The Stanley Cup Playoffs begin Wednesday night with 16 teams facing off against each other in what promises to be a very exciting round of hockey. Obviously we all know that the Florida Panthers will not be participating for the 10th consecutive season, but that won’t stop us here at the Rat Trick from getting behind some team and spending our spring cheering for a potential champion. Unless you live under interstate 95, or have no internet (Mom), it’s pretty obvious to the 5 people who read this site that my choice for a team to root for is the Chicago Blackhawks. Born, raised and having lived there for 30 years before coming here, it’s a simple decision. With that in mind, here are my picks for round one of the playoffs starting with the Eastern Conference first:
1. Washington Capitals vs. 8. New York Rangers: Pretty easy pick for me here and I’m looking at the Caps to win this one in five games. Too much scoring, a much better defence than last year, and two goaltenders with a third if needed that seem to be poised to have a strong performance. Plus the Rangers are a bit banged up and while Henrik Lundqvist may not be tired after playing 68 games, Washington has too much firepower. For this round anyway. Caps in 5.
2. Philadelphia Flyers vs. 7. Buffalo Sabres: My upset special of the East. Buffalo in in 7 games. The Flyers don’t scare me as an opponent. Sure they have offensive firepower and play a nasty and physical game, but for years goaltending has been a problem. They will be challenged by a Sabres team that is HOT! With a healthy Ryan Miller and just enough of a balanced attack, they have the ability to get the job done. Sabres in 7.
3. Boston Bruins vs. 6. Montreal Canadians: This series has a lot of hype. Will it live up to it? That remains to be seen, as this has been a bitter rivalry for a long time between the two original six teams. Boston’s Tim Thomas will keep them in any game as long as his performance during the season remains at the same level. While the smurfs Montreal has won four of six from Boston during the season, there is one glaring issue that is way too late to fix, and should have been addressed at the trade deadline. Montreal is not physical enough and small. They are not built for a long playoff run, especially against a Bruins team that is big and can play almost any style you want. Carey Price who has had a phenominal season will be counted on to shut down Boston. Not saying he can’t, but the Bruins have too much muscle and Thomas is determined to prove critiques wrong. Boston in 6.
4. Pittsburgh Penguins vs. 5. Tampa Bay Lightning: My sleeper pick of the East, I’m going with Tampa in seven. Why? I don’t like the Penguins…..You all know very well that I actually hate them. Aside from that, I feel that young coach Guy Boucher has a team that will go to the wall for him. And with Vinny, Marty St. Louis, and Steven Stamkos providing the offence, the Pens will have their hands full. Granted, Marc Andre-Fleury is a game changer in net, not having Sid and Geno (Batman and Robin) for the post season will catch up to them. Lightning in 7.
On to the Western Conference:
1. Vancouver Canucks vs. 8. Chicago Blackhawks: I probably don’t even have to write this one do I? Roberto Luongo is surely not sleeping well as he’s having nightmares of the Patrick’s (Kane and Sharp), Jonathan Toews and Marion Hossa using him as target practice. The Hawks have Vancouver’s number. They know how to agitate and pester the Canucks and get them off their game. Sure Vancouver has played some great hockey this year. The Sedin Sisters, Henrietta and Daniella will get their share of offense, but the experience that the Hawks have, and the way Corey Crawford has played in goal, will be too much once again for the Canucks. Say what you want about the Hawks, this year Vancouver will have health Marion Hossa to deal with. Plus I’m sure that Vancouver used all their energy for the President’s Trophy. Hawks in 6.
2. San Jose Sharks vs. 7. Los Angeles Kings: San Jose with a solid year from Antti Niemi is out to prove critics wrong. Typical post season flops, the Sharks are lucky to face a beaten up and inconsistent Kings team. Yes lucky. While the Sharks have Thornton, Heatley and Marleau, this all should prove to be enough to get them past a Kings team that’s missing Anze Kopitar and Justin Williams. The Kings will make it hard, but they’re missing too much. Sharks in 7.
3. Detroit Red Wings vs. 6. Phoenix Coyotes: These two met last season and Phoenix took it seven games. The Wings who have a team that continues to get senior citizen discounts, keep hanging around. No doubt they can certainly beat the Desert Dogs, but I just have a feeling that this year, the tables will be turned. Dave Tippett is another coach that has players willing to do whatever it takes. Phoenix will use it’s youth and speed and will remember last year. Coyotes in 7.
4. Anaheim Ducks vs. 5. Nashville Predators: This could be a bruising series between these two teams. Both play with physicality, yet are different in a few ways. The Ducks have more offence with Corey Perry, Bobby Ryan and Ryan Getzlaf. The Predators however have Barry Trotz, a solid goaltender (Pekka Rinne) and a bruising defence led by Shea Weber, this team can shut down almost anyone. Up to this point, Nashville has never made it out of the first round. That changes this year. Nashville in 7.
Check out TSN for their playoff coverage, and make sure to visit all of our FanSided teams throughout the post season.
Tomorrow, be on the lookout for a very special and unique way of looking at the playoffs. I promise you’ll want to read it!
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