©MMXII Tank Productions. Predictions Made by Frank Fleming on April 11, 2012 at 10:50 pm ET
Rangers in 6
During the regular season, the Rangers had their problems with the Senators losing three of four. However, most of that came early in the season when the Senators were playing at a higher level. The Senators are a team that has run hot and cold through out the year, and lately it's been on the cold side as they went from seventh to eighth in the Eastern Conference. The Rangers have been among the best teams in the NHL all season thanks to the play of Goalie Henrik Lundqvist, who will be the key in this series. The stronger Lundqvist plays, the easier the series will be for the Rangers, as he holds a significant edge of Senators net minder Craig Anderson. The Senators won't go down without a fight as Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson both are experienced in the postseason battles. In the end the Rangers will emerge in six games as Brad Richards who has won a Conn Smythe award will emerge as the Rangers sniper.
Blues in 5
The San Jose Sharks are the team that could never get over the hump. So many times they hit the playoffs as a high seed only to suffer a letdown. This season was nearly a letdown on its own as the Sharks struggled just to make the playoffs. One team they could not beat at all this season was the Blues who won all four regular season match ups while out scoring the team teal 11-3. I can not see that trend reversing itself in the playoffs as the Sharks have never shown any signs of being a team that improves when the chips are on the table. While the Blues have not had any recent playoff success, and only have limited playoff experience, their defense a goaltending has been strong all year, and in the end that is always going to give you an edge in the playoffs. Brian Elliott and Jaraslav Halak have split time in the net all year, Halak only two years ago had a big playoff run with the Canadiens, and if he gets rolling it won't be a shock to see him do it again in St. Louis as the Blues break up the Sharks in five games.
Devils in 5
It has been a long time since the Stanley Cup Playoffs went to South Beach, as the Florida Panthers make their first appearance since 2000. That year they were beaten in four games by the Devils who used it to launch their way to a second Stanley Cup Championship. The Devils are hoping history repeats themselves as they closed the season on a six game winning streak. While Martin Brodeur may is on the verge of turning 40, the Devils have the look of a team ready for one last run of glory. They got a good balanced scoring, with four players who can emerge as the big goal scorer in a series; they also have a solid young defense. Playing the Panthers is almost like getting the eighth seed and if the Devils avoid some of the sloppy mistakes that plagued them in their last two playoff trips they should be able to win this series easily, and perhaps again launching another Cup run in Jersey.
Predators in 7
The Red Wings are the rock of playoff consistency, making the postseason every year since 1991. The Wings are usually a good bet to go past their first round as they have won four Stanley Cups and been to six Cup Finals over that period. The Predators meanwhile made it to the second round for the first time last year and this year they are hoping to go even further. One key for Nashville was getting home ice as the Red Wings have struggled on the road most of the season. The Predators rely heavily on defense and goaltending as Ryan Sutter is the big key for Nashville along with Goalie Pekka Rinne. The Red Wings have the veteran pedigree, which also means they have some old players like Niklas Lidstrom who could be playing for the final time in a Hall of Fame Career. Unfortunately, for Lidsrom and the Wings their goalie Jimmy Howard has been hobbled over the second half with a groin injury. If Howard can shake off the pain and regain his first half form the Red Wins can take off and have a long run. This one has seven games written all over it and in the end the Red Wings road woes and Predators defense will win out.
Penguins in 7
From the day they were both born of expansion in 1967, the Penguins and Flyers have hated each other, as both have always fought hard for Keystone State bragging rights. Both of these teams can get hot and make a run for the Stanley Cup, but only one team will be alive to see round two. This has all the makings of a knockdown dragging em' out seven game war. Both teams can win on each other's ice, and both teams will look to put the other team's star on ice. While the Penguins are getting healthy at the right time the Flyers have some questions as Daniel Briere who has not played since a hard check at the hands of Joe Vitale is someone that could be vital if Philly were to win this series. The Flyers won the regular season series, but with Evgeni Malkin, and Sidney Crosby it is hard to imagine the Flyers, with Goalie and who Iyla Bryzgalov who has never performed well in the playoffs can win this series.
Coyotes in 7
The Phoenix Coyotes are the team nobody wants. Of course Quebec would be happy to have them. However, for now they are stuck wandering the desert and believe or not they could be prime for a big run in the playoffs, even if they are orphaned from their own fan base. The reason is quite simple Mike Smith no goalie has played better over the last month. Smith has been ridiculous in the Coyotes charge for their first ever division title, stopping 190 of his last 195 shots over five games. The Blackhawks meanwhile need Corey Crawford to prove himself in big situations, and need healthy Jonathan Toews who has been out two months with a concussion. Toews is expected to return during the series, but how effective can he be. In the end the Coyotes have the stars aligned, maybe they can get some interest to save the team for Phoenix or get some momentum to make fans in Quebec thirst. Either way the team once called the Winnipeg Jets will win their first playoff series in 25 years, even though it will likely take seven games to do it.
Canucks in 7
The Canucks have won the President's Trophy for the second year in a row, and this time they hope to bring home the Stanley Cup to Canada after last year's final heartbreak. However, if they are to erase past playoff failures the Canucks will need Henrik and Daniel Sedin to step it up and they will need Goalie Roberto Luongo to have a short memory. Unfortunately for the Canucks they draw a Kings team that is a tight checking team just like the Bruins. The Kings also have a goalie in Jonathan Quick that can steal a game or two. If the Canucks begin to feel the collard tightening they could be picked off in the first round. However, the Kings offense is one of the worst in the NHL and in the end that will be the difference as Canucks survive a tight seven game series that will have fans in the Pacific Northwest biting their nails throughout.
Bruins in 5
The Washington Capitals have a legacy of playoff letdowns. Each of the last two seasons they were the top seed in the East, and they have yet to even sniff the Conference Finals. Meanwhile the Boston Bruins hold the crown as Stanley Cup Champions having upset the Vancouver Canucks last season. In upsetting the Canucks the Bruins used a tough defense and that outstanding goaltending of Tim Thomas to shutdown and frustrate the Sedin twins. The Capitals have their own skilled superstar in Alex Ovechkin, who has yet to come up big in the playoffs. Look for Zdeno Chara to get under Ovechkin's skin and create undisciplined mistakes and errors as Ovechkin's legacy of postseason letdowns continues. The Bruins will be tough to beat from any team let alone a Capitals team that underachieved and dealt with injuries most of the season. This series will be over quickly as the Bruins take it in five games.