3. Canucks vs 6. Sharks
First things first. Both teams are not as strong as they were two years ago. Canucks are flying under the radar a bit, and I think the Sharks will take Vancouver lightly as they swept the regular season series and read too much into how little people are talking about the Canucks. I predict this will be a tight series with two games that make it to OT. The key for the Canucks will be to keep the PP going. The PP has been better of late, and will produce in this series. The Canucks will get on the Sharks early, be the more physical team and break the Sharks' brittle confidence.
Canucks in 5
1. Blackhawks vs 8. Wild
The Wild have limped into the playoffs and will be very lucky to win one game. A couple of games will be close, but the Hawks will cruise to an easy series win.
Hawks in 4
2. Ducks vs 7. Red Wings
This will be one of the tightest series of the first round. Detroit is not the team they once were, and Anaheim is an overrated group that sits higher up in the standings then they actually should be due to a very hot start. This is by far the worst travel in the first round, with a three hour time difference between the two cities. Tough to pick a winner, but there are some Detroit fans in the office I'd like to see sad, so...
Ducks in 7
4. Blues vs 5. Kings
This will be another tough series. This one will either be a slow, grinding series, a touch, physical series or both. I'm predicting that the first two games of this series will be great, physical battles, but that will fizzle out as the games get more important. I don't see LA repeating, but I do see them getting by the Blues in round 1.
Kings in 6
1. Penguins vs 8. Islanders
This is by far the easiest series to pick. The Islanders are a low budget team and it will show from game 2 onward. John Tavares is a fantastic player, but I don't think even he's good enough to win his team one game.
Pens in 4
2. Canadiens vs 7. Senators
This is a great matchup for the small Montreal forward group. Ottawa has played well despite their bad luck with injuries, and Karlsson will be a big factor. In the end, though, Ottawa won't be able to score enough, and Montreal has more depth all over the place. Anderson has come back down to Earth too. He'll need to be incredible for Ottawa to win this series.
Habs in 6
3. Capitals vs 6. Rangers
Washington versus New York again? Jeez! One of the league's most overrated players versus one of the most overrated coaches. On paper, New York should win, but Washington has come on of late and Torts will lean on his best players too much. Nash will not perform well, and Lundqvist isn't able to score goals.
Capitals in 7
4. Bruins vs 5. Maple Leafs
Not a hard series to pick. The Leafs are one of the worst teams to make the playoffs. They don't have a good puck possession game, and get very few shots on goal. Carlyle thinks all they need to do is hit and punch people in the head to win. The Bruins aren't the team they were two years ago, but they are deeper all around than Toronto is. The excitement of being in the playoffs, and playing playoff games at home for the first time since I was a junior in high school, will propel Toronto to two wins in this series,
Boston in 6