No this isn’t a Bud Light ad…although a BL does sound mighty good right about now! I’m sure most of you will be tipping back a few brews of that brand or another over the next 2 months watching playoff hockey. And by a few, I mean plenty because let’s be honest about this…if you’re reading my stuff, you need to be pretty tipsy! So now that you got your buzz on, allow me to break down how I see the 1st round of the playoffs playing out.
#1 Pittsburgh vs #8 NY Islanders
David vs Goliath, and David has both his arms and legs broken while Goliath just pulled out an AK 47! I really hope the Islanders find a way to make this a great watch, and I’m sure the games will be wide open. But there is simply no way….and I mean NO WAY the Islanders win this series. If I’m the Pens and Sid isn’t 100%, I don’t worry about rushing him back for this. Everyone else is ready to go, they don’t need Sid to win this series. Tavares will do all he can to carry the Isles, but they don’t have the secondary scoring to prevent the Pens from doing everything they can to shutdown Tavares and Moulson, and they don’t have a good enough defensive team to shutdown the Pens offense. Too deep, too talented, too experienced, too much for the Isles to handle.
Pens in 5
#2 Montreal vs #7 Ottawa
Man the Ottawa Senators simply don’t know how to make friends! They’re the cops who break up a high school party. Had they lost last night, Ottawa would have played Pittsburgh and the last time I checked Eugene Melnyk had not revealed the results of his investigation on Matt Cooke, and then of course we would have got Montreal vs Toronto. Nobody likes you Ottawa! Gary Bettman probably sounded like Vince McMahon yelling at Stone Cold “You ruined it! You ruined it g*d d*amit!” This is a nice consolation prize though and I do expect a real good series here. The Habs have stumbled into the playoffs and how they’re the 2nd seed I don’t know! Just speaks to how much weaker the East is then the West this season. With Karlsson back, the Sens are a threat even without Spezza. If they get Spezza back at some point they might be the biggest threat to the Pens in the East. I think it will be a close series, good goaltending for both teams, solid bluelines for both teams, both teams can put the puck in the net, I just like the Sens a little better.
Sens in 6
#3 Washington vs #6 NY Rangers
4th time in 5 seasons these teams will hook up. Man, if you ever want an example of why divisional series won’t be so great to go back to this could be exhibit A. Does anyone view this as a rivalry? I don’t. So then 4 times in 5 seasons is just kind of annoying rather than fun. This one I will say though should be really good to watch. I seen someone (I believe it was John Shannon) talking last night about how this series would be a lot of 2-1 games. No it won’t, because if he hasn’t noticed Dale Hunter isn’t behind the Caps bench anymore. This Caps team is back to being a fun team to watch and if you like high flying hockey then you should be pulling for teams like the Caps to do well. Last year, the playoffs were dominated by the most boring teams in the league. It was 2003 all over again. Unfortunately I have to call it the way I see it and while I think this one is going deep, the Rangers are the most dangerous lower seed in this years playoffs. They have the ability to go to the final. They’re peaking at the right time and that’s bad news for the Caps.
Rangers in 7
#4 Boston vs #5 Toronto
Everyone in Toronto is sick about getting the Bruins it seems. I’m saying hold the phone on that one. I talked about not knowing how the Habs ended up with the 2nd seed in the East, well the reason they got that seed is because Boston has been worse down the stretch than the Habs. So the Leafs have a serious shot in this series. It works for the Leafs that nobody expects them to win, it works that Boston is playing awful, it works that the Bruins have had trouble scoring this season. So the Leafs have all that going for them and I think they match the Bruins depth, at least up front. The key without a doubt is Reimer. Every year it seems 1 goaltender comes out of nowhere to surprise in the playoffs. Last year it was Holtby, the year before it was Crawford, in 2010 it was Halak, so you can expect someone to be that guy again this season and I just have a hunch that Reimer will be that guy. If he is, the Leafs have a SERIOUS shot at winning this series. I’m saying the Leafs make life miserable for the Bruins and it comes down to the wire, but having said ALL of this I just can’t go against the Bruins.
Bruins in 7
#1 Chicago vs #8 Minnesota
It’s a shame that the Wild have backed into the playoffs while the Jackets played so great down the stretch and came up short. But, the points are the start of the season count just as much as the points at the end of it so here we are. The Wild and their not wacked at all fan base….are in. If they were playing like they did midseason, I would probably give them a shot in this series. But Backstrom has been pretty bad in goal of late, the blueline is REALLY thin, and Mike Yeo is in way over his head as coach of this team. I don’t know which Corey Crawford will show up for this series. 2011 Crawford could win the Hawks the Cup. 2012 Crawford could get the Hawks swept. He has been solid all season so I doubt he’ll be as bad as he was last year (although in fairness, he wasn’t getting much work in those games vs Phoenix last year and any goaltender will tell you that is TOUGH). I expect him to be solid. Toews vs Koivu is something we will see all series. I don’t know why either coach wouldn’t want that matchup. But the Hawks are just simply deeper than the Wild are, and Quennville will out coach Yeo.
Hawks in 5
#2 Anaheim vs #7 Detroit
Well the Wings just barely kept their playoff streak alive. Many thought this was going to be the year they failed to make it, I didn’t. It was one of the few things I got right with my pre season predicitions! So they’re in and they get probably the biggest surprise of the Western conference this season in the Anaheim Ducks. I’m sorry, but I’m just not a big believer in this team. I like them, and I like their size, love their 1st line, but I don’t like the depth and I hate the blueline. Now the Wings aren’t without some big time holes on their team either. I hate their blueline just as much if not more! But they’re better 1-4 down the middle than the Ducks are, and while the Ducks have had great goaltending all season I don’t know that I trust them in the playoffs. This is a very tough series to get a read on, but the one thing I know is I trust Mike Babcock behind the bench, I don’t trust Bruce Boudreau. I expect Babcock to really school Boudreau behind the bench, and with the personal on both sides being pretty much even in my mind I believe the Wings are going to pull the minor upset here.
Wings in 6
#3 Vancouver vs #6 San Jose
Fans in Vacouver must be breathing a sigh of relief. Had the 6th seed been the Blues, or even worse for them the Kings, it would have likely been another early exit for the Canucks. But they avoid them 2 matchup nightmares and get the Canuck friendly San Jose Sharks. I firmly believe the Sharks window has slammed shut despite making the playoffs again this season. Just 17 regulation and overtime wins this season. They lived off a lot of shoot out wins, and a lot of home wins (just 2 regulation loses at home). They don’t have home ice in the playoffs and they don’t have the shoot out. The Canucks strugged through this regular season but I think that will benefit them. If Schneider is ready for game 1 they should win this series. If its Luongo however….that situation took 48 games to blow up but it looked like it finally did Saturday night. And you can’t sleep on Niemi, the guy has won a Cup and had a great season. But the x factor for me in the series is that the Sharks don’t have anyone who can matchup down low with the twins. This is 2 teams who were the elite of the West in 2011, and now are both desperate to make a run before time runs out. As I said earlier, I believe the Sharks time already has.
Carburners in 7
#4 St. Louis vs #5 Los Angeles
I don’t expect this series to be anything exciting to watch. It will be a battle of 2 Western Canadian coaches who both believe in having their big bodies wear down the oppositions big bodies. Don’t take chances offensively, get the puck in deep, keep everything to the outside. They’re extremely similar teams. The Blues have a better blueline. Pietrangelo, Shattenkirk, Bouwmeester, Leopold, and Jackman is the best 1-5 in the league and I’m not sure anyone comes close. But the Kings are better down the middle. When you can run Jarret Stoll (PIMP!!!) out there as your 4th line center, you’re pretty good at center! So the coaching is a wash, and the amazing blueline and the amazing centers cancel each other out. The tipping point for me is the goaltending. In one corner, you have the reigning Conn Smythe winner, and should he get hurt the Kings could then play their best goaltender. In the other corner, you have the 3 headed monster known as Hallelliott. I honestly don’t know as of writing this who the Blues are going with. All 3 to me are serious candidates. Halak has the best resume, Allen has been the best all year, and Elliott got hot down the stretch. If you have 3 starting goaltenders, then you don’t have a starting goaltender. It will be a lot tighter than last season, but I like the champs.
Kings in 7
So that’s how I see the 1st round going down, I’m sure it will be very wrong. As for the final, I went against my best insincts and picked LA to repeat as West champs. I didn’t care all season that this team had 4 extra months off this season to rest up, teams just simply never go back after they’ve won. But they’re the perfect playoff team and they’re completely healthy right now so I just can’t go against them. In the East, I got the Pens but I would seriously watch out for the Rangers. They’re in a position to sneak up on some teams in a weaker Eastern conference. So it’s the same picks to go to the final that I had last season.
As for the Cup champ….much like 2009, the Pens are going to spoil a repeat for the champs and take it in a very tight 7 games.
Follow me on twitter where I will annoy you with OT goal picks for the next 2 months @TJ_Soups