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Pensburgh Staff Preseason Predictions

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It’s that time of year with puck drop inching closer.

St Louis Blues v Pittsburgh Penguins Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

With a new season on the horizon and the puck set to drop in just a few weeks, all of us here at Pensburgh huddled together (virtually of course) to put our predictions to paper of what we think is going to happen around the league this season.

We all picked where we think each team will finish the season in their respective divisions, as well as how we think each playoff series will play out and who we think ultimately will take home the Stanley Cup hardware this summer.

East Division

Predictions for 2020-21, East

Pos Mike Garrett Jim Adam Robbie
Pos Mike Garrett Jim Adam Robbie
1 Boston Bruins Boston Bruins Boston Bruins Boston Bruins Boston Bruins
2 Washington Capitals Washington Capitals Washington Capitals Washington Capitals Pitsburgh Penguins
3 Pitsburgh Penguins Pitsburgh Penguins Pitsburgh Penguins Pitsburgh Penguins Philadelphia Flyers
4 Philadelphia Flyers Philadelphia Flyers New York Islanders Philadelphia Flyers Washington Capitals
5 New York Islanders Buffalo Sabres Philadelphia Flyers New York Islanders New York Islanders
6 New York Rangers New York Islanders New York Rangers New York Rangers New York Rangers
7 New Jersey Devils New York Rangers Buffalo Sabres New Jersey Devils Buffalo Sabres
8 Buffalo Sabres New Jersey Devils New Jersey Devils Buffalo Sabres New Jersey Devils

Mike

I don’t see anyone challenging the Bruins for the top seed, with each of the other three playoff teams I am picking all having their respective problems. I think the Islanders will be the “good” team to miss the playoffs, with the Devils and Sabres still being the Devils and Sabres and the Rangers improving, but not enough.

First Round Playoff Matchups

Boston Bruins def. Philadelphia Flyers
Pittsburgh Penguins def. Washington Capitals

Second Round Playoff Matchup
Boston Bruins def. Pittsburgh Penguins

Garrett

Pittsburgh will face stiff competition in this Eastern Division. So much so, that their consecutive playoff streak is in serious jeopardy if things go south quickly. However, these look to be the four best teams in this makeshift division. Boston, Washington, and Philadelphia will all play a physical, agitating brand of hockey, so can the Penguins match that as the season goes on and games start to mean more? We’ll see.

First Round Playoff Matchups

Boston Bruins def. Philadelphia Flyers
Pittsburgh Penguins def. Washington Capitals

Second Round Playoff Matchup
Boston Bruins def. Pittsburgh Penguins

Jim

This should be a fun division. And by fun I mean incredibly intense and competitive. Any of the top six teams could probably be shaken up a bit and come out of the order a little differently than projected and it wouldn’t be a huge shock. In the end, to me Boston has (by far) the best goalie in this group, and also the best forward depth of any team in the division and that will be enough to advance. The Pens win one playoff round against the Caps (wahoo!) but ultimately I think they just really don’t measure up anymore to about the top 4-5 teams in the league. And, unfortunately for the Pens, they will have to play one of those top teams in the second round.

First Round Playoff Matchups

Boston Bruins def. NY Islanders
Pittsburgh Penguins def. Washington Capitals

Second Round Playoff Matchup
Boston Bruins def. Pittsburgh Penguins

Robbie

In a short season, anything can happen and there is little room for error especially in a division this deep. On paper, Boston looks to be the strongest team and should be the favorite but after that is anyone’s guess. It’s hard to bet against stars like Crosby, Malkin, and Ovechkin to lead their teams to the playoffs and Philadelphia doesn’t look to be going anywhere after last season. There are also strong cases to be made for both New York City squads as well.

First Round Playoff Matchups

Boston Bruins defeat Washington Capitals
Pittsburgh Penguins def. Philadelphia Flyers

Second Round Playoff Matchup
Boston Bruins def. Pittsburgh Penguins

Adam

I see two teams (Boston and Washington) clearly at the top and two others (New Jersey and Buffalo) clearly at the bottom. The other four are going to be complete chaos for those other two playoff spots.

First Round Playoff Matchups

Boston Bruins def. Philadelphia Flyers
Washington Capitals def. Pittsburgh Penguins

Second Round Playoff Matchup
Washington Capitals def. Boston Bruins

North Division

Canadian predictions

Pos Mike Garrett Jim Adam Robbie
Pos Mike Garrett Jim Adam Robbie
1 Toronto Maple Leafs Toronto Maple Leafs Toronto Maple Leafs Toronto Maple Leafs Toronto Maple Leafs
2 Winnipeg Jets Winnipeg Jets Montreal Canadiens Edmonton Oilers Vancouver Canucks
3 Calgary Flames Edmonton Oilers Vancouver Canucks Calgary Flames Edmonton Oilers
4 Vancouver Canucks Calgary Flames Edmonton Oilers Montreal Canadiens Montreal Canadiens
5 Edmonton Oilers Vancouver Canucks Winnipeg Jets Vancouver Canucks Calgary Flames
6 Montreal Canadiens Montreal Canadiens Calgary Flames Winnipeg Jets Winnipeg Jets
7 Ottawa Senators Ottawa Senators Ottawa Senators Ottawa Senators Ottawa Senators

Mike

The aspect of these rival teams playing each other so much is not lost on me. The Battle of Alberta is constant gong-show and if a team like Edmonton doesn’t keep it together between the ears, losing several of those games will be pivotal. I like Vancouver to continue to excel with talent like Brock Boeser, Elias Petterson, Quinn Hughes, and a stable goaltender in Braden Holtby.

First Round Playoff Matchups

Toronto Maple Leafs def. Vancouver Canucks
Winnipeg Jets def. Calgary Flames

Second Round Playoff Matchup
Winnipeg Jets def. Toronto Maple Leafs

Garrett

This should be Toronto’s division. With so much talent on paper compared to some of the other Canadian teams, things should be pretty easy for the Leafs. Winnipeg’s forwards and Hellebuyck in net will see them finish second. McDavid will lead his band of misfits, even with suspect goaltending. Calgary and Vancouver could be a tossup, but my coin flipped on Calgary this time.

First Round Playoff Matchups

Toronto Maple Leafs def. Calgary Flames
Edmonton Oilers def. Winnipeg Jets

Second Round Playoff Matchup
Toronto Maple Leafs def. Edmonton Oilers

Jim

Picking teams 2-6 could probably be done out of a hat and be just as accurate as an educated guess. I’m pretty sure Toronto is the best team, Ottawa is by far the worst, and everyone else is just going to have to figure it out. For funsies, I’ll say Toronto’s first round playoff struggles continue though, this time at the hands of not being able to slow down Connor McDavid who will rip through them and leave Leaf land distraught that they let such a golden chance to advance out of this division slip right through their hands.

First Round Playoff Matchups

Edmonton Oilers def. Toronto Maple Leafs
Montreal Canadiens def. Vancouver Canucks

Second Round Playoff Matchup
Montreal Canadiens def. Edmonton Oilers

Robbie

If nothing else, the all Canada division should feature plenty of goal scoring with the boatloads of offensive talent contained within. Toronto may never have a better opportunity to make a deep playoff run than what sits before them this season. They looked much better under Sheldon Keefe in the second half of last season than they did at any point under Mike Babcock. Vancouver learned a lot last season and will look to build on that this year. McDavid and Draisaitl will be enough to carry the Oilers once again but after that it’s anyone’s guess.

First Round Playoff Matchups

Toronto Maple Leafs def. Montreal Canadiens
Vancouver Canucks def. Edmonton Oilers

Second Round Playoff Matchup
Toronto Maple Leafs def. Vancouver Canucks

Adam

I want to like Vancouver, but the depth and goalie situation are some huge questions. I am not sure what Braden Holtby has left in the tank and who knows if Thatcher Demko can repeat his playoff performance. I am guessing he can not.

First Round Playoff Matchups

Toronto Maple Leafs def. Montreal Canadiens
Edmonton Oilers def. Calgary Flames

Second Round Playoff Matchup
Edmonton Oilers def. Toronto Maple Leafs

West Division

West predictions

Pos Mike Garrett Jim Adam Robbie
Pos Mike Garrett Jim Adam Robbie
1 Colorado Avalanche Colorado Avalanche Colorado Avalanche Colorado Avalanche Colorado Avalanche
2 St. Louis Blues Vegas Golden Knights Vegas Golden Knights Vegas Golden Knights Vegas Golden Knights
3 Vegas Golden Knights St. Louis Blues St. Louis Blues St. Louis Blues St. Louis Blues
4 Arizona Coyotes Arizona Coyotes Minnesota Wild Minnesota Wild Arizona Coyotes
5 Minnesota Wild San Jose Sharks Arizona Coyotes San Jose Sharks Minnesota Wild
6 San Jose Sharks Minnesota Wild San Jose Sharks Arizona Coyotes San Jose Sharks
7 Los Angeles Kings Los Angeles Kings Anaheim Ducks Los Angeles Kings Los Angeles Kings
8 Anaheim Ducks Anaheim Ducks Los Angeles Kings Anaheim Ducks Anaheim Ducks

Mike

The top three here were easy to decide on and the fourth probably could be a number of different teams. Regardless, I think it’s Colorado’s division to lose.

First Round Playoff Matchups

Colorado Avalanche def. Arizona Coyotes
St. Louis Blues def. Vegas Golden Knights

Second Round Playoff Matchup
Colorado Avalanche def. St. Louis Blues (4-2)

Garrett

Come on. Colorado has to finish first here. Vegas will finish second; they’re no slouch, especially if their goaltending duo of Lehner and Fleury is intact and healthy. I really like Arizona to sneak up into that fourth and final spot. There’s a lot of young talent I like to watch in the desert.

First Round Playoff Matchup

Colorado Avalanche def. Arizona Coyotes
Vegas Golden Knights def. St. Louis Blues

Second Round Playoff Matchup
Colorado Avalanche def. Vegas Golden Knights

Jim

Let’s be honest, there are three pretty strong teams here and then a bunch of cannon fodder that is just rebuilding for the future. (This also doesn’t seem like a bad year to be very bad, forget this ever existed and then pop up next year with younger, better players). Perhaps only injuries stopped 2020 from being Nathan MacKinnon’s year and time to shine, and it seems like just a matter of time before he leads Colorado to glory.

First Round Playoff Matchups

Colorado Avalanche def. Minnesota Wild
Vegas Golden Knights def. St. Louis Blues

Second Round Playoff Matchup
Colorado Avalanche def. Vegas Golden Knights

Robbie

Two clear favorites standout amongst this group in Colorado and Vegas. Both were early season Stanley Cup favorites last season and both will be again but only one can come out of the division to have a shot. Not much will separate the two and final bragging rights will be on the line when they meet in the division final after dispatching first round opponents. St. Louis looks like a solid No. 3 while Arizona continues to develop its young talent and gets another playoff shot.

First Round Playoff Matchups

Colorado Avalanche def. Arizona Coyotes
Vegas Golden Knights def. St. Louis Blues

Second Round Playoff Matchup
Colorado Avalanche def. Vegas Golden Knights

Adam

The top three in this division is insanely good, but a really mediocre team is going to get a playoff spot. Hello, Minnesota.

First Round Playoff Matchups

Colorado Avalanche def. Minnesota Wild
Vegas Golden Knights def. St. Louis Blues

Second Round Playoff Matchup
Colorado Avalanche def. Vegas Golden Knights

Central Division

Central division predictions

Pos Mike Garrett Jim Adam Robbie
Pos Mike Garrett Jim Adam Robbie
1 Tampa Bay Lightning Tampa Bay Lightning Tampa Bay Lightning Tampa Bay Lightning Tampa Bay Lightning
2 Carolina Hurricanes Dallas Stars Carolina Hurricanes Carolina Hurricanes Carolina Hurricanes
3 Columbus Blue Jackets Carolina Hurricanes Columbus Blue Jackets Dallas Stars Dallas Stars
4 Dallas Stars Nashville Predators Dallas Stars Columbus Blue Jackets Nashville Predators
5 Nashville Predators Florida Panthers Nashville Predators Nashville Predators Columbus Blue Jackets
6 Chicago Blackhawks Columbus Blue Jackets Florida Panthers Florida Panthers Chicago Blackhawks
7 Florida Panthers Chicago Blackhawks Chicago Blackhawks Chicago Blackhawks Florida Panthers
8 Detroit Red Wings Detroit Red Wings Detroit Red Wings Detroit Red Wings Detroit Red Wings

Mike

Tampa’s division to lose. I think Dallas regresses a bit. I see Columbus and Carolina being a pesky little rivalry. This was probably my easiest decision on the 4 teams in and 4 teams out.

First Round Playoff Matchups

Tampa Bay Lightning def. Dallas Stars
Carolina Hurricanes def. Columbus Blue Jackets

Second Round Playoff Matchup
Tampa Bay Lightning def. Carolina Hurricanes

Garrett

Stanley Cup hangover for the Lightning? It’s possible, but at the end of the day, I still think they’re loaded with talent. Dallas shocked me in their playoff run last season, so I think they build on that success. The Hurricanes aren’t in the Penguins’ division this year, so I will be watching (and maybe cheering? just a little?) them.

First Round Playoff Matchups

Tampa Bay Lightning def. Nashville Predators
Dallas Stars def. Carolina Hurricanes

Second Round Playoff Matchup
Tampa Bay Lightning def. Dallas Stars

Jim

Tampa looks head and shoulders above the rest, but the race from like 2-7 will again be where the interest is, with a lot of different possibilities. I kinda hope it plays out like this so we can see — for what I bet would be the first time ever — a rematch of the previous year’s Stanley Cup Final in...the very first round of the playoffs. Also is Tampa/Columbus the league’s newest, unplanned budding great playoff rivalry? This would make 3 straight years in a row playing, and the games are often very good and hard-fought.

First Round Playoff Matchups

Tampa Bay Lightning def. Dallas Stars
Columbus Blue Jackets def. Carolina Hurricanes

Second Round Playoff Matchup
Tampa Bay Lightning def. Columbus Blue Jackets

Robbie

Aside from Tampa Bay leading the pack, it’s really difficult to pick the remaining playoff teams out of this division and more than one very good team will be missing out. Even without the services of Nikita Kucherov this season the Lightning are simply too good to ignore which is why I have them as the top seed in the Central. Uncertainty about Carolina’s goaltending gives me pause but the Hurricanes feel like a team ready to break through and maybe this is the year. Dallas and Nashville survive a cluster to sneak into the playoff picture.

First Round Playoff Matchups

Tampa Bay Lightning def. Nashville Predators
Carolina Hurricanes def. Dallas Stars

Second Round Playoff Matchup
Carolina Hurricanes def. Tampa Bay Lightning

Adam

The top three playoff teams seem easy to me, but I think Columbus does just enough to sneak into that fourth spot just ahead of Nashville and Florida.

First Round Playoff Matchups

Tampa Bay Lightning def. Columbus Blue Jackets
Carolina Hurricanes def. Dallas Stars

Second Round Playoff Matchup
Tampa Bay Lightning defeat Carolina Hurricanes

Stanley Cup Semifinals

Mike

Colorado Avalanche def. Winnipeg Jets
Boston Bruins def. Tampa Bay Lightning

Garrett

Colorado Avalanche def. Boston Bruins
Tampa Bay Lightning def. Toronto Maple Leafs

Jim

Colorado Avalanche def. Montreal Canadiens
Tampa Bay Lightning def. Boston Bruins

Robbie

Colorado Avalanche def. Carolina Hurricanes
Boston Bruins def. Toronto Maple Leafs

Adam

Tampa Bay Lightning def. Edmonton Oilers
Colorado Avalanche def. Washington Capitals

Stanley Cup Final

Mike - Boston Bruins defeat Colorado Avalanche
Garrett - Colorado Avalanche defeat Tampa Bay Lightning
Jim - Colorado Avalanche defeat Tampa Bay Lightning
Robbie - Colorado Avalanche defeat Boston Bruins
Adam - Colorado Avalanche defeat Tampa Bay Lightning

Final Thoughts

That’s an 80% vote thinking the Avalanche are going to win the Cup, with a 100% vote of Colorado being in the Stanley Cup Final.

Heavy leaning on Boston and Tampa Bay all around as well.

We’ll see if these three teams lead the pack like we expect or if a dark horse will emerge.

The puck drops in less than two weeks. How do you see it shaking out?