By the time this post hits the web the first game of the greatest tournament of any and every sport will have begun. Everyone has an opinion so I figured I’d take part and share with you my quarterfinal playoffs predictions. There are plenty of contests, polls, quizzes and wagers going on throughout the world based on this Stanley Cup playoff and Fansided’s NHL sites are no exception to that rule; head over to SenShot where the crew are taking your suggestions/opinions in their free prediction pool. The winner of SenShot’s prediction pool will win a Senator’s related prize worth $50 – not too shabby!
As for my predictions? I can’t offer you a prize but I can offer you a few laughs considering many people will probably disagree with what I’ve got to say. On that same note – feel free to leave comments with your predictions or leave some commentary on what you agree/disagree with. Let’s start with the conference the Blues could have been seeing barring January play and an injury plagued season…
1. Vancouver Canucks v. 8. Chicago Blackhawks
Teams don’t just win the President’s Trophy by accident. Vancouver has been a team to be reckoned with since their October 9, 2010 start (which, ironically enough they lost to fellow Western Conference playoff team, the LA Kings in a shootout). Everyone is used to hearing Canucks players names bandied about – Luongo, the Sedin twinkies, Kesler – as key, winning players, which I won’t deny. However, Vancouver can’t consider themselves untouchable thanks to an eye injury to defenseman Manny Malhotra, who is able to dig deep and potentially hold back some of Chicago’s crucial players. As for Chicago? I can’t say much…I’m biased. Remember? Bleedin’ BLUE? Blackhawks have an arsenal of great players in Kane, Toews (you really can’t mention these two not in the same breath or back to back, can you?), Hossa, Sharp and the like – all champions of the sport – however, this just wasn’t the repeat year that would blow everyone away the way they expected it to. The injury fairy visited Chicago repeatedly this year, too, including injuries to several players including two key cogs of their machine, Brouwer and Bolland. Goaltending, however, is a challenge for the Blackhawks (as the Blues saw a few times this season, HA!) and Luongo will be more than helpful to the Canucks, which is why I say… Canucks in 6.
2. San Jose Sharks v. 7. Los Angeles Kings
I have very little nice to say about the Sharks (and before anyone asks, yes, I’m absolutely still fuming about he-who-shall-not-be-named hit on Perron). I will say that Antti Niemi is a better goalie than most realized and am glad that he’s got a great job in goal with the Sharks. The Sharks have outstanding offensive skills and Logan Couture is a young great in the making with his 32 points this year. The Kings are one of the most bewildering teams I’ve seen this season in the West. They have great players in Brown, Clifford, Penner, Doughty…I could name nearly the whole roster and not find a bad guy on this team, but somehow they stun fans by winning and losing at the most awkward, confusing times ever. Unfortunately for LA, San Jose is stronger, more offensive and seemingly plays better in clutch situations, not to mention the Kings are missing both Anze Kopitar and Justin Williams which is why I’ve got the Sharks in 5.
3. Detroit Red Wings v. 6. Phoenix Coyotes
It’s easy to brush this one off with a broad brush as “old vs. new” and in most cases people would take “new”. Detroit is a host of veterans, but they aren’t “old” and certainly nothing to sneeze at. Lidstrom, Zetterberg, and Datsyuk are among the vets in Detroit but may not be able to contain the power exhibited by one Keith Yandle. Yandle hasn’t gotten the credit he deserves after a 59 point season. Add to that Shane Doan, Kyle Turris and netminder Ilya Bryzgalov and you’re sitting pretty in the Copper State. I hope to hear reports of Bryzgalov asking Detroit why they “heff to be mad” when Coyotes take it in 6.
4. Anaheim Ducks v. 5. Nashville Predators
I’ll put it simply; while the Ducks have Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf, Nashville has Pekka Rinne. I don’t really want to get too deep in to it and I also don’t want to beat around the bush. Pekka Rinne is a beast. Weber won’t win this series. Tootoo definitely won’t either (na-na-na-na-boo-boo). Pekka Rinne will, meaning Nashville in 5.
And now for something completely different…
1. Washington Capitals v. 8. New York Rangers
The Rangers have great last-minute, highlight reel worthy goal scorers like Ryan Callahan and Marc Staal but can’t rely on these two alone. Marian Gaborik has scored 22 goals in the regular season but will have to be present again in the playoffs to help this team out offensively. Washington will be led by their regulars; Ovechkin, Semin, Backstrom. Thanks to outstanding performances by Michal Neuvirth and Ovie and the boys, Washington in 5.
2. Philadelphia Flyers v. 7. Buffalo Sabres
Unfortunately I can’t say much about this series as I haven’t followed a whole lot of either team. Of course everyone and their brother knows (or better know by now) the modern goalie legend, Ryan Miller. And there are former St. Louis Blues on each team – Pronger is currently out with a hand injury for the Flyers and Brad Boyes is most easily found doing nothing outstanding in the hilariously ridiculous Ovechkin Dance video during the game that solidified Washington’s playoff berth. Claude Giroux has had an admirable 76 point season but it won’t be enough against Ryan Miller, Sabres in 7.
3. Boston Bruins v. 6. Montreal Canadiens
If you know anything about hockey, you know this is going to be one of the best series to watch, one of the most intense series full of hatred and hell fury. No, not just because of the Chara/Pacioretty mishap from earlier this year (though, that’ll certainly add fuel to the already raging fire) but because this Original Six match up has been full of violence since the early 50’s. 60+ years later and it’s still just as violent and full of bitter angst. This rivalry will be outstanding to watch unfold, especially thanks to the Bruins no-holds-barred physical play. The Canadiens have this goalie guy that seems to be alright, Carey Price and hopefully he can provide the same run that Jaroslav Halak exhibited during the Habs’ playoff run last year. Chara, Lucic, Bergeron, Horton…I don’t think I need to say much more, so Bruins in 7.
4. Pittsburgh Penguins v. 5. Tampa Bay Lightning
Lou Korac said it best when he said this series earns the gold star as far as big NHL names are concerned; for Pittsburgh – Crosby, Staal (yes, another) and Fleury to name a few, and with Tampa Bay – St. Louis, Stamkos, Lecavalier. Former St. Louis Blues defender Eric Brewer has seen 1 goal and 1 assist during his time in Tampa Bay but don’t look for him to provide the offensive fire power. This is a strangely paired series thanks to Pittsburgh having outstanding goaltending and offense and Tampa Bay having extremely strong offense in those big names…but not much else. I do, however, think Pittsburgh is tired and weary, making them vulnerable for the likes of Stamkos and Company, therefore Lightning in 7.