Stanley Cup Predictions, 2011 Edition
The defending champion Chicago Blackhawks are in tough against the top team in the NHL when they face off with Vancouver tonight.
While in the East, it’s a battle of proving your worth with the top seeded Capitals trying to break away from their playoff woes against the Rangers.
I’m sure many of you will disagree or have your own opinions, so feel free to share them in the comments section and let me know your predictions.
Without further adieu, here are my predictions for the first round of the playoffs and who I think can change the course of each series.
Vancouver Canucks – Chicago Blackhawks
While Chicago has had Vancouver’s number the last few times they’ve duked it out in the playoffs, this years edition sees the Canucks more confident and ready to go.
The Sedins are once again on fire and Roberto Luongo is playing some of the best hockey of his career while the Blackhawks slipped into the playoffs and have battled injuries down the stretch.
Key Player: Jonathan Toews, Captain serious has the potential to steal the series if he gets hot and throws his team on his back.
My prediction? Canucks in Six
San Jose Sharks – LA Kings
The Sharks broke their playoff duck last year and are locked and loaded for another drive deeper into the playoffs, the Kings have fought well the last few weeks despite key injuries but are not at the level needed to beat the Sharks in a best of seven.
With everyone chipping in, the Sharks looked primed for the playoffs and ready to build on last year’s success.
Key Player: Joe Thornton had a quiet season scoring goals by his standards, but his big body presence and ability to pass the puck will push the Sharks over the edge.
My prediction? Sharks in Five
Detroit Red Wings – Phoenix Coyotes
Experience verse youth in this battle, the Red Wings pipped the Coyotes in game Seven last year and many expect them to do it again this year.
However, with the Coyotes showing great confidence and an old, fragile Red Wings team not looking like their former selves i’m giving the edge to a Yandle led Phoenix team.
This is my upset of the first round and it’s but a pipe dream.
Key Player: Jimmy Howard picked up a win in his final appearance of the regular season and Howard will have the ability to steal this one for the Red Wings.
My Prediction? Coyotes in Seven
Anaheim Ducks – Nashville Predators
With what may be the best top line in the NHL right now, the Ducks were carried on the back of Cory Perry straight into the playoffs.
Nashville will have their hands full not just shutting down Perry but his linemates and a rejuvenated Teemu Selanne who finished 8th in scoring despite his age.
Goaltending is the big issue for the Ducks, with both their choice starters battling against time to get fit for the playoffs.
Key Player: To beat the Ducks, the Preds need to shut down Cory Perry. Goodluck. The kid has been on fire and his scoring touch will be the key to the Ducks overcoming their goaltending woes.
My Prediction? Ducks in Six
No Sidney Crosby to light up the playoffs, a Halak-less Habs and lots of upset potential litter the first round in the East.
Washington Capitals – New York Rangers
This matchup has upset written all over it, but i’m willing to give the Caps the credit that winning the East is due.
Look to Ovechkin to play supporting star in this series, with Semin leading the offensive charge.
King Henrick has the ability to steal a game or two, but it’s Washington’s year to prove they are the quality they believe they have .
Key Player: Sorry, this is a battle between the coaches. Tortorella and Bruce Boudreau will be providing some of the best sound bytes for decades, don’t turn away.
My Prediction? Capitals in Six
Philadelphia Flyers – Buffalo Sabres
Sorry Ryan Miller, the Flyers are built for the playoffs and itching to make good on falling short last season.
Lead by the tandem of Mike Richards and Jeff Carter, this Flyers team has just one big question mark: Will Chris Pronger play or not?
Pronger is the key cog in the Flyers wheel and the Sabres will catch a huge break if the big man doesn’t get his usual ice-time.
Miller will need to stand on his head to steal a few games in this one.
Key Player: The big X-Factor for the Flyers is Chris Pronger and his health will help decide this series.
My Prediction? Flyers in Six.
Boston Bruins – Montreal Canadiens
The one matchup the Habs didn’t want and they’re stuck playing the Boston Bruins.
Last year the Habs rode the unflappable Halak and will need Carey Price to stand on his head, build a brick wall and cross his fingers to beat the Bruins.
Boston is bigger, faster, stronger and have offensive weapons on all four lines.
Over a seven game series, the Habs don’t seem tough enough to compete and will have a hard time competing in every game.
Key Player: Carey Price. He needs to continue to be outstanding like all season and will have to do everything in his power to keep his team alive.
My Prediction? Bruins in Five
Pittsburgh Penguins – Tampa Bay Lightning
Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are out, but the Penguins have been winning as a team for a while now.
The team has shown a spirited resiliency fighting into the playoffs and as a team have really come together.
The offensive firepower of Steven Stamkos, Vincent Lecalier and Martin St. Louis will be looking to push their team Marc-Andre Fleury, while the Pens will be looking to exploit the Lightnings biggest weakness: Dwayne Roloson.
Key Player: Steven Stamkos was on fire early on in the season and will need to get back to his high flying offensive ways, if Stamkos is scoring and the powerplay is clicking the Lightning can win this one.
My Prediction? Lightning in Seven, with lots of overtime hockey.