The final horn has sounded on the regular season and after 30 teams have player each of their 82 regular season games, 16 teams start all-over from scratch in post-season action when wins count the most. The Vancouver Canucks have locked up another President’s Trophy as the NHL’s top team but they will tell you first-hand that the recognition does not guarantee you any post-season success. The Stanley Cup Playoffs provide teams and its players with a chance to reach their ultimate pre-season goal of lifting the holy grail – Lord Stanley’s Cup.
Unfortunately, fans and media personnel have long gave up on their hopes of having their names scribed on the rings of the Stanley Cup. However, the Stanley Cup playoffs do offer an opportunity for hockey’s outsiders to look brilliant (or foolish) as they offer their insight and predict how the post-season run will unfold.
@RossyYoungblood offers his gut instincts on how the opening round bracket will end up.
New York Rangers (1) vs. Ottawa Senators (8)
The Senators will need to solve the world’s best goaltender, Henrik Lundqvist, but Ottawa has had great success versus the blueshirts this season winning 3 of 4 and historically play well at Madison Square Gardens.
Why Rangers Could Win: Goaltending
Why Senators Could Win: Consistent Offensive Attack
Prediction: Senators win in 7 games
Boston Bruins (2) vs. Washington Capitals (7)
Will Tim Thomas report to Capital City this time around? The Bruins hope so. Washington has the talent capable of upsetting the reigning Stanley Cup Champions but their inconsistency this season and lack of passion does not match up well to the depth the Bruins have at every position.
Why Bruins Could Win: Team Depth, offensively and defensively, wears down opponent
Why Capitals Could Win: Uber-talented squad looking to wake up their stars in time for long post-season run
Prediction: Bruins win in 5 games
Florida Panthers (3) vs. New Jersey Devils (6)
This is not your traditional third seed versus sixth seed as the Devils actually earned eight more points than the Panthers but rank lower due to the seeding of the divisional winners first. Devils enter the playoffs on a six-game winning streak while the Panthers stumbled in with a record of 2-3-5 in their last ten.
Why Panthers Could Win: Good team depth and strong production from defense could test the Devils four line attack
Why Devils Could Win: Vastly underrated team built on great coaching and the offensive attack of Kovalchuk, Parise and Henrique.
Prediction: Devils win in 5 games
Pittsburgh Penguins (4) vs. Philadelphia Flyers (5)
The most intriguing matchup in the Eastern Conference consists of one of the most heated rivalries. The Flyers fate will rest heavily on which goaltending duo shows up for the post-season – the good, or the bad? Malkin and Crosby will surely amp up the pressure that surrounds the Flyers’ by bringing the best one-two punch in the NHL.
Why the Penguins Could Win: Been there, done it already led by superstars Crosby, Malkin, Letang and Fleury
Why the Flyers Could Win: Despite hot and cold goaltending, Philadelphia has one of the deepest and talented teams in the entire league.
Prediction: Penguins win in 7 games
Vancouver Canucks (1) vs. Los Angeles Kings (8)
Another year, another President’s Trophy for the Canucks. However, the ‘Nucks understand that regular season success does not equate to post-season success and they enter the post-season red hot with 8 wins in their past ten. My gut tells me that this could be one of the biggest first round upsets, especially if Quick remains hot and Richards and Carter heat up, but with Luongo on a shorter leash and Schneider ready to take the reigns, Vancouver should take this matchup.
Why the Canucks Could Win: Team depth and solid four line attack challenges opponents on a nightly basis.
Why the Kings Could Win: Underachieving talented squad looking to break out of funk at the perfect time. The pieces are all there for the Los Angeles Kings
Prediction: Canucks win in 6
St. Louis Blues (2) vs. San Jose Sharks (7)
The makings of an upset are all here. An annually criticized Sharks team squeaks into playoff action on a hot streak (7-2-1) and meets a young, unproven Blues roster sputtering in the final games of regular season (4-3-3). As many say, do the Blues need to lose in the playoffs before they can contend? The Sharks have lost and could surprise in the 2012 playoffs.
Why the Blues Could Win: One of the best coached young teams in the league is looking to prove the long wait was worth it.
Why the Sharks Could Win: Always a bridesmaid, never a bide syndrome has the Sharks ready to attack as they enter the post-season slightly under-the-radar.
Prediction: Sharks in 7
Phoenix Coyotes (3) vs. Chicago Blackhawks (6)
The Western Conference rankings are deceiving here (much like the Eastern Conference’s 3 vs 6 seed) as the Blackhawks actually earned more points than the ‘desert dogs’. The Coyotes are the hotter team entering the Stanley Cup run (7-1-2) with 5 straight wins and have been the more consistent team this season. Phoenix owns the better goaltending and it will be the difference in this series especially if the Hawks are Toews-less.
Why the Coyotes Could Win: Team plays to its game plan better than any team in the NHL.
Why the Blackhawks Could Win: The Hawks battled adversity all season long and with a fresh playoff start the team will be looking to make a long run using their experienced veterans.
Prediction: Coyotes in 7
Nashville Predators (4) vs. Detroit Red Wings (5)
Much like the Penguins and Flyers four-five matchup, the Wings and Predators feature the most anticipated series in the Western Conference. Does the addition of Radulov and the better goaltending in Rinne give the Predators enough to unseed the experienced and rested Red Wings? There is a lot riding on the success of the Predators in this post-season run with the looming free-agency of Ryan Suter and Shea Weber (2013).
Why the Predators Could Win: Playing in front of one of the league’s best goaltender is a team looking to prove to their top players that Nashville is serious about winning.
Why the Red Wings Could Win: Because they have…multiple times. The Wings are perennial contenders and there is no reason to think otherwise after a couple short seasons allowed their veterans to rest.
Prediction: Red Wings in 7
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