Good match-ups, upset potential in first round of NHL playoffs
Posted April 17
The lockers have been cleaned out, the players and head coach of the Carolina Hurricanes have addressed the media and the song remains the same, the PNC arena will be without playoff hockey again.
That doesn’t mean that the Triangle has to give up on the NHL post-season. There are plenty of good match-ups in the first round to hold your attention. The first round has upset potential with the new format, where the second and third place finishers in the division square-off against each other.
In the East
Boston looks to be the beast of the conference. This team went to the Finals last year and was a few seconds away from forcing a game seven. The first round match-up for the Bruins this year would have been a solid Stanley Cup Finals from years past. The Detroit Red Wings fresh from a move from west to east try to take out the defending Eastern Conference champs. The Wings suffered injury upon injury this year, and still found a way to make the playoffs. I have to show the Red Wings some respect, but they are too beat up to knock out the Bruins. Boston in 6.
Pittsburgh and Columbus already have a game in the books and two former Carolina Hurricanes came up big. Jussi Jokinen and Brandon Sutter netted huge goals as the Penguins erased a two goal deficit to take game one. Columbus also new to the Eastern Conference showed they have the makings of a playoff contender, but Pittsburgh has too much offense in this match-up. Pens eliminate the Blue Jackets in 5.
The Metro division playoff has longtime rivals Philadelphia and the New York Rangers dancing. Philly has Claude Giroux and toughness that can pose problems for most teams. The New York Rangers have the best goalie in the game in Henrik Lunqvist and they added Martin St Louis at the trade deadline for scoring punch. The goaltending edge is too big to ignore in this one and the Rangers have it. New York in 7.
Montreal and Tampa Bay both have the ability to score a lot of goals. Game one going to overtime showed that. Montreal taking game one in Tampa with a 5-4 overtime victory was a huge step moving forward through the round. Tampa has played great under first year coach John Cooper, playing an unorthodox style of hockey, but not having goalie Ben Bishop, who will miss the series with an elbow injury, will be huge loss for the Lightning. The Habs have the better blue line and now definitely have the better goalie in Carey Price. Montreal in 6.
Out West almost every series could go the distance
Anaheim has been invincible at home this year and the Ducks will have home ice all the way through the western playoffs. Dallas squeaked into the post season but they are no fluke team. The Stars have plenty of offense from Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn, and Hurricanes fans might remember that Ray Whitney and Erik Cole are capable of producing playoff magic. Anaheim is built for the post season, and while head coach Bruce Boudreau hasn’t had playoff success behind the bench, this team isn’t the flawed Washington teams he guided into the post season. Oh and with Teemu Selanne playing in his last post-season, the Ducks aren’t bowing out early. The Ducks took game one but not without the Stars putting up a fight. That should be the story of this series, Stars will fight but the Ducks are just better. Anaheim in 5.
Colorado and Minnesota could be played on a speed skating track. Both teams have the ability to skate circles around opponents but not around each other. Patrick Roy in his first year behind the bench has turned the Avalanche franchise back into the Av’s that were winning Stanley Cups. Minnesota has spent boatloads of cash to be a playoff team. This Minnesota group has enough to win the round but Colorado just wins. Not bad for a team that had the second worst record in hockey last year. Colorado in 7.
The defending champion Chicago Blackhawks are pitted against a team that many people think could win the title this year in the St Louis Blues. St Louis traded for goalie Ryan Miller to solidify the one thing that people thought was the weak part of the team. St Louis has size and skill but the Blackhawks have a different edge. Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane are coming back from injury and you have to kill the king to wear the crown. Chicago has skill and a defense that moves the puck quickly away from trouble. Add into the mix that the Hawks are tough, will not be pushed around, and know how to win in these kind of series. This series defines what playoff hockey is all about. It will go seven and we will want it to go more. Chicago in 7.
California has three teams in the playoffs and while Anaheim might be the best team record wise in the state, no one should be surprised if Los Angeles or San Jose hoists the Cup. This series will be physical, nasty and tough to score goals for, lack of a better term, a war of attrition. The Kings are not that far removed from a title, the Sharks have been next year’s team for the last five seasons. Trying to dent the Kings stingy defense is next to impossible when Los Angeles netminder Johnathan Quick is on and this club has no problem trying to win 2-1. San Jose is balanced, big, and this just might be next year for Joe Thornton and company. It will not be easy but this will at least be the Sharks round. San Jose in 7.
The first round this year will have something for everyone. And this time next year for hockey fans in the Triangle, hopefully it will feature the Hurricanes.