In two weeks time these predictions may make me look entirely silly, but that’s the risk you run with predictions, especially in playoff hockey. Since silly is the name of the game when it comes to playoff hockey here are my first-round predictions:
The Washington Capitals will beat the New York Rangers in five games because of their new commitment to defense and Alex Ovechkin continuing to find his game. Even though the Rangers won three of four meetings in the regular season, the Capitals have found their game lately.
The Philadelphia Flyers will sweep the Buffalo Sabres in four games because of their tremendous offensive depth. Even though Philadelphia hasn’t been playing their best lately it will easily devour a middle-of-the-road Buffalo team.
The Montreal Canadiens will beat the Bruins in seven games because Carey Price has a lot to prove. The rest of the Habs should be awfully ornery after their latest loss to their rival, a 7-0 blowout. Perhaps some ghosts of playoff past make an appearance.
The Pittsburgh Penguins will take the Tampa Bay Lightning in six games because of experience. Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis and Pavel Kubina are the only players left from the Lightning’s 2004 Cup-winning team, Ryan Malone and Dwayne Roloson both have been to the Stanley Cup Final. Aside from these players this Tampa bunch is awfully green will be taught a lesson by the Pens with or without Sidney Crosby.
The Vancouver Canucks will beat the Chicago Blackhawks in six games because Chicago certainly isn’t the team that won the Stanley Cup last season. Sure, Chicago still has Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith but they will miss the depth guys like Andrew Ladd and the clutch goal scoring of Dustin Byfuglien. On the flip side, Vancouver has been a force to be reckoned with all season long led by the Sedin twins and Roberto Luongo.
The Los Angeles Kings will defeat the San Jose Sharks in seven games in a classic all-California series because Drew Doughty is a force and this club learned plenty in last season’s six-game first-round loss to Vancouver. How can you not go with the underdog in this series with San Jose’s long history of playoff disappointment? The choke has become the rule and not the exception in northern California.
The Detroit Red Wings will beat the Phoenix Coyotes in five games because banking on a strong Detroit team in the post season makes as much sense as counting on a San Jose playoff disappointment. The Coyotes were the darlings of the first round in the Western Conference last season taking Detroit to seven games, but this time around Nicklas Lidstrom and Co. have an easier time with Ilya Brzygalov and a Coyotes team few picked to even make it past game 82.
The Anaheim Ducks will beat the Nashville Predators in seven games because of their offensive firepower and the surprising emergence of Ray Emery. Nashville is pretty far from an offensive juggernaut, but has always played a defense-first system with coach Barry Trotz in place. Even though “defense wins championships,” goals have to be scored as well and Nashville just doesn’t have the scoring strength to compete with the likes of the NHL’s leading goal scorer Corey Perry, not to mention Ryan Getzlaf, an ageless Teemu Selanne, Bobby Ryan etc.
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