty serious powerhouse leading up to the playoffs, I think that the Canadiens are more patient in their style of play and have a better chance to advance. Montreal in seven.

No. 2 Tampa Bay Lightning versus No. 7 Detroit Red Wings

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The Lightning is already off to a strong start because of home-ice advantage. Tampa has won four more home games than any other team in the NHL. They’ve also won fewer road games than any of the teams in the playoffs. Tampa also led the NHL on goals per game with a 3.16 average. Detroit just doesn’t have what it’s going to take to beat the Lightning. Tampa Bay in six.

No. 1 New York Rangers versus No. 4 Pittsburgh Penguins

Let’s call a spade a spade here. The Penguins have struggled hugely this season. They just haven’t been able to pull together and be steady and consistent. They’ve lost five of their last six games. The Rangers set franchise records for wins and points in a season, as well as taking home the Presidents’ Trophy. With Henrik Lundqvist in the net, New York has lost seven regulation games since January. New York in five.

No. 2 Washington Capitals versus No. 3 New York Islanders

Unlike some other playoff teams, the Islanders were great for the first two-thirds of the year. During the past two months, they’ve struggled quite a bit. New York has gone 8-9-7 in the season since they last played the Capitals. Washington also has Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom, who have a total of 159 points combined in the regular season. Washington in five.

Western Conference

No. 1 St. Louis Blues versus No. 4 Minnesota Wild

Zach Parise will be the only hope that Minnesota has against the Blues. The Wild have lost four of its last six games, including the loss of the final game to who? The St. Louis Blues. As for what the Blues have going, they ranked in the top seven in the regular season goals scored, goals allowed, power play percentage and penalty kill. St. Louis in six.

No. 2 Nashville Predators against No. 3 Chicago Blackhawks

The Predators may be seeded higher than the Blackhawks, but Chicago is a playoff team. The regular season counts, but counts for very little when it comes to the Blackhawks in the playoffs. Nashville, on the other hand, has lost all six of its last six games. Patrick Kane is expected to return for the first playoff game, and as long as that rings true, the Blackhawks won’t have an issue advancing. Chicago in five.

No. 1 Anaheim Ducks versus No. 4 Winnipeg Jets

Ondrej Pavelecn has been an outstanding netminder for the Jets with a 1.98 goals against average and a 93.2 percent stoppage rate. The Ducks, a high pick for a Stanley Cup champion when the season started, are ranked 20th in goals against. Winnipeg has come to be known as one of the teams that nobody wants to face in the playoffs. I think that Anaheim is going to find out why. Winnipeg in six.

No. 2 Vancouver Canucks versus No. 4 Calgary Flames

This is probably the most difficult series to call this year. These two teams have had incredibly similar regular seasons. The teams’ home and away records are nearly identical with Vancouver finishing only four points ahead of Calgary. The Flames did rank just a smidge higher in goals per game and goals allowed. Ryan Miller is back in the net for the Canucks, but I doubt it will be enough to help them into the next round. Calgary in seven.

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