Here is a look at my thoughts and predictions if the playoffs started today:
Vancouver Canucks vs. Anaheim Ducks
Canucks are gritty but injured right now and the Ducks are heading into the playoffs with healthy players. The Ducks are all pulling their weight from the elder statesman 40 year old Teemu Selanne all the way down to rookie defenseman Cam Fowler. Not to mention they just got back their All-Star goalie Jonas Hiller and the organization has said they will keep all three goalies (Hiller, Ray Emery, and Dan Ellis) on the roster.
Detroit Red Wings vs. Nashville Predators
Never underestimate Hockeytown; however, the Predators have their number this season.
Pekka Rinne has come up huge (and not just in his 6’5” stature) for the Predators. If it was not for going down for a few games with an injury Rinne’s name would be right up there with Tim Thomas more often for the Vezina talks.
San Jose Sharks vs. Los Angeles Kings
Other than the fact that 90% of the hockey would not watch this match up because it wont start before 10 p.m. on the east coast could be a great battle in California.
Coming down to goaltending. If Jonathan Quick comes into the playoffs on a hot streak then the Sharks will once again wash out early in the playoffs. If the Finnish duo of Antti Niemi and Antero Niittymaki are healthy and focused the Sharks have a chance to make it to the second round.
Phoenix Coyotes vs. Chicago Blackhawks
This season the Phoenix Coyotes are not the unknown dark horse out west they were last year when they forced the Red Wings to a game seven; however already splitting the season with Chicago both teams are a 2-1-1 right now. I am giving the Coyotes the advantage on this strictly looking at goaltending.
Phoenix Coyotes vs. Anaheim Ducks
Another set of west coast teams with late starts probably wont receive the attention that the series would have if the teams were in a different time zone.
San Jose Sharks vs. Nashville Predators
Antti Niemi and Dan Boyle vs. Pekka Rinne and Shea Weber
Predators have a rounded out scoring not really relying on any one person as Patric Hornqvist leads the team with 19 goals. Sergei Kostitsyn has 17 and Sea Weber with 16. As long as they can net one or two and Rinne can stop what the Sharks throw at him – it will be a typical low scoring play off series. The Sharks have Patrick Marleau sitting atop their goal scoring chart with 31 goals while Logan Courute has 28 and Dany Heatley is third with 24.
Western Conference Finals:Anaheim Ducks vs. Nashville Predators
Philadelphia Flyers vs. Buffalo Sabres
Ryan Miller may have take Team USA to the gold/silver game in the Olympics but carrying a team though a NHL playoff series is a big undertaking. Flyers in five.
Washington Capitals vs. New York Rangers
The Capitals have spent the season reworking their system and might not have all the kinks ironed out just yet. The Rangers have gone 3-1-0 against the Capitals this season with major blow outs. For Washington’s sake hope resting Ovechkin works out or it will be another short playoff run.
Boston Bruins vs. Montreal Canadiens
What a heated match up this would be! Great for tv ratings that is for sure.
Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Tampa Bay Lightning
The Penguins have never given up. Even with losing Evegni Malkin and their captain Sidney Crosby the team has stepped up and kept themselves in the hunt. The questions is have they taxed themselves trying to stay alive? Lightning are thriving with new ownership and management.
Philadelphia Flyers vs. New York Rangers
Montreal Canadiens vs. Tampa Bay Lightning
Hockey’s Mecca vs. Steve Yzerman’s new team.
Eastern Conference Finals:
Philadelphia Flyers vs. Montreal Canadiens
It is rematch time as the Flyers and the Canadiens would match up in a fight for the conference title and the chance to go after the Stanley Cup.
Stanley Cup Finals:
Philadelphia Flyers vs. Anaheim Ducks
Stanley Cup Winner:Tough call. The Ducks would be motivated to send Teemu Selanne into retirement with a cup; and never underestimate that power as it has lead the Red Wings to plenty of surges in the last decade in the play offs (Dallas Drake in 2008 anyone?).
The Flyers however made it last year only to lose to the Blackhawks and as the Pittsburgh Penguins demonstrated in 2009 – having something to prove can be a huge factor.
Flipping a coin …