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Lots to like in an intriguing first round

Can’t say I remember as many intriguing first-round matchups for the Stanley Cup Playoffs as we are seeing this spring. By my count, there are four western Conference teams and five in the East who can make pretty good cases to enjoy a long spring this time around and some of the matchups are really pretty interesting to be sure.

Let’s start in the West.

Vancouver (1) vs. Los Angeles (8)—This is pretty short and sweet. Just don’t see the Canucks stumbling this early on. In many cases, it’s easy to say “throw out the regular season standings”, but here the numbers don’t lie. Canucks win this in a sweep.

St. Louis (2) vs. San Jose (7)—Always have been a Ken Hitchcock admirer and this may be his best coaching job in turning the Blues into a Western Conference power. Solid goaltending and attention to detail defensive detail still can take you a long way in the playoffs, and the Sharks just haven’t impressed me. Blues take this in six games

Phoenix (3) vs. Chicago (6)—Like St. Louis, the Coyotes have been a strong defensive team this season and those clubs normally are accustomed to the collective sacrifice needed to succeed in the postseason. The Blackhawks have more stars, but you can make a strong case for the Coyotes winning this series in seven games.

Nashville (4) vs. Detroit (5)—This is the best Western series of the first round to me. Not much separated the Preds and Wings in the regular season and the onus is on Nashville to finally get into the postseason and make some noise. There is lots to like about the Predators, but the Red Wings have made a believer of me and I just don’t see Detroit making an early exit here. Figure the Wings move on in six games.

In the East, the matchups may well be even more interesting, but I’m just not getting a sense that there will be a lot of first-round upsets.

New York Rangers (1) vs. Ottawa Senators (8)—Let’s refer back to the regular-season standings here once again. The Rangers were tops in the East for a reason. The senators were eighth for a reason. I just don’t smell an upset here unless there is a catastrophic injury for the Rangers. The most interesting thing about this series may well be to see if the New York newspapers can stop chirping about the mediocre Knicks and the Jets’ Tim Tebow long enough to cover it.

Boston Bruins (2) vs. Washington Capitals (7)—As defending champs, the Bruins are flying under the radar thanks to the onus that has been placed on the Penguins, and to a lesser degree, the Rangers. That’s a good place for the Bruins, who can just go about their business. What has been a disappointing season in Washington figures to end after five games of this series.

Florida Panthers (3) vs. New Jersey Devils (6)—Getting the Panthers back into the postseason should earn GM Dale Tallon and coach Kevin Dineen some well-earned applause. But the Devils are a very solid team that has been overlooked during the regular season. New Jersey wins this in five games.

Pittsburgh Penguins (4) vs. Philadelphia Flyers (5)—All eyes will be on this season and with good reason. Both teams don’t like one another not even a little bit and this one figures to be nasty as all get-out. But it won’t be a long series, as the Flyers’ goaltending betrays them again with the Penguins winning in five.

And just remember folks, all this “wisdom” goes right out the door as soon as the first puck hits the ice. But my one prediction will come true. These playoffs should be a lot of fun to watch. Enjoy!

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Comments

NHLJeff's avatar

This seems to finally be the year, due to their struggles in the regular season, that people finally discount the Sharks.  I think coming in under the radar this year will serve them well, and they will turn up their game for the postseason and take at least this series against the Blues (in 6) and possibly more….we’ll see!

Posted by NHLJeff from Pens fan in Chicago, IL on 04/11/12 at 02:43 PM ET

Avatar

That’s a really good point Jeff. For how many years have the Sharks been the “it” team in the West? Now, they aren’t the flavor of the day and could excel by hiding in the weeds.

Like you said, we’ll see and it should be fun watching.

Posted by pcoffey on 04/11/12 at 03:14 PM ET

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About Iced Coffey

Phil Coffey has covered the NHL since 1981, most recently as the Senior Editorial Director of NHL.com. He spent over 11 years there.