EDITOR’S NOTE: As an Avalanche fan, I couldn’t stomach the idea of having a picture of Datsyuk on my site, so I substituted this picture of Hayden Panettiere.
Phoenix Coyotes (6) vs Detroit Red Wings (3) WEST
This should be a fun rematch of last year’s great 7 game series. The Yotes are led by their long time captain Shane Doan but they were still able to get good play from defenseman Keith Yandle and veteran winger Ray Whitney. Goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov has been solid all season and looks pretty comfortable in goal. The team has played well throughout the whole relocation fiasco. Detroit has still been the same calm, cool, and collected team despite the many injuries this season. The key to this series will be Franzen and Filppula. Everyone knows about Zetterberg and Datsyuk but when those guys have off games Franzen and Filppula take over. Jimmy Howard just needs to play well enough to get the win and I trust the Wing’s offense and defense to get the job done. Detroit in 5.
No Crosby. No Malkin. The Penguins are screwed in this series. I will admit they have been playing well without the two superstars because of the defense but the Lightning offense is just too good. Steven Stamkos has been off the chart this year and he has really benefited from playing with Martin St. Louis. Victor Hedman has become a great defenseman and the Lightning finally have a reliable goaltender in Dwayne Roloson. The last great goaltender the Lightning had was Nikolai Khabibulin and they won the Cup in his final season with them. I might be biased because I hate the Penguins with a passion but I don’t see them beating an explosive Lightning team. Tampa Bay in 5.
Even though this is a 1 vs 8 matchup, this may be the most intriguing matchup in the first round. These two teams met twice before in the playoffs and Chicago has won both times. Vancouver looks like a Stanley Cup contender with Ryan Kesler breaking out this year but it all starts with the Sedin twins. Daniel Sedin is a candidate for Hart (MVP) and his twin Henrik is the reigning Hart Trophy winner. The defending Stanley Cup Champs barely got in to the playoffs but they are pretty dangerous. Their main pieces are still intact with Toews and Kane and the defense will be stingy as well. Luongo will be the X-factor in this series he has played well all season and in the end Vancouver’s offense will overpower the Chicago defense and goaltending. The Canucks will win but they will be tested. Vancouver in 6.
The Flyers have been the top dog in the east for most of the season but recently they have been sliding. As I predicted before the season Claude Giroux has blossomed into a legit threat and the top 3 centers (Carter, Richards, and Briere) have played well too. The question I have with the Flyers is in the goaltending department. They don’t have a consistent goaltender that can take over a series. Boucher played well last year but he hasn’t played a lot this season. On the other side, Ryan Miller is the defending Vezina winner and the offense is still pretty good for the Sabres. Because of the Flyer’s recent struggles, this series will be close. Ultimately Philadelphia will win but the Sabres will give them all they can handle. Philadelphia in 7.
How good is Cory Perry? He has been on a tear this season leading the Ducks to the 4th seed in the west. Perry, Getzlaf, and old-reliable Teemu Selanne have carried the Ducks all season and goalie Jonas Hiller has been consistent for the Ducks. This team has some solid veterans that can still get the jobs done and the Ducks can be a surprise dark horse contender for the cup if they continue to play smart. The Predators again have a nice strong team. It has pretty much been balanced scoring for them but goalie Pekka Rinne has been outstanding. Nashville’s chances of advancing will rest on Rinne’s shoulders. Though it is not uncommon for goalie’s to take over a series (Halak! ugh), the Ducks are too talented. Ducks in 5.
This one is definitely a rivalry series. And if any of you guys read my NFL playoff previews, the you already know that in a rivalry, ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN. This applies in hockey too and with this type of series, it will come down to the goaltending. Carey Price vs Tim Thomas. The better goalie will win. Price was criticized early because of his prior playoff woes but he bounced back and things are looking up for him. But Thomas has been the best NHL player this year. He is my pick to win not only Vezina, but Hart. His reaction time has been excellent and the defense around him has been great. This is a team to be feared with and I believe they will win this series. Boston in 6.
The Sharks started the season out slowly but have recovered and took control of the 2 spot out west. This team has had its playoff disappointments in the pasts and they will play a tough LA team. Anze Kopitar has had another great season and the young defensemen Jack Johnson and Drew Doughty are looking really good. The Sharks will have a tough time with this young team but the Sharks have the playoff experience. Thornton and Marleau again both have had great seasons and like Anaheim, they also have playoff experience. The Kings will fight but the Sharks will play smart hockey. San Jose in 6.
Gotta save the best for last. My Caps have been red-hot since the Jason Arnott trade and they are rolling. Ovechkin is back and he is looking like the best hockey player in the NHL again. I will also throw you something else surprising. The Caps are the fourth best defensive team in the NHL. Yes, I said defensive. The Rangers will be a tough matchup though. They are a physical team that can compete with a lot of the good teams. If Lundqvist takes over the series once again, it may get scary but the defense should help keep it close. There will be some close games and there will be blowouts and Avery will piss off Caps fans. I will be at game 2 again this year to rock the red and cheer on my Caps so I will be pretty excited. Finally if the Capitals want this series to go by smoothly Semin needs to be a factor and not fall asleep. The key for the Rangers will be their rock Henrik Lundqvist. This will be a very physical series and I believe the Capitals defense will win the game for them. Washington in 6.