With its super computer on a roll after correctly picking the NCAA tournament championship game, WhatIfSports.com now focuses on hockey. Just as we did with the tournament, we have simulated the Stanley Cup Playoffs 10,000 times in order to determine the exact likelihood of each of the 16 teams an making it to any level. There may not be any surprises at the top in this analysis; but, then again, we only gave Anaheim a one-in-fifteen shot at winning it all last season (actual runner-up Ottawa was our favorite by winning the cup more than a third of the time).
Thorough results of the simulations can be found at BracketPreview.com. A recap of some of the more interesting points is below, but we encourage you to check out the Bracket Preview page to see it all.
Two upsets by seed are predicted as likely in this analysis. One of the scenarios should not come as much of a surprise. Philadelphia finished the season with more points than Washington, yet the Capitals got the third seed and home ice advantage based on their Southeast Division win. Phildadelphia advances 58.3% of the time in what is typically a seven game series. That's about as exciting as it will get for Philly. After the first round, due to the NHL's playoff re-seeding, the Flyers will likely face two seeded Montreal. Elsewhere in the East, in-state rival Pittsburgh plays a team that underachieved this season in Ottawa. While Pittsburgh actually has the lower chance to make it to the Conference Semis (54.2%), the Penguins are the most likely team to meet Montreal in the finals at 35.8%. The Flyers only get to that level 18.9% of the time.
In the other likely "upset", the fifth seeded Dallas Stars could be the surprise team of the playoffs. In the first round, the very experienced Stars, who picked up former Lightning Center Brad Richards at the trade deadline, start with a six game series win over the defending champion Anaheim Ducks. In the sim, Dallas wins an astounding 67.3% of its first round series. Assuming no other first round upsets in the West, Dallas will almost assuredly face the vaunted Detroit Red Wings. As we will discuss next, Detroit is the most dominant team in the league. However, if the Red Wings slip up, Dallas is the most likely beneficiary. Even though they could play the overall favorite in the second round, the simulation has Dallas as the third most likely champion at 11.0%. Probably because of all of the re-seeding scenarios, Dallas has a better chance at making the Wester Conference Finals (40.2%) than does San Jose (32.6%). No other team outside of the two number one seeds has a greater than five percent chance of winning it all.
Ultimately though, the WhatIfSports.com NHL bracket concludes with the better seeded teams on top. Mathematical simulation often comes down to exploiting obvious weaknesses. Detroit, and its balanced team with two great goaltenders, has no obvious weaknesses. The Red Wings have the highest chance of winning the tournament at 51.1%. This means that Detroit is slightly more likely to win than the proverbial "field." After the Red Wings, only two teams, Montreal (13.5%) and Dallas are in the double-digit percentages. After the top three, everything is essentially up for grabs. The very young, yet extremely talented Pittsburgh Penguins are next at 4.9%. They are followed by San Jose (4.3%), New Jersey (4.1%) and Ottawa (2.9%). Every team wins the Cup at least 0.1% of the time - or at least 10 out of 10,000 tries.
Once the Stanley Cup Finals are set, Beyond the Boxscore will have an in-depth feature with boxscores, play-by-play and game recaps for each game of the series.
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