1 Vancouver Canucks vs. 8 Chicago Blackhawks
This series has a whiff of familiarity to it, right? Yes, the Blackhawks have eliminated the Canucks the last 2 years in the West Semis, but this year, it's the Canucks who are the favorites. The President's Trophy winners just hummed along all year, breaking many team records along the way and dominating most of the league. The Hawks needed helped from the Minnesota Wild on the last day of the regular season to get into the playoffs. Not that Chicago is bad or anything, but the Canucks are the clear favorite to win it all that I just can't see the Hawks taking 4 out of 7. This may be the most entertaining series of them all in the first round, and the Canucks will finally overcome the Chicago Blackhawks.
Prediction: Canucks in 6
2 San Jose Sharks vs. 7 Los Angeles Kings
This is the first time 2 teams from California have met in the postseason, and it should be a fun series. The Sharks ran into some troubles throughout the season, but they quietly won the Pacific division with a little bit more ease than expected. The Kings were expected to potentially overthrow the Sharks as division champs this season, but injuries got in the way of that. The injury to Anze Kopitar may be the one thing the Kings cannot overcome in this series. The Sharks have a Stanley Cup winning goaltender in net, and a great set of offensive talent in front. The Kings are young, and now have some playoff experience in their belts, but the Sharks are just a better team right now than the Kings are. Maybe next year the Kings will win the division.
Prediction: Sharks in 5
3 Detroit Red Wings vs. 6 Phoenix Coyotes
The last time the Red Wings missed the playoffs, George Bush Senior was president. The last time the Coyotes won a playoff series, they were in Winnipeg. The two teams met last year in a brutally entertaining series that went the distance, but the Wings outlasted the 'Yotes. The teams are relatively identical to last seasons bunches, and that may say, "The Wings will win", right? I think this is the year that the Coyotes will get over the hump. Henrik Zetterberg will mas game 1, and maybe more due to injuries, and the Coyotes are getting healthy at the right time. The Wings have hit bumpy patches during February and March, and I think the Coyotes can exploit that. 25 years in the waiting, the Coyotes will win a playoff series.
Prediction: Coyotes in 7
4 Anaheim Ducks vs. 5 Nashville Predators
The Ducks are a pleasant surprise in the postseason due to their March surge up the Western Conference standings. Lead by Rocket Richard winner Corey Perry, the Ducks have some amazing offensive firepower, and a good defense corps also. But the Preds live and die with their D and goaltending. Ryan Suter and Shea Weber are 2 amazing defenders, and Pekka Rinne should get Vezina consideration. Goaltending is the key in the playoffs, and while Dan Ellis has played well in relief of Jonas Hiller, the Preds goaltending is much better. If Rinne gets hot, it will be awfully tough to beat the Preds. Nashville has never won a playoff series, but I think they will here because of their D and goaltending.
Prediction: Predators in 5