The 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs opened Tuesday, and aside from being the best part of the season for hockey fans, it's also time for postseason predictions. NHL.com's staff writers and NHL Network analysts posted theirs on Tuesday.
However, WhatIfSports.com takes a different approach -- it runs a simulation of the NHL postseason 1,001 times while taking into account current rosters, statistics and home-ice advantage.
This year's WhatIfSports.com prediction for the Stanley Cup Final matches the one made by 10 of the 17 NHL.com writers and NHL Network analysts -- it predicts the Pittsburgh Penguins will come out of the Eastern Conference and the Chicago Blackhawks from the West.
WhatIfSports.com predicts a six-game victory for the Blackhawks in the Stanley Cup Final -- the same outcome predicted by six of the 17 prognosticators. The Blackhawks won the Cup in 69.2 percent of the simulations; the Penguins won 21.5 percent. No other team won more than 1.4 percent.
No simulation is perfect -- WhatIfSports.com had the Boston Bruins beating the Detroit Red Wings in a seven-game Final last spring -- but in 2011, Whatifsports.com was right on the nose, tabbing the Bruins to top the Vancouver Canucks in a seven-game Stanley Cup Final.
Both the Penguins and Blackhawks are huge favorites in each of the first three rounds.
WhatIfSports.com predicts the Penguins to sweep the New York Islanders in the first round, beat the Bruins in five games in the Eastern Conference Semifinals and top the Washington Capitals in six games to advance to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since winning it all in 2009.
The Penguins have a 97.1 percent chance of winning their opening-round series, according to WhatIfSports.com, an 82.0 percent chance of winning the conference semifinals and a 67.7 percent likelihood of capturing the Eastern Conference Finals.
The other three first-round series in the East are predicted to go seven games, with Boston beating the Toronto Maple Leafs, Washington outlasting the New York Rangers and the Montreal Canadiens topping the Ottawa Senators. But none of the three projected series winners have a winning percentage as high as 60 percent.
Washington is projected to beat the Canadiens in seven games before losing to the Penguins.
The Blackhawks are an even bigger favorite in the West. They have a winning percentage of 97.5 percent in their opening-round series against the Wild, whom they are projected to sweep. Chicago then is projected to make short work of the two Southern California teams -- WhatIfSports.com projects a five-game victory against Los Angeles in the Western Conference Semifinals and a five-game triumph against the Anaheim Ducks in the conference finals.
The Blackhawks have a 91.7 percent winning percentage in the simulations against the Kings and 84.5 percent against the Ducks.
Both the Ducks (against Detroit) and the Kings (against St. Louis) are projected to win their first-round series in seven games. Anaheim then is projected to beat the Vancouver Canucks in seven games in the West Semifinals after the Canucks beat the San Jose Sharks in six games in their first-round series. At 71.3 percent, the Canucks are the only other team in the West projected to win in more than 58 percent of the simulations.
To see a postseason bracket with the complete results of the simulation and even perform your own simulations of the various first-round series, go to http://www.whatifsports.com/nhl_playoffs_2013/bracket.asp.