It's been almost 40 years since the Boston Bruins lifted the Stanley Cup, but that drought will come to an end in a matter of months with a thrilling, seven-game victory in the Final over the Presidents' Trophy-winning Vancouver Canucks -- at least according to sports simulation website Whatifsports.com.
In simulating the entire Stanley Cup Playoffs 1,001 times using the current season rosters and statistics, the Bruins, a third seed in the Eastern Conference, came away as champions 35.96 percent of the time -- just slightly better than the Canucks, the overall No. 1 seed who emerged victorious in 35.86 percent of simulations. More often than not, the Final ended up going the distance.
Boston made it there after dispatching of the Philadelphia Flyers in six games in the Eastern Conference Finals, while Vancouver outlasted the Nashville Predators in a seven-game Western Conference Finals series.
Boston's path to glory will be carved early, as the Bruins were the only team that ended up taking their first-round series in a four-game sweep. In fact, they won 96.3 percent of the time in their simulated series against the Canadiens, the highest of any matchup in all four rounds of the playoffs.
After the Bruins, the team that breezed through the first round the quickest (winning on average 4-1) and the most often (82.92 percent of the time) was the Flyers, who are seeded second in the East.
Their dominant, 117-point regular season has many believing the Canucks will bring the first Cup in franchise history home to Vancouver, but the computer doesn't predict it to be an easy road. Although they won their first-round series against the Chicago Blackhawks 80.92 percent of the time, it took them an average of six games to vanquish the defending champions.
And what would the Stanley Cup Playoffs be without a few good upsets? There's a doozy waiting right off the bat, as the eighth-seeded New York Rangers -- who needed a win and a loss by the Carolina Hurricanes on the next-to-last day of the regular season just to qualify -- knock off the East's top seed, the Washington Capitals, in a seven-game barnburner. The Rangers came out on top in 60.34 percent of the simulations, and won Game 7 in a hostile environment at the Verizon Center, sending the favored Caps off into another long offseason.
A pair of Western Conference teams that won't have home ice for Game 1 of their series still came out on top, as the fifth-seeded Predators (beat the Anaheim Ducks 74.42 percent of the time by an average 4-2 margin) and sixth-seeded Phoenix Coyotes (beat the Detroit Red Wings 76.32 percent of the time by an average 4-2 margin) were projected to advance.
Besides the Rangers and Capitals, two other first-round series ended up going the distance -- and in these instances, the team with home ice for Game 7 came out on top. The second-seeded San Jose Sharks held off the Los Angeles Kings, winning in 55.24 percent of the simulations, while the Pittsburgh Penguins edged the Tampa Bay Lightning on average 59.64 percent of the time.
To view the complete brackets and results and even perform your own simulations of the various first-round series, go to http://www.whatifsports.com/nhl_playoffs_2011/.