Are you ready? I will repeat, are you ready for the playoffs? I know I am. This is everybody’s favourite time of the year when it comes to hockey and it always makes it that much more enjoyable when your team is in the dance. This year’s edition will not disappoint, as once again, our beloved Montreal Canadiens have a date with the big bad Bruins. Out of the entire first round match-ups, this has to be the most anticipated of the bunch, followed by Vancouver /Chicago. With everything that has gone down between the Habs and Bruins this season one has to wonder what will happen next? I don’t think anybody can truly predict what will go down as the series heats up game by game but predicting who will win the series and in how many games is all a part of the fun that playoff hockey gives us. The Habsindepth team takes great pride in the fact that we predicted that the Habs would finish sixth in our season preview but that was predicted as a group. Now it’s time to see who will gain their bragging rights with our individual playoff predictions.
HABS VS BRUINS
In my opinion, this is the only true rivalry that is left in the new NHL. From the players to the fans, I really don’t think that there are two teams that dislike each other as these two do. When this series begins on Thursday and the puck drops, you can almost bet the farm that there will be fireworks. That is something that we all know but which Habs team will show up? The one that won the season series 4-2 or the one that was completely embarrassed by a score of 7-0 in Boston the last time these two met. I believe we will see the team that won the season series.
Montreal is considered the underdog, they are smaller, they have had a ridiculous amount of injuries to key players and most experts would tell you they don’t have much depth. Here’s the thing, this is something that the Habs have had to put up with since last season and look at what happened then. I know, I know Halak was here last year and he was the only reason that we went as far as we did. Well, I beg to differ. Again according to most experts the Habs were not even predicted to make the playoffs this year, and that was with a healthy line up. The point is our players are used to proving the experts wrong and I believe it won’t be any different in this series. Price will out-duel Thomas and maybe even Rask; the Bruins will lose their cool and allow the Habs to win the special teams battle and Martin’s defensive system will overcome Julien’s aggressive attack. To me the question is not will the Habs win the series, the real question is how healthy will they be in round two?
Prediction: Habs in six
CAPS VS RANGERS
A lot of things have been said about Washington changing their style of play this year and the lack of scoring from the great 8. This in my opinion makes them quite the threat in the playoffs this year as Ovechkin is just starting to warm up and the team is much better defensively. New York on the other hand, barley made the playoffs and their top star Marian Gaborik has once again had to battle through injuries. Lundqvist will probably steal a couple of games in this series but in the end the Caps should win this with ease.
Prediction: Caps in six
FLYERS VS SABRES
Many experts have anointed the Flyers as the next cup champs. Probably because they made the finals last season and they have multiple players that can put the puck in the net, but to me what makes this series interesting is goaltending. Will Miller stay healthy for the entire series? Which goaltender will start for the Flyers? How many will they use? Personally, I think management sent a strong message to the players when the Flyers called up Leighton and it’s not the good kind of message. This lack of confidence in the position will be the Flyers undoing as they will be stifled by Ruff’s defensive style allowing the Sabres to pull off the biggest upset of the first round.
Prediction: Sabres in seven
PENGUINS VS LIGHTNING
This should have been a star studded affair. Instead all of the stars are tilted to one side. With Crosby and Malkin out, the Pens do not have an answer for the likes of Stamkos, Lecavalier and St. Louis. Even if Crosby comes back it would almost take him the entire series to get back into game shape and make a significant impact. Don’t get me wrong Crosby will still make some kind of impact just not the kind we are used to seeing. The only thing Boucher does not have on his team right now is a solid defensive core but his highly offensive weapons will make short work of the Pens and his team will be the first to advance.
Prediction: Lightning in five
CANUCKS VS HAWKS
This should be a good one. Vancouver has had their hands full with the Hawks in the last two playoffs and even though they barely snuck in, the Hawks should not be taken lightly. This is a perfect opponent for Vancouver as they will get another crack to put out a team that has derailed them in the past. Both teams are loaded up front and both have more than capable defensemen. The big difference is in nets and this will be the series that Luongo finally gets the monkey off his back. This could also be the series that gives the Canucks the momentum that they will need to get to the cup finals.
Prediction: Canucks in seven
SHARKS VS KINGS
The Kings have some good players but losing Kopitar will hurt them in this series. The Sharks on the other hand have had a relatively quiet season but still finished second in the west. The Sharks are built to win and have plenty of depth moving forward. This held true in previous seasons but for whatever reason they choked year after year. This year should be different as they are no longer the overwhelming favorites and have slipped under the radar. The Kings will do their best to keep up but they will have to rely heavily on Quick to keep them in the games. The other thing that sways the pendulum in San Jose’s favor is Niemi. You can rest assured that the former Stanley cup champ wants to prove that he is not a flash in the pan and I am thinking he is not.
Prediction Sharks in six
RED WINGS VS COYOTES
Another interesting matchup puts the never aging Wings versus a well balanced Coyotes team. Phoenix has overcome the odds on many fronts and they have managed to be competitive despite the team’s uncertain future. One of the things that level them out other than their coach is quite possibly the most underrated goaltender in the league Ilya Bryzgalov. Unfortunately for Phoenix, Detroit is rested this season and they seem to be eager to get back to the finals. Zetterberg and Datsyuk might struggle in the first couple of games as they are both coming off of minor injuries but if Detroit gets running again it will be hard for any team to stop them.
Prediction: Red Wings in seven
DUCKS VS PREDATORS
Every year Nashville finds a way to have a strong season and every year they bow out of the playoffs early. Will this year be different? Probably not, the Preds do have a very good goalie in Rinne, they also have some effective forwards in their line up and they also have some very good defensemen. What about the Ducks? Let’s just say they are not ready to be prey. The thing that sets the Ducks apart is their offensive upside and their balanced lines up front. In Perry, Ryan and Getzlaf, the Ducks have some amazing goal scorers and in Selane and Koivu they have tremendous heart and leadership. Anaheim also has an impressive goaltender in Hiller who may or may not be ready for this series due to vertigo, if he can’t go Emery has already proven that he can do the job.
Prediction: Ducks in five