The Stanley Cup Playoffs are THE greatest playoff system in all of sports, in my humble opinion, of course. The playoffs start Wednesday so I figured now would be a wonderful time to put down some thoughts and predictions for the first round.
1. New York Rangers vs 8. Ottawa Senators
Ottawa has had a nice and very surprising season, and the future looks bright for the Senators. Unfortunately they run into a buzz saw in the first round. The Rangers have one of the most talented teams and are very balanced up front and on the blue line. Henrik Lundqvist is a stud and should lead the Rangers deep into the playoffs.
Rangers in 5
2. Boston Bruins vs 7. Washington Capitals
Expect this to be a very fast and physical series. The Capitals had a down year this season, but are still tremendously talented up front. You can never count Ovechkin and co. out. I expect the Caps to put up a fight, but the Bruins are just too big and too strong. Expect Bergeron and Seguin to have big series’ and help carry the B’s to round two.
Boston in 6
3. Florida Panthers vs. 6. New Jersey Devils
The upstart Panthers won the Southeast division and made the playoffs for the first time since 2000. You may not know much about the Panthers, but they have a good amount of strong hockey players and are very good on the blue line. The devils bring the star power to this series with Brodeur, Kovalchuk, Parise and others. The Devils are still a good team, but are running out of time to win.
Florida in 7
4. Pittsburgh Penguins vs 5. Philadelphia Flyers
This is the series that I am so excited to watch. These two teams are both loaded with talent and they HATE each other. Malkin has been the best player all year for the Penguins and Crosby has looked real strong since his return. Expect Giroux, Hartnell and co. to play an extremely physical game to slow down this Pittsburgh attack. Ilya Bryzgalov needs to have a big series in net for Philly.
Pittsburgh in 7
1. Vancouver Canucks vs. 8. Los Angeles Kings
This series will not be easy for the Canucks. The Kings have been playing better hockey lately after a slow start and will have Jeff Carter returning to the lineup soon. The Cancuks are still loaded up front and will need strong play from the Sedin twins. Ryan Kesler had a down season but was great in last years playoffs. I expect John Quick to make this a great series.
Vancouver in 7
2. St. Louis Blues vs. 7. San Jose Sharks
The San Jose Sharks are not as good as they were the past few seasons and need the last week of the season to squeak into the playoffs. The Blues broke out in a big way this year and play some of the most physical hockey in the NHL, along with boasting good talent all around the team. This series will make a lot of people in Detroit happy.
St. Louis in 5
3. Pheonix Coyotes vs. 6. Chicago Blackhawks
Pheonix has had a very nice season and wrapped up the Pacific division on the last day of the regular season. Mike Smith has been very reliable between the pipes for the ‘Yotes this year. The Blackhawks obviously have great talent up front and have a great top pair of defense men in Keith and Seabrook. One thing they lack is a goaltender and that is a little important in the playoffs.
Pheonix in 6
4. Nashville Predators vs. 5. Detroit Red Wings
Picking this series breaks my heart because although I adore my Red Wings, this series will be an uphill battle. I expect the Wings to step up their play considerably, because they always seem to do that for the playoffs. The Preds have been hot lately and their moves at the deadline have payed off big time. Pekka Rinne is a stud in net for Nashville. So many signs point towards Nashville winning this series that I can’t possibly pick the Wings without losing my integrity. Wait, yes I can, this is my blog. Screw integrity, I’m a homer.
Wings in 7
Author: Wil Hunter