Summer of Hockey is here!
The NHL playoffs start now, the first of August. Regular season’s top four teams from both conferences have made their way to the actual playoffs already, but the rest of the pack is in for some qualifying action. Best of five series is played within the conferences between teams placed 5.-12. in the regular season. The first five pairs are on fire already tonight and here’s Accuscore’s prediction for those.
5. Edmonton Oilers – 12. Chicago Blackhawks
The Oilers get to play on their home ice, even if there’s not support this time. Far better team by all measurements, Edmonton should get an easy pass over Chicago, who were all but eliminated from the playoffs when the season was put on hold. Connor McDavid and Leon Dreiseitl are likely to get one over Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. In Accuscore’s simulations, Oilers take the series by 67% probability and in four games with 27% likelihood.
8. Calgary Flames – 9. Winnipeg Jets
Both teams were in for a disappointment, but can redeem their season with the revamped playoffs. Jets were in trouble with their defense and without Vezina candidate Connor Hellebuyck’s heroics, might have missed their new chance as well. Calgary seemed flat overall and it remains to be seen if they can find a new gear to their game. Both need to improve in order to challenge anyone in the next round, and Accuscore simulations indicate that would be Jets, with 64% probability to beat the Flames. But it is close and most likely to go to 5 games, Jets prevailing in the last moment with 26% probability.
6. Carolina Hurricanes – 11. New York Rangers
The last year’s dark horse Carolina is at it again, with their young team flying high heading to the break. They’re facing an uneven Rangers team, who had trouble keeping up to the playoff hunt earlier and are unlikely to pose much of a threat to better organized and disciplined Hurricanes. In Accuscore simulations, Hurricanes take the battle with 60% probability, but Rangers are not an easy target and take it to game 5. Hurricanes take the spoils in 5 with 23% probability.
7. New York Islanders – 10. Florida Panthers
Overall an all-around even series between two teams lurking in shadows behind the favorites. Not much was expected from Islanders, but they’ve grinded their way to the playoffs and the team is built for rough postseason hockey – but the playoffs this time are a different world, with no traveling and arguably less hardships of the long season. Florida might be somewhat talented team in the offense, but left a lot to be desired for in the regular season. Still, Accuscore’s simulations indicate the Panthers to finish off Islanders with 63% probability after a long and hard battle in game 5. It’s 26% likelihood for the Panthers to grab a victory at the latest moment possible.
5. Pittsburgh Penguins – 12. Montreal Canadiens
Penguin’s season had been a roller coaster of good and bad and everything in between. The veteran superstars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, supported by the likes of Kris Letang and Jake Guentzel were on and off all season, but the potential to contend for the Stanley Cup is still there. Defense is suspect and goaltending situation a question mark, but Canadiens should not pose a challenge. Their hopes were already gone, but the young team can now head to tease the Penguins with nothing to lose – and with Carey Price between the pipes, anything can happen. Accuscore simulations have Penguins as clear favorites for 67% probability to progress to the 1st round, and we see Penguins win in 4 with 26% probability.