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The Anaheim Calling Staff Playoff Prediction Challenge 2015: Quarterfinals

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It's back! The Anaheim Calling staff will once again do battle in Anaheim Calling's own annual prediction challenge, only this year, YOU the readers get to play along too!

Welcome to our third consecutive year of the Anaheim Calling Staff Playoff Challenge! Yet again your AC writers will go head to head for glory and bragging rights for the next calendar year. This year, however, the Prediction Challenge adds yet another new and exciting change to bring even more excitement and unpredictability.

For those of you who aren't familiar with how this works, let me explain the rules of the challenge that have not changed this time around.

1.) Each staffer submits their choices for winner and number of games for each round before the games of that particular round start.

2.) Each correct prediction of the winner earns 10 points. Correctly predicting the number of games earns you a bonus 5 points, giving you a total of 15 for a perfect prediction.

3.) Getting the winner wrong but number of games correct wins you nothing. No points unless you get the winner right.

So here's what's new this season:

1.) Each round will feature a bonus question from a random series being played that round. Correctly guessing this automatically wins you 15 bonus points.

2.) YOU, the readers here at AC can play along with us this year!

That's right. Click here and submit your predictions before 4:05pm PDT on Wednesday, April 15th and your score will be kept alongside the writers here at AC. You too can play for bragging rights. Anything taken after 4:05 PDT will be disqualified.

Now that all that's taken care of, let's start this year's contest!

For the first round, the Bonus Prediction is: How many goals will be scored in the Lightning-Red Wings series?

MTL vs. OTT

TBL vs. DET

NYR vs. PIT

WSH vs. NYI

STL vs. MIN

NSH vs. CHI

ANA vs. WPG

VAN vs. CGY

BONUS

Chris

MTL in 6

TBL in 5

NYR in 5

WSH in 6

STL in 6

CHI in 5

ANA in 6

VAN in 7

31

Kyle

OTT in 6

DET in 6

NYR in 4

NYI in 7

STL in 7

CHI in 5

ANA in 5

VAN in 6

34

Eric

MTL in 6

TBL in 5

NYR in 5

NYI in 6

STL in 6

CHI in 6

ANA in 6

VAN in 6

29

Derek

OTT in 6

TBL in 7

NYR in 6

WSH in 7

STL in 7

CHI in 7

ANA in 7

VAN in 7

37

Jer

MTL in 5

TBL in 6

NYR in 6

WSH in 7

STL in 4

CHI in 6

ANA in 6

CGY in 6

26

Lois

MTL in 6

TBL in 5

NYR in 5

NYI in 7

STL in 6

CHI in 7

ANA in 6

VAN in 5

42

Liz

OTT in 7

TBL in 6

NYR in 5

WSH in 7

MIN in 6

NSH in 5

ANA in 6

CGY in 7

25

Cory

OTT in 6

TBL in 5

NYR in 4

WSH in 7

MIN in 6

NSH in 7

ANA in 6

CGY in 6

23

Ben

MTL in 6

TBL in 5

NYR in 4

NYI in 6

MIN in 7

CHI in 6

ANA in 5

VAN in 7

24

Kristen

OTT in 6

TBL in 6

NYR in 4

WSH in 7

MIN in 6

CHI in 5

ANA in 7

VAN in 7

20

Eastern Conference

(A1) Montreal Canadiens vs. (WC1) Ottawa Senators

The Ottawa Senators are one hell of a story. After sitting 15 points out of a playoff spot in February, the Senators caught fire and bulldozed everyone in their path, surging their way all the way back and sealing a trip to the playoffs on the last day of the season. Their biggest story: rookie Andrew Hammond, who after posting mediocre AHL numbers has jumped into the NHL and stopped seemingly everything, losing just one of his first 24 NHL games in regulation. The Senators are quick, stingy on defense, and riding a wave of confidence that would make a tsunami feel small.

The guys on the other side however are no slouches. One year removed from a trip to the Eastern Conference finals, the Montreal Canadiens comfortably took off with the Atlantic Division this season and are primed for another deep run. Their biggest question mark is the health of superstar Max Paciorretty who has been out with an injury for some time. They do however have the most likely runaway Vezina Trophy winner in their net, however, in superstar Carey Price, who has been known to run away and steal series before.

-"I trust the eight seasons that say Price is a quality-to-elite NHL goalie more than the 24 games from Hammond." - Eric
-"
HAMBURGLAR UPSET PICK!!!" - Cory

(A2) Tampa Bay Lightning vs. (A3) Detroit Red Wings

The Tampa Bay Lightning had the season we all expected from them. They're fast. They're deep. They're extremely offensively talented. And they have a blue line that's suffocating in terms of allowing shots against. They boast the second-best goal differential in the entire NHL, and they're coming in to the playoffs looking strong and ready to avenge a shock sweep defeat in last year's first round.

Standing in their way is the evil empire of playoff success in the Detroit Red Wings, though admittedly this year looks a little different for them. For starters, Peter Mrazek will be getting the net in game one over long-time starter Jimmy Howard, showing how little confidence coach Mike Babcock has with his veteran netminder. That and the Wings are backing into the playoffs a little bit, winning only four of their last ten contests.

-" The New England Patriots won the Super Bowl, Ohio State won in college football and Duke won in Basketball. This is clearly the year of evil empires winning titles, so why the hell should this change now?" - Kyle
-"They moved all the way to the Eastern Conference just to be bounced in the first round every season." - Jer

(M1) New York Rangers vs. (WC2) Pittsburgh Penguins

These two teams could not be on further opposite ends of the spectrum. The New York Rangers are your 2014-15 President's Trophy winners and are coming into the playoffs with seven wins in their final ten contests. They're amongst the league's best in terms of possession and look like a heavy favorite to repeat their trip to the Stanley Cup Finals. In fact last time they won the President's Trophy, they made the Cup final as well. They won it, too.

In their way is a team that made the playoffs only by the grace of the Boston Bruins missing. The Pittsburgh Penguins look completely lost coming in, winning only three of their last ten games, including two losses to Philadelphia and Carolina in that stretch. After a solid season which saw them set up nicely for a playoff run, the Penguins look like they need to find their game and their identity again in a hurry or this series could turn lopsided fast.

-"Lundqvist's glove trumps Crosby's mitts." - Liz
-"Pittsburgh survived long enough to make the playoffs by virtue of having Buffalo in their last game, and God are the Rangers good at the hockey." - Ben

(M2) Washington Capitals vs. (M3) New York Islanders

The Washington Capitals rather quietly put together yet another solid season, led by none other than their captain Alexander Ovechkin. Ovie led the league in goals scoring yet again, this season becoming the only player to eclipse the 50-goal mark. Goaltender Braden Holtby has come into his own and responded well as a starter, and the Caps are also getting healthy, getting Jay Beagle, Eric Fehr, and Tom Wilson back soon, and you have a team that's set up to do some big damage in the post season.

Their first opponent is one that appeared as though they were going to take off with the Metropolitan Division for a little while, but cooled off, and came back to Earth just enough to the point where they could sneak up on teams. The New York Islanders are looking to say goodbye to the Nassau Veterans Memorial Colosseum in style--with some playoff wins. John Tavares could very easily find himself as a finalist for the Hart Trophy this season, and Jaroslav Halak has proven himself a very capable playoff goaltender on multiple occasions. This series could end up being pretty close while simultaneously making you wonder if defense is even a thing anymore.

-"Anyone remember what happened last time Jaroslav Halak faced a white-hot Capitals team in the playoffs?" - Kyle
-"The Islanders have the 26th ranked PK, and we all know what happens when the Caps are up a man. I like the Isles, but I like Ovechkin more." - Derek

Western Conference

(C1) St. Louis Blues vs. (WC1) Minnesota Wild

"Finally" the Blues thought to themselves, "A season where we won't get screwed in the first round with a matchup with either the Kings or the Blackhawks!" Then they opened the curtain to reveal the Minnesota Wild as their opponent. And then they screamed in horror.

The Minnesota Wild are entering the playoffs as one of the hottest teams in the NHL, riding one of the feel-good stories of the year in the goaltending of Devan Dubnyk, who has been lights out spectacular for the Wild since coming over. They have one of the best records in the league since the All-Star Break, clawing their way from well out of a playoff spot to a comfortable clutch on the top wild card spot. Do not take this team lightly as these aren't your Dad's Minnesota boys. They are fast, explosive offensively, ridiculous in puck possession, and now have a goaltender to support them.

As for the Blues meanwhile, they may have never been better equipped to meet a team like this than they are now. Three solid lines deep and with two perfectly capable goaltenders, the Blues look as good as any to be a Cup Final contender. It's just a matter of yet another insanely difficult first round matchup.

-"The Wild have improved their offense, but the Blues are too deep down the center." - Lois
-"The Wild have been the best team in the NHL since January 15, and the Blues have a history of struggling in the playoffs." - Kristen

(C2) Nashville Predators vs. (C3) Chicago Blackhawks

The Nashville Predators are this season's Colorado Avalanche from last year. For a while, it looked as though the Preds were going to be the team to once again doom St. Louis and Chicago to a first-round clash. But then they went stone cold and lost a ton of games in a row. And they still haven't really recovered from that. Even after re-tooling and loading up on the back end at the trade deadline, the Preds haven't looked even remotely as scary as they once did. Cue the PDO-backers and advanced-stats nerds rejoicing around a fire.

So logically, it's easy to see how many people see them as this year's sacrificial lamb to the Chicago Blackhawks, a team that has won two Stanley Cups in the last five seasons, and won at least one playoff round in all but one of those same five years. And while their third place finish may surprise you, it's certainly not indicative of how good they are. Oh, and they're getting Patrick Kane back from a broken clavicle. So yeah, in case you needed any other reasons why Chicago will once again be good, there you go.

-"Rinne steals the series in a dramatic seventh game." - Cory
-"The Predators are not allowed to have nice things." - Jer

(P1) Anaheim Ducks vs. (WC2) Winnipeg Jets

For the first time since they were the Atlanta Thrashers, the Winnipeg Jets franchise is going to the playoffs, and they've done so riding two very good trends: an excellent defense that is amongst the league's best in shot-suppression, and a goaltending tandem that has quietly been one of the league's best. They're big, they're mean, they're nasty, and they've got a building that is probably going to be the absolute craziest of any of them in this first round to support them in games three and four.

But their opponent is one who's well-familiar with dangerous buildings and winning tight games. The Anaheim Ducks this season set a new NHL record for one-goal wins in a season, and consistently have shown an inexplicable ability to win tight games. At this point, it's not luck. And to top it off, the Ducks swept the Jets in the season series this year, scoring 12 goals in the process. They've gained playoff experience, they've loaded up on skill down the middle, and they're the second-best possession and shot-attempt for team since the trade deadline. While a lot of the "experts" feel this Anaheim team is going to be an easy walk for the Jets, they're likely going to be anything but.

-"We have Teemu's blessings." - Lois
-"Getzlaf and Perry are difference makers the Jets can't answer with a fairly similar team otherwise; YOU don't think Pavelec can keep up his current form either, do you?" - Eric

(P2) Vancouver Canucks vs. (P3) Calgary Flames

These two long-time rivals will finally meet again in the playoffs for the seventh time in their history. So far the Calgary Flames lead having won four of them. And incidentally enough, the winner each of the last three times they've met has gone on to the Stanley Cup Final.

The Canucks have had a solid season, holding on to the second spot in the Pacific Division almost wire-to-wire. They've had their ups and downs, but look just about as strong now as they have all season, firing on all cylinders offensively and getting excellent goaltending from Eddie Lack.

Their opponent has to be one of the most loveable underdogs in the entire playoffs, however. The Calgary Flames were predicted by many to be amongst the bottom-dwellers this season, as their slew of young players simply built experience and came together as a group. They decided to skip that step. The Flames shot out of a cannon from the start and then endured an injury to their best defenseman, Mark Giordano, only to scratch and claw their way into the playoffs with a dramatic win over the Los Angeles Kings at home, sealing both their ticket in and LA's tee time at the local golf club. This is the little team that simply never said die, and they may very likely continue to keep rolling.

-"Been waiting for Calgary to turn into a pumpkin for months now.  I sure do like Pumpkins, Cotton." - Chris
-"Sometimes you just want to believe in things." - Jer