Wednesday, April 13, 2011

2011 NHL Playoffs Predictions: Round 1

If your favorite team made it this far, then congratulations. So, continuing on with the traditional playoff predictions, I hope I am wrong with some of them. This is the first year that all three California teams have made it to the post-season. And the Vancouver Canucks are the only hope that Canada has to bring the cup back to Canada. But Every year that Canada hosts a Winter Olympics, that team has won the Stanley Cup. Interesting stat, eh?

Western Conference

Vancouver v. Chicago
The Canucks fans have been patiently waiting to get some playoff success. But now they bear the curse of the President's trophy. But the other end, the defending Champs had to back-end themselves into the playoffs by depending on someone else to lose. It's a tough call. Look for Luongo to possibly drag this one out to 7, but look for the Canucks to choke - like they do every year.

Prediction: Chicago in 7

San Jose vs Los Angeles

In the first battle of California matchup to be featured in the playoffs, this is going to be a good one as well. San Jose is known for falling flat in the playoffs every year. Look for the Finish combo of Niemi and Niittymaki to remember their previous playoff success with other teams. The true test of LA's resurgence will be how well their young core of players can perform under the pressures of the post-season. I like Wayne Simmons and Dustin Brown to stand out for the Kings.
Prediction: San Jose in 6

Detroit vs. Phoenix
This is a repeat of last year's match-up. But the Coyotes are looking better than last year's group. Dave Tippet can get them motivated and ready for a Wings team that is still old and spent a lot of time on the DL. With no depth in goal, the Wings may not make it to round 2 this time. Look for Doan to be a leader. But how many people will show up in the desert?

Prediction: Phoenix in 5

Anaheim vs Nashville
Quietly, the Ducks brought themselves into playoff contention with what could be the swan song for Koivu and Selanne. Look for Fisher to figure in the Nashville offense. I think it's their year to get past round 1.

Prediction: Nashville in 7

Eastern Conference

Washington v. N.Y. Rangers
Another opening round match-up repeat as the Capitals surge all the way up to the number 1 spot despite struggling all through the season. The Rangers barely made it and despite all their changes before the trade deadline, they underachieved. Look for Ovechkin to run up the score.

Prediction: Washington in 6

Philadelphia v. Buffalo
The Flyers have no goalie, but Buffalo does. Ryan Miller checks into high gear in the real intense games just like he did in the Olympics. I also like the backup Enroth. But the young players like Vanek and Myers may need to come back next year after this first playoff experience. Look for Mike Richards and Jeff Carter with Versteeg mentioned often in the boxscore.

Prediction: Philadelphia in 5

Montreal v. Boston
Can this rivalry this year get any bigger? 2 of the Original 6 has made the drama-meter break every conceivable record this season. Look for Chara to bust some heads and roll over Montreal. I don't know if the entire Quebec province is going to call the cops on this one.

Prediction: Boston in 4

Pittsburgh v. Tampa Bay

If Sid Crosby doesn't play, then the Penguins are done in 4. But if the Penguins can somehow see that they are going to have to operate for 60 minutes a game, they can maybe pull this off. Look for St. Louis and company to keep the scoring up on the Pens. Dwayne Roloson will play inspired as it's his likely last season.
Prediction: Tampa Bay in 7
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