Well at the beginning of the season, I said the San Jose Sharks would hoist the Stanley Cup by defeating the Washington Capitals. I am gonna stay with that choice, but in this post I will breakdown the first round match ups.
1. Boston Bruins vs. 8. Montreal Canadians. (Boston won season series 5-1)- Long storied rivalry, but the Bruins should have no problem with the Habs. My pick Boston in 5.
2. Washington Capitals vs. New York Rangers (Washington won season series 3-1) The Caps power play vs the Rangers penalty kill is what this series could boil down to. The Rangers should do fine in this area. Also Henrik Lundquist is capable of stealing a series by himself and he should keep the Rangers in it. I like the Rangers to push it to 7 games but in the end, Ovechkin and the Caps are the better team. My pick is the Caps in 7.
3. New Jersey Devils vs. 6. Carolina Hurricanes (Carolina won season series 3-1)- The Devils have been reeling as of late, while the Canes have possibly been the best team in the NHL down the stretch. The Devils have Broduer, but the Canes can match the play in the net with Cam Ward. The Canes have been great since Feb. 15, netting 38 points. Only the Pens (40) have more in the East in that time. My pick is the Canes in 6.
4. Pittsburgh Penguins vs. 5. Philadelphia Flyers (Pittsburgh won season series 4-2)- These two teams know each other oh, so well. No surprises here between the two. It's going to be physical. A series like this can take a toll on a team so if the Pens want to make a run, they better make it a short series. I like Marc-Andre Fluery over Marty Biron in this series. Similar to last season, I expect Fluery to carry the Pens on a long post season march. The key for the Pens will be to limit the Flyers potent power play. I think they will, because their penalty kill has been tremendous under Dan Bylsma. Expect Sid Crosby and Evgeni Malkin to get hit alot, but the Stall-Kennedy-Cooke line which has been awesome, will score some big, timely goals. No team has been better than the Pens since mid February. My pick is the Pens in 6.
1. San Jose Sharks vs 8. Anaheim Ducks (San Jose won season series 4-2)- I pick the Sharks to win every year, and this could be the year. The Sharks are getting healthy at the right time and Evegeni Nabokov got a little rest this season, as he didn't have to play 75 plus games. The Ducks shouldn't pose a threat. My pick is San Jose in 5.
2. Detroit Red Wings vs 7. Columbus Blue Jackets (Season Series tied 3-3)- I had Columbus pegged to defeat Vancouver, but the late surge by St. Louis drops the Blue Jackets to the 7 seed. I just don't like this match up as much for them. The one thing they have is better goaltending. Mason can steal this series for them. In the end, I think Columbus will push the defending champs to a game 7, but the playoff experience of the Red Wings will eventually win out. My pick is Detroit in 7.
3. Vancouver Canucks vs. 6. St. Louis Blues (season series tied 2-2)- Vancouver has great goaltending and it should be enough to carry them to victory. The Blues are a gritty bunch though and won't go down without a fight. St. Louis has been playing playoff hockey for over a month now and I think that will help. Since they have been playing well lately, I'm going with the upset in this one. My pick is St. Louis in 7.
4. Chicago Blackhawks vs. 5. Calgary Flames (Chicago won season series 4-0)- Chicago has so much young talent and is such a fun team to watch. I planned on picking Calgary here, but this isn't a good match up for them. The Hawks have handled them pretty easy. Calgary's late season additions were supposed to help on a playoff run, but I don't think they get past the first round. The only worry for Chicago is on how their youngster handle their first playoff series. My pick is Chicago in 6.