Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Playoffs Are Here: Fearless First Round Predictions

The View has never been one to shy away from playoff predictions, and as we get set for the start of the Stanley Cup playoffs, it is time to roll out those fearless prognostications. So without further ado, here we go:

Western Conference

Chicago (1) vs. Minnesota (8)

The Wild squeaked into the playoffs and drew the hottest team in the NHL in the form of the Blackhawks. The Hawks are clicking on all cylinders right now and don't appear to have any chinks in their armor. Their only concern might be the health of Ray Emery. Should Corey Crawford falter and Emery cannot go, then the dynamic for the Blackhawks gets a bit dicier. The Wild cannot match the offensive firepower of the Hawks, and that same offensive talent will overwhelm the defense of the Wild. This one is over early

Hawks in 5

Anaheim (2) vs. Detroit (7)

The Ducks quietly put together a very solid season, reversing their fortunes of last year. Once again, Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, and Bobby Ryan are a formidable offensive threat. The Dorian Gray of hockey, Teemu Selanne, continues to impress with his productivity and total game. The Wings are led by the outstanding duo of Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg, but unlike years past, the depth scoring for the Wings is lacking. If Detroit is going to have an opportunity to win this series, Jimmy Howard is going to have to play out of his mind. I don't see it happening.

Anaheim in 6

Vancouver (3) vs  San Jose (6)

Vancouver has more talent and has the potential to dive right into the second round (see what I did there) without too much trouble. That is, if they don't let the Sharks physical game get them rattled. Vancouver has to prove they are tough mentally and cannot be taken off their game in a rough and tumble series. For the Sharks, their window of opportunity to get to the Cup finals is fast closing. That could change if Patrick Marleau can re-discover his game (1 goal in his last 15 contests) and the Sharks D can help support Antii Niemi. Essential for the Sharks will be to contain the top two lines of the Canucks, while the Canucks are going to look to use their offensive talent to rip the heart out of the Sharks. Look for the Canucks to do that.

Canucks in 5

St. Louis (4) vs Los Angeles (5)

A re-match of last year's second round series between these teams will be, in my view, perhaps the most entertaining of the first round match ups. LA ran the Blues off the ice in their series last season, and the Blues are very cognizant of that and will look to seize early momentum in this series on their home ice. Brian Elliott is more experienced and will once again shoulder the load. The painful lessons of last year's playoff round will serve the Blues well, but it will not be an easy series. The Kings have a certain swagger about them, and they know they can win it all after last year. Combine that attitude with the physical nature of their game and the ability to absolutely explode for goals  and the Blues will have their hands full. The edge in this series will be Jonathan Quick, who will out-duel Elliott.

Kings in 7

Eastern Conference

Pittsburgh (1) vs New York Islanders (8)

The Islanders are the feel good story of the playoffs. After enduring several years of futility on the ice coupled with uncertainty about where the team will play, the Isles started to jell and play some very good hockey. John Tavares is the marquee name, and Johnny T is going to have to do yeoman's work in this series for the Isles to have a chance. The real story for the isles will be the play of Evgeny Nabokov. If he is strong in net and can get some goal support, the Isles will make this a competitive series. Pittsburgh, even if Sidney Crosby is out of the line up, will have too much firepower for the Isles. Trouble looms for the Pens if Marc-Andre Fleury is off his game or if the team overlooks the hungry Isles. It won't happen.

Pens in 5

Montreal (2) vs Ottawa (7)

An intriguing match up here because Carey price has struggled of late in net for the Canadiens. if Price regains his form and settles down, the Habs should take care of business. For Ottawa, the return of Eric Karlsson is a decided plus, but his game is still rounding back into shape, and the rigors of playoff games may expose him if he is not 100%. The Sens have to have a strong series from Craig Anderson and they have to be physical with a smaller Habs lineup. Home ice is a decided advantage and will help tip this series toward the Canadiens.

Montreal in 6

Washington (3) vs New York Rangers (6)

For Washington, they want to keep what on doing what they have been doing, and that is putting the puck in the net. Alex ovechkin found his game in the second half of the season, and he begin to score, so did the rest of the team. That has to continue for the Caps to capture this series, obviously, but perhaps more importantly for their success will the play of Braden Holtby. Holtby is going to have to shut down the Rangers attack, or at least keep the Caps close and hope they have enough offense to win games. Henrik Lundqvist is key to the Rangers chances. If he can shut down the scoring attack of the Caps, they will begin to press and get away from their level of play that made them successful. In my view, this may be the most compelling series in the East.

Washington in 7

Boston (4) vs Toronto (5)

If- and this is a big if- Boston plays their game and to their talent level, they will win this series. Tuuka Rask has been solid in net, and the Bruins have the physical capabilities of wearing down any opponent. However, their play over the last third of the season was spotty and their power play atrocious. The Bruins need to relax and play their style of hockey. And welcome back to the playoffs, Toronto. An energetic and exciting squad that can play very good hockey will give the Bruins a challenge in this series. James Reimer is going to see his first playoff action, and this will be a challenge for the young netminder. It is going to be critical that Joffrey Lupol, Phil Kessel, and Nazim Kadri step of their game if the Leafs are going to have an opportunity to win this series. They will give it a good effort, but I think the Bruins shut them down.

Boston in 6

There you have it... fearless first round predictions. Remember- these are for entertainment purposes only, but if you do win any money betting on these picks, I need a cut.

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