NHL Playoffs

The NHL Playoffs

It’s time for the NHL to crown new Stanley Cup champions and the 16 team tournament starts today with 4 of the 8 first round series opening up Wednesday night.

In the East, everyone’s new favorite playoff darling, the Pittsburgh Penguins take on everyone’s old favorite playoff darling the Ottawa Senators. Sidney Crosby makes his playoff debut alongside other first timers Evgeni Malkin, Jordan Staal and Marc Andre Fleury.

For Ottawa it’s just another shot at doing what everyone had been predicting they would do 2 and 3 years ago…win the Cup.

Prediction: Pittsburgh is quick, talented….and that’s about it. Ottawa is both of those plus experienced. Senators in 6.

Out West, the real Western Conference Final is taking place in the first round between Nashville and San Jose. It’s a real shame that one of these teams is going to be knocked out in the first round, but on paper this looks to be the most exciting matchup.

San Jose has been solid all year long and the Predators are looking for Peter Forsberg to give them that extra added boost to make a good run in the playoffs PLUS, Tomas Voukon is back on track.

Prediction: Nashville…San Jose…Nashville…San Jose. A horrible choice to have to make this early in the playoffs, but I’ll go with San Jose. Hot goaltending may be the key to this series. Sharks in 7.

The Anaheim Ducks face the Minnesota Wild in a rematch of the 2003 West Finals where the Ducks swept the then Cinderella Story Wild.

Prediction: The Wild are vastly improved from that year and after hitting a bump in the road at the halfway mark of the season they settled in and made a good run to grab the 7th seed. In the end though, the Ducks just have too much firepower for an often inconsistent Wild team. Ducks in 6.

The fourth series of the day pits the Dallas Stars against the Vancouver Canucks. The West is SO loaded with great teams this year. Every playoff season you can look at the brackets and see a team that has almost no shot of making it out of the quarters but that scenario is a little more obvious in the East than in the West this season.

The Canucks have been the best team in the NHL since Christmas and they’ve got a Hart Trophy candidate in Roberto Luongo in net while the Stars once again have playoff flop Marty Turco *trying* to stop pucks behind them.

The Dallas defense will have to really be able to contain the Canucks offense, particularly the Sedins…and just in case they can’t get things going, Markus Naslund is still capable of putting on an offensive clinic. Which is very much unlike #88 over on the other side.

Prediction: It’s going to come down to goaltending here and the Canucks would NOT be this good without making the deal for Luongo who will finally be making his first appearance in the playoffs. Chances are that he’s going to top Turco….then again, who hasn’t done that in the playoffs? Canucks in 7.