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The Bear Essentials: NHL Playoffs Have Arrived

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Tyler Kennedy #48 of the Pittsburgh Penguins crashes into Sergei Bobrovsky #35 of the Philadelphia Flyers during the game at Consol Energy Center on April 7, 2012 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

Tyler Kennedy #48 of the Pittsburgh Penguins crashes into Sergei Bobrovsky #35 of the Philadelphia Flyers during the game at Consol Energy Center on April 7, 2012 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

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Boston Bruins

BOSTON (CBS) – It’s finally here. The NHL playoffs have arrived.

And thank goodness too. I feel like I’ve been stuck in the black hole of the sporting world since the Super Bowl. Now I can finally stop pretending to be interested in early season baseball and focus on something more meaningful, like hockey.

As most years, the first round matchups should provide hours upon hours of entertainment. But instead of micro-analyzing each series, we thought we’d do some quick predictions.

Read: The Bear Essentials Blog

So without any further adieu, let’s head out West:

(1) Vancouver vs. (8) Los Angeles

This will definitely be the better of the 1 and 8 seed matchups. Once again, Vancouver reigned in overall points in the league. It’ll be tough but the King’s only shot at winning this is goaltender Jonathan Quick, who happened to lead the league in shutouts this year. If he can stand on his head, it should be a great matchup. Overall though, the Canucks are a proven playoff team so the edge ultimately goes to them. Vancouver in 6.

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(2) St. Louis vs. (7) San Jose

Who to go with here? Either one of the top regular season teams, which also happens to have an elite goaltender in Brian Elliot, or a club that craps itself in the postseason year in and year out?Hmmm.

Surprisingly, I’ll go with the Sharks in seven. They’ll lose in the next round.

(3) Phoenix vs. (6) Chicago

I’ll go with the Blackhawks in six. More experience. More points. Better players. Proven team. Done.

(4) Nashville vs. (5) Detroit

These two had an even split during their six meetings in the regular season. Although Nashville is a good club, they simply can’t compete when it comes to Detroit in the postseason. Last year was the first time in team history that the Predators made it to the second round of the playoffs! They’ll have to wait another year to breathe the conference semifinal air.

Detroit in six.

And now, let’s head a little closer to home into the Eastern Conference.

(1) New York vs. (8) Ottawa

New York in four. Period.

(2) Boston vs. (7) Washington

If there is a heaven up above, please do not allow Brayden Holtby to be a good goaltender. If he’s not, the Bruins should win this in six. They’re the better overall team, more aggressive, have more depth, better net-minding and the list goes on. However, Washington will have less to play for which may make them more dangerous.

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But if the Bruins play their game, Tim Thomas shuts the hell up, and they score some goals, all should be fine.

(3) Florida vs. (6) New Jersey

When was the last time the Panthers were in the playoffs? Like, 1832? I think that is the same year Martin Brodeur was born.

This one is tough. Here is my advice: take a coin and flip it. No matter who wins, they wont be going far.

(4) Pittsburgh vs. (5) Philadelphia

This may be the best series of them all. After the third period brawl several nights ago, the competition will be ridiculous with these two teams. The 4 and 5 matchups are usually the most entertaining anyways.

Nothing would make me happier than to see the Penguins lose, but in all likeliness they’ll be the ones to move on. They’re simply a more well-rounded team; more skilled, equally aggressive and definitely more stable in goal.

Pittsburgh in six.

Follow Mark Feldman on Twitter @mfsports21

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