Tonight marks the beginning of the NHL’s 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Like everyone else, I’d like to make my predictions for the 1st round. Before breaking down each series, I have two things to say. Firstly, I don’t hate any of the Canadian teams, however, I don’t like Vancouver, Montreal, or Ottawa’s chances. Secondly, I’m far more interested in the Western Conference series than the Eastern Conference series. This means two things. 1- I won’t be getting much sleep for the next few weeks. 2- I’ll be on Twitter a lot and look forward to talking Playoffs with all of you!
Washington Capitals (1) vs Montreal Canadiens (8)
I read about Tomas Plekanec’s quotes from the other day. I don’t understand why he’s playing these silly games, but whatever. He better bury a few goals on Washington or egg will be on his face, goatee and turtleneck. Sure, Montreal probably has the edge in goaltending, but Theordore’s play this year has been pretty good. Honestly, I don’t think Montreal has any chance in this series. Even if Jaroslav Halak plays like he did at the Olympics, Washington will be too much for Montreal’s slow defence. Alex Ovechkin has something to prove and Nickolas Backstrom is fresh off his best season in his young NHL career.
Verdict: Washington in 5 games.
New Jersey Devils (2) vs Philadelphia Flyers (7)
This series could go either way. On one hand, you have a legendary goalie in Marty Brodeur versus 3rd-stringer Brian Boucher (advantage Devils). On the other hand, you have Ilya Kovalchuk/Zach Parise versus Danny Briere/Jeff Carter/Mike Richards/Simon Gagne and more (advantage Flyers). I like Philadelphia’s defence a little more than New Jersey’s, too. And because Chris Pronger has a strong reputation for helping teams over the hump in Playoffs, I have to side with the Flyers as my upset team in the East.
Verdict: Philadelphia in 7 games.
Buffalo Sabres (3) vs Boston Bruins (6)
Boston’s well documented scoring troubles and Buffalo’s all-star goalie Ryan Miller combine for a tough challenge for the Bruins. In addition, the Bruins announced the possibility of Marc Savard’s return to the team no earlier than in the 2nd round of the playoffs. Given the challenges Boston has faced this year (off years for certain players and injuries), making the Playoffs is a considerable feat. I don’t think they have any chance against the well oiled machine that is the Buffalo Sabres. On a slightly different note, it should be interesting to see which rookie proves most valuable to their respective teams between Tyler Myers and Tuukka Rask.
Verdict: Buffalo in 5 games.
Pittsburgh Penguins (4) vs Ottawa Senators (5)
This is a tough match-up for the Ottawa Senators when you consider a 6th place finish would have put them up against the Sabres, a team they’ve dominated for years. The obvious storyline for this series is goaltending: Brian Elliott versus Marc-Andre Fleury. As a fan of the Senators, I’m under no illusions, Pittsburgh will win this series, the question is how many games will it take. SensChirp (a blog I respect) believes Ottawa stacks up pretty closely with Pittsburgh. Some of the points are valid, but I’m not sure Ottawa’s defence is that much better than Pittsburgh’s, nor do I believe Ottawa can out-coach the defending Stanley Cup Champions.
Verdict: Pittsburgh in 6 games.
San Jose Sharks (1) vs Colorado Avalanche (8)
I really like the Colorado Avalanche and no, I didn’t think they’d come remotely close to making the playoffs prior to the 09-10 season starting. Having said that, I see the Sharks experience and grit over-powering the young Avalanche. The Avalanche strike me as a team very satisfied with their season whereas the Sharks have known all year that their Playoff results is what really matters. I like some of the role players San Jose has acquired between last season and now (guys like Jed Ortmeyer, Scott Nichol, Niclas Wallin, etc…). I believe these guys, along with Patrick Marleau, Dan Boyle and Rob Blake will be difference makers in this series. Also, I’m concerned for Colorado that star goalie Craig Anderson might be a bit burned out from his first regular season as a starting goalie.
Verdict: San Jose in 6 games.
Chicago Blackhawks (2) vs Nashville Predators (7)
Most of us could make a living from underestimating the Nashville Predators. And although the Predators are a team built so well for the Playoffs, I simply cannot bet against the Chicago Blackhawks. People will question the Hawk’s goaltending and while it’s been suspect at times this season, I don’t think it’s as bad as everyone makes it out to be. It’s easily the weakest part of the Hawks roster, but that’s easy to say when you look at their forwards and defence depth. Chicago’s hurting with injuries to their defence, but I believe their talent up front will carry the load in this series. I look for Patrick Kane to lead the way in points and clutch plays.
Verdict: Chicago in 6 games.
Vancouver Canucks (3) vs Los Angeles Kings (6)
Alright Canucks fans, don’t hate me for saying this, but I think the Kings are going to beat the Canucks. Don’t get me wrong, this is the best team (by far) the Canucks have put together in years. But with all the pressure on them, their injuries at defence and Roberto Luongo’s inconsistencies, I don’t have a good feeling for the Canucks. I know the Canucks beat the Kings three times this year, but I think the Kings move pucks better and faster than Vancouver and have a quick transition game that will burn the slower Canucks defence. I know Jonathan Quick’s play recently hasn’t been good, but I don’t see that as a factor in this series. Simply put, the Kings are loose and Vancouver know they need a solid post-season run this year.
Verdict: Los Angeles in 7 games.
Phoenix Coyotes (4) vs Detroit Red Wings (5)
This might be the most intriguing 1st round match-up this year. Like I said with the Avalanche, I believe the Coyotes are satisfied with their season and won’t have the same drive the Red Wings will. Ilya Bryzgalov shed his reputation of burning out down the regular season stretch from previous years, but I can’t help but wonder if he’s at all fatigued from this season. He’s finally gotten used to playing 60-70 regular season games per year, but that’s without playoffs. I think Detroit are too strong and too experienced for the young up-tempo Coyotes. And with Jimmy Howard’s play over the second half of the season, he looks poised to have a great Playoff performance. I don’t like betting against this Phoenix team, but dislike betting against Detroit even more.
Verdict: Detroit in 6 games.
There you have it. These are my 1st round predictions. What are your predictions?
Stay classy, NHL Playoffs.
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