2011 First round playoff predictions

Penaltykiller

EASTERN CONFERENCE

Capitals vs Rangers
These. teams are more eventually matched that the standings would suggest. They finished close to each other in goals per game, goals against average, PP %,  shots against, and save percentage. Both were also in the top ten in PK%. This series could go either way, but I think the Rangers defense and Lundqvist will edge out the Capitals.  Rangers in seven.

Flyers vs Sabres
The Flyers depth will overwhelm the Sabres, but Miller may steal a game or two. Flyers in six.

Bruins vs Canadiens
Boston beats Montreal in most statistical categories, but Montreal’s special teams may pose a problem for the Bruins. Bruins in seven.

Penguins vs Lightning
It was an impressive feat for the Penguins to challenge for the Atlantic without Crosby and Malkin, but their offense was a meager 2.3 non shootout goals per game in the 29 games without the both of them. They were only able to win 6 of 29 games in regulation. Their luck will run out in the playoffs. Tampa in five.

WESTERN CONFERENCE

Canucks vs Blackhawks
Chicago may have backed into the playoffs, but they are a much better team than their finish would indicate. If there is any series ripe for a upset this would be the easy choice, but  Vancouver is at or near the top of almost every statistical category. It will be a hard fought battle, but Vancouver will over come their demons. Vancouver in 6.

Sharks vs Kings
LA’s powerplay problems and general offensive woes will likely continue to haunt them vs the team with the best shot differential. Sharks in five.

Red Wings vs Coyotes
Detroit’s only real weakness compared to the Coyotes is their goaltending, but it will not be enough for the Coyotes to overcome them. Red Wings in six.

Ducks vs Predators
The Ducks are the superior offensive team, but Nashville is superior defensively with the better shot differential. Nashville beats them in a hard fought series. Nashville in seven.

Dan A

EASTERN CONFERENCE

#1 Washington/ #8 New York Rangers
While the Capitals have been the definition of a run-and-gun team over the years since the Ovechkin-Boudreau era began, which is not exactly conducive to playoff success, their turn to a defensive style (4th fewest goals allowed in the league) should prove to be a boon in the playoffs. The Rangers, on the other hand, are missing Ryan Callahan which will hurt them. Lundqvist will make the series interesting but the Caps should have enough in the tank to dispatch them. Capitals win in 6.

#2 Philadelphia/#7 Buffalo
The Flyers have been having some well-publicized problems over the past month-plus while the Sabres have been one of the hottest teams in the league. They’ve had to be this good, considering they were the worst team in the league at one point and had to make a run just to get over the bubble. However, in spite of the momentum, I believe the cream will rise to the top in this series, Bobrovsky will play well enough to get through, and the Flyers will come out on top. Flyers win in 6.

#3 Boston/#6 Montreal
Arguably the most heated rivalry in all of sports comes to the forefront in the Eastern Quarterfinals in this series between Original Six opponents. Tim Thomas had a magical season, beating Dominik Hasek’s previous NHL record with a .938 SV% and also leading all goaltenders in GAA, and the Bruins’ formerly anemic offense found a spark. However I just have a hunch about this series. I’m not the world’s biggest Carey Price fan, however I see him having a big series and leading the Canadiens to victory. Plus the Bruins have Tomas Kaberle so, naturally, they can’t be successful. Canadiens win in 7 games.

#4 Pittsburgh/#5 Tampa Bay
The Lightning have the firepower with Stamkos and St. Louis, complimented by Lecavalier and former-Flyer Simon Gagne. They also have an experienced goaltender in 41-year-old Dwayne Roloson. However, despite being without big stars Crosby and Malkin, the Penguins still have a stifling defensive system, with a defensive corps led by Michalek and Orpik. Plus you can’t forget that they have playoff beast Marc-Andre Fleury in goal. The Lightning will have their day, just not this year. Penguins win in 5.

WESTERN CONFERENCE

#1 Vancouver/#8 Chicago
The Canucks have been so dominant this year, leading the league in virtually every statistical category and with Roberto Luongo having his best statistical season to date, the team is firing on all cylinders.  The Blackhawks, a.k.a. the Spectre of Heartbreaks Past, await them in the first round with history on their side.  However, with the Blackhawks’ injury-woes and their GM trading half the team in the offseason, not even Jonathan Toews’ patented glass-eyed stare will save them. Vancouver rolls in a 4 game sweep.

#2 San Jose/#7 Los Angeles
The Kings had, for all intents and purposes, a humongously disappointing season while the Sharks went on an absolute tear over the last 30 or so games of the year.  Goaltending is a wash in this series; however the absence of Anze Kopitar and the injury to Justin Williams will prove crippling to the Kings. Sharks take it in 5.

#3 Detroit/#6 Phoenix
The hotly contested 4 vs. 5 matchup from last year is revisited this year in the Red Wings and Coyotes. After a successful regular season for both teams, each enters this series on a bit of a skid and one will have to break the funk to triumph. The Red Wings were able to prevail in game 7 on the road last year and I see the road team winning again this year. Ilya Bryzgalov will lead his Coyotes to their first series win (and possibly last) in franchise history. Coyotes in 7.

#4 Anaheim/#5 Nashville
This series is the definition of the unstoppable force versus immovable object. The Ducks have the highest-scoring line in hockey, complete with the NHL’s leading goalscorer Corey Perry (yeah I can hardly believe it myself). The Predators, on the other hand, have the imposing physical presence of goaltender Pekka Rinne looming in the crease, trailing only Thomas in SV% and Thomas and Luongo in GAA. I think the combination of the Weber/Suter pairing and the goaltending of Rinne will wear down the Ducks. Predators win in 6.

Nick D

It’s now April. Spring is upon us and so are the Stanley Cup Playoffs. And it’s about damn time too because the rigors of the regular season have taken a toll on just about every team that has made it to the Sweet 16. The games will be exciting and fast paced and every single minute of every single game means something now. This is the time of year that every player, coach, general manager, and fan waits for and there will absolutely be reason to cheer, to boo, to hang your head, and to celebrate as one team will win 16 games and raise the Stanley Cup. It’s going to be a ride for sure and here are some predictions as to how that’s going to play out, or at least the first round anyway.

EASTERN CONFERENCE

Washington Capitals vs New York Rangers
This is a matchup that both teams fought extremely hard for. The Washington Capitals faced a lot more adversity than they had in the previous three years as the team couldn’t get their offense clicking for a good portion of the year while they made the transition to a more defense-first oriented game. The Rangers scratched and clawed to finally end up with the eighth spot in the East, but it came at more than likely too great a price as leading scorer Ryan Callahan will be out till next year, no matter who advances to the semifinal round from this series. The Rangers could feasibly win a game, but I don’t see them winning more than two against this Capitals team. Capitals in 5

Philadelphia Flyers vs Buffalo Sabres
The Flyers all but had the East locked up while the Sabres were wallowing somewhere near the bottom of the pile in January. My how things have changed. The Sabres made it to the dance by locking in with the seventh seed, while the Flyers fell to second overall in the conference. That being said, I don’t think enough has been made of veteran defenseman Chris Pronger’s absence during the final 20 games or so as he was officially gone for 16 straight, but had came back and played, then went out again. Anybody who watches this team regularly knows the Flyers are a completely different team with Pronger in the lineup. The Sabres have a huge injury of their own to deal with in Derrick Roy, but he’s been out for the last three months with a leg injury. People want to harp on goaltending, but there are absolutely no elite netminders with a Stanley Cup Ring in the new NHL. Not only that, only one goalie who has played over 60 games during the regular season has won it all since 2005, and that was Marc-Andre Fleury in 2009 who had played 62 contests. What makes anyone think that will change now? I say the better team will win this series and the better, deeper, more talented team is definitely the Flyers. Flyers in 5

Boston Bruins vs Montreal Canadiens
This will be the biggest battle this year’s playoffs will see without a doubt in this writer’s mind. Regardless of how long it lasts, these two teams don’t mildly dislike each other, they flat out hate each other. There is practically a five alarm every time these two take to the ice. If there were tv ratings for sports, this series’ rating would be Mature more than likely. Neither team will jeopardize their chances of advancing to the next round, but don’t expect the players from these two teams to be friendly or warm towards each other. Everyone keeps saying the Bruins have a collective chip on their shoulder due to last year’s collapse in the post season which saw them blow a three games to none lead over the Flyers and lose in seven, and that’s probably true. On the side of the tape, Canadiens made a name for themselves last year as giant killers when they took out the Capitals and the Penguins in the first two rounds of the playoffs before being run over in five games by the Flyers. The difference this year is that the Canadiens are far too banged up all over their lineup to compete with a team like the Bruins, and though Boston’s depth and team play is way, way overrated, they’ll take this series. Bruins in 7

Pittsburgh Penguins vs Tampa Bay Lighting
The Penguins faced more adversity than any team in the league this year as they not only lost captain Sidney Crosby and all-star center Evgeni Malkin for the balance of the regular season in January, but the team had key injuries up and down the forward corps all throughout the year. It’s amazing they even made the playoffs let alone challenged for the Eastern Conference and Atlantic Division titles. The Lightning on the other hand faced adversity by way of inconsistency more so than through injury, though they were missing Simon Gagne and Vincent Lecavalier for sizable chunks of the season. The thing is, despite the Penguins being a character team, a team that’s been there before, and a fairly balanced team from their forwards down to their goalies, they also don’t do well against teams who constantly attack when they don’t have Crosby and Malkin in the lineup as seen against the Flyers overwhelming 5-2 win just a few weeks ago. That’s not even mentioning the fact that the Lightning have a lot of offense, guys who have been there before as well, and guys who can and will score huge goals at huge times. This one could really go either way and though this pick may seem based on bias, it’s more based on the match up. Lightning in 7

WESTERN CONFERENCE

Vancouver Canucks vs Chicago Blackhawks
The Vancouver Canucks are an extremely deep team. Their defense is a stellar group of guys, their forwards play great at both ends of the ice, and their goaltenders are very good. The Blackhawks have been inconsistent this year and just barely made the playoffs in the Wild West. They are not the same team as last year and do not have near the depth on each line that they did when they won the Cup. Although this is a bad draw for Vancouver as the Blackhawks have had this team’s number over the past two years in the playoffs, I just can’t see the ‘Hawks competing with Vancouver’s depth. Canucks in 6

San Jose Sharks vs Los Angeles Kings
The Sharks were one of the hottest teams down the stretch and they rode Antii Niemi most of the way as he was incredible through the second half to make almost every one of his critics forget about his pretty awful first half. The Kings were up and down for stretches in the season, but they are well coached and although they may not be extremely deep, they’re a very balanced team. The problem for the Kings is they’ll be without Anze Kopitar entirely and a healthy Justin Williams. Those two guys being out or not 100% hurts their chances a little too much against the more talented Sharks. Sharks in 6

Detroit Red Wings vs Phoenix Coyotes
The Red Wings will be without Henrik Zetterberg for at least game one, and though he’s a huge contributor on both ends of the ice for them, have you looked at Detroit’s roster? It really doesn’t matter that much because they are a dangerous, deep, talented, and experienced team. The Coyotes are a well coached, fairly balanced team, but they’re not anywhere close to the level of the Red Wings. The Coyotes will need way too many things to bounce their way to win even three games in this series. Red Wings in 6

Anaheim Ducks vs Nashville Predators
The Ducks seem like they might have a little bit of that whole “destiny” look about them as they’ve battled adversity, inconsistency, injuries, and fatigue from an overcrowded first half schedule. Management made key moves at key times, like scooping up Ray Emery, and they have a group of guys that really just get things done when need be. The Predators made a great move in acquiring center Mike Fisher who should fit in perfectly in Nashville for years to come, but that move hasn’t exactly panned out yet as he hasn’t produced up to his potential there yet. Coach Barry Trotz is undoubtedly the most underrated coach in the league, but this is a real bad draw for the Predators as the Ducks may have the most confidence of any Western Conference playoff team heading into the post season. It’s gonna take more than a good system, a great goalie, and an excellent coach to ruffle the Ducks’ feathers. Ducks in 6

Marcello D

EASTERN CONFERENCE

#1 Washington/ #8 New York Rangers
The Capitals have been playing possum all season and will pounce on the Rangers. Washington has learned it’s lesson and spent all season prepping for the playoffs. New York won’t lay down by any means, though. I expect a tough battle where Washington emerges victorious and lives to see another round of the playoffs. Capitals in 6

#2 Philadelphia/#7 Buffalo
Despite holding the second seed in the East, the Flyers are pegged as the underdogs in this series. That’s nothing new, though. Buffalo finished the season strong but they are not deep enough to take down the Flyers. I expect a lot from Philly’s defense, regardless of whether or not Pronger plays. Braydon Coburn will be physical, Andrej Meszaros will dominate, and the team defense will finally get back on track. The Miller/Bobrovsky matchup won’t be a factor because getting pucks on the Russian rookie will be a harrowing task for Buffalo’s skater. Flyers in 5

#3 Boston/#6 Montreal
As far as I’m concerned, this is the most exciting series of the first round. The story lines are bottomless between these two rivals. It will be fun to watch and both teams will rack up major and minor penalties throughout the series. I think this series has the highest potential for a true upset — a 4/5 series doesn’t count — but Boston will sneak by Montreal. The Habs, 2010′s Cinderella story, will exit the playoffs early after a long, bloody series. Bruins in 7

#4 Pittsburgh/#5 Tampa Bay
The Penguins have been nothing shy of impressive this season, rising above injuries to key players like Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin that, in theory, should have kept them out of the playoff picture. In my opinion, the way Dan Bylsma rallyed his troops should make him a shoo-in for the Jack Adams award. On the other hand, I’ve viewed the Tampa Bay Lighting with equal parts admiration and fear. In the beginning of the season, I said that, if the Lightning could add a defender and a goalie, they could make a serious run at the Cup. Well, they’ve added Dwayne Roloson, Eric Brewer, and Marc-Andre Bergeron. If Roloson can be consistent and Gagne channels his 2010 postseason heroics, they’ll top their formidable opponent. Lightning in 6

WESTERN CONFERENCE

#1 Vancouver/#8 Chicago
I’d like to believe that the Blackhawks can continue their postseason dominance over the Canucks but I just don’t see that happening this year. Chicago will be lucky to eek out a win against the prohibitive Cup favorites. Canucks in 5

#2 San Jose/#7 Los Angeles
Injuries, offensive struggles, and a lack of depth will prove fatal for the Kings’ Stanley Cup aspirations. The team that failed to land Ilya Kovalchuk this summer will also fail to make it beyond the first round. The hot Sharks will take this series. Sharks in 5

#3 Detroit/#6 Phoenix
All their bags are packed, they’re ready to go… The perennial postseason contenders will put the Coyotes our of their desert misery, where they’ll be leavin’ to be the Jets again. The Coyotes match up well against Detroit and tend to give them a bit of a challenge but Detroit will prevail. Red Wings in 6

#4 Anaheim/#5 Nashville
In the West, I am most excited about this series. The Ducks are a fun team to watch but the Predators are the most respectable, hard-working team in hockey. If it’s true that defense wins championships that Nashville has the edge over the Ducks. They’re built from the net out and, in some ways, remind me of the first two Cup teams in New Jersey. I think the 5 seed comes away with the victory in both divisions. Predators in 7

Bob H

EASTERN CONFERENCE
Flyers over Sabres in 6
Penguins over Lightning in 5
Bruins over Canadiens in 7
Rangers over Capitals in 6

WESTERN CONFERENCE
Red Wings over Coyotes in 6
Canucks over Blackhawks in 5
Ducks over Predators in 6
Sharks over Kings in 5

 

  • Billy B

    EASTERN CONFERENCE
    Sabres over Flyers in 6
    Penguins over Lightning in 7
    Canadiens over Bruins in 6
    Capitals over Rangers in 5

    WESTERN CONFERENCE
    Red Wings over Coyotes in 5
    Canucks over Blackhawks in 6
    Ducks over Predators in 7
    Kings over Sharks in 7

  • Billy B

    EASTERN CONFERENCE
    Sabres over Flyers in 6
    Penguins over Lightning in 7
    Canadiens over Bruins in 6
    Capitals over Rangers in 5

    WESTERN CONFERENCE
    Red Wings over Coyotes in 5
    Canucks over Blackhawks in 6
    Ducks over Predators in 7
    Kings over Sharks in 7