Murph’s Musings: 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs First Round Playoff Predictions

Stanley Cup Playoffs
Stanley Cup Playoffs
Winslow Townson USA TODAY Sports

The 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs are here and the first round is set. So why waste time? I’ve always been told to go with my gut instincts so here are my first round predictions. I will post predictions here each round but I will tell you now that my initial Stanley Cup Finals pick is the New York Rangers over the Anaheim Ducks. The feel here is that the Rangers have finally found their groove at the right time and while the Bruins are no doubt the team to beat, they can be beat and will be beat. But that won’t happen in the opening round so let’s discuss what will!

Eastern Conference

Boston Bruins vs. Detroit Red Wings — The Bruins roared to their second President’s Trophy in team history (1989-90 was the other) with 117 points and are heavy favorites to not only represent the Eastern Conference in the Stanley Cup finals for the second straight season and third in the last four but also to hoist the Stanley Cup for a second time in that same span of time. Meanwhile, the Red Wings had a late season surge to keep their consecutive playoffs appearances steak alive at 23 and grab the last wild card spot in the East. The Red Wings have been led by young rising stars like Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar, just got Pavel Datsyuk back, and now got the news Tuesday that captain Henrik Zetterberg (back surgery) will start skating again Tuesday and could play in the first round. While momentum is building in Motown, they will simply be over-matched and worn down too much by the Bruins to pull off what would be a monumental upset.

Pick: Bruins in 6

Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Columbus Blue Jackets The Blue Jackets seem to always be stereotyped as a cellar dweller team even when they have a good season as they did this year, getting the first wild card spot in the eastern conference and making the playoffs for the first time since 2009. They have an emerging star center named Ryan Johansen who led the team in points (63) and goals (33) and the reigning Vezina Trophy winner who, after an injury plagued start to this season, has returned to Vezina form. So why the Rodney Dangerfield treatment? Well, they should finally get some respect in the playoffs as they will shock the hockey world and upset Hart Trophy favorite Sidney Crosby and the heavily favored Pittsburgh Penguins. The Pens are ripe for an upset right now and while they have been ravaged by injuries with the most man games lost in the NHL, there has been something missing with the chemistry of this team since they were humiliated and swept by the Bruins in the Eastern Conference finals last year.

Pick: Blue Jackets in 6

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Montreal Canadiens

This could be one of the best series and could easily go seven games but the feel here is that the Canadiens — despite being the road team in the series — won’t allow that to happen. Carey Price is having a season worthy of both the Vezina and Hart trophies and he will be the difference in this series. At the other end it will be the lack of experience between the pipes and the absence of another Vezina Trophy candidate in Ben Bishop to start the series that will hurt the Lightning. Yes, Steven Stamkos could take over the series on his own but the Habs have been playing great team defense and the lessons learned by the core of this team in the first round loss to Ottawa last April will be valuable experience against an inexperienced Lightning squad.

Pick: Canadiens in 5

New York rangers vs. Philadelphia Flyers — The Flyers and head coach Craig Berube were a feel good story this season as they overcame a brutal start and early season slump for captain Claude Giroux to make the playoffs. Berube is likely a Jack Adams award candidate and this team looks to be back on track for the future. But right now it’s the Rangers who are on track and looking more and more like a team that wants to do what they couldn’t do the last three seasons and that’s fulfill expectations. In 2012, the Rangers were picked to win the Eastern Conference and some had them as the pick to win it all but they fell short, losing to the Devils in the Eastern Conference finals. Then last year, they were defeated in five games by the Bruins in the second round. But this is the season they take it to the next level behind underrated depth up front, a solid blue line, and of course, King Henrik Lundqvist. The Flyers however will go down the way they started the season, with a whimper.

Pick: Rangers in 4

Western Conference

Colorado Avalanche vs. Minnesota Wild — The Avalanche are an amazing story and they don’t appear to be ready to close the book on this story. Not only did they crack the century mark in points after missing the playoffs for the three previous seasons but the Av’s finished with the best record in the Western Conference and won the Central Division. New head coach Patrick Roy was clearly one of the main reasons for this young team’s success and he will likely win the Jack Adams for this historic turnaround. Colorado also got amazing goaltending from Semyon Varlamov, who will not only be a nominee for the Vezina Trophy but also likely for the Hart Trophy. The Av’s are for real and they will continue to show that in the playoffs. However, they are still a inexperienced bunch when it comes to the playoffs and that will play a role in the first round. The Wild, on the other hand, are a pesky team that could create some problems for Colorado and will take advantage of the inexperienced Av’s. But Colorado will write another chapter to this magical season and win the series.

Pick: Avalanche in 7

St. Louis Blues vs. Chicago Blackhawks — This series promises to be a full out war and the winner will likely be beat up and worn down afterwards. The problem here is that both teams come into the series already worn down and beat up. The defending Stanley Cup champs just got Patrick Kane back and will get captain Jonathan Toews back but both stars will be playing hurt. On the other side, the Blues could be missing some key players like T.J. Oshie and captain David Backes among others. Then between the pipes, Ryan Miller has come back down to earth at the wrong time and looks shaky. He will need to find his game quickly. On the other end Corey Crawford still comes in as an underrated goalie but will be as good as he was last spring. But in the end the Blues will send the champs home early.

Pick: Blues in 7

Anaheim Ducks vs. Dallas Stars — The Stars are another feel-good story making the playoffs for the first time since 2008 and appear to be a team on the rise. But despite having two emerging young stars in Tyler Seguin and captain Jamie Benn, this likely will be a team just happy to be there and in a bit of awe against one of the most consistent teams this season, the Ducks. The Ducks as mentioned above are my pick out West and are just too stacked at every position for the Stars. And keep an eye on rookie goalie Josh Gibson who simply went 3-0-0 with a 1.33 G.A.A. and .954 save percentage in his first three NHL starts. If Hiller falters, as he has down the stretch, and Andersen can’t hold down the fort, Gibson could be thrown into the fire and he won’t disappoint.

Pick: Ducks in 4

San Jose Sharks vs. Los Angeles Kings — Much like the Blackhawks-Blues, this too promises to be a bruising series and could leave the winner wobbling into the second round. The Sharks are looking to finally make it out of the Western Conference while the Kings are looking to get back to the promised land where they were in 2012 when they steamed through the playoffs. Both teams are deep and both Sharks netminder Antti Niemi and Kings goalie Jonathan Quick are capable of stealing a game or two. This could be a classic if the Kings steal one of the first two in San Jose. But that won’t happen as a poised Sharks team will take control early and send the Kings packing.

Pick: Sharks in 5


Stanley Cup Finals: Rangers over Ducks

Conn Smythe winner: Henrik Lundqvist

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James Murphy
Jimmy Murphy has covered the NHL in print, radio and television for the last 13 years. In addition to his work here at, he currently hosts The Top Shelf Radio Show heard every Monday-Friday 1-3 PM ET on and 2-3 PM ET on Sirius/XM NHL Network Radio.

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