It’s spring and that means two things for me: spastic allergic reactions to pollen and the arrival of the NHL playoffs. The latter came a little late this year, but at least they’re here, which is good considering that the lockout came very close to washing out the whole season.
We’ll have to wait until tomorrow to know who exactly will play whom in the East, but the West is all ready to go, so I’ll start with them.
- Blackhawks(1) vs Wild(8)
The wild stumbled a bit in the second half of the season and as a result find themselves facing the President’s Trophy-winning Blackhawks. Not much chance for the Wild here, especially since their franchise goaltender, Markstrom, is having an off season. Both Emery and Crawford of Chicago, who split starts this season, have better numbers than Markstrom. Mind you if Markstrom gets hot suddenly, he will give Chicago all sorts of trouble, but in the end the Blackhawks will take this series rather easily.
My prediction: Blackhawks win in 5. (The Wild steal one at home)
- Ducks(2) vs Red Wings(7)
The Red Wings scraped into the playoffs, keeping alive a streak of continuous playoff appearances that goes back a long way. The Ducks are a strong collective of two-way players capped by a couple of snipers, whose weakness may lie in goaltending. Howard has played well this year for the Red Wings, but the players in front of him, despite having a ton of playoff savvy, are old and beat up, and will have a tough time handling a strong Ducks lineup.
My prediction: Ducks win in 6. (Detroit will surprise early but will inevitably run out of steam)
- Canucks(3) vs Sharks(6)
The Sharks have had an up and down season, starting brilliantly, struggling, and then picking it up again. The Canucks have the team in place to succeed, and if Schneider can handle the pressure of being the undisputed number one in net, then they will be tough to beat. This series will be a contest to see who can shut down the other team’s first line more effectively.
My prediction: Sharks win in 7. (Despite a strong series from Schneider, the Canucks will lose due to the same discipline problems they’ve had in past playoffs)
- Blues(4) vs Kings(5)
These two teams are very similar in style and stats, with only two major differences: road play and goaltending. The Blues are a far better team on the road and that can make a huge difference in the playoffs. The Blues however have a bit of a goaltending conundrum in that they have two capable keepers to choose from. Make the wrong choice on who starts and it could kill their momentum real fast. This series is a toss up.
My prediction: Blues win in 6.