Last week, fellow XNSports.com scribes Pat Pickens, Sean Hartnett, Michael Clifford, and I made some 2014-15 season predictions, the biggest of course being our choices for the 2015 Stanley Cup. I took the St. Louis Blues over the Tampa Bay Lightning which, as most predictions are, was granted with comical skepticism and at times venom from fans who are insulted if their teams aren’t picked to win the Stanley Cup despite how good or bad their teams may be. Well I expect more of the same here as I present to you my division winners and playoff teams for the Eastern and Western Conferences. Fire away!
1.) Tampa Bay Lightning — Yes I am on the media Lightning bandwagon. But honestly, all that young skill with a playoff series under their belts and Steven Stamkos back? See ya in the finals!
2.) Washington Capitals — My darkhorse team in the East and the NHL. The Caps finally use all that talent, win the Metro Division, and make a run to the Eastern Conference Finals where they lose to the Lightning.
3.) New York Islanders — I’m also jumping on the Isles bandwagon. Suddenly they have goaltending and defense to go with that loaded forward corps. Isles get home advantage in first round and finish what they started in 2013, knocking off the once mighty Penguins.
4.) Montreal Canadiens — The Habs take a step back after a run to the Eastern Conference finals, falling in the second round. But they do beat their archrivals, the Bruins, again in the first round
5.) Boston Bruins — The Bruins are still a contender but losing Boychuk and Iginla, plus Iginla’s bonuses, have hamstrung them salary cap wise.
6.) Pittsburgh Penguins — Crosby leads the league in points again but with an offensive-minded defense and question mark between the pipes as to which Marc-Andre Fleury shows up, the Pens find themselves in too many run and gun games.
7.) Toronto Maple Leafs — An interim coach TBD leads the Leafs back to the playoffs but they bow out in first round.
8.) New Jersey Devils — Corey Schneider and an improved shootout lead the Devils back to the postseason.
2.) Dallas Stars — I’m on the Dallas bandwagon, too.
3.) St. Louis Blues — The Blues overcome the pressure of expectations and deliver as they win the first conference and Stanley Cup championships in franchise history.
4.) Chicago Blackhawks — Blackhawks along with Blues, just fall short of the division crown thanks to the upstart Stars.
5.) Minnesota Wild — See above. Wild get a chance to beat the franchise that left them high and dry.
6.) Colorado Avalanche — Av’s still in mix but take a step back.
7.) San Jose Sharks — Sharks paced themselves in regular season and try to save themselves for the playoffs to save Todd McLellan and Doug Wilson with a run to the conference finals as a wild card team.
8.) Los Angeles Kings — The Kings suffer from the Stanley Cup hangover and just make it into the playoffs as a wild card. But they lose to their archrivals the Ducks in the first round.