This year’s NHL postseason kicks off on Wednesday, April 13. There are three new teams in the playoffs this year: the Tampa Bay Lightning, the New York Rangers and the Anaheim Ducks. All three did not make the playoffs last season. Last season’s Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks clinched the final playoff berth today after Dallas lost their game to Minnesota. As a result, all of the first round matchups are now set. With that said, let’s get to the predictions.
#1 Washington Capitals vs. #8 New York Rangers (NY won the season series 3-1-0)
Two years ago, the seventh seeded Rangers took the Capitals to the limit in the first round. The Rangers had a 3-1 series lead and wound up losing three straight to Washington. The Capitals took on a more defensive system this season in preparation for the playoffs. Will it work out for them? Is this the year they go far? The Rangers have a big edge in net as Henrik Lundqvist could certainly steal a series. In the end, the Capitals have too much firepower and will take it.
Prediction: Washington in five
#2 Philadelphia Flyers vs. #7 Buffalo Sabres (PHI won the season series 2-1-1)
The Sabres are getting back their goalie Ryan Miller and the Flyers are getting back one of the best defencemen in the game in Chris Pronger. If Miller is healthy, he can steal a few games. Buffalo improved their team at the deadline with the acquisition of Brad Boyes. This one could have a few overtime games. Philadelphia has better overall depth and that’s what helps teams overcome the early rounds of the playoffs.
Prediction: Philadelphia in six
#3 Boston Bruins vs. #6 Montreal Canadiens (MTL won the season series 4-2-0)
The Bruins and Canadiens are arguably the NHL’s greatest rivalry and they face off in the first round for the third time in four years, splitting the first two. The Canadiens won the season series and will certainly put up a fight against their hated rivals, but the Bruins are a team built for the post season. They should take care of the Canadiens pretty quickly.
Prediction: Boston in five
#4 Pittsburgh Penguins vs. #5 Tampa Bay Lightning (Season series even at 2-2)
This one should be pretty even, just like the season series. It’s really amazing that the Penguins finished fourth with their two best players (Crosby and Malkin) gone for half the year. It’s uncertain if Crosby will return. The Penguins will already be without winger Matt Cooke who was already suspended for the first series. The Lightning need Steven Stamkos to show up if they’re going to win. He’s been cold for a few months now. The Penguins play such a complete team game and have the experience edge, giving them the edge in the series.
Prediction: Pittsburgh in six
#1 Vancouver Canucks vs. #8 Chicago Blackhawks (VAN won the season series 2-1-1)
The Blackhawks have tormented the Canucks the last few years in the playoffs. Will history repeat itself? Vancouver goalie Roberto Luongo will breathe a sigh of relief that Dustin Byfuglien won’t be playing in this one. Chicago backed into the playoffs with Dallas losing today and you never want to go in like that. I think Vancouver, obviously upset over the last few years, takes it to last year’s cup winner early and often.
Prediction: Vancouver in five
#2 San Jose Sharks vs. #7 Los Angeles Kings (SJS won the season series 3-1-2)
The Sharks have kind of flown under the radar this year and they must be loving it. After being swept in the Western Conference finals last year, they’re on a mission. The Kings have played well but are missing their best player, Anze Kopitar. I can see them struggling.
Prediction: San Jose in four
#3 Detroit Red Wings vs. #6 Phoenix Coyotes (DET won the season series 2-1-1)
Last season, the Coyotes gave the Red Wings everything they had, losing in seven games. I think this one will be an even series once again. Detroit should be getting Henrik Zetterberg back which is obviously huge. In the end, I just can’t see the Coyotes winning their first playoff series.
Prediction: Detroit in six
#4 Anaheim Ducks vs. #5 Nashville Predators (NSH won the season series 3-1-0)
I’m really looking forward to this one as I feel it may be the most even matchup. Can the Predators finally win a playoff series? It should be fun to see Anaheim’s big guns go against Nashville’s tandem of Weber and Suter. This series has two potential awards winner: Anaheim’s Corey Perry for Hart and Nashville’s Pekka Rinne for the Vezina. Like in the other series, I just can’t see Nashville winning their first playoff series.
Prediction: Anaheim in six
I can’t believe I actually went with all of the favorites which is something that I never do. There always seems to be at least one upset in the first round, too.
My cup final is Boston vs. San Jose with Boston winning it. As of now, anyway!
I’ll be back for my cup prediction when the real finals start.
Until next time…