Vancouver vs LA
- Vancouver simply has too much all-around talent for the Kings right now, I like LA, they've got a great nucleus of fairly young guys that will only get better, but they're simply not in Vancouver's class. However, unlike what would usually be the case when playing Vancouver, the Kings have the better goaltender in Jonathan Quick. It won't be enough, but I could see him stealing a game or two, especially if Luongo isn't on top of his game. Still, this Vancouver team is good enough to beat you 5-4 if need be, and they'll make fairly short work of the Kings, who blew getting the 3 seed in the season's final days. Canucks in 5.
St Louis vs San Jose
- San Jose is hot at right now, but they're such an up and down team that it's really hard to get behind them in any meaningful way. They won't face the "pressure" of being a favorite this year, which might bode well in their favor. To me, this Blues team is too consistent defensively to really allow San Jose to get on track offensively over the course of the series. One concern for St Louis is their lack of scoring, as their leading scorers TJ Oshie, and David Backes, had less points(54) then Steven Stamkos had goals. You have to figure that having the 21st ranked offense will bite them somewhere, but Halak/Elliott combined with an opportunistic lineup that can grind a team to a halt will be enough here. Ill take the Blues in 6
Phoenix vs Chicago
- I love what Phoenix has done over the last few weeks of the season to not only get into the playoffs, but win the divison. The Blackhawks do have enough scoring to beat Phoenix even if Jonathan Toews is unavailable Even if Jonathan Toews isn't available, this team can score enough to beat Phoenix, who like St Louis and L.A, don't have enough firepower to be a serious Cup contender.
On the converse, no playoff team other then Ottawa has given up more goals then the Blackhawks. Although the Coyotes have the 5th best GAA in the NHL, Ill take the 'Hawks explosive offensive that sits at 6th overall in the NHL in a tight series. Blackhawks in 7.
Nashville vs Detroit
- Other then Penguins/Flyers, this could be the best series of the first round. Like with Pens/Flyers, this is a hard luck matchup between two teams that deserve better in a first round matchup, but it is what it is. Detroit is better overall both offensively and defensively then Nashville is by the numbers, although injuries have put a damper on what once looked like another year of Detroit dominating the West. Still, I think they're the better team, even if records ever so slightly indicate otherwise. They have the experience factor of guys who have done it before. I'll take the Wings in 7.
NY Rangers vs Ottawa
- I won't be surprised be surprised if Ottawa doesn't wins a game here. Although they've shown they can score goals, the Rangers are one of the NHL's best defensive clubs, starting with Henrik Lundqvist. The goalie matchup of Lundqvist/Anderson is rediculously lopsided here, and the Rangers roll 4 lines as well as anybody. They aren't a terribly potent club, but they're certainly capable of turning in up when they need to. I don't see them failing to do so against the worst defensive club of all playoff teams. Rangers in 4.
Boston vs Washington
- The Capitals certainly hit their stride as the season came to a close, but they're a mess. How much can they count on Mike Green and Nicklas Backstrom? Green hasn't been the same player since he returned from injury. The Bruins drew a favorable matchup in the Caps and the winner of the Panthers/Devils series, and I dont see the defending champs being one and done here. In a tighter series then most will think, Ill take the Bruins in 7.
Florida vs New Jersey
- This series is everything I hate about the NHL seeding system. Instead of rewarding teams with the most points, division winners automatically get the higher seed.In this case, it's the malingering Panthers, who had opened up a huge lead in a terrible division, only to have to win their final game of the season to back their way into a division title with 94 points. That won't be good enough against New Jersey, who has won 6 in a row and has a decent amount of firepower, led by Ilya Kovalchuk, and still plays a responsible defensive system. Jose Theodore vs Martin Brodeur- even with Brodeur at 40- isn't much of a matchup in net, The Panthers are a nice story with their first playoff berth in 11 years, but they won't last long. Devils in 6.
Pittsburgh vs Philadelphia
- The homer in me wants to say Pens in 4 and be done with it, but that's clearly not going to be the case here. The Penguins and Flyers match up better then perhaps any teams in the NHL, and the argument could be made for this being the NHL's best rivalry. I will take the Pens and their 1-2 punch of Crosby and Malkin alongside legitimate
scoring linemates, something the Pens have been looking for years to get for both. Philadelphia's goal tending situation is somewhat unknown with Bryzgalof's foot injury, and Marc Andre Fleury is about as consistent as they come. I see this being a hard-fought, close series, but the Penguins simply have more, at least on paper. They hadn't won against the Flyers at home over the past 2 years, but hopefully that first win there Saturday will give them that momentum. I think it will. Pens in 7.
My second round match ups are Vancouver/Chicago, St Louis/Detroit, NY Rangers/New Jersey, and Boston/Pittsburgh.