By Adam Williams in Sports
April 12, 2012
The regular season concluded on Saturday, where going into the match-ups, there were 27 different first round possibilities. Now, the eight are set in stone.
There are the usual suspects in the likes of the New York Rangers, Boston Bruins, Vancouver Canucks, and Detroit Redwings, but there are also some surprises this year like the Florida Panthers, St. Louis Blues, and the lackluster seasons of the Washington Capitals, Chicago Blackhawks, and San Jose Sharks.
All this sums up to is that these year’s playoffs are going to be absolutely incredible.
In the East, The New York Rangers came away with the top seed and will face the Ottawa Senators. Boston will play the surging Capitals. Florida, in their first playoff appearance since 2000, will go up against the veteran New Jersey Devils and finally, the Keystone Rivalry is renewed as the Penguins will face the Flyers in what is expected to be an incredibly intense 4-5 match-up.
In the West, the President’s Trophy winning Vancouver Canucks will battle the Los Angeles Kings. The Blues will play the Sharks, Coyotes vs. Blackhawks, and another intriguing 4-5 series between a heavy Cup favorite in the Nashville Predators and the always dangerous Detroit Redwings.
An examination of each series and prediction will be made as the fastest game in the world will get faster, more intense, and more entertaining over the next two months.
1. NYR vs. 8. OTT
The New York Rangers struggled down the stretch to hold on to that No. 1 seed, but the strong play of goalkeeper Henrik Lundqvist clinched the division and conference for the BlueShirts. The Ottawa Senators have been a streaky team, at best, throughout the year, but with the dominant line of Jason Spezza, Milan Michalek, and long time captain Daniel Alfredsson and a young stud defenseman like Erik Karlsson, the Sens could make a run.
Prediction: The Senators won the season series against the Rangers, 3-1, but the depth of the Rangers will take over. New York in six games.
2. BOS vs. 7. WSH
The defending Stanley Cup champions open up the 2012 playoffs with a tough match-up against the recently hot Capitals, led by Alex Ovechkin. Tim Thomas will need to stand on his head, like he did most of last year’s run to lead his team to the second round.
Prediction: Boston have been beasts in the East and with Washington having a down year and playing so hard just to make the playoffs, the fatigue will wear on the team and Boston will take this one handily in five games.
3. FLA vs. 6. NJD
The Panthers have not been in the postseason for over 10 years and do not want to make an early round exit. If the Devils’ superstars Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise heat up however, it may just be the case.
Prediction: Though Florida is the No. 3 seed, they are still the underdog to a veteran Devil team. The sentimental favorite will give the Devils a run, but it won’t be enough in the long run. Devils in six.
4. PIT vs. 5. PHI
The most highly anticipated first round match-up, bar none. The Penguins, led by the Art Ross Trophy winning Evgeni Malkin will battle Claude Giroux, Scott Hartnell, and company in a series that is full of animosity.
Prediction: The forwards match-up well, as do the defense core for both teams and the key is the play in net. Will Bryzgalov prove that he’s worth the 51 million Philly is paying him against a Stanley Cup winning Marc-Andre Fleury? Philly will have to wait another year. Penguins in 5.
1. VAN vs. 8. LAK
The Canucks earned the most points in the regular season, awarding them with the President’s Trophy. The Los Angeles Kings lost in a shootout to get placed against the reigning runner’s-up. Both teams have the goaltending with Roberto Luongo and Jonathan Quick, but defense will be the key in this match-up.
Prediction: Vancouver added toughness and depth at the deadline in Sami Pahlsson and Zack Kassian and with that, are poised to make another run. Canucks in six games.
2. STL vs. 7. SJS
The Blues were an absolute surprise this year, becoming the second seed after missing the playoffs last year. San Jose was a surprise for a different reason: for almost not making the playoffs.
Prediction: This series will be a battle of young skill and talent vs. the veterans and in this match-up, skill and youth will prevail as St. Louis will win in five games.
3. PHO vs. 6. CHI
The Phoenix Coyotes had another fantastic year and were rewarded with the No. 3 seed in large part to the absolutely stellar goaltending of Mike Smith. The Blackhawks have struggled with injuries all season long and starting out the series without Jonathan Toews and David Bolland may prove costly
Prediction: Even though Phoenix has the advantage in net, Chicago’s defense is healthy and will prevent a lot of shots at Corey Crawford. Marian Hossa and Patrick Kane will carry the 2010 Cup Champions into the second round in a hotly contested seven game series.
4. NSH vs. 5. DET
These two teams are not strangers when it comes to meeting up in the postseason.
Pekka Rinne and Jimmy Howard had phenomenal years between the pipes for their clubs. The difference in this match-up, however, will be in the forwards.
Prediction: Both teams have a ton of playoff experience and Nashville really bulked up their roster with the additions of Andrei Kostitsyn, Paul Gaustad and Hal Gill, but the fact of the matter is Detroit rarely loses in The Joe during the postseason, and don’t forget that 23 game home winning streak earlier this season; an NHL record. Detroit’s depth up front will take over and lead them to victory in a thrilling game seven.