The Contrarian – Playoff Bound

by Demetri Fragopoulos on April 10, 2016

Demetri makes his predictions on all the playoff matchups and remaining playoff scenarios.

As I started to write this, the Boston Bruins laid a rotten egg Saturday afternoon, which gave the Detroit Red Wings a lock on the number three spot within the Atlantic Division. The Philadelphia Flyers then did their part by being victorious over the Pittsburgh Penguins to clinch the final playoff spot this season.

While that settles the final wild card playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, there remain other races to watch. Even though I am trying to be accurate, the statistics I reference throughout could change based on the games played on Saturday.

Though there is still some uncertainty, I am going to go through all the teams and will pick out some players and the potential of success for the clubs in the post season.

Need help selecting your playoff pool? Dobber’s 2016 Interactive Playoff Draft List is there for you!

Philadelphia versus Washington

The Flyers will have some positive energy from how they reacted the last half of the season in order to be in the playoffs. You might be tempted to take a chance on a Flyer or two with a late draft pick. While the primary target will be Claude Giroux, I suggest you consider Wayne Simmonds instead.

His style of play will go well for the playoffs and I believe that he will be the one to get points on Braden Holtby. Simmonds potted 32 goals (two in Saturday’s contest) in the regular season and the last time he was in the playoffs he netted four in seven games (five points).

Sadly the Capitals are too dominant and they will move through to the second round easily. Do not worry about this little lull that they have gone through. The top five Capitals in scoring will go fast, but do not underestimate points from the defense. John Carlson will be the steady one, but Matt Niskanen could be the explosive surprise.

When I say that the Capitals are dominant, I say it not just because they are the President’s Trophy winners, but from the fact that they have won 13 more one-goal games, nine two-goal games and nine three-or-more-goal games than they have lost. The Flyers are zero, two and minus three in those same categories.

Detroit versus Tampa Bay

Even though they lost to the Rangers on Saturday, the Wings extended their consecutive playoff streak. A nice accomplishment but if you believe that they will have it easy against the Lightning because of their injury situation you will be mistaken. It is going to be a tough series. Here is an opportunity for Dylan Larkin to take charge and show the fans of the winged wheel that there is a future beyond Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg.

Without Steven Stamkos and Anton Stralman, Tampa Bay is certainly weaker but has not relied solely on these guys. Tyler Johnson was hurt during the game against the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday, which makes things messy. He would have been the player I would have keyed on, now… it is Victor Hedman.

This matchup is one where I feel it is a coin flip.

Tampa Bay has won six more one-goal games and seven more three-or-more-goals games than they have lost, however, they lost three more two-goal games than they won. Detroit’s numbers are not better with only seven more one-goal games to their credit. They lost one more two-goal games and six three-or-more-goal games.

I will take the gamble and say that the Wings will survive to play in round two.

Pittsburgh versus New York (Rangers or Islanders)

After a coaching change, the Penguins have performed as we had hoped they would before the season even started. They play like a team, and I think it is because they have been using guys regularly from their farm club. While Crosby will go early, consider Carl Hagelin later on in your draft. He got 12 points in 25 games when he was with the Rangers in 2014-15.

Not unlike their other fellow Pennsylvanian brothers, the main weakness is in goal with Marc-Andre Fleury’s concussion and now another head injury to Matt Murray.

People will gravitate to the fact that they earned the second seed in the division, But if they go up against the Rangers, which I think they will, I give the edge to the Blueshirts because they have Henrik Lundqvist.

Of the Rangers, I would keep my eye out for Keith Yandle. Last season he earned 11 points in 19 games in the post season.

If the Penguins’ opponent turns out to be the Islanders, then I would give the edge to the Penguins.

Florida versus the other New York team

I will assume that the matchup will be against the Islanders. The Panthers are a nice story and who wouldn’t want to see Jaromir Jagr succeed. They are scary though. Can you trust them?

In one-goal games, they won five more than they lost. In three-or-more goal games they have two more victories. What worries me is that they lost ten more two-goal games than they won.

If they win, I think they will do it with a lot of offense, and thus I suggest taking a young and hungry Aleksander Barkov.

The Islanders have injury issues of their own, and you cannot deny that they would be a nice story as well. Except for the fact that they got into the playoffs last year, so it kind of takes the shine off.

I am highlighting Kyle Okposo as my pick on this team. It goes against what I wrote late last summer about his vision. Clearly I was wrong, and I now see that he could be a big factor in the Islanders’ success.

So who to take? I am going with the Panthers.

If they face the Rangers then I would continue to side with the jungle cats.

Nashville versus Anaheim or Los Angeles

The Predator playoff struggles will continue. The offense looked okay in the last ten games, but it is not going to be enough. Maybe next year Ryan Johansen will take them past the first round.

It was a difficult start for the Ducks but they have prevailed and I am going to say that they have taken the division title over the Kings. They have their own set of injury issues, but it was reported during the game that their training staff believe that most of their hurt players would be available for the start of the playoffs. Everyone will target the Ducks as they were odds-on favourites before the season started.

After the big two, Ryan Kesler will be on people’s minds because of his past playoff performances, but the guy you might be able to claim a bit later is his linemate Jakob Silfverberg. People might forget that he had 18 points in 16 games in last year’s playoffs.

Un-predator like Nashville is not a dominant team. They have only won five more two-goals games than they have lost. They have broken even with three-or-more-goal games and have lost five more one-goal games than they have won. Similar to the Ducks where they have lost three more one-goal games (mostly at the start) than they have won, however, they have won 11 more two-goal games and 1 three-or-more goal games than they have lost.

If Nashville were to play the Kings, they would still lose.

San Jose versus Los Angeles or Anaheim

Again this matchup depends on the Ducks/Capitals makeup game set for Sunday. Both clubs are relatively healthy. The Kings are dominant and would be favorites, but I like the Sharks. This is why I believe that both the Kings and Ducks are itching to take on the Predators instead.

Wining two more one-goal games, two more two-goal games, and seven three-or-more goal games than they lost, you might think that I was talking about Los Angeles, but it is the Sharks record. I know that they have had horrible playoff outcomes for a while, which is why you will be able to secure a few Sharks mid draft. Take Thornton before someone else does.

The Kings have a good record as well, with 11 more one-goal games, and five three-or-more goal games, but also have one more two-goal game losses. If it does end up being the first round matchup then go after Drew Doughty because I think the forwards will be slowed down by San Jose.

I am secretly hoping that Anaheim have a first round fight with San Jose so this ends up being the conference semi-final though.

Minnesota versus Dallas

After some internal struggles and a fight with the Avalanche, the Wild were able to make it as the second wild card spot. They never make it easy on themselves, do they? The last two years they were able to make it past the first round but go no further. I do not feel that they will get past the first round this time.

I would not consider anyone other than Zach Parise, who is the spark to the team, but he has been hobbled all season long so do not consider him until late in your drafts.

Without Tyler Seguin the Stars have continued to be effective in clinching the Western Conference title. Without Seguin some people will feel that they will be easily beaten, but I am not one of them. If you can take Jason Spezza, he may not score like the 22 points in 20 games in 2011-12, but he can be productive.

The Wild have lost ten more one-goal games and one more two-goal game but they have won six more three-or-more-goals games. I find that very weird to see. Dallas, on the other hand, has six more one-goal games, nine two-goal games and five three-or-more-goal games than losses.

St. Louis versus Chicago

Is it me or does the Western Conference feels like they are NHL’s version of FIFA’s Group of Death? So many good teams.

Suspended, wounded, and otherwise exhausted from last year I still would not want to match up against the Blackhawks in the first round, but that is exactly who the Blues are going to be up against. They have as deep a roster and have dealt with injuries all year long, managing to be very successful even if they did not win the conference title. Yet deceivingly not dominant. If I were to take a Blue it would be Kevin Shattenkirk or Alex Pietrangelo.

The Blues earned 12 more one-goal game victories, two two-goal games, and two three-or-more goal games than losses.

Chicago are the reigning champs and they do have the top scorer, Patrick Kane, and his sidekick Artemi Panarin. Their record has them having one more one-goal game, five two-goal games and six three-or-more goal wins than losses. When they win they dominate. It is for that reason that they will get by St. Louis in the first round.

Because of his injury you could probably get Marian Hossa later than you would have expected.

Wishing you good luck with your playoff drafts!