Tuesday, April 30, 2013

NHL Playoffs First Round Preview and Predictions

It's my favorite time of the year, NHL Playoffs. Here's my preview.  Last year I didn't do as well in my predictions.  I said the Kings could make a run but then I didn't pick them to win the first round.  So, wait no longer.  Here's my best guesses.

Western Conference

Chicago Blackhawks (1) vs. Minnesota Wild (8)

The Blackhawks went half the season without a regulation loss, gave up the fewest goals and scored the second most.  Then can roll four lines and have 8 defensemen who can play.  The only thing lacking was success on the power play as they were mid-pack, but the penalty kill was great.  Minnesota added some big names then still struggled to make the playoffs as goaltender Niklas Backstrom played poorly the last two weeks of the season.  If he gets hot, they can compete, but don’t look for an LA Kings like upset in this matchup.  Hawks in 5.


Anaheim Ducks (2) vs. Detroit (Sucks) Red Wings (7)

I still can’t see how this Ducks team did so well, but they quietly earned the second seed in the West without a lot of scoring but two stellar goaltenders.  Plus they beat the crap out people.  They hit and fore check and bang and crash.  As for the Wings, I was kind of rooting for Columbus to catch them, or at least for a first round matchup with the Hawks.  The Wings just don’t have enough talent this year.  Ducks in 6.

Vancouver Canucks (3) vs. San Jose Sharks (6)

This could be fun to watch.  Don’t forget, the Sharks got bounced by the Canucks in the conference finals in 2011.  Antti Niemi was all world for the Sharks this year, who started hot, were terrible in the middle of the season then caught fire at the end.  Vancouver is Vancouver, but with a different starting goaltender as Cory Schneider is number one.  I think Niemi outplays Schneider.  Sharks in Seven.

St. Louis Blues (4) vs Los Angeles Kings (5)

The Kings are the same team they were last year.  The Blues surged late behind Brian Elliot to snag home ice in this series.  Jonathan Quick heated up near the end of the year.  This is going to be a great series with tons of hitting and physical play, and probably not a lot of goals.  Blues in 7.


Eastern Conference

Pittsburgh Penguins (1)  vs. New York Islanders (8)

Wow, the Penguins sure played well without Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and various others down the stretch.  Geno is back, Paul Martin is back, Chris Letang is back.  The only thing that could stop this team in the first round is Evgeni Nabokov standing on his head.  And that might happen.  For a game or two.  Pens in 6.

Montreal Canadians (2) vs Ottawa Senators (7)

How did the Senators make the playoffs with all of their injuries?  Can Montreal overcome last season’s disappointment?  Will the glue and tape finally fall off Ottawa’s bus?  I wish I had a good poutine joke to insert here.  Canadians in six.

Washington Capitals (3) vs. New York Rangers (6)

Ovechkin was on fire the second half of the season.  It’s as if he took every negative comment directed at him, squished it into a little ball of hate, ate it, then went out and scored 32 goals.  The Rangers limped along all season and even sent Marian Gaborik packing at the trade deadline, to Columbus of all places.  Will the Caps keep it together?  Ovechkin is on a mission this year.  Expect King Henry to steal a game or two for the Rangers.  Caps in 7

Boston Bruins (4) vs. Toronto Maple Leafs (5)

Welcome back to the Stanley Cup playoffs, Maple Leaf fans.  Your team overachieved.  Boston is still a deep team, and Tukka Rask played great as the number one and Boston was able to keep his workload light.  Toronto was a little unsettled at times in net this year, but James Reimer played well down the stretch.  One of the highlights of the season for me was hearing the Bruins fans singing the national anthem together just after the Boston Marathon bombing.  I’ll go with the Bruins experience.  I mean, they have Zdeno Chara.  He is tall.  Bruins in 6.


Round 2 coming up as soon as round one is over.  Good luck everyone!


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