Bruins in 7
You can throw out the records when these two rivals from the original six clash, as their series usually go the distance. Last year with the two teams on opposite ends of the spectrum went seven games with the Bruins nearly coming back from a 3-1 deficit, before dropping Game 7. During the regular season the Bruins took five of six, but that does not matter either, as the Canadiens spent much of the season underachieving. The Canadiens may not be the Cup contender their fans thought they were when the season began, but they will not go out quietly as they will make life very uncomfortable for Boston, before bowing in seven.
Sharks in 6
Another series where the records don’t matter, as the battle of California, should be a good early test for the Sharks. Keep in mind despite being the eighth seed these Ducks won the Stanley Cup just two seasons ago, and despite the Sharks great season everything will depend on how they do in the playoffs. The Sharks health could be a key in a long hard fought series, as team needed to raid their AHL roster several times in March. However, in the end the Sharks have the experience and the youth to out last the Ducks, who may be making a playoff curtain call as many of their core players may not be there next year.
Capitals in 5
Last year the Capitals were playoff rookies, and were happy just to be there, as they lost to the Flyers in seven games, this year they have a designs on playing deep into May. The Rangers are a good playoff match up for them, as they lack defense to stop Alex Ovchkin, and the Capitals high powered offense, nor the offense to win a high scoring game. Unless Goalie Henrik Lundqvist is able to summon a superhero like effort this series will be a quick one, as the Capitals, won three of four in the regular season against the Rangers, with the only loss coming on a shoot out.
Red Wings in 5
Congratulations Columbus you have finally made the playoffs after eight long years of trying. Now your reward is the defending champion, Detroit Red Wings; a team with more winning playoff experience then anyone else. The Blue Jackets on the other hand are just happy to be in the playoffs, and that usually lead to a quick exit. In the regular season these two teams split six meetings, and the Jackets do have a sizeable goaltending edge in dynamic rookie Steve Mason, but he too has zero playoff experience, and playing in the postseason is quite different, and the Wings will be a good lesson for the Blue Jackets in the future.
Devils in 7
The Hurricanes present a number of match-up problems for the Devils and do have the playoff experience required to go far, and they did win three of four during the regular season, but the Devils have the big X factor, and that is the greatest goalie of all-time Martin Brodeur. At the end of the season the Devils did struggle a little, losing six in a row, as they lost out on a chance to make a run for the top spot in the East. Look it for it to be a tough hard fought series, with possibly a few games going into overtime. However, in the end it will be Brodeur and the Devils, as playoff warriors like Bobby Holik, Brendan Shanahan and Brian Rolston always find a way to shine in the playoffs.
Canucks in 5
The two teams that have been the hottest over the last ten weeks meet in a first round playoff battle. After spending most of the first half struggling at the bottom of the Western Conference, the Blues posted a 21-7-6 record to slip into the playoffs. Around the same time the Canucks have been just as hot posting a 23-7-2 after February 1st. While the Canucks are expected to be here, the Blues are a big surprise especially after losing Eric Johnson at the start of the year. In addition the best player on the ice is Canucks Goalie Roberto Luongo, who will make the big difference and will win the series in five games.
Penguins in 5
Another good natural rivalry match up in the first round, as the Penguins and Flyers meet in a rematch of the Eastern Conference Finals from last season. The Flyers are pretty much the same team they were last season, a good team that given the right match ups could return to the conference finals, but not a complete team. The Penguins meanwhile are peaking at the right time, as the same they have posted a 18-3-4 record since Dan Bylsma took over the coaching reigns. The Penguins who took four of six from the Flyers in the regular season are also the healthier team, as the Flyers struggled down the stretch losing a chance to have the home ice edge in the battle of Pennsylvania.
Blackhawks in 5
Welcome back to the NHL Chicago. Its been a long time since the Blackhawks mattered, and with stars like Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews they should matter for years to come. While like the Blue Jackets the Blackhawks are playoff rookies, who could be subject to the butterflies that create game costing mistakes, but their match up is fit to order for them to win as they swept the Flames in four meetings this season. The Flames are going into the playoffs as the coldest team still standing as injuries cost them the division title, while Goalie Miikka Kiprusoff who looked to be a Vezina contender struggled with fatigue down the stretch as he played in all but six games this season for the Flames.