I know most of you cannot wait for the NHL playoffs to start. Here is a breakdown of all the matchups to get you prepared for Wednesdays games. For those of you who flipped right over any televised hockey game, do yourself a favor, watch the playoffs. This year should be a very exciting playoff race. I will try to make this as brief as possible as I am sure many of you have already stopped reading.
Montreal Canadiens: 47 wins, 104 points, 1st in the Northeast Division
Boston Bruins: 41 wins, 94 points, 3rd in the Northeast Division
This one is simple, Canadiens in 4 games. I am a Bruins fan and I will still go Canadiens in 4.
Montreal has taken the season series 8 - 0 with only one game going to shoot out. The Bruins got a little hope with the news of Patrice Bergeron being cleared to play. Bergeron will choose to sit out at least the first game. Bergeron has been out since a concussion side-lined him on Oct. 27th.
But beyond Bergeron, Boston's leading scorer Marco Sturm has missed the last 7 games with a broken bone in his back, Marc Savard, the teams leading scorer has been missing time, Chuck Kobasew will be out with a broken leg.
The Bottom line is you have to give Boston credit for making the playoffs. It is the first playoff birth since the lockout and many sports writer had the Bruins finishing at the bottome of the entire league.
Pittsburgh Penguins: 47 wins, 102 points, 1st in the Atlantic Division
Ottawa Senators: 43 wins, 94 points, 2nd in the Northeast Division
I will go with the Penguins in 5 games.
The Senators struggled down the stretch, going from a top seed for the first half of the year to sneaking in as the 7th seed. Their punishment, a matchup against the Penguins.
With a top three of Jason Spezza (34 goals, 58 assists), Daniel Alfredsson (40 goals, 49 assists) and Dany Heatley (41 goals, 41 assists), Ottawa has a chance here. However, with a roster of Evegni Malkin (47 goals, 59 assists), Sidney Crosby (24 goals, 48 assists), and Marian Hossa (29 goals, 37 assists), Ottawa will have to bring its A game. Pittsburgh also boasts a better defense, surrendering 189 goals this season. Ottawa on the other hand has relinquished 240 goals this season.
Ottawa's only chance is in their power play. The Senators are 13th in the league (18.6%) on the power play, while the Penguins are a meager 23rd (81.1%) on the penalty kill.
The Senators won the season series 3-1 (2 went to OT)
The bottom line here is that Ottawa will not be able to contain Malkin or Crosby.
Washington Capitals: 43 wins, 94 points, 1st in the Southeast Division
Philadelphia Flyers: 42 wins, 95 points, 4th in the Atlantic Division
I am gonna choose the Capitals in 7 games.
This will be the best series of the first round. Not only because of Alexander Ovechkin, but you have two of the hottest teams facing off.
The Flyers finshed the year 7-1-1 including 2 wins over the NY Rangers, 1 win over the NJ Devils and 1 win over the Penguins.
The Capitals were 11 -1- 0 in their last 12. Though only 2 wins came against playoff teams.
This one will come down to one key factor, goaltending. The Capitals' Cristobal Huet, a midseason acquisition, has been very impressive. He boasts a 2.32 GAA and a .920 save %. His opposition will be Martin Biron, who's 2.59 GAA is less than modest. Neither netminder has much experience, Huet 6 playoff games, Biron 0 playoff games. The fact remains Huet has been more consistent and has shown he is ready to face the pressure of playoff hockey.
Ovechkin will score and force the Flyers to focus extra energy on him while another mid-season acquisition Sergei Federov has an excellent series.
Give credit to the Flyers' Daniel Briere, Kimmo Timonen and Mike Richards for great years. The organization should be proud of a 91 point season following their 56 point effort, which was the lowest point total in franchise history.
The season series is tied at 2-2; enjoy the Ovechkin show.
New Jersey Devils: 46 wins, 99 points, 2nd in the Atlantic Division
New York Rangers: 42 wins, 97 points, 3rd in the Atlantic Division
I'll take the Rangers in 6 in this one.
This should be easily the most boring series of the entire post-season. The Rangers are 25th in scoring and the Devils are 27th. Even each team's power play is suspect (NY - 21st, NJ - 24th).
Good thing they each have stellar goaltending. The Rangers' Henrik Lundqvist has a 2.23 GAA with a save % of .912. The Devils' Martin Brodeur (hey someone you've heard of before) has an even better 2.17 GAA and a .920 save %.
If New York gets good production from Jaromir Jagr, expect New York to continue its success against the Devils
The Rangers won the season series 7-1 (though 4 went into OT with 3 Shoot outs)
Detroit Red Wings: 54 wins, 115 points, 1st in the Central Division
Nashville Predators: 41 wins, 91 points, 2nd in the Central Division
Hmm, I think not only the Red Wings will win 4-0 but that the Predators may not even score. I am not trying to be harsh on Nashville but Detroit is in another league.
Despite beating the Red Wings in 3 of 8 games during the season, the Red Wings are poised to make a long run.
Jason Arnott and J.P. Dumont have had impressive years (Arnott - 28 goals, 44 assists; Dumont - 29 goals, 43 assists). This 1-2 punch will not be able to break through Detroit's intimidating defense of Niklas Lidstrom and Brian Rafalski. Not to mention, Dominik Hasek's 2.14 GAA maybe the nail in Nashville's Coffin.
Detroits Offense, especially Pavel Datsyuk (31 goals and 66 assists) and Henrik Zetterberg (43 goals and 49 assists) needs to be mentioned as well.
Nashville's goalie Dan Ellis has made a name for himself this year with a solid .924 save %, but his hands will be full.
Key stat: Datsyuk has a +41 and Zetterberg a +30, when they are on the ice opponents are not scoring.
San Jose Sharks: 49 wins, 108 points, 1st in the Pacific Division
Calgary Flames: 42 wins, 94 points, 3rd in the Northwest Division
This one will not be as easy as people think, but San Jose will prevail in 6 games.
Calgary will need complete efforts from there big three, Jarome Iginla, Kristian Huselius and Daymond Langkow. All three have had productive years, Iginla - 50 goals, 48 assists; Huselius - 25 goals, 41 assists; Langkow - 30 goals, 35 assists.
They will have the daunting task of beating Evgeni Nabakov and his 2.14 GAA.
Factors: Calgary has not won three straight games since the end of February.
The Sharks special teams; power play - 10th best, penalty kill - 3rd best.
Cheechoo is back, can he prioduce like he did last year?
The key here is Joe Thornton and his league leading 67 assists, not even Dion Phaneuf can muscle this guy off the puck.
However, the Flames play the Sharks very well and took the season series 3-1. But, the playoffs are a brand new season and the Sharks have too much riding on this year to lose in the opening round.
Minnesota Wild: 44 wins, 98 points, 1st in the Northwest Division
Colorado Avalanche: 44 wins, 95 points, 2nd in the Northwest Division
I like the Wild and what they have done this year but i'll take the Avs in 7 games.
Sure the Wild have only 2 regulation losses in their past 14 games but they have 5 OT losses and from now on, a loss is a loss. The Wild have played the Avalanche 3 times within that stretch. They beat them 3-1 in Minnesota as well as 3-2 in OT in Minnesota, then lost their final game of the season in Colorado in OT 3-4.
What does this mean? I believe it will be great series. Sakic has returned for the Avs and since they have gon 5- 0 -1. Jose Theodore has been shaky at time but he is 12 - 4 - 1 in his last 17 games.
Minnesota will rely on their star RW Marian Gaborik (42 goals, 41 assists)
Paul Stastny will need to prove his worth for Colorado (24 goals, 47 assists, in just 66 games)
It looks like Forsberg is back and contributing, notching 1 goal and 4 assists in the final 2 games of the season.
The key to the series will be the power play. Minnesota holds huge advantages in both power play (2nd) and penalty kill (7th). Colorado on the other hand struggles, PP (29th), PK(20th). If the Wild can cause a lot of penalties they can control this series. The Avalanche must improve with the man advantage or they will go home early.
Anaheim Ducks: 47 wins, 102 points, 2nd in the Pacific Division
Dallas Stars: 45 wins, 97 points, 3rd in the Pacific Division
I am going to take Anaheim in 5 games.
i like the Ducks to win for one major reason defense. With Chris Pronger back from a 8 game suspension (he stomped on a guys leg), the Ducks have one f the best defenses in the league (along with Detroit and San Jose). Jean - Sebastian Giguere (in my opinion) is the best goalie in the league (2.12 GAA and .922 save %). Not to mention back up goalie Jonas Hiller is a solid fill-in if an injury occurs.
Anaheim is red hot and Dallas is not. Since Teemu Selanne returned to the Ducks, they have gone 20 - 5 - 1. Dallas, meanwhile, has gone 4- 8- 2 in their last 14 games.
Dallas has talented goal scorers like Brendan Morrow (31), Mike Ribeiro (27) and Niklas Hagman (27). The Stars finsihed 10th in the league in scoring (2nd in the Western Conf.)
Colorado has moderate goal scorers as well such as Milan Hejduk (29), Marek Svatos (26), Paul Stastny (24). Svatos and Stastny both missed more than 10 games this year and with a healthy Teemu Selanne these players should only get better.
The bottom line is that Dallas has failed to advance beyond the first round for the past 3 seasons. This season the trend will continue as Anaheim's defense proves to be better than the Stars' offense.
Enjoy the playoffs, hopefully this post-season will get people interested in Hockey again.