I realize that the playoffs actually started last night but I had a big test at 8 AM this morning. So, a little belated, (and taking last night's 4 games into consideration) here are my 1st round predictions!
While the Anaheim Ducks are currently on a hot streak, they barely made the playoffs. The San Jose Sharks, on the other hand, won the Presidents' Trophy for being the team with the best regular season record in the 2008-09 season. Ducks goalie Jonas Hiller has been impressive at times, but nothing he has faced in his career will prepare him for the pressure of the playoffs. San Jose's Evgeni Nabokov has plenty of playoff experience under his belt, and that should make the difference.
PREDICTION: Sharks in 5.
BLUE JACKETS-RED WINGS
Honestly, I'd love to see the Red Wings lose this one. But realistically, it's just not going to happen. The Columbus Blue Jackets are making their first-ever playoff appearance in their nine-year existence, and like I said with the Ducks vs. Sharks series, playoff experience is going to reign supreme. Detroit has legions of players who can run up the scoreboard and Columbus has, well, Rick Nash. That's about it. Oh, and congratulations to rookie goalie Steve Mason. The guy had a great year.
PREDICTION: Wings in 5.
The Blues had the most momentum of all teams heading into the playoffs and after being eliminated from contention three years in a row, the motivation level of St. Louis to win is high. And I would love to pick them in 7 games here (I'm a BIG TJ Oshie fan). However, down 1-0 at this point and playing a nearly-equally hot Canucks team. To Luongo is so tough in net in crunch time. I think the Sedin brothers and Co. will have enough to move on. However, look for the Blues to make a deep run next year!
PREDICTION: Canucks in 7.
Speaking about not making the playoffs for … years, how about the Chicago Blackhawks? The Blackhawks, despite their youthfulness, have been sharp all season. They finished very hot with two wins over the Red Wings to cap off their season and put the icing on the cake. The Calgary Flames were leading the Northwestern Division, but then went south in the standings. Yes, the 'Hawks' youth is a concern for me but Look for Captain Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane to step up and get them through the first round as the Flames take another downward dip here.
PREDICTION: Blackhawks in 6.
The Boston Bruins vs. the Montreal Canadiens in the first round of the playoffs? Sounds familiar and bound to be a classic, right? Wrong. This year's rendition of the Canadiens were disappointing to say the least and they barely held on for the eighth playoff spot. And this year's Bruins are much, much better than the No. 8-seeded version that beat the No. 1-seeded Canadiens the last time around. Boston plays much too well as a team and they have the star power to go deep. I smell a sweep!
PREDICTION: Bruins in 4.
The New York Rangers started off the season great and looked like they were going to have a great year. That quickly proved to be false. The Rangers, like the Canadiens, nearly failed to qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Even with knowing the Rangers are up 1-0 on the Caps right now, I have no problem saying that it won't be long before Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals send them out. Dont' be surprised if this serves as the wake-up call this Capitals team needs and they beat them the next 4 straight. I'll give it 6 games just to be safe.
PREDICTION: Capitals in 6.
The New Jersey Devils' season will come down to whether the Marty Brodeur who wins shows up or the one who loses makes the appearances when games matter most. And if the Carolina Hurricanes, who came out on the top half of a 2-1 decision against the Devils on March 28 during a recent nine-game win streak, have any say, the bad Marty will show up. Also the Hurricanes are very under-rated at home. However, I think the good Marty Brodeur shows up enough to move the Devils forward. This will be a great series to watch!
PREDICTION: Devils in seven.
The Pittsburgh Penguins and the Philadelphia Flyers meet in the playoffs, again. And in my opinion, the two teams are as evenly matched as ever. Don't believe me? Check the standings (99 points apiece). While it's tough to separate the two, the Penguins have Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. And the Flyers don't have two names to equalize the equation. Still, the series will go deep. But the star power will prevail here for the Pens!
PREDICTION: Penguins in seven.