NHL Playoff Picture

All the goals have been scored and all the games have been played this regular season, and now we are ready for the playoffs.  The NHL postseason is one of the best events in sports.  The competition is fierce and the intensity is up.  All the playoff spots have been filled, let’s take a look at how the teams stack up.

The West:

#1 San Jose Sharks vs. #8 Colorado Avalanche- The Sharks are looking to break a recent bout of playoff disappointments against this Colorado team.  The Avs are a young but formidable opponent to the Sharks.  San Jose’s offense is the factor that will define the series.  If Thornton and company can put up the points, San Jose will make it out of the round.  I say they do.  Verdict: Sharks 4-Avalanche 2.

#2 Chicago Blackhawks vs. #7 Nashville Predators- Chi-town has a real dominant team.  What a shocker!  The Hawks look like a real firepower team and probably have the most dynamic offense in the West.  Nashville is a veteran team and I’m not sure they will be able to skate with this young Chicago team.  Verdict: Blackhawks 4-Predators 1

#3 Vancouver Canucks vs. #6 Los Angeles Kings- This should be an interesting matchup that will come to goaltending and offense.  The Canucks excel in both of these categories.  Roberto Luongo is one of the top goaltenders in the league and Henrik Sedin is the NHL’s scoring champion (112 points).  The Kings are an up and coming team in the West, but I see them going one and done this year in the playoffs.  Verdict: Canucks 4-Kings 1

#4 Phoenix Coyotes vs. #5 Detroit Red Wings- This is gonna be a hell of a series.  Both teams bring something to the table to make this series a good one.  The Wings are a veteran bunch that have had to claw their way into the playoffs for the first time this decade.  The Coyotes made the playoffs for the first time since the 2001-2002 season.  The Coyotes are a young team and the Red Wings……….are not.  This series may come down to goaltending and if that’s the case I like Ilya Bryzgalov and the Phoenix Coyotes.  If Detroit can hold it together and play solid defense this could be a very interesting series.  Verdict: Red Wings 4-Coyotes 3

The East:

#1 Washington Capitals vs. #8 Montreal Canadians- This series is pretty close to a hockey fan’s dream.  The best player in the world (Alex Ovechkin) and the Washington Caps will be playing in a series against the hallowed and historic Montreal Canadians.  It’s like music to my ears.  Unfortunately for most hockey fans, this will not be a historic series.  I don’t see Montreal pushing this series past five games.  Verdict: Capitals 4-Canadians 1

#2 New Jersey Devils vs. #7 Philadelphia Flyers- The Broad Street bullies are back and they are as mean as ever.  The Flyers have always been an at least semi-dirty team and I can’t say this bunch is any different.  The problem with this Flyers team is that they have to play the mighty New Jersey Devils in the first round.  The Devils have looked scary since the addition of Kovalchuk and have had the wins to back themselves up.  Marty has looked like classic Marty with a league leading 45 wins and 9 shutouts.  This Devils team is going to be tough to beat in the postseason.  Verdict: Devils 4-Flyers 1

#3 Buffalo Sabres vs. #6 Boston Bruins- This is going to be another very good series.  Both the Bruins and the Sabres have looked very strong down the stretch and both teams have great goaltending.  Ryan Miller has been one of the top goalies in the league and has made himself a strong case for MVP; Boston’s Tuukka Rask has been very solid, leading the NHL in both save percentage and goals-against average.  This series should come down to which team can control the momentum of the games.  Home ice advantage is going to be huge for Buffalo.  Verdict: Sabres 4-Bruins 2

#4 Pittsburgh Penguins vs. #5 Ottawa Senators- Oooooooh!  Another great series in the east.  This series points in favor of the Pens, but you never know.  Ottawa is an elite team and when they are rolling on all cylinders, they can be hard to beat.  The key for the Sens is Sidney Crosby.  If they can push Sid the Kid out of the center of the ice, they can win games.  If you take the game out of Sidney’s hands, it makes the game a lot more manageable.  Goaltending is not great on either side of the ice.  I think the series will come down to six games, maybe seven.  Verdict: Penguins 4-Senators 2

But Hey!  What the hell do I know?  I’m just excited it’s playoff time again.-AJ

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