Originally posted on The Predatorial  |  Last updated 4/30/13
With the start of the Stanley Cup Playoffs beginning tonight, it’s time we make our predictions for Round 1. Chicago Blackhawks (1) vs Minnesota Wild (8): This one should be an easy lock. If Minnesota is going to win ANY game in this entire series, Nick Backstrom is going to have be impregnable. Zach Parise is going to have to find the back of the net. Ryan Suter is going to have to find a way to stop BOTH Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, but as Predators fans know…just because you stop their top talent, it doesn’t mean their depth won’t burn you. Chicago is deeper, more talented, more balanced, and just an overall better team. I pick Chicago in four games. If you are a betting person, I’d at least bet on Chicago to win the series. Free money. Anaheim Ducks (2) vs Detroit Red Wings (7): Kind of a toughie here, Anaheim seems to be a team that could cause some real damage in the playoffs, but the Detroit Red Wings…when they get hot? It’s tough to stop the Winged Wheel from rolling through. That’s the scenario, here. Detroit has caught fire at the right time (kind of like if Columbus would have made the playoffs) and they’re going to be extremely difficult to stop. Hiller and Fasth have been suspect coming down the stretch and if that continues in the first round, the Wings will burn them very quickly. I pick Detroit in six games. Vancouver Canucks (3) vs San Jose Sharks (6): This could be the one matchup I may be wrong on. It’s hard to ever bet against the Canucks in the first round, unless they’re playing a hot team (like Los Angeles) or if they’re just playing Chicago, but I have a feeling like it’s going to be Choke City in British Columbia here very soon. San Jose was able to survive a poor stretch of games with little to no offensive outbursts to still make it into the playoffs. The reason? Antii Niemi. I’ve always thought Niemi was a mediocre-at-best goaltender. Yet, in this series, he could easily and most likely will be the X-Factor. I pick San Jose in six games. St. Louis Blues (4) vs Los Angeles Kings (5): Boy oh boy, what a slugfest this one is going to be. Even though Los Angeles trounced St. Louis last year in the Western Conference Semifinals, this early rematch is going to be THE series to watch in the first round. With the Blues playing some great defensive hockey, especially with D-men Jay Bouwmeester and Jordan Leopold added at the trade deadline, it’s going to be interesting to see if they can shut down the Kings this go-around. That being said? I don’t think they will. I think it will go the distance, making for some of the best hockey-on-tv I’ve seen since probably Dallas/San Jose back in 2008 (where four of the six games in the series went to overtime, including a four overtime marathon game). Yet, the Kings are going to ignite their playoff fire and go on to the semifinals. I pick the Kings in seven games. Pittsburgh Penguins (1) vs New York Islanders (8): Tough matchup to get in the first round for the New York Islanders, seeing a stacked and loaded Penguins roster with a very possible Stanley Cup Final path in their vision. The Islanders are going to have to exploit some of the obvious holes in net for the Penguins to stand a chance in this series while getting superb goaltending Evgeni Nabokov, a playoff veteran. If for some reason, the Islanders can shut down the Penguins superstars and put some pucks in the net themselves, they’ll win a couple games, but they’re not going to win this series. I pick Pittsburgh in five games Montreal Canadiens (2) vs Ottawa Senators (7): Interesting All-Canada battle in this series. Ottawa is a real possibility of being a true sleeper pick in the playoffs, like their #7 counterpart in the West (Detroit). However, Montreal wasn’t even supposed to be in the playoffs this season, as most had already written them off. Yet, with one of the best records in the NHL this season, it’s hard to write them off at this stage in the game. Ottawa is getting healthy at the right time, but I don’t think it will be enough to get past Montreal. I pick Montreal in five games. Washington Capitals (3) vs New York Rangers (6): Already getting a lot of flack from some of my associates for this pick, but I’ll have to explain myself. Washington is an enigma of a team. Just when you expect them to be good, they end up being awful. When you expect them to be awful, they turn it around and surprise you. That is absolutely the case this season. One of the teams that slid so far down the ladder and shocked the hockey community with their poor start rebounded and came back in the second half of the condensed season. Alex Ovechkin is on fire, Braden Holtby is as well, and with former Predators Joel Ward and Martin Erat in the lineup? What’s not to like about them? I honestly believe this matchup is going to be a catalyst for the end of John Tortorella’s tenure with the Rangers. It’s going to take seven games, but it’s going to end bitterly for the Blue Shirts and Tortorella may find himself in the hot seat more than ever. I pick Washington in seven games. Boston Bruins (4) vs Toronto Maple Leafs (5): I pick Toronto in five games. Just because I want to believe in the Leafs
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