by PuckStopsHere on 04/13/10 at 02:11 PM ET
The first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs opens tomorrow. Here are my predictions on the first round series.
Washington defeats Montreal Montreal has Jaroslav Halak in goal, who is one of the hottest goalies in the league and that is reason to think an upset is not impossible, but Washington is too good. They have too strong a team. They were first place and had the biggest goal differential in the league. They have too many offensive weapons to lose in the first round to an eighth seed, who would have been 12th in the west with the same record.
New Jersey defeats Philadelphia Philadelphia’s goalie problems make them likely first round fodder. It will be hard to win with Brian Boucher in goal. New Jersey could be the quickest first round winner, although the Flyers will attempt to rough them up in the process.
Buffalo defeats Boston This could be the best goaltended series. Ryan Miller is the likely Vezina winner and e is the Boston goalie. Tuukka Rask led the goalies in the league statistically (GAA and saves percentage) but in significantly fewer games and was the top goalie down the stretch. Most likely Buffalo will have the better offence. Boston was the lowest scoring team in the NHL this season and is without Marc Savard, who is their most talented offensive player. Buffalo may not be an offensive dynamo, but they will likely be the higher scoring team.
Pittsburgh defeats Ottawa The Sens would be a strong playoff team if they had reliable goaltending, but I see no reason to count on Brian Elliot to provide it. Pittsburgh is the defending Stanley Cup champions and has a potent group of stars that have given them big playoff runs in the past. They should be too much for the Sens.
San Jose defeats Colorado Everyone likes to joke about San Jose as a playoff choker. I think the reputation is largely unjustified and last year was the only time they really fell short in the playoffs. Even if we put some credence in that reputation (the same way everyone knew the 1997 Red Wings were playoff chokers when those playoffs began), Colorado is not the team to stop them. Colorado qualified for playoffs with a fast start in October and looked like they would have lost their berth if the season went another month. They are not likely to pull an upset.
Chicago defeats Nashville Nashville is a team with a top scorer with 51 points (Patrick Hornqvist and Steve Sullivan tie). That lack of a big scorer keeps them from being a serious playoff contender. Chicago had five players with at least that many points and offers a top defence as well. They should be too much for Nashville, but the scrappy Predators could make for some close games.
Vancouver defeats Los Angeles Vancouver has the high flying Sedin twins driving their offence. They have Roberto Luongo in goal and he should be a strong playoff goaltender (although questions do exist). These are advantages that the Kings cannot match. Los Angeles is back in the playoffs for the first time since 2002, but they probably won’t have much of a run.
Detroit defeats Phoenix Phoenix is the Cinderella story of the season. They emerged from bankruptcy and league ownership to have a surprisingly strong season. Meanwhile, Detroit struggled through early season injuries and Chris Osgood in goal and for a while looked like they could miss the playoffs. Players recovered from injury and Jimmy Howard took over in the net and Detroit has looked much better. They are the dangerous lower seed that could beat a higher seed and Phoenix is the Cinderella story that is lucky to be in a top seed. This is a situation where the lower seed is a significantly better team and should win the series.
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