BOSTON (CBS) – Bruins DieHard can’t wait for the NHL playoffs to start, so here is his breakdown of each series in the first round.
(1) Vancouver Canucks vs. (8) Los Angeles Kings
I’ve watched a lot of hockey this year, including the West, and yes, Vancouver has equaled last season with another Presidents Trophy as best regular season team in the NHL.
The Kings on the other hand had their ups and downs. They have a new manager, and had a hard time scoring goals. Their one constant was goaltender Jonathan Quick, and he will have to be even better to hold off the Canucks (especially their power play).
I would love to see an upset here, but I just don’t see it happening. Vancouver in 5 games.
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(2) St. Louis Blues vs. (7) San Joe Sharks
Since Ken Hitchcock took over the Blues, they have been nothing short of sensational. After underachieving at the beginning of the season, they were in the top spot in the league for a while. Jaro Halak and Brian Elliott share the number-one spot in goal, and lead the league in goals allowed with a measly 165.
I’m no longer a Sharks fan because no matter what, they don’t seem to have the killer instinct to go to the next level. I love Joe Thornton and hope he someday gets his name on the Cup. But I don’t think it’s this year.
St. Louis sweeps…
(3) Phoenix Coyotes vs. (6) Chicago Blackhawks
I’ll start by saying good for the Coyotes. They solidified their position on the final day of the year. Once they knew they were not going to give Ilya Bryzgalov the gazillion dollars he wanted in the offseason, they aimed for free agent Mike Smith from Tampa Bay. He has been beyond what they could have dreamed of. Ray Whitney is playing like he is 29, not 39, and the supporting cast has made Glendale, AZ popular in the NHL.
As for the Blackhawks, they are just not what they were two years ago when they brought Chicago their first Cup since 1961. Despite the talents of Messers Sharpe, Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, I have no confidence in goaltenders Corey Crawford or Ray Emery.
The dogs have their day. Coyotes in 5.
(4) Nashville Predators vs. (5) Detroit Red Wings
This is an intriguing series in that Nashville has played the Wings tough all season long and have beaten them at in Motown.
But never count the Red Wings out of any game. I have respect for the team and the organization.
However, I have major disdain for their fans. They have become like Canadians’ fans in that they think they deserve to win all the time. Anything less and they’ve been robbed by officials, bad ice, 7-legged octopi, or any other unforeseen reason. For that reason, I hope they get chopped by the Predators!
Nashville in 7.
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(1) New York Rangers vs. (8) Ottawa Senators
No one thought that Paul Maclean would be able to coach to a playoff spot. Surprise! Ottawa was actually the number three seed late in the year pushing the Bruins down to number seven, albeit for one day.
I’m not big on Craig Anderson in goal for Ottawa,which is not the case for the Rangers. They are backed in goal by Henrik Lundqvist, who should win the Vezina this year, but still has not been able to put the Rangers over the hump.
This should be a tough series, but Rangers in 6.
(3) Florida Panthers vs. (6) New Jersey Devils
Rookie coach Kevin Dineen has his Panthers in the playoffs for the first time in a decade, but alas I don’t think they will be going very far. Pete DeBoer has the Devils playing like the Devils of old. And speaking of old, Martin Brodeur could be up to his old playoff tricks again which should get him and New Jersey through to the second round!
New Jersey in 4.
(4) Pittsburgh Penguins vs. (5) Philadelphia Flyers
Wow! What’s good about this series is that it doesn’t conflict with the Bruins-Caps, and should be a delight to watch. Talk about “Old Tyme Hockey” and hatred, nothing could be closer to that than this series is expected to be.
The question is, which team will outlast the other as they beat each other to a pulp?
Philly goalie Ilya Bryzgalov had better be “Gigantic” like never before because the fire power of Evgeny Malkin, James Neal, and the all around wizardry of Sidney Crosby could have his weird world come crashing down on him. The Flyers need the continued offensive power of Claude Giroux, Daniel Brierre and Scott Hartnell to counter the Pens.
Marc-Andrey Fleury, solid and seasoned, should be able to handle Philadelphia, although it wont be easy.
Pittsburgh in 7.
And last, but certainly not least….
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(2) Boston Bruins vs. (7) Washington Capitals
In the coaching department, it’s Dale Hunter against Claude Julien. You have to go with experience here. It took me a while to come around to Claude’s way of thinking, but he will keep rolling all four lines over the boards regardless of what the Caps do. And until proven otherwise, it will do the Bruins just fine.
Everything else is intangible, including the young starting goaltender for Washington. But I just can’t see the Caps beating the Bruins in a seven game series.
Bruins in 6.
Its’ the National Hockey League Stanley Cup Playoffs and there just isn’t a better time of the year! Go Bruins!