We have finally hit the midseason of the 2021 season and it has been a fun and crazy ride since the start. We have seen some great games out of some teams, and we have seen some awful games from some. However, we are not done yet, and neither are the teams. With 9 more weeks to go, this weekly NHL report will be a special Midseason Playoff Prediction with brackets from both myself and fans on Twitter, with a little help from a randomizer as well. So with 9 weeks down and 9 weeks to the finish line, let’s check out what the picks would look like if the Stanley Cup Playoffs had started right now.
My Midseason Picks
With my picks, I went with my gut and went off of the standings as well. I usually have a good idea of who will beat who and how far everyone will go, but this season was a little different. There are a couple of factors that go into this season, the main one being Covid and the lack of fans. For some teams that participated in the bubble playoffs, it is not anything new, but for the teams who missed out, it is a factor in how they are playing. Also, with Covid pushing back games for the last couple of weeks, we could see some teams finish in the top 4, but they could lose out if the teams who have a few more games to go can stay relatively close for the rest of the season. So let’s breakdown my picks for each division and why I think the New York Islanders will win the cup.
For the North division, I had a relatively easy time picking the top 4 and who would make it into the playoffs. I did not see Vancouver making their way into the top 4, and I do not believe the Canadiens will be able to keep themselves in the top 4, as Calgary is finding themselves on a winning path while the Canadiens have lost 4 of the past 7 games. Calgary also sits only 3 points behind the Canadiens, making me believe they will make a late season push and will win their way into the 4th spot in the North as the playoffs come around. I saw Toronto finishing in 1st and will play the 4th place Calgary Flames in Round 1 while the 2nd place Edmonton Oilers will play the 3rd place Winnipeg Jets. I believe Toronto will take care of Calgary in 6 games, winning the series 4 to 2, and Edmonton will out play Winnipeg and win the series 4 to 3, making it a tight series. Edmonton will go on to play Toronto, and I believe Toronto will be the team to win and make it to the semi finals after beating the Oilers in a 4 to 3 series.
For the West, the only team I could see winning out and making the top 4 would be the Kings, however, with the Blues being up 5 points and in a close race with Colorado and Minnesota, I don’t see them losing out. I believe the number 1 seed Vegas Golden Knights will play the 4th place St Louis Blues and win in 5 games with a 4-1 series. The 2nd place Colorado Avalanche will take on the 3rd place Minnesota Wild and it will be the Wild who come up victorious with a 4-3 series win over the Avalanche. With the series split between the two in the regular season and with Minnesota on a 4-game winstreak and looking like they won’t stop, I believe the Wild will shock the NHL world and beat the Avalanche out of the playoffs. Going into the quarterfinals, this will be even more of a shock as I believe the Wild keep the momentum going and beat the Golden Knights as well, making their way into the Semi-Finals. The Wild are have the 4th longest win streak right now and are playing like they want to win the division, and I don’t believe the Golden Knights can stop them as the series in the regular season is split 2-2 and I believe the Wild are going to want it more.
As a Stars fan, I would love to believe their is a chance that they come back and make it into the playoffs, but I have a strong feeling that it may not happen, but also never count them out. So I believe the 1st place, and “the defending champs”, Tampa Bay Lighting will fight off the 4th place Chicago Blackhawks as they win the series 4-1. Then, the 2nd place Carolina Hurricanes will play the 3rd place Florida Panthers and skate off to the next round by winning the series 4-3. I believe the Hurricanes will win as they lead the regular season matchups with the Panthers 3-1 and are also on an 8-game winning streak, with no plans to stop. Unfortunately, I don’t believe the Hurricanes will beat the Tampa Bay Lighting and that the Lighting will advance to the Semi-Finals after winning the series 4-2. The Lighting seem to be an unstoppable force and I think they will take the Central for themselves, but I don’t know how long they will last.
The only changes I could see in the East Division would be the Philadelphia Flyers winning their way into the playoffs and the Pittsburgh Penguins losing out. After losing out the past two seasons, I don’t believe the Penguins will finish the second half of the season strong and will find themselves at home on the couch, looking forward to next season. I do believe that the 1st place New York Islanders will play and beat the 4th place Philadelphia Flyers in a 4-3 series. Then, the 2nd place Washington Capitals will take on the 3rd place Boston Bruins, in which the Bruins will win the series 4-2, and move on to the next round. New York versus Boston once more, as I think the Islanders will win the series 4-3 and will move on to the Semi-Finals. I think each series for the Islanders will be close, but ultimately I believe they will prevail and win out of the East.
The Final Four & Your Stanley Cup Champions
With the Final Four decided, it’s time to see who wants it more and who will hoist the cup at the end of it all. Toronto will take on the terrifying Tampa Bay Lighting and win the series 4-3. I think Toronto is looking to shock the world this year and prove all of their haters wrong, and they will do that by knocking out the defending champs and moving on to the Stanley Cup Finals. Then, the New York Islanders will take on the Minnesota Wild and will find themselves in the Stanley Cup Finals as they win the series 4-3. I believe if this series comes to fruition, that the Islanders will prevail as they made for gritty playoff series and they are looking to win the cup for the first time in over 38 years.
It will come down to the Toronto Maple Leafs, their first Stanley Cup Finals since 1967, and the New York Islanders, their first since 1984. I believe that this series, if it actually happens, could go either way, but for me, I think the Islanders have a slight advantage as they have some motivation after missing the finals the year before. Either way, I would love to see the series matchup and I would be fine with either team winning. But, I believe that the Islanders would win and hoist the Cup for the first time since 1983, as they are declared “your New York Islanders are the 2021 Stanley Cup Champions”.
Your Choice For The Cup
For this bracket, I went to Twitter and put up some polls for who everyone thought had the best shot in the playoffs in each top 4 in each division, and what team in the bottom 4 had a chance, if any, to win out and make the top 4. Was glad to see some participation and was ecstatic to put together this bracket for y’all. How I chose who made it from the bottom 4 and who was knocked out of the top 4 was by the percentages in each poll. If a team in the bottom 4 did not receive more than 50% of the votes, the standings would remain the same and the current top 4 would move on. If a bottom 4 team did receive more than 50% of the votes, then I would see who had the lowest percentage of voting and kick them out. Then, I finalized the first round of the playoffs and got ready to decide how the series would work for each team. For how the series would play out, I used a random wheel generator for each matchup and put the results as they follow. Surprising enough, this may be the most logical prediction and outcome as well.
The fans thought that the Calgary Flames had a strong chance of making it, as the Flames got 75% of the votes, pushing them into the playoffs. Unfortunately, the Winnipeg Jets received the lowest amount of votes in the top 4 with 0% of the votes, knocking them out of the quest for the playoffs. Calgary would go to play the 1st place Toronto Maple Leafs and would lose in a 4-2 series. The next series would be the 2nd place Edmonton Oilers playing against the 3rd place Montreal Canadiens, and the Canadiens would win the series with 4 games to Edmonton’s 3. For the Edmonton and Montreal series, I used the voting percentages to decide who would win and how close the series would be as Montreal had 40% of the votes and Edmonton only 20%.
For deciding the winner of the North division, I used the random generator wheel for the Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens, as they both received 40% of the votes. It would turn out that Toronto won the series 4-3. This actually seems logical if this series were to happen as Toronto is winning the regular season series 3-1 and could win out the series in the following months to come. So, for the fans’ bracket, the winner of the North and heading to the Semi-Finals: the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Receiving 66.7% of the votes, the Arizona Coyotes found themselves in the top 4 as the 4th seed in the West division, and subsequently in the playoffs. Unfortunately, the St. Louis Blues are out of the playoffs, due to the amount of points they had and where they sat in the top 4. So in the first series of the West, it will be the 1st place Vegas Golden Knights taking on the 4th place Arizona Coyotes. I have the Golden Knights winning the series due to how substantial of a vote they received and based the 4-1 series off of that. Then, the 2nd place Colorado Avalanche took on the 3rd place Minnesota Wild, and based on the 0% of the votes that the Wild received and the 16.7% of the votes the Avalanche received, I put the Avalanche winning the series 4-3 and moving on to play the Golden Knights in the West Division Championship.
To no one’s surprise, the Golden Knights won a huge amount of the voting as they have a 83.3% of the votes, and I factored this into their series against the Avalanche, as the Knights won the series 4-3. I thought the series would be close, due to the Knights’ and the Avalanche’s regular season series matchup being tied 2-2. So, for the fans’ bracket, the winner of the West and heading to the Semi-Finals: the Vegas Golden Knights.
Even though my twitter followers voted for the Stars the most, basically my friends who all love the Dallas Stars, the Stars only received a 37.5% of the votes, not allowing them to surpass anyone and in turn, not making the playoffs. So, in the first series, the 1st place Tampa Bay Lighting will take on the 4th place Chicago Blackhawks, and with Tampa’s whopping 83.3% of the votes, this series ended quickly as the Lighting won 4-1. Next, the 2nd place Florida Panthers would take on the 3rd place Carolina Hurricanes, and Florida would go on to win the series 4-3 as they received 16.7% of the votes.
The Central Division Championship came down to the 1st place Tampa Bay Lighting and the 2nd place Florida Panthers. However, since the Lighting received such a big amount of the votes, and the Lighting also had a huge gap between the Panthers who were second in votes, the Lighting would go on to win the series 4-2 and move on to the next round. So, for the fans’ bracket, the winner of the Central and heading to the Semi-Finals: the Tampa Bay Lighting.
With the second most amount of votes for a team in the bottom 4, the Philadelphia Flyers found themselves in the playoffs as they received 71.4% of the votes and knocked out the rival Pittsburgh Penguins, who received 0% of the votes. The first series of the East would be the 1st place NY Islanders taking on the 4th place Philadelphia Flyers, and even with such a high voting percentage, the Flyers would lose to the Islanders as they go on to win the series 4-3. Up next, the 2nd place Washington Capitals would take on the 3rd place Boston Bruins, and it would be the Bruins who would win the series 4-3 due to their higher voting percentage than the Capitals.
The East Divisional Championship would be between the 1st place New York Islanders and the 3rd place Boston Bruins, whom both received 40% of the votes and had to be decided by the Wheel of Stanley (random wheel generator name). It would come to be that the Islanders would win the series 4-3 over the Boston Bruins. Which would not be crazy since the Islanders are up 4-0 in the regular season series matchup with the Bruins. So, for the fans’ bracket, the winner of the East and heading to the Semi-Finals: the New York Islanders.
The Final Four & The Stanley Cup Champions
In the fans’ bracket, the matchups in the final four would be the Toronto Maple Leafs versus the Tampa Bay Lighting and the New York Islanders versus the Vegas Golden Knights. The Wheel of Stanley would predict the Maple Leafs to win the series 4-3 over the Lighting and the Golden Knights to win the series 4-2 over the Islanders. These would be great series to watch, and if we were to reach this point in the playoffs, I would imagine that these predictions would not to be too far off.
The Stanley Cup Finals would be played between the Toronto Maple Leafs, who have not been since 1967, and the Vegas Golden Knights, who haven’t been since their inaugural season. The Wheel of Stanley did not care about the feelings of the Maple Leafs’ fandom as they lost the series to the Golden Knights 4-1. This would be the Golden Knights first Cup win, and their second appearance in the finals, out of their 4 year run so far. So, for the fans’ bracket, the winner of the Stanley Cup and the bragging rights: the Vegas Golden Knights.
I had a fun time putting this together and I also thought this would be a great midseason palette cleanser for all of us we get ready for the rest of the season. I hope everyone had their opinions voiced and if not, I would love to hear your thoughts about the picks and maybe throw in your own picks for the playoffs based off of the midseason stats. So, with 9 weeks in the past and with 9 weeks in the future, we have a great and fun ride ahead of us as we see how the shortened season will conclude and we will get to see if our predictions will come true. Check back next week for your regular scheduled weekly NHL report and be ready for a great close to the season.
Photo Creds: @mnwild / Twitter.com / https://twitter.com/mnwild/status/1371543007481200640
NHL Standings / NHL.com / https://www.nhl.com/standings/2020/division
NHL Schedule / NHL.com / https://www.nhl.com/schedule