Here are some vague guesses for round 1 of this year’s Stanley Cup tournament. I am really liking the new playoff format, as there are some really, really good matchups in the first round. A couple of them could end up being blood baths, and that is all that NHL fans can ask for. There is nothing better than the first round, in my mind, where upsets happen, and teams who move on get beat up. It’s an exciting time to be a hockey fan.
Anaheim Ducks vs. Dallas Stars
- This has quickly become the trendy upset pick, with a lot of people choosing the Stars to take down the hot-starting Ducks, who traditionally fade over the course of the season.
- Ducks are top heavy. Not much beyond the Getzlaf-Perry line.
- Anaheim seems to have endless stud goalies, so whether they end up with Andersson, Hiller, or Gibson, they are in good shape.
- Love, love, love the combo of Benn and Seguin in Dallas. They will be good together for a long time.
- Surprising depth on the Stars. They are pretty underrated across the board.
Prediction: Stars in 7. I’m going with the trends here.
Colorado Avalanche vs. Minnesota Wild
- Hugely surprising year for the Avs. Are they ready to make the next step?
- Biggest question in Colorado is that unknown D corps. Can they stop a consistent Wild team?
- Huge disadvantage for the Wild in net. Bryzgalov is the ultimate wild card here. He could be great. He could be awful.
- Big bonus for the Wild: their D is very strong, led by Ryan Suter. He will be a difference maker.
- I’m smelling upset here.
Prediction: Wild in 6. Avalanche not ready to be great just yet.
San Jose Sharks vs. Los Angeles Kings
- This would be a worthy Western Conference Final matchup.
- It’s too bad one of these teams has to go home, they are both Cup contenders. But that’s the beauty of the new playoff format.
- Great rivalry. This is one of those series that will be an all out war. It’s going to go 7, no matter who wins. Winning team will be battered and bruised by the time they get to the 2nd round.
- Biggest advantage is for the Kings in net, with Quick over the under-appreciated, but inconsistent Antti Niemi.
Prediction: Kings in 7. Too deep. Too relentless. Sharks love to choke.
St.Louis Blues vs. Chicago Blackhawks
- Ugly 6-game losing streak for the Blues leading into the playoffs.
- Ryan Miller has come back to earth after hot start after his trade to St. Louis.
- Battle of injured teams. A lot of banged-up guys on both teams. Hawks are getting Kane and Toews back, the Blues should get Backes and Oshie back. Big difference if they are fully healthy.
- Another bruising series. The Blues play mean, and I wonder if the Hawks have enough to fight back with.
- It’s so hard to repeat as champs in this league.
Prediction: Blues in 7. I think they can turn it around. They are just infinitely deep and tough to play against.
Boston Bruins vs. Detroit Red Wings
- 23rd straight year the Wings are in the dance. Incredible.
- Important injuries on the Red Wings, including Zetterberg, who won’t be back. Datsyuk always seems to be banged up now.
- Bruins are a monstrous team. They can score, defend, and beat you up. Wings can’t match them in any department.
Prediction: Bruins in 5
Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Columbus Blue Jackets
- Maybe the most unappealing first round matchup?
- Constant worry over Fleury in the Pens net. Bobrovsky is an advantage for Columbus.
- Columbus has only been to the playoffs once before, and they were swept. Going against a team that can explode offensively.
- Will Malkin be back?
- Crosby has had an incredible season, and there is no reason to believe that he won’t continue it in the playoffs.
Prediction: Penguins in 7. I really want to take the Jackets in an upset, but they just aren’t there yet. If Malkin is back, they take it.
Montreal Canadiens vs. Tampa Bay Lightning
- The biggest coin flip of the first round. Both teams are evenly matched.
- Biggest impact is Ben Bishop’s injury. Huge downgrade to have Anders Lindback in net.
- Carey Price has had a good year. He can/will be a difference maker.
- Love the young guns of the Bolts. Stamkos, Palat, Johnson, Callahan.
- Big year from Victor Hedman, largely not discussed over the course of the year. Big breakout for him.
Prediction: Lightning in 6. I feel the Habs will disappoint, and not give Price enough support.
New York Rangers vs. Philadelphia Flyers
- Another great rivalry, both teams are real contenders coming off a terrible start to the season.
- Huge plus having Lundqvist over Mason in net.
- Will be a tough series, both teams can hit and mix it up. Will be a bruiser of a series.
- Not terribly sold on the Flyers D. Not that the Rangers set the world on fire on offense, but there is enough depth to do some damage.
Prediction: Rangers in 6.
There we have it. Now we can sit back and enjoy the games, as they start tomorrow night. NHL playoffs are the best time of year, after the long, grueling season. Time to get to the real games!