Last Team Standing: A Round-by-Round Projection of the Road to the Stanley Cup

Updated: April 13, 2010 at 10:13 pm by Jeff Tay

Obviously, it is still very early in the playoff process to be making any kind sure-fire prediction as to which team will win the Stanley Cup, but as fans, we are probably all looking ahead to some degree, with our own favourites in mind as to who will eventually be the last team standing. Without a doubt though, favourable matchups will also play a big factor over which teams stay and which teams go, and therefore, when trying to predict a Stanley Cup champion, it may be highly constructive to start from the first round of the playoffs and gradually work our way through.

Here is just one possible scenario based on this year’s playoff seeding, and how the potential cup champion could emerge victorious after the dust clears.

Meanwhile, first-round playoff series betting will also be opening shortly, so another article is on the way to break down those lines.
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—First Round—

San Jose Sharks vs. Colorado Avalanche
Given their sorry playoff history, the Sharks ought to be the hungrier team here, and should be able to dispatch the young Avs, who have struggled mightily down the stretch. Home ice advantage alone may already be too much for Colorado to overcome, as the home team has also won all 4 meetings so far this season.

Chicago Blackhawks vs. Nashville Predators
This could actually be a rather tough test for the heavily-favoured Chicago Blackhawks, as Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne has had 4 shutouts, and has maintained a .931 save percentage, in 18 games since the Olympic break. Ultimately, the deeper and more talented Blackhawks should manage to prevail though.

Vancouver Canucks vs. Los Angeles Kings
A lot of fuss has been made in Vancouver over Roberto Luongo’s struggles as of late, but Jonathan Quick has also done plenty in the last 20 days to cause concern for the Kings. If this series should come down to a battle of struggling goaltenders, then the Canucks may turn out to have too much firepower for the Kings to handle.

Phoenix Coyotes vs. Detroit Red Wings
Although both of these teams have won 15 of their last 20 games, the Phoenix Coyotes have actually had to rely on the shootout to get 7 of those wins. Meanwhile, solid goaltending from Jimmy Howard has now made Detroit appear to be the team with no real weakness, making it difficult not to pick them to at least go past the first round.

Washington Capitals vs. Montreal Canadiens
A first-round upset is actually not out of the question here, as the Habs have had a reasonable amount of success against the Caps this season. Washington does appear to be in good form though, and with home ice, they are going to be incredibly tough to beat.

New Jersey Devils vs. Philadelphia Flyers
It didn’t really seem to matter who was in net when the Flyers managed to gut out 5 wins in 6 meetings with the Devils this season. New Jersey may have gotten unlucky this year to have drawn such a feisty and confident division rival in the first round.

Buffalo Sabres vs. Boston Bruins
For the most part, the season series between these two division rivals played out as expected, with a bunch of 3-2 and 2-1 games. Buffalo does have the slight advantage in both the goaltending and scoring departments though, and should be able to edge out Boston by way of these advantages.

Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Ottawa Senators
Ottawa has been a very streaky team all season long, and their negative momentum going into this series might see them fall into an insurmountable deficit early. Ottawa will also have their hands full with a surging Sidney Crosby, who has been all over the scoresheets in the past three weeks.

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—Second Round—

San Jose Sharks vs. Detroit Red Wings
Early-round exits are nothing new to San Jose, and neither are deep playoff runs to Detroit. The Red Wings would enter this second-round series with a ton of confidence, and with good reason.

Chicago Blackhawks vs. Vancouver Canucks
Vancouver’s thin blue-line might ultimately get exposed once they get to this juncture of the playoffs. The Canucks weren’t able to deal with Chicago’s furious offensive pressure in last year’s playoffs, and probably won’t be able to again this time around, especially without their full complement of regular defensemen.

Washington Capitals vs. Philadelphia Flyers
Both Alex Ovechkin and Alex Semin, in particular, have actually met very little resistance when playing against the Flyers this season. The Flyers probably won’t be able to keep up with the high-flying Caps in this series.

Buffalo Sabres vs. Pittsburgh Penguins
The Penguins were able to take 3 out of 4 games from the Sabres this season by virtue of a balanced attack, with scoring from all four lines. Ultimately, the Pens should be able to solve Ryan Miller with a similar team effort, and take the series.

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—Conference Finals—

Chicago Blackhawks vs. Detroit Red Wings
While the Blackhawks are a very talented team, the Red Wings simply know how to win, as they have shown in their last two meetings with the Blackhawks this season—both Detroit victories in Chicago. Detroit isn’t the same team that they were last year—they are hungrier and have better goaltending!

Washington Capitals vs. Pittsburgh Penguins
This has not been a favourable matchup for the Pens this season, and in four high-scoring head-to-head showdowns, Pittsburgh has been outscored 20-13 by Washington. This appears to be Ovie’s turn to go to the finals.

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—Stanley Cup Finals—

Detroit Red Wings vs. Washington Capitals
Washington might be able to get through the East by way of their pure offensive prowess, but more often than not, Detroit manages to dictate the pace of the games that they play, and they should be able to keep the Caps’ offense in check. The veteran group, behind strong special teams play and solid goaltending, looks to be a strong contender to once again hoist the cup.

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