Anaheim Calling Staff 2014 Playoff Prediction Challenge: Round One

The AC Staff does makes their best guesses as to the outcomes of each quarterfinal playoff series, so if you want to know exactly how not to guess, here you go!

It's back!

The Anaheim Calling Staff Playoff Prediction Challenge returns for its second consecutive year, and this time the competition is more fierce and competitive than ever with the expansion of the Anaheim Calling staff over the last few months!

In addition, we are pleased to welcome in two guest participants to this year's competition! Returning from last season, Battle of California's Anaheim Ducks representative Jer Dobias will be competing along with us and we're pleased to have him along. Additionally, the reigning champion of the AC Staff Playoff Prediction Challenge, current lackey of Greg Wyshynski of the Yahoo! Puck Daddy blog, and former Editor-in-Chief of Anaheim Calling Jen Neale will return so I can kick her ass properly this time to defend her crown!

The rules of the Prediction Challenge are simple: before the start of each round, each member submitted their picks for winners and number of games. Each correct winner is worth 10 points, and also guessing the correct number of games is worth a bonus of five more. So therefore, a perfect prediction is worth 15 points.

BOS vs. DET

TBL vs. MTL

PIT vs. CBJ

NYR vs. PHI

COL vs. MIN

STL vs. CHI

ANA vs. DAL

SJS vs. LAK

Ben

BOS in 6

TBL in 7

PIT in 5

NYR in 6

COL in 5

CHI in 6

ANA in 5

SJS in 7

Liz

BOS in 6

TBL in 7

PIT in 6

PHI in 6

COL in 5

CHI in 6

ANA in 6

SJS in 7

Jen Neale

BOS in 6

MTL in 5

CBJ in 6

PHI in 4

COL in 5

CHI in 6

ANA in 6

LAK in 6

Jer Dobias

BOS in 6

TBL in 5

PIT in 4

PHI in 7

COL in 5

CHI in 7

ANA in 6

LAK in 7

Kyle

BOS in 6

TBL in 5

PIT in 5

PHI in 6

COL in 6

CHI in 5

ANA in 7

LAK in 6

Chris

BOS in 6

MTL in 7

PIT in 5

PHI in 7

MIN in 6

CHI in 5

ANA in 7

LAK in 7

Lois

BOS in 5

TBL in 6

PIT in 5

PHI in 7

MIN in 6

STL in 7

ANA in 6

SJS in 7

Derek

BOS in 4

TBL in 6

CBJ in 7

PHI in 7

COL in 6

STL in 7

ANA in 6

SJS in 6

Cory

BOS in 6

TBL in 6

CBJ in 7

NYR in 6

COL in 5

CHI in 5

ANA in 5

SJS in 6

Kid Ish

BOS in 7

TBL in 6

CBJ in 7

PHI in 6

COL in 6

CHI in 5

ANA in 7

SJS in 7

Eric

BOS in 7

TBL in 6

PIT in 5

NYR in 6

COL in 5

CHI in 6

ANA in 6

SJS in 6

So without further ado, let's get this year's challenge underway!

(A1) Boston Bruins vs. (WC2) Detroit Red Wings

The Detroit Red Wings escaped the Western Conference because they whined about long travel hours and unfavorable time zones like a bunch of pansies. So the NHL gave their spoiled children what they wanted and moved them to the tire-fire that is the Eastern Conference. Sure enough, the Red Wings were not great there either, struggling for much of the season and scraping into the playoffs in the final few weeks of the season.

Granted many of those injuries were to key players, with Johan Franzen, Pavel Datsyuk, Jimmie Howard, Henrik Zetterberg, Niklas Kronwall, and many others seeing time on the IR.

But nonetheless they're the Red Wings and we here at AC don't like them very much.

So it should come as no surprise that literally nobody in our pool thinks the Winged Wheel gets through round one.

Boston's defense is downright terrifying, both in the stature of Zdeno Chara, and statistically. They were about two goals short of winning the Jennings Trophy, and allowed a second-best 2.08 goals against per game, second only to the Los Angeles Kings.

However, unlike the Kings, their effort was squarely on the shoulders of goaltender Tuukka Rask, as the Bruins were in the middle of the pack in shots allowed per game.

-"Detroit could upset the Bruins, but Rask proves to be better than Howard who suffers an injury as a result of diving." - Cory
-"Shame that Detroit didn't stay in the West for 1 more year. Well Boston, now it's your turn to have a go at the relentless little Detroit sh**, I mean poops." - Lois
-"The Wings actually won the season series, so they know how to give the B's trouble, but Boston is very clearly the best team in the East, and they'll endure the heat from their opposition. I wasn't alive the last time the Red Wings missed the playoffs. Can that please happen before I die?" - Ben
-"Detroit may be getting on a roll (including beating Boston) but the Bruins are just too good." - Chris

(A2) Tampa Bay Lightning vs. (A3) Montreal Canadiens

It's not difficult to think of Tampa Bay as a sort-of Cinderella going into these playoffs.

The Bolts lost their best player, Steven Stamkos, to a gruesome broken leg for well over half of the season. And yet despite the fact that many predicted the Bolts would eventually crumble, their young core, led by rookies Ondrej Palat and Tyler Johnson, took the lead and kept the team competitive for the entire season.

Now with Stamkos back in the lineup, the Bolts look to make a serious dent in the playoffs, and they've got the talent to do it, should goaltender Ben Bishop be healthy in time for the playoffs.

Montreal is Canada's lone representative in these playoffs, and for a good chunk of the season was wildly inconsistent. However, thanks to a huge come-from-behind victory over the Ottawa Senators, the Canadiens have been playing with confidence, and put together a great end to their season that likely saved head coach Michel Therrien's job.

The big question mark facing the Canadiens is can they finally get the better of their pesky division rivals, who have won three of the four meetings this season.

-"Ben Bishop is a workers comp claim waiting to happen. Anders Lindback had a good week in a 'meh' part of the season. Not feeling it." - Jen
-"Every game these two have played this season has been tight, but Tampa Bay has gotten the better of them in 3 of the 4. Add that to the Bolts heading into the playoffs hot (4 straight wins and 7 of their last 10) and I think Canada starts whining profusely about its game being dominated by American teams pretty quickly." - Kyle
-"As skilled as the Habs are, they are woefully coached. The Bolts will upset them with a team game." - Kid Ish
-"A Canadian team finding luck in the postseason? Not likely." - Jer

(M1) Pittsburgh Penguins vs. (WC1) Columbus Blue Jackets

You can't help but feel a few warm-fuzzies for the Blue Jackets.

The franchise that was born in 2000 has finally earned just its second playoff berth in history. Its first berth was not really one Jackets fans want to remember, getting swept by the (WHO ELSE) Detroit Red Wings. (And they wonder why nobody likes them.)

So now, in their 13th season, the Jackets are in hot pursuit of their first-ever playoff win.

Unfortunately for them, they've run into a team that they haven't been able to beat this entire season: the Pittsburgh Penguins swept the season series with four regulation wins.

Sidney Crosby is on an alarming pace this season and likely should run away with the Hart Trophy this season. Evgeni Malkin is close to being healthy again, and top defenseman Kris Letang is getting healthy.

Looks like that first win is not a guarantee after all... oh wait, Marc-Andre Fleury is still in net for Pittsburgh. Nevermind the Jackets should get at least one.

-"Fleury loses the series in Game 7. Bobrovsky is the reason Columbus wins & advances." - Cory
-"The Hockey Gods truly hate the Columbus Blue Jackets. In their infinite mercy they'll finally let the Jackets get their first playoff win as a franchise before Crosby scores a hat trick and stomps them out in game 5." - Kyle
-"I would hate to be a Lumbus fan for this series, 1) they're probably going to lose 2) they'll be surrounded by Pens fans when they do." - Chris
-"As much as I want to fall back on the "LOLFleury" meme, I get the sense that he realizes this may be his last playoff to be taken seriously in Pittsburgh and will perform at least well enough to win the first round. Bobrovsky will be the better goalie in the series, but the firepower of Pittsburgh will be too much for #Lumbus to overcome four times in the series. Love what John Davidson is building in Ohio, but they'll still struggle to get the vast majority of cheers in their home rink this series." - Eric

(M2) New York Rangers vs. (M3) Philadelphia Flyers

Back in November, Claude Giroux, in the midst of the Flyers colossal skid to start the season, guaranteed to the media that the Flyers would be a playoff team. Everybody laughed at him. And then they made it and he looked like a genius. Or a man possessed if you saw him play.

Claude Giroux has turned into the NHL's version of the hulk, carrying his team to this playoff berth against one of their biggest rivals.

Unlike the team that fired him, Alain Vigneault is going back to the playoffs with the New York Rangers. However, the Rangers have looked pretty lifeless for a good chunk of this season, and have for long stretches appeared to drastically underperform.

Much of this series is going to come down to the performance of King Henrik Lundqvist and whether or not the at times atrocious defense in front of him can slow down the three big shots of Philadlelphia (Giroux, Jakub Voracek, and Wayne Simmonds) who have all outscored the entire Rangers roster.

-"Giroux will have no problem outplaying the likes of St. Louis, Richards, and Nash. It's up to the rest of the team to make sure his awesomeness is not in vain." - Derek
-"
Maybe I'm optimistic but I would love a Philly-Pitt series in round two. California can't be the only state with a second round that features two teams that have very, very short flights." - Liz
-"Steve Mason is the Flyers' goalie. That is all." - Cory
-"Philly has had an absolute devil of a time winning in the Garden of recent, and with Steve Mason being a question mark it falls on the shoulders of a guy whose playoff legacy is getting smoked by the Ducks in the SCF then opening the door for a Blackhawks title team. Lundqvist is much more reliable, and with adding St. Louis, the Blue Shirts have filled out the system of Vigneault wonderfully as the season has progressed." - Eric

(C1) Colorado Avalanche vs. (WC1) Minnesota Wild

The Colorado Avalanche are getting a lot of flak for being a supposed "paper tiger" due to their advanced stats. With a sky-high PDO, a tendency to bank on good goaltending, and a defense that looks an awful lot like Jonas Hiller as of late, the Avs have all the makings of unsustainability.

But all that talk can be somewhat concluded as a bunch of crap because the Avalanche were able to put together a campaign that saw them go from dead last in the league with the first overall choice last season's draft, to the Central Division winners, riding stellar, Vezina-quality goaltending from Semyon Varlamov, and an electric offense that victimized teams with its fifth-ranked power play. While their play may be considered "unsustainable" for long periods of time, the Avs managed to put it together for the rather long period of 82 games, including winning seven of their final ten contests.

They will be facing a Minnesota Wild squad that was rather up and down for most of the year, spending it almost entirely in the middle of the pack. However, they made the playoffs in the first wild card spot rather comfortably, and have solidified their biggest weakness, goaltending, by bringing in veteran Ilya Bryzgalov. It will definitely be a matchup of speedy offense from Colorado versus disciplined defense from Minnesota.

-"Still can't believe that Colorado is winning with that defense." - Chris
-"Both teams are coming in with a ton of momentum here. It's an interesting state of affairs when my true home team makes a massive tear down the home stretch to steal the Central Division and I don't even notice because my attention was with the Blues and Sharks. I might have to get me some tickets to see my two home teams fight this one out." - Ben
-"Contrary to the league standings, Minnesota has some top league talent. Combine that with their discipline, puck possession, and a hot Bryz, & I call for an upset." - Lois
-"The Avs are fast. That young forward core up against 30 mins of Suter is funny." - Kid Ish

(C2) St. Louis Blues vs. (C3) Chicago Blackhawks

The St. Louis Blues were the darlings of advanced statistics junkies everywhere all season long due to their stable play, level PDO, and excellent Corsi. However, they've suffered a recent rash of injuries to key players, limped backwards into the playoffs, losing their final six games of the regular season in regulation. Big goaltender addition Ryan Miller has been good, but likewise remarkably human for the Blues, and human hasn't been good enough as of late as the Blues struggle to score.

They will face a Chicago Blackhawks team that has struggled this season in some strange ways, including an abysmal 7-15 record in games beyond regulation. They will be getting superstars Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews back from injury for the start of these playoffs, and rest assured the Blackhawks that dominated the entire NHL last season are waiting to return. The same core and most of the same players are there.

This will not be an easy challenge for what was at one time a trendy pick for their first Stanley Cup.

-"Anyone who calls St. Louis the best team in the western conference is 1- seriously deluded, 2- unaware of how many injuries they have, 3- forgets entirely about a Chicago team that is still just as good as last season personnel-wise, and 4- forgets that should St. Louis get past this point, they would still likely have to get through a California team, which they haven't been able to do all season." - Kyle
-"The Blues have been ripe for postseason success for a couple of years now, and this time there's no chance the Kings will knock them out again until the third round." - Derek
-"Somebody better take out the Hawks before they claim a 3rd recent cup. I'm just not sure it can be St. Louis." - Jer
-"The Blues are built much deeper this year-rolling deep with four offensive lines, fortified with one of the league's top blue lines, & not to mention Miller in net." - Lois

(P1) Anaheim Ducks vs. (WC2) Dallas Stars

The Dallas Stars managed to outlast the Phoenix Coyotes, who skidded to the finish on three wins in their final ten games. As a result they face an Anaheim Ducks team that has for much of the season obliterated everything in its path thanks to a remarkably efficient offense that has been flush with depth scoring and improved puck possession numbers.

The Stars have had some success against the Ducks this season, winning two of the three games these two teams played. The duo of Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin has come together nicely and is quickly gaining attention as one of the best duos in the NHL.

They will face a duo that likely will challenge them for that title in the much-more-experienced Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry.

The Ducks will have a big question facing them when these playoffs start, however. It's almost certain that young rookie Frederik Andersen will start the playoffs with veteran netminder Jonas Hiller in the midst of one of his worst slumps in his career. However should Andersen falter, will Hiller be ready to take over?

-"We have super-secret spy-informant Stephane Robidas on our side now. And Seguin is going to have the time of his life partying it up in the OC." - Lois
-"Oh please oh please oh please oh please oh please oh please oh please oh please oh please oh please oh please oh please oh please oh please..." - Jer
-"To beat the Stars: 1) Lure Seguin to Newport Beach bars 2) Kidnap Benn & Lehtonen 3) Start Tim Thomas. This is going to be tough." - Jen
-"Advanced Stats dorks can waive Corsis and PDOs as much as they want, but it doesn't cover for the fact that the Stars have one of the more porous defenses among playoff teams. While Kari Lehtonen did well against the Ducks last season (not seeing them at all this year), he doesn't strike as the kind of series stealing goalie that Dallas would need against the most effective offense in the league. Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn can pile up their dork stats, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry will skate into the second round." - Eric

(P2) San Jose Sharks vs. (P3) Los Angeles Kings

Ah, familiar foes meet again.

The San Jose Sharks and the Los Angeles Kings will be meeting in the playoffs for the third time since 2011, with the teams splitting each of the two series. So far, home ice has been king, and the popular prediction for this year is that San Jose will emerge because they are the team that holds it.

Both of these teams are puck possession giants who take a ton of shots, and bank on solid defense and good goaltending behind their reasonably talented offenses. It's unquestionably a matchup between two of the best teams in the entire Western Conference.

However, the Los Angeles Kings won the season series by doing something that has rarely happened between these two: winning on the road.

They will have to do that again in order to emerge this time.

Expect this series to be a massive battle, as both of these teams are licking their lips at the possibility of a second round matchup with an Anaheim team both are confident they can beat.

-" Moarblood_medium" - Virtually the entire Anaheim Calling Staff

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