2016 NHL Playoffs: First Round Preview

2016 NHL Playoffs predictions

2016 NHL Playoffs

The NHL season has finally come to an end, meaning the real excitement is about to begin. It’s our favorite time of the year here at Pure Hockey. Two months of war are on the horizon in the NHL and while the players may be on the front lines, their respective armies are made up of you and us; the fans. So we want to hear what you think is going to happen once the puck drops tomorrow night and the chase for Lord Stanley’s Cup begins. Here is one way that the 2016 NHL Playoffs might shake out.

The East

Washington vs. Philadelphia

NHL Playoffs
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The Capitals skated through the East this year, solidifying themselves as the top team for the entire year. Alex Ovechkin has racked up 50 goals and Braden Holtby was undeniably great. However, in recent years Washington has picked the wrong time to go stale. They cannot afford to lost steam in the playoffs, but it also wouldn’t be the first time a team has run away with the President’s trophy and was then underwhelming in the playoffs. On the other side of the ice, Philadelphia snuck in by the skin of their teeth with a little bit of help from the Boston Bruins who were in a downward spiral over the last month. Sadly, Flyers founder Ed Snider passed away shortly after the Flyers locked up their playoff spot. Philadelphia was said to have been motivated by Snider’s failing health and the desire to bring him one last Stanley Cup for him, so expect Philly to come out with a fire under them.

Prediction: Philly steals a couple highly-emotional games, but Washington prevails in 6 games.


Pittsburgh vs. New York Rangers

NHL Playoffs
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The second of two great Metropolitan match ups sees the Penguins and Rangers facing off in yet another playoff matchup. This will be the third year in a row that the two teams have met, New York having won the previous two series. This year though, the Penguins are the favorite. They have been on fire as of late, seemingly scoring at will. The Rangers have been beat up by injuries this season and have gone through several defensive slumps that have left fans questioning their defense’s ability to make a deep playoff run. Aside of all that, you cannot forget the guy manning the crease in New York, Henrik Lundqvist. Lundqvist has shown up big for New York in the playoffs before, and he might need to again this year as the Rangers defense will likely have their hands full with Kessel, Malkin, and of course Sidney Crosby who has been on a tear late in the season.

Prediction: New York’s goaltending and defense step up big, but Pittsburgh emerges in 7 games.


Florida vs. New York Islanders

NHL Playoffs
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In what might be the toughest first-round match up to predict, the Florida Panthers take on the New York Islanders. The memory of basement-dwelling is still fresh for the organizations, both having made a resurgence in the standings over the past several seasons. Both have moved into the playoff picture and are yearning for post-season recognition. The real question of this series is how the two styles of play will match up. The Panthers are led by a couple of experienced veterans like Jaromir Jagr and Roberto Luongo, but overall they are still a young and fast team. Not to say that the Islanders don’t have youth and speed, but their game is more hard-nosed and physical. It is going to be a blast to watch two highly-motivated teams with two different game plans meet up for a seven game series. Another interesting aspect to watch is for how Islanders goaltender Thomas Greiss performs in his first full postseason series.

Prediction: Florida’s attack is too much and Greiss’s experience is too scarce; Florida wins in 6 games.


Tampa Bay vs. Detroit

NHL Playoffs
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Tampa and Detroit face off in the first round again this year, after the Lightning won last year’s tightly-contested matchup in seven games. Tampa ended up running with the momentum from that series and carrying it all the way to the Stanley Cup finals, where they lost to Chicago. This year, Tampa Bay has suffered a plethora of untimely injuries. Steven Stamkos, Tyler Johnson, and Anton Stralman all remain out of the lineup indefinitely, while Victor Hedman, Ryan Callahan, and Nikita Kucherov are still beat up despite practicing. That all being said, if Tampa is going to make it two years in a row against Detroit, Ben Bishop might need to steal the series. Detroit always has the “all we need to do is get in” mentality when it comes to the playoffs, which is evident after last year when they took the eventual Eastern Conference Champions to seven games. Expect the Datsyuk-retirement factor to be a point that Detroit rallies around, and also expect the playoff experience of guys like Datsyuk and Brad Richards to play a part in keeping the young Red Wings on track.

Prediction: Detroit capitalizes on Tampa’s injuries, winning the series in 6 games.


The West

Dallas vs. Minnesota

NHL Playoffs
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In this series, Dallas will look to make its first postseason statement in almost a decade, since losing in the Conference Finals to Detroit in 2008. Their lone playoff appearance since then was a four-games-to-two defeat by the Ducks back in 2014. The Wild on the other hand have had limited success over the past couple years although their last two playoff runs have been cut short by the powerhouse Chicago Blackhawks. Unfortunately, this year they may have run into another powerhouse, only in the first round this time. Dallas has been electric all year, leading the NHL with 265 goals overall. One stat that is interesting is that Dallas has also allowed more goals than any other playoff team this year. For this reason, goaltending will be key. If Dallas can get solid play out of their defense and their goaltenders, they could and should walk away with this series. Devan Dubnyk will have to stand on his head to make this one close for Minnesota.

Prediction: Dallas overwhelms the Wild and gets to Dubnyk early in the series, winning in 5 games.


St. Louis vs. Chicago

NHL Playoffs
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This series will not be for the faint of heart. The Blues and Blackhawks are no strangers to each other. St. Louis pulled out an OT win and a shootout win against Chicago this year, but this is the NHL Playoffs and the Chicago Blackhawks have been running like a well-oiled machine when it comes to playoff hockey in recent years. Will this be the year that they string together back-to-back title? Or will the head home early and try to continue the tradition of a Cup every-other year? One thing that is highly important for the Blues in this series is to take advantage of the Duncan Keith suspension. If they can snag Game 1 away from Chicago in his absence, they could spark an upset….could.

Prediction: St. Louis drags this series out until the bitter end, but falls to Chicago in 7 games.


 Anaheim vs. Nashville

NHL Playoffs
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For a long stretch of the year, it seemed pretty unlikely that the Ducks would be able to catch the Kings in the Pacific Division, but low-and-behold here we are! The Ducks snuck up and stole the division title in their last game, setting them up for a series with the Nashville Predators who are a perennial “question mark” each year when the playoffs come around. This is truly the story of two teams that trended in different directions for much of the year. While Nashville started hot and tapered off towards the end, Anaheim had an abysmal start to the year, only to hit the gas in the second half and shoot up the standings. This series has the same familiar feel that both teams usually bring in Round 1; the Ducks are the overwhelming favorite according to most again, and the Preds are embracing the underdog role again. To be fair, Nashville has a very strong blue line and a top-tier goaltender. If they can get 100% out of both the defense and Rinne, who is to say they can’t steal this series?

Prediction: Anaheim continues rolling and sweeps the Predators in 4 games.


Los Angeles vs. San Jose

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There isn’t enough room on the internet to describe why a Kings vs. Sharks series is so great. The storylines can barely be contained. The two teams are very close in proximity, fueling the rivalry. Both teams missed out on the playoffs last year – a rare occurence. They’ve met in three of the last five NHL Playoffs, with LA winning two of three. Martin Jones, former LA backup, is now the starting goalie for San Jose. And then, there is that fateful series back in 2014 where the Sharks blew a 3-0 series lead and lost in seven games to the Kings. That is all fine and dandy, but once this series begins, none of that will matter. It will be about two hard-nosed teams, filled with veterans, trying to battle their way out of the deadly First Round in the Western Conference. Will Los Angeles return themselves to the top of the league with another Cup win? Or will some of the most worthy veterans like Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau finally get to raise The Cup?

Prediction: San Jose falls to Los Angeles in a blood bath of a series that ends in 6 games.


We want to hear about how YOU think everything will play out this year in the NHL Playoffs. Leave what you think in the comments below and look out for our Second Round Previews once we have eight teams locked. Also, if you are interested in any of the team gloves featured in here you can click the images, or find all 30 NHL teams here. We also have a complete NHL Apparel section here on our website for you to stock up last-minute!

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