NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs 1st Round Predictions

Posted: April 11, 2012 in Uncategorized

After a long NHL season that felt like it was never going to end the first round of the NHL Playoffs are finally here. Before you don the jersey of your favourite team and start to grow the nastiest looking playoff beard check out these thoughts and predictions on what’s to come in the opening round of action.

Eastern Conference: Thoughts and predictions

(1) New York Rangers vs (8) Ottawa Senators: The Ottawa Senators went 3-1 vs the New York Rangers this season. Ottawa will look to run and gun up and down the rink with Jason Spezza, Daniel Alfredsson, Milan Michalek, Nick Foligno and Norris Trophy candidate Erik Karlsson.  If the Sens can escape the forecheck and hard-hitting of the New York Rangers they have a small chance to beat the top seeded New York Rangers. The Rangers have too much depth for Ottawa.Vezina Trophy candidate and possible league MVP Henrik Lundqvist will be impossible to beat. The top line of  Marian Gaborik, Brad Richards, and rookie Carl Hagelin will be no match for the Senators defense. Expect Rangers captain Ryan Callahan to have a huge impact on this series. He is the heart and soul of the Rangers and leaves it all on the ice each game. Ottawa goalie Craig Anderson will have to stand on his head just to get Ottawa to a 6th or 7th game against the blue shirts. Prediction – Rangers in 5

(2) Boston Bruins vs (7) Washington Capitals: The Washington Capitals went 3-1 vs the defending champ this season. The key matchup to watch in this series is Alex Ovechkin vs Zdeno Chara, and Dennis Seidenberg. If Ovechkin can use his speed to skate circles around the Boston’s best defensive duo the Capitals should create some much-needed scoring chances. The health of Nicklas Backstrom should also be watched. The Capitals centre missed 40 games this season with a concussion. When healthy Backstrom is a point a game player against the Bruins in his career. Alexander Semin who’s playing for a contract next season is another player to watch. He will take dumb penalties and tends to play lazy and uninspired but when he shoots he can pick corners like nothing. If the Bruins can use their size and team toughness to get physical with the Capitals skilled forwards the Caps will probably go into a corner and hide. Tyler Seguin, Patrice Bergeron, Milan Lucic, Brad Marchand, and David Krejci will light up whatever healthy goalie Washington can put in net. Tomas Vokoun and Michal Neuvirth are both injured and not yet skating. Rookie Braden Holtby is expected to start the series. The Boston Bruins are not as good as they were last season when they won the Stanley Cup but they should be able to clobber the Washington who should be labelled the most overrated team in the NHL. For the Washington Capitals to win this series President Barack Obama would have to put a hex on outspoken Bruins goalie Tim Thomas. Prediction – Bruins in 5 

(3) Florida Panthers vs (6) New Jersey Devils:  The Panthers have not made the playoffs since 2000 when they lost to New Jersey. Even thought the Devils are the higher seeded team they should be favoured over Florida. Martin Brodeur is certainly getting older and on the back-end of his career but he is more than capable of being an outstanding goalie in the playoffs. The Devils are led by leading scorer Ilya Kovalchuk, Patrik Elias, and soon to be free agent Zach Parise. Adam Henrique finished 3rd in rookie scoring this year and should get plenty of opportunity to contribute to the Devils offense. The Devils defense won’t put you to sleep because they can score goals and they don’t play the boring trap. Florida does have players with playoff experience but none of that has been in a Panthers uniform. Brian Campbell, Kris Versteeg, Tomas Kopecky, Tomas Fleischmann, Marco Sturm, Mikeal Samuelsson, and Ed Jovanovski have all gone on lengthy playoff runs before in their careers outside of Florida. In net the Panthers have Jose Theodore, and Scott Clemmensen. Expect Clemmensen to get the start in net against his former team. If Florida can steal away some pissed off Miami Marlins fans and take advantage of home ice this could be a long series. Prediction – Devils in 6

(4) Pittsburgh Penguins vs (5) Philadelphia Flyers: If you can only watch one series in the first round this is the matchup to watch. These two Pennsylvanian State rivals hate each other. You’re going to see hard hits, cheap shots, fighting, beautiful goals, and some great saves. Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin could very easily carry the Penguins to the Stanley Cup finals this year. If the Penguins advance this could be the most difficult matchup the Penguins face during the playoffs. The Flyers will look to impose their size and toughness on the Penguins. If the Penguins can ignore the Flyers tactics and capitalize on power play opportunities this will be a short series. However the besides gooning it up the Flyers can score goals. Jaromir Jagr, Claude Giroux, Scott Hartnell, Daniel Briere, Wayne Simmonds and Jakub Voracek will be a handful for the Penguins defense. Brooks Orpik, Kris Letang, Zbynek Michalek, and Paul Martin will be counted on to help goalie Marc-Andre Fleury blanket the Flyers. When not talking about the universe Flyers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov will have the task of turning away the Penguins sharp shooters. The Flyers went 4-2 vs the Penguins this season and know how to get them off their game. This is going to be a long ugly series with both teams looking to destroy the opposition. The NHL would be wise to assign their top referee duo to this series so it doesn’t get out of hand. Prediction Flyers in 7 

Western Conference: Thoughts and predictions

(1) Vancouver Canucks vs (8) Los Angeles Kings: Leading goal scorer Daniel Sedin will miss the opening game of this series and it’s unknown when he will return. Without Daniel in the lineup Henrik Sedin will draw extra attention from Willie Mitchell and Drew Doughty. If Henrik can continue to set up his teammates with ease Vancouver will dominate this series. Ryan Kesler, David Booth, Chris Higgins, Mason Raymond, and Jannik Hansen will have to chip in more than usual while Daniel is sidelined. The scoring depth for Vancouver should be too much for the Kings to handle. The Kings are the only playoff team to score less than 200 goals this season. Jonathan Quick will have to get a couple of shutouts if the Kings are to advance to the 2nd round. Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown will have to carry the Kings past the Vancouver goalie tandem of Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider. The 2nd line for LA will feature Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, and Dwight King. Vancouver usually takes their time before dispatching a playoff opponent. This series will be a low scoring series with multiple overtime periods. Prediction – Canucks in 6

(2) St. Louis Blues vs (7) San Jose Sharks: The St. Louis Blues went from being a disaster this season to winning their division. Coach Ken Hitchcock has turned this team around and they are now a force to be reckoned with. The Blues don’t have superstar forwards that appear on video game covers or commercials but they do have a solid core of players who are committed to the team and play hard-nosed hockey every shift. Leading scorers T.J. Oshie and David Backes finished with 54 points this season. The overall balanced scoring the Blues will bring will be overwhelming for the struggling Sharks. David Perron, Patrik Berglund, and Chris Stewart provide depth San Jose can’t match. Goalie Jaroslav Halak will start game 1 for the Blues. Brian Elliott is ailing but when healthy the Blues have one of the best pair of netminders in the league. If Washington is the most overrated team in the NHL the San Jose Sharks are second. Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Logan Couture, Joe Pavelski, Martin Havlat, and Ryane Clowe are all outstanding forwards that have previously gone into hibernation during the playoffs. San Jose can’t have anyone sleep walking during this series. The Blues are a physical team that will wear-down the Sharks. San Jose goalie Antti Niemi doesn’t have a great defense in front of him. The defense for the San Jose Sharks will let them down and St. Louis will having Sharks fans singing the Blues. Prediction – Blues in 6     

(3) Phoenix Coyotes vs (6) Chicago Blackhawks: Phoenix won the Pacific Division on the last day of the regular season over LA and San Jose but that doesn’t make them the favourite in this series. Can you name the leading scorer on the Phoenix Coyotes…. The answer is Ray Whitney with 24G 53A this season. Phoenix had 35 goals from Radim Vrbata this season and captain Shane Doan finished with 50 points. Phoenix will roll all 4 lines and play a very boring style of hockey. With outstanding goalie and possible Vezina candidate Mike Smith in net the Coyotes will prevail if their defense steps up and thwarts the Blackhawks dynamic offense. The health of  Chicago captain Jonathan Toews is a big question for Chicago. With Toews healthy Chicago wins this series no questions asked. If Toews can’t play Chicago will look for big contributions from Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa, Viktor Stalberg, and Dave Bolland. On defense Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook could log 30 minutes a game for Coach Joel Quennville. Corey Crawford is not a goalie Chicago fans should feel comfortable with. The edge in-goal clearly goes to Phoenix, who beat Chicago 3 times this season. However the better overall hockey team is the Chicago Blackhawks. If you were going to pick one of these two hockey teams to win the Stanley Cup would you really pick Phoenix… Prediction – Blackhawks in 6 

(4) Nashville Predators vs (5) Detroit Red Wings: In this matchup the Detroit Red Wings veterans are not only going up against the hungary Nashville Predators but they’re also fighting father time. The Red Wings have a very old team led by captain Nicklas Lidstrom. If Detroit can go on the road and win in a hostile environment Detroit will move on. However if older players like Johan Franzen, Henrik Zetterberg, Todd Bertuzzi, Dan Cleary, Tomas Holmstrom, and Lidstrom run out of gas this series will be over fast. Pavel Datsyuk, and goalie Jimmy Howard can’t do it all on their own. Detroit is almost unbeatable at Joe Louis Arena but playing on the road could be their downfall. Nashville loaded up at the NHL trade deadline and is ready for a long playoff run if they can get past Detroit. Alexander Radulov is back from the KHL and will be a key factor in this series. Mike Fisher, Paul Gaustad, and David Legwand provide a lot of depth at centre for Nashville. The defensive duo of Shea Weber and Ryan Suter will be all over the top Red Wings top line of Bertuzzi, Datsyuk, and Franzen. Pekka Rinne is a world-class goalie for the Predators that has the ability to make Red Wings shooters ice-cold in this series. Detroit will lean on all their past playoff experience to help them through this series. If Pittsburgh and Philadelphia is the must watch series in the east this is matchup is the one to watch in the west. Prediction – Red Wings in 7

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Comments
  1. Peter says:

    Har,

    Now that the Canucks have been dismissed, any chance I can have you move to Boston and have you manage the Red Sox?!

    Keep up the good work on the Blog and better luck to the Canucks next year.

    • Hi Peter, that’s a great idea. I’d love to move to Boston but I don’t think I would make for the best manager for the Boston Red Sox. I have no managing experience but somehow I don’t think I would be worse than Bobby Valentine. I think I should stick to being a journalist. Good luck to the Bruins.

  2. paulk says:

    Hi Har, boy it looks like the Canucks are finis. Is Jonathan Quick that good, or have the Canucks forgotten how to score goals? Getting Daniel back for game 4 might change things up, but I’m afraid it’s gonna be too late. Why can’t Kessler and Henrick score any goals? Bye-Bye!
    Will you be rooting for the B’s when the Canucks are dropped from the tourney? At least the B’s have been finding a way to score enough to get past the pesky Caps.

    • Hi Paul ya I’m not too optimistic about the Canucks 16% chance to comeback and win against the Kings. Only 3 NHL team have ever erased a 3-0 deficit. Philly did it to the Bruins in 2010 but I think Vancouver has run out of motivation, and the will to win. All their shoots are from the outside. Quick could eat a sandwich, comb his hair, and still stop them. The Canucks need to get traffic in front of the net like the Bruins are finally doing to Holtby. Kelser and Henrik have been absent but so have all the other Vancouver forwards. The best players for Vancouver have been Luongo and Cory Schneider. I don’t think I will be rooting for the Bruins. I think they have a fantastic chance to advance to the conference finals if they play Philadelphia in round two. Bryzgalov can’t stop anything right now. Have a good one Paul.

  3. Kurt says:

    Nice work Har. Keep up the good work.

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