Here it is fans, some of the most exciting weeks in all of professional sports are the NHL playoffs. Starting Wednesday and ending, well sometime this summer (seems like August) the fast-paced frenzy of ice skates and pucks will run until we will find out who carries home Lord Stanley’s Cup.
The NHL Western Conference has some new teams in the hunt this year, while the NHL Eastern Conference has some old dogs up to the usual tricks. So, who has what it takes this year? Well hop on board as I break down all eight first round match-ups. Strap on the skates and lets go!
1. San Jose Sharks vs 8. Colorado Avalanche
Is it finally the year of “The Shark”? Well not just this Shark, but the guys from San Jose. After multiple playoff failures with very good teams, many in San Jose think this is the year. Adding players with fire and passion like Dany Heatley this off-season and adding more size as well as speed have the Sharks looking very good heading into the post season. The Colorado Avalanche have a very young squad, and are learning on the go. As good has they have played for what was expected from them, they are outmatched here. Sharks goalie Evgeni Nabokov is one of those net minders that you see nightly on ESPN during the playoffs making the huge saves, and carrying his squad far. We do not expect much trouble for the 1 seed here, this is not your fathers Sharks nor his Avs.
Prediction: Sharks in 5
2. Chicago Blackhawks vs 7. Nashville Predators
[adinserter name=”366 left”]Lots of good stuff happening here for a red hot Chicago Blackhawks team that ended the regular season 6-0-1. All-Star defenseman Brian Campbell will be ready to return from injury and Olympic star Patrick Kane is turning into one of the best overall players in the league. Oh and did I mention that Marian Hossa is a Blackhawk? He has been to the last two NHL Stanley Cup finals, so maybe some luck spills Chicago’s way as well. The Nashville Predators play good defense and can be stingy, but in the four seasons they have made the playoffs they have yet to win a single road playoff game. Not the kind of track record you want to bring into an arena as tough as Chicago’s. Young goalie Antti Niemi outplayed Cristobel Huet and will be getting the nod for the Hawks. No matter what we know Nashville will show up and work, but they don’t have what it takes to finish, and should be gone quickly.
Prediction: Blackhawks in 5
3. Vancouver Canucks vs 6. Los Angeles Kings
Shhhh, don’t look now but while most of the NHL was doing its thing the Vancouver Canucks have snuck up and become one of the better teams in this league. The Canucks always put a good dose of speed and puck handlers out on the ice and this season is no exception, led by the Sedin twins, Ryan Kesler, and a sturdy, and deep defense. Roberto Luongo was the man to save Canada in the Olympics, now it’s his turn to try and get the Canucks a long awaited Cup. The Kings bring youth and an Eastern style of game with size and strength on its side. If LA can jump out early in games and force that size on Vancouver we may be in for a tough series and a long hard fought war. If Vancouver gets out quick, and allows the defense to control the game with puck handling, we will see very little of the Kings. This should be a good playoff series, and LA will make the Canucks earn it here.
Prediction: Canucks in 6
4. Phoenix Coyotes vs 5. Detroit Red Wings
[adinserter name=”366 right”]Just a few short months ago, it looked like the Detroit Red Wings streak of playoff runs would be over and we would be looking at a new king of the west. Enter an amazing run of 17-3-2 to end the season, the best in hockey by far, along with coach Mike Babcock’s savvy and knack for winning and you have the same old Red Wings. The talent is still there, though aging a tad and this time they will rely on young goaltender Jimmy Howard to start. Phoenix is quite the feel good story of the NHL. After coach Wayne Gretzky stepped down, new coach Dave Tippet stepped in and made this a well coached, well prepared hockey team ,night in and night out. Coyotes goalie Ilya Bryzgalov is the key to anything the Coyotes can do, but with limited experience going against “Masters of this field” I can’t see Phoenix doing much here, but learning how it’s done. Good series, but a quick farewell for the most improved NHL team this season.
Prediction: Red Wings in 6
Enjoy the first round, and I will be back with more predictions as the playoffs continue!
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