This playoff season is sure to have many classic series and possible upsets. As always, there’s a Cinderella team out there to prove that dreams do come true and miracles do happen.
Here are my projections for the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs (1st Round Matchups):
(1) Vancouver Canucks vs. (8) Los Angeles Kings
Regular Season Series: The two teams split 2-2.
Series Overview: This should be a series that’s filled with talent, as well as how the team’s goaltenders will fare. Jonathan Quick will have to be at his best for the Kings, while Roberto Luongo must hold his own and avoid any shaky starts for the Canucks. Henrik and Daniel Sedin must play up to par for the Canucks to win, and for the Kings, players like Ryan Smyth, Jeff Carter, and Anze Kopitar must step up their game as well.
PREDICTION: Kings in 6.
(2) St. Louis Blues vs. (7) San Jose Sharks
Regular Season Series: Blues swept Sharks 4-0.
Series Overview: The Blues are riding a wave of momentum. The Sharks are just happy to be in. Normally I wouldn’t rule the Sharks out of any playoff series, but lately the Sharks haven't been playing up to par, while the Blues have been a dominant team the last stretch of the season. Players like Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, and Joe Pavelski will have to step up to the plate for the Sharks. On the other hand, players like Jamie Langenbrunner and Jason Arnott will be the key for the Blues to be successful. Also standing in the Sharks way is All-star goaltender Brian Elliot. He’ll be a tremendous obstacle for the Sharks in this series.
PREDICTION: Blues in 5.
(3) Phoenix Coyotes vs. (6) Chicago Blackhawks
Regular Season Series: Coyotes won 3-1.
Series overview: I really don’t think the Coyotes are as strong as they’re advertised. The only reason they got the division title, was because the Sharks and Kings suffered monumental collapses near the end of the season. Don’t get me wrong, the Coyotes have a strong core of players, but I feel they lack depth and secondary scoring. Chicago has a lot of that. Their second line is just as good as their first. This will be a series that will come down to who wants it more.
PREDICTION: Blackhawks in 6
(4) Nashville Predators vs. (5) Detroit Red Wings
Regular Season Series: Teams split 3-3.
Series overview: Detroit did not have a good stretch during the last month of the season. Also, playing without home-ice advantage raises some concerns for the Red Wings fan faithful. Nashville on the other hand, played good hockey down the stretch and should be able to use home ice to their advantage. If Detroit can steal a win on the road from Nashville, they have a very legitimate shot of winning the series. If not, it could be an early exit for them. Goaltending will play a huge factor in this series as Jimmy Howard and Pekka Rinne are two of the league’s best.
PREDICTION: Red Wings in 7.
(1) New York Rangers vs. (8) Ottawa Senators
Regular Season Series: Senators won 3-1.
Series overview: The Rangers may have the league’s best record, but they had a tough time losing 3-out-of-4 to the Senators this season. I feel the Rangers will be revamped and determined, while the Senators will be out to prove they belong. I feel this will be a very short series unless Ottawa can steal a few from New York.
PREDICTION: Rangers in 5
(2) Boston Bruins vs. (7) Washington Capitals
Regular Season Series: Capitals won 3-1.
Series overview: Washington should be happy to just be in the playoffs. They had to fend off two very determined teams in Winnipeg and Buffalo just to make it. Facing the defending champs in the 1st round will not be easy. I don’t see Boston suffering a collapse this early.
PREDICTION: Bruins in 5.
(3) Florida Panthers vs. (6) New Jersey Devils
Regular Season Series: Both teams split 2-2.
Series overview: The Devils are riding a hot Martin Brodeur. He’s played very well down the stretch run near the end of the season. I’m still not a believer of the Florida Panthers. I feel this season was a fluke somewhat and an early exit could prove that point. I think Florida has talent, but they don’t’ have enough depth or physical play to survive in this series.
PREDICTION: Devils in 6.
(4) Pittsburgh Penguins vs. (5) Philadelphia Flyers
Regular Season Series: Flyers won 4-2.
Series overview: This is a series to watch. These two teams don’t like each other, and there’s still some bad blood spewing over their last encounter. This will come down to who can outscore the other team. Buckle up folks; this should be quite the ride!
PREDICTION: Penguins in 7.
All in all, the 2012 Playoffs should be one to remember!!