NHL 2024 playoff predictions: will the Rangers end the Presidents’ Trophy curse?

Will the curse of the Presidents Trophy be lifted?

In clinching the Presidents’ Trophy – awarded to the team with the best regular-season record – the New York Rangers now hoping to break the curse that supposedly curses the holders to playoff failure. It’s been a decade since a Presidents’ Trophy-winning team, the 2013 Chicago Blackhawks, went on to win the Stanley Cup that year. Are the Rangers that kind of team?

The Rangers have five players – Artemi Panarin, Mika Zibanejad, Chris Kreider, Vincent Trocheck and Adam Fox – with more than 60 points this season. They score a lot on the power play (26.4%) and are effective on the kill (84.5%). They are good in the faceoff circle (52.3%) and very good in overtime (winning percentage: .750). They beat you even after you beat them. New York had 28 comeback wins this year, the most in the league. But New York can also be messy. By early 2024, the Rangers seemed to have lost their footing, dropping seven of 10 games in January, including against teams like San Jose and Montreal, before finally getting back on a winning streak. Another point of interest: New York’s goal difference in five-on-five situations for the season was just one. The Rangers aren’t afraid to make waves, and they may have to rely on power play goals to get them through. A likely showdown with the formidable Carolina Hurricanes could await the Rangers in the second round – unless they go down in a loss to the Washington Capitals (to whom they have lost twice this season). The curse will not be easy to break.

Probably from the West

Teams like Colorado, Vancouver and Edmonton have received more attention this year, but the Dallas stars are the real final boss in the West. The Stars had eight forwards with 20 or more goals, and two with 30 or more this season, the kind of depth that most teams — especially those that technically score more, thanks to one or two key players (see: the Leafs) — can only manage but of dreams. Combined with solid goaltending from Jake Oettinger (.904 save percentage), the fifth-best power play in the league and the third-best goals-per-game (behind only Edmonton and Toronto), the Stars are a serious contender. . Dallas begins where they left off last season, against the Vegas Golden Knights in the first round. Barring a repeat, the Stars would then face Winnipeg or Colorado – neither of which would be easy – to reach the West final. But all things considered, Dallas is poised to go deep.

Canada’s best chance

In October the Edmonton Oil Companies looked terrible. They won only two games through the first month of the season. Their once great power play was going nowhere. Their goaltending was terrible. And superstar captain Connor McDavid was in a multi-game scoring drought. But a coaching change in November proved to be a turning point. The Oilers went on a historic 16-game winning streak between late December and early February. As the season drew to a close, the Oilers defeated both the Avalanche and Golden Knights, but only after a dress-down of Dallas – a 5-0 loss that seemed to expose some of Edmonton’s lingering weaknesses, including ineffective power plays and multiple turnovers. Still, the Oilers, who face LA in the first round, are experienced and motivated. The Oilers were a Cup favorite prior to the season – and may still be.

As for the other three Canadian teams, the perpetually woeful Leafs are stuck in a special kind of hockey hell, where their opponents in the first round of the playoffs always come from Florida men or, as this year, from Boston. The odds of success may be solid. Vancouver’s surprising success this year was due to good defense (except on the penalty kill) and consistent scoring (almost always from close range). But they don’t shoot often and rank only 26th in the league. If opponents can force the Canucks into taking penalties and keep them away from the net, Vancouver could struggle. Meanwhile, the Jets are charging into the postseason on an eight-game winning streak and looking strong. It’s very difficult to score in Winnipeg. They allowed the fewest goals of any team this season (196), but struggled to maintain discipline on penalties. And the Jets’ power play was anemic, effective less than 20% of the time.

Most likely upset

The Nashville Predators came online in the second half of the season and posted an eight-game winning streak through February and a six-game winning streak in March. In the middle of the pack on special teams, the Preds can still count on Juuse Saros between the pipes, and the trade deadline additions of Gustav Nyquist and Jason Zucker have added depth. Maybe they will go down, but it probably won’t be easy.

Elsewhere, the Washington Capitals squeezed into the playoffs, only to face the Rangers. Can the capitals create magic? Anything is possible, but aspects of the Caps’ play, including their significant negative goal difference, suggest otherwise. As for the New York Islanders, a strong finish to the season, including one win and one shootout loss against the Rangers in April, will give them hope. The plucky Islanders have turned a corner of late but may be undone by the number of goals they allow despite a good goalkeeping pair. Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Kings, like the Jets, are tough to score on, allowing just 206 goals this season (3rd best overall). They also have the second-best penalty kill in the NHL. LA could really irritate the Oilers in the first round (again).

Western Conference Finals

It appears a matchup between Dallas and Edmonton is in the works, reviving a classic rivalry.

Eastern Conference Finals

An Original Six matchup between New York and Boston would be great, but it’s more likely that the Hurricanes will face the Florida Panthers.

Stanley Cup Final

The Dallas stars win in five games against the Hurricanes to clinch their second championship title. The NHL playoffs are notoriously unpredictable, but on balance the Stars appear to be the most complete team entering the postseason. Their depth, their size and their hunger, after being so close so often recently, could all combine into the right championship mix.