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Stanley Cup Playoffs Preview

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Contributor:
Scott Newman
Scott Newman

It is the business time of the year for the National Hockey League with the Stanley Cup playoffs ready to start tomorrow. The season was very interesting with the Flyers & Rangers playing for the final spot in the Eastern Conference. The Flyers succeeded. Henrik Sedin won the scoring race pipping Alexander Ovechkin in the last game for the Canucks. This Stanley Cup playoff is wide open as there are several power house teams that have a lot to prove. It is the most exciting time of the year for hockey fans across the world. Here is my preview of the Quarter Finals.

WESTERN CONFERENCE QUARTER FINALS

1. San Jose Sharks 51-20-11 - 113 points vs. 8. Colorado Avalanche 43-30-09 - 95 points

Matchup:

This is a bit of a miss-match. However, the San Jose Sharks have looked to be the best team and even a favourite to win the Stanley Cup. They have not looked superior since the Winter Olympics especially with Evgeni Nabokov. There is more pressure on the Sharks to perform than the Av's. The Avalanche has kind of fallen down the standings after a very strong start. Offensively the Sharks are overwhelmed and deep on the blue line. The Av's need to move the puck around them as the Sharks overall game is well balanced. The tank will be a hard place to win in. Too hard?

Key Players:

Sharks - Thornton, Marleau, Heatley, Boyle, Blake & Goaltender Nabokov

Avalanche - Stastny, Stewart, Hejduk, Duchene, Foote & Goaltender Anderson

Prediction:

San Jose Sharks will be too good for the Av's or if they are not then they will face the music as they must be cursed in the postseason or something? Sharks in 5

2. Chicago Blackhawks 52-22-08 - 112 points vs. 7. Nashville Predators 47-29-06 - 100 points

Matchup:

Oh no Nashville you made the playoffs again against one of the best teams favoured to win the cup. It has never been easy for Nashville who has never won a playoff series and it doesn't look like this will change. Strangely the goalie match up in this is with two in-experienced goalies. That won't matter as Chicago had leaded the west for the best of this season as they are an offensive juggernaut. The Preds will need to play as consistently as they have been all season and keep their defence on the puck at all times if not the body. Good luck on this one being an upset!

Key Players:

Blackhawks - Kane, Toews, Hossa, Campbell, Keith & Goaltender Niemi

Predators - Arnott, Sullivan, Erat, Weber, Suter & Goaltender Rinne

Prediction:

The Blackhawks have too much firepower to worry about the Predators the weakness is in goaltending where I believe Rinne has an edge. When all is said and done the hawks will win this. Blackhawks in 6

3. Vancouver Canucks 49-28-05 - 103 points vs. 6. Los Angeles Kings 46-27-09 - 101 points

Matchup:

This is an interesting matchup. The Kings are young and fast with no real injury concern. A totally inexperienced goaltender but the youth and enthusiasm matched with a veteran presence in players like Smyth and Handzus. They are equipped for this series. I am not surprised that the Kings did well as it was building up to this. Anze Kopitar really broke out and led this team. Now, the Canucks are so tough at home and have one of the best net minders in the playoffs in Luongo. The blue line is sore which could cause problems now or later on. The Sedin twins dominated the offence for the team. There were 6 players with 20 or more goals boasting the best offense in the west. The longer this series go the more it may play into the Kings hands.

Key Players:

Canucks - H. Sedin, D. Sedin, Burrows, Kesler, Salo & Goaltender Luongo

Kings - Kopitar, Brown, Smyth, Doughty, Johnson & Goaltender Quick

Prediction:

The Kings have been out of the playoffs for 8 years. The Canucks are the best Canadian team poised for a shot at the cup. This will be a close series but the Canucks have the overall advantage. Canucks in 6 games

4. Phoenix Coyotes 50-25-07 - 107 points vs. 5. Detroit Red Wings 44-24-14 - 102 points

Matchup:

This maybe the best matchup of the first round. It is intriguing because Phoenix has not been in the playoffs in a long time against the most experienced unit in the western conference. The 'yotes flew under the radar all season with a thin offence and a hot goaltender. I am jealous as I am a Stars fan that coach Dave Tippett saved the Phoenix franchise. He truly is a front-runner for the Jack Adams trophy. The Red Wings were flirting with missing the post season but then in true Detroit fashion they came back into the fold and on a run that looks destructive. They are healthy and ready to go deep into the playoffs. I like this series it is going to be interesting and a test of character.

Key Players:

Coyotes - Doan, Vrbata, Wolski, Upshall, Jovanovski & Goaltender Bryzgalov

Red Wings - Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Franzen, Lidstrom, Rafalski & Goaltender Howard

Prediction:

David & the goliath? Maybe not that bad (I mean in playoff experience) The Wings have Osgood to look too if it starts going wrong. It shouldn't but I am picking this to be an epic anyway. A struggle. Detroit Red Wings in 7

 

EASTERN CONFERENCE QUARTER FINALS

1. Washington Capitals 54-15-13 - 121 points vs. 8. Montreal Canadiens 39-33-10 - 88 points

Matchup:

Tomas Plekanec made some pretty bold comments about the Caps goaltending which is silly as they have had controversy with Price/Halak which amounts to trash talk. The Habs are well and truly up against it. The Caps are packing the president trophy and Ovechkin who has everything to prove after missing out on any medal at the Olympics and no trophies too. (This is when I want to play the mission impossible theme) Washington has the best offence grossly outscoring everyone being the only team to score over 300 goals. The Habs need to play out of their minds to continue being the most winningest team in Stanley Cup history. Bring back their power play and stay away from the box!

Key Players:

Capitals - Ovechkin, Backstrom, Semin, Knuble, Green & Goaltender Theodore

Canadiens - Gomez, Plekanec, Cammalleri, Gionta, Markov & Goaltender Halak

Prediction:

This will not be pretty for the Habs fans. They matched up well in the regular season but I think the caps are on a mission. Don't get me wrong the Habs have playoff experience they are just matched up with a team that will turn it on and probably straight away. Capitals in 4!

2. New Jersey Devils 48-27-07 - 103 points vs. 7. Philadelphia Flyers 41-35-06 - 88 points

Matchup:

The Flyers were lucky to scrape in and have under-achieved this season. They have a lot of talent and have had not many injuries. It is hard to see where things went wrong for them as they were strong but slipped after a goaltender shake up. They face the familiar division foe of the Devils. Martin Brodeur is playing at a very high level and knows how to get the job done in the playoffs. This will be a bang and crash series as the Flyers try to mix it up physically with the Devils. As the scoring from the Devils has been uneven at times this is the way that the Flyers could upset the Devils. The Flyers have scoring depth.

Key Players:

Devils - Parise, Langenbrunner, Zajac, Kovalchuk, Greene & Goaltender Brodeur

Flyers - Richards, Briere, Gagne, Pronger, Timonen & Goaltender Boucher

Prediction:

This will be an interesting matchup to be honest with you. There are some experienced players in this series. I feel as though the Devils will have the upper hand having the best goaltender in the playoffs. Devils in 6

3. Buffalo Sabres 45-27-10 - 100 points vs. 6. Boston Bruins 39-30-13 - 91 points

Matchup:

The Sabres are very much like the Coyotes where they exist off excellent goaltending and defense. The offence needs to chip in to win games. They are strong as they have Ryan Miller playing the best hockey of his life. The Bruins on the other hand are struggling for consistency due to injuries to key players throughout the season and scoring has not been a hallmark for them either. I feel as though the Bruins have under achieved this season as well but it really is because of injuries so everything considered they have been good to get to where they are. This series may be low scoring.

Key Players:

Sabres - Roy, Vanek, Hecht, Stafford, Montador & Goaltender Miller

Bruins - Bergeron, Krejci, Recchi, Sturm, Chara & Goaltender Rask

Prediction:

The Bruins are going to enjoy a goaltending duel here. As both teams struggle to find the goals there are some good goal scorers in the Bruins roster spread out. I just think that Miller will dominate this by a fraction more than Rask. There is Thomas to go to as well for the B's. Sabres in 5

4. Pittsburgh Penguins 47-28-07 - 101 points vs. 5. Ottawa Senators 44-32-06 - 94 points

Matchup:

The defending Stanley Cup champions face off against the Senators in the first round. They have not been playing hot as of lately where the Sens battled to get in and have looked fairly sharp. The pens boast a pretty dangerous attack so the focus for the Sens is to defend against the top lines of the Pens if there is any chance of survival. The goaltending on both sides is solid. Even if Elliot is untested he has looked good this season now it is the true test for him. This series could be interesting but with Kovalev injured for the Sens that may prove to be a major handicap.

Key Players:

Penguins - Crosby, Malkin, Staal, Guerin, Gonchar & Goaltender Fleury

Senators - Alfredsson, Spezza, Fisher, Kelly, Phillips & Goaltender Elliott

Prediction:

(Sorry Earl) The Sens are really up against it here without home ice. The experience of the young Penguins will get the better of the Sens who have had a good season but may be now out of their depth. The Goaltending duel could get interesting? Penguins in 5

 

STANLEY CUP PREDICTION

Western Final - Chicago Blackhawks vs. Detroit Red Wings

Eastern Final - Washington Capitals vs. New Jersey Devils

Stanley Cup Final - New Jersey Devils vs. Detroit Red Wings

Stanley Cup Winner - New Jersey Devils in 6 games

 

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