Penguins in 5
No team is a bigger surprise in the playoffs than the New York Islanders, who many thought would be vying for the worst team in the NHL, but instead slipped in as the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference. The Islanders reward is a first round matchup against the Penguins, who entered the season and the playoffs as the Stanley Cup favorite. The Penguins can score goals at the drop of a hat and the Islanders questionable penalty kill does not match up well with the weapons in Pittsburgh. However, like the Islanders won a game against the Penguins in the regular season, they will steal one in the series, as the Islanders led by John Tavares have players that can also put the puck in the net. The games will all be high scoring and in the end the Penguins have more firepower to win in five.
Blackhawks in 4
The last time the Chicago Blackhawks won the President’s Trophy, they were stunned in the playoffs by the Minnesota North Stars. Now they face the Minnesota Wild, don’t expect the same outcome. The Blackhawks beat the Wild in two of three regular season matchups, losing once in overtime. Look for Jonathan Toews the favorite to win the Hart Trophy to dominate. The Wild come in having backed in the playoffs, while the Blackhawks started strong and finished strong. The Blackhawks, rank in the top three in offense and the top three in defense and have a strong two way special teams. There is just no way the Wild have a chance in this series as the Blackhawks, who also have the experience of winning a Stanley Cup in 2010 know how to dominate and put teams away early this has sweep written all over it.
Senators in 6
After a disastrous 2012 season, the Canadiens bounced back completely in the lockout shortened 2013 season. Defense is a big reason why as P.K. Subban established himself as one of the best blue liners in the league while Carey Price was one of the best goalies in the NHL. The Senators also rely on defense and they have gotten a boost with the return of last year’s Norris winner Erik Karlsson. During the regular season, the Senators and Canadiens split four games, with two going into overtime. The Senators come in winning six of their last nine games, while Price struggled down the stretch with losses in six of his last eight games. Despite the Senators offensive struggles, their strong play along with a fresh Karlsson and the Canadiens late season struggles has this playoff matchup as perfect upset pick, as the Senators win in six.
Ducks in 5
The Red Wings kept their incredible playoff streak alive, despite looking at times as though it was time to rebuild in Hockey Town. However, the Wings despite making the playoffs every year since 1990 are not the same team that was a perennial favorite in the Western Conference. The retirement of Ncklas Lidstrom has stripped the Red Wings of their leadership and defensive edge in the playoffs, which is a bad thing when facing a Ducks team deep with goal scorers. Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard often struggles against talented teams and the Wings have lost six of their last seven against playoff teams. Though the Red Wings won two of three meetings in the regular season this has Duck written all over it. The Ducks have too many offensive weapons, are a more physical team and have two goalies that are much better than Howard.
Rangers in 6
These two teams must be getting sick of each other as the Rangers and Capitals are meeting in the playoffs for the fourth time in five years. Twice the series has gone to seven games including last year when the Rangers scratched by on their way to the Eastern Conference Finals. During the regular season, the Rangers took all three games, which does not bode well for the Capitals. The Capitals did dig out of a deep hole after a poor start and are playing their best hockey all season, but so are the Rangers who have seemed to be clicking after their deadline deals saw them add toughness and subtract Marian Gaborik who had worked his way into Coach John Tortarella’s dog house. In the end the Rangers have the better defense and more scoring options leading to a series victory in six games.
Sharks in 7
Two teams with questionable playoff histories meet in what is basically a battle of survival. The Canucks have the more talented team, but dropped all three games against the Sharks in the regular season. These two teams are nearly mirror images of each other as the Sharks were one of the top teams in the West for several years only to fail in the playoffs ever year, while the Canucks have suffered the same fate the last two seasons. When these teams are at the top of their game they can win the cup, but when players like the Sedin Twins and Joe Thornton disappear in big games they usually go out with a first round whimper. The Canucks need to erase the memories of the last two years to have a chance. Look for the Sharks to survive a tossup series in seven.
Bruins in 5
The Bruins ended the season in a bit of slump as they lost their grip on first place in the Northeast Division. The Bruins though end up in a fortunate playoff match up as they have completely owned the Toronto Maple Leafs over the last few seasons, winning nine of their last ten games. The Bruins have the edge of experience, winning the cup just two years ago, while the Maple Leafs are in their first playoff series in a decade. While the Leafs have several players with playoff experience, Goalie James Reimer is making his postseason debut. These factors are too much for the Maple Leafs to overcome. In addition with Tuukka Rask in goal, Zdeno Chara on defense, and Patrice Bergeron, Jaromir Jagar and Tyler Seguin leading the scoring attack the Bruins also have the edge in talent and will win this series rather easily in five games.
Kings in 4
The Blues are a fine team, with a great defense and solid goaltending, which if they get on a roll could follow the Kings path from last year to win the Stanley Cup. The problem is they can’t beat the Kings. In the second round last year the Kings swept the Blues and continued their dominance of St. Louis in the regular season, winning three games by a combined score of 14-7. The Kings won the Stanley Cup last season as the eighth seed, and betting against them this year could be a mistake as they are a team that is built to win in the playoffs, with a strong physical defense and a great Goalie in Jonathan Quick , won the Conn Smythe. There are certain teams that just can’t win under any circumstance against an opponent and the Kings are such a foe, as they win this series in fo.