It’s that time of the year again. Tomorrow one of the most anticipated moments of the year in sports begin: NHL playoffs, the quest for the ice Holy Grail, the Stanley Cup.
NHL playoffs are usually hard to predict but my guess is that this year it will be even harder. The teams are all very even and I don’t think it’s prudent to say that there is a team playing much better than another. Not even the NY Rangers who took home the president’s trophy.
And there’s another interesting characteristic for this year’s playoffs: ever since 2004 playoffs there hadn’t been so many Canadian team in the Stanley Cup finals. Who knows, maybe they’ll end their 22 year drought.
Anyway, anything that I’m going to write from now on it will be simply based on my opinions and feeling. This is the first round and there are eight of games to cover, so let’s go.
Montreal Canadiens vs. Ottawa Senators: And what do you know? The very first game is already a Canadian showdown. Helped by the Boston Bruins ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, the Senators manage to secure their place in the playoffs. Of course there’s an element of regional rivalry in play here, but as much as I don’t like the Canadiens (I’m a Bruins fan), I don’t think the Sens can beat them four times. Montreal wins 4-1.
Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Detroit Red Wings: This one should be a bundle of joy to watch and definitely one of the best series of this first round. Tampa Bay played better the whole season and they got Steven Stamkos. However, you can never underestimate the team with most consecutive appearances in the postseason in all professional sports. It will be tough, but I’m gonna give Tampa Bay some credit on this one: Tampa Bay wins 4-3.
New York Rangers vs. Pittsburgh Penguins: Another one which is very hard to predict. As I said in the introduction, the Rangers won the president’s trophy and are playing great. Actually it should be a no brainer if the adversary wasn’t the Penguins. Why? Well, the Penguins do have Sidney Crosby (still the best in the world) and Evgeni Malkin. Last year the Rangers defeated the Penguins with a team not as good as this, so I think they’ll do it again. But it will be really hard. Rangers win 4-3.
Washington Capitals vs. New York Islanders: At some point during the season, the Islanders played the best hockey in the league. They seemed poised to win the Stanley Cup on their last year playing at the Nassau Coliseum. Maybe they peaked too early, but the fact is that they are not so dominant now. On the other side we have a good Capitals team with Alexander Ovechkin playing lights out; probably the regular season MVP. Another hard fought one and as much as it breaks my heart to say (I do have sympathy for the Islanders), I think the Capitals will move on. Capitals win 4-2.
St. Louis Blues vs. Minnesota Wild: I must admit I have a soft spot in my heart for the Minnesota Wild. Although they play in St. Paul, Minneapolis is one of my favorite places to visit and I end up having sympathy for all Minnesota teams. Besides they have homeboy Zach Parise and Mikko Koivu as their forwards. However, the St. Louis Blues won the division and have Pietrangelo, Oshie and Steen. As with any Stanley Cup playoff series it’s difficult to make a prediction, but I think the Blues are a better team and will probably move on. Blues win 4-1.
Nashville Predators vs. Chicago Blackhawks: Now we’re talking. My guess is that this one promises to be the best series of the first round. Of all teams I saw playing this year, the Predators impressed me the most and they do have a wonderful goalie in Pekka Rinne. However, they’ll be facing probably the hardest team to play against come playoff time, the Chicago Blackhawks. Although their best player Patrick Kane is still on injured reserve, they still got Hossa, Saad and Toews. I’m tempted to sit on a fence on this one, but I won’t do that. Maybe the lack of Patrick Kane and home-ice advantage will be decisive. Predators win 4-3.
Anaheim Ducks vs. Winnipeg Jets: Last year Anaheim was thought to get to the Stanley Cup finals when they lost to a Kings team which went on to become champions. This year is basically the same thing. They are huge favorites against a Winnipeg team that has in their advantage the excitement of their home fans able to watch an NHL playoff game on their ice for the first time since 1996. However, I don’t think all this excitement will be enough. Ducks win 4-0.
Vancouver Canucks vs. Calgary Flames: Another domestic Canadian match-up. This one is a little trickier than the Senators/Canadiens one. These two teams are more even. Vancouver has the advantage of a team that has been going to the playoffs often and the Sedin brothers, along with Bo Horvat. The Flames on the other hand have a rather good team and Johnny Gaudreau, aka Johnny Hockey, who is just like Jonny Football, except this one is actually REALLY good. It will be hard fought, but I’m going with Calgary. Flames win 4-3.
All in all, I’m ready for another very exciting playoff season (NHL playoffs are very, very thrilling) and I hope to watch as many games as I can.
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