NHL Playoff Preview

Daniel Fanaroff

 

It’s that time of the year again. The NHL Playoffs are here. After a tumultous season of dirty hits, stat races and surprise teams in the playoffs, 16 teams will fight for the Stanley Cup. Here are my predictions, and our keys to winning for this year’s playoffs.


 

Eastern Conference

No. 1 Washington Capitals vs. No. 8 Montreal Canadiens

Washington Keys To Win: Score. Score. Score. The Caps lead the league in point differential, with an outrageous +85.

Montreal Keys to Win: Controlling the tempo. If they don’t keep the pace in this game, Alex Ovechkin and the Caps will skate them over.

My Prediction: Capitals in four. The Caps are just too good for Montreal. Theodore is on a roll, recently setting a team record for most consecutive games without losing in regulation, and they have the best front line of any team in the NHL.

No. 2 New Jersey Devils vs. No. 7 Philadelphia Flyers

New Jersey Keys to Win: Good passes. The Flyers have one of the best defensive players in the league in Chris Pronger, who is no rookie in the playoffs. There is no fooling him, so possessing the puck will get them through.

Philadelphia Keys to Win: Get the puck in the slot. Brodeur is arguably the best goalie the NHL has ever seen, but he is seasoned and his short-shot reflexes are not what they were. Whether it’s cutting to the net, or cleaning up rebounds, to win they have to get it in the slot.

My Prediction: Devils in six. The Devils are like the Atlanta Braves of the NHL. Always a solid all-around team, but the addition of left wing Ilya Kovalchuk gives them the edge they’ve been missing.

No. 3 Buffalo Sabres vs. No. 6 Boston Bruins

Buffalo Keys to Win: Protect your goalie. Ryan Miller is the best goalie in the league right now. If they want to go to the next round, they can’t give up lucky second chances.

Boston Keys to Win: Shoot. Shoot. Shoot. The only way to beat Miller will be to wear him down. The more shots they take, the more likely they will get a shot off a rebound.

My Prediction: Sabres in five. The Bruins are plagued by injury, and their shooting as of late has not been what it needs to be to beat Miller.

No. 4 Pittsburgh Penguins vs. No. 5 Ottawa Senators

Pittsburgh Keys to Win: No penalties. The Senators’ powerplay is one of the best in the league. If the Senators get any momentum, which will most likely come off the powerplay, the series is theirs to lose.

Ottawa Keys to Win: Keep the puck out of Crosby’s stick, and work the puck around. Blue-liners Kris Letang and Brooks Orpik will knock you down if you hold on to it too long.

My Prediction: Penguins in seven. When the Senators are hot, they catch fire. But the Penguins experience in last year’s Stanley Cup will win this series for them.


Western Conference

No. 1 San Jose Sharks vs. No. 8 Colorado Avalanche

San Jose Keys to Win: Physical Play. The Sharks need to bully the Avalanche along the boards, or the Avalanche’s youth and agility might get them through.

Colorado Keys to Win: Fastbreak opportunities. The Avalanche has the aligity and youth (see rookie center Matt Duchene) to burn right through.

My Prediction: Sharks in six. After a great start, Colorado has sunk to eighth in the conference. Although they are on a three game losing streak, they have the speed to push San Jose’s boundaries.

No. 2 Chicago Blackhawks vs. No. 7 Nashville Predators

Chicago Keys to Win: Staying healthy. The team did not do well after the loss of Brent Seabrook to injury. Any injury like that could seriously jeopardize their chances.

Nashville Keys to Win: Wear down Chicago. Chicago is not a physical team and they get worn down easily. Steady board play will lead to fast break opportunities.

My Prediction: Blackhawks in six. They are second in point differential, and they won 29 of their home games this year.While both fall second in the league to Washington, this team is a force to be reckoned with.

No. 3 Vancouver Canucks vs. No. 6 Los Angeles Kings

Vancouver Keys to Win: Brotherly love. The Canucks’ fate lies on the shoulders of the Sedin twins.

Los Angeles Keys to Win: How quick is Jonathan Quick? That is the question and the answer to the Kings’ chances.

My Prediction: Vancouver in six. As good as the Los Angeles goaltending is, it just isn’t “quick” enough.

No. 4 Phoenix Coyotes vs. No. 5 Detroit Red Wings

Phoenix Keys to Win: Solid goaltending and sizing up. The Red Wings have more playoff experience than any other team, and they will not show mercy.

Detroit Keys to Win: Play to the standards that they consistently set for themselves year after year. Don’t forget, they were in the Stanley Cup finals last year.

My Prediction: Detroit in seven. One year after making the finals is too soon to be ousted in the first round.


Fanaroff will be back next week with Round Two predictions.

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