First, a quick recap from last week's Pick Ten:
Last week: 5-5 (1 perfect) | Final Total: 73-67 (4 perfects)
Not bad overall, I guess. Now for my predictions for this year's first round.
1) Vancouver Canucks vs 8) Los Angeles Kings
Jonathan Quick is considered by some to be the guy that should be the front-runner for this year's Vezina. That combined with LA's somewhat rejuvenated offense means that a few people are taking the Kings to upset the playoff-tested Canucks. I do think the Kings will give Vancouver a fight, and I do think Quick will steal a few games for Los Angeles, but in the end the Canucks should win out.
Winner: Vancouver in 7 games.
2) St. Louis Blues vs 7) San Jose Sharks
Another trendy upset pick, the suddenly-successful Blues are not playoff tested and are up against a Sharks team that, as many forget, have been to two straight Western Conference Finals. Of course, this Sharks team hasn't been as successful as those teams in the past, and the Blues have done well with a formula that can succeed in the playoffs: tough play and stout defense. Even so, the Sharks don't usually fall in the 1st round and though Ken Hitchcock has found success with these Blues, he hasn't done well in playoffs past. I guess I'm following the trend here.
Winner: Sharks in 6 games.
3) Phoenix Coyotes vs 6) Chicago Blackhawks
Despite all the turmoil surrounding their ownership situation, the Coyotes have won its first division title in franchise history - including its time as the original Winnipeg Jets. Now they're going to try and do something they've only done twice as Winnipeg and never as Phoenix - win a playoff series. The Coyotes are going into the playoffs red hot (I know, that doesn't really matter), riding Mike Smith their goalie who some say could be NHL MVP, while Chicago may or may not have the services of its captain, Jonathan Toews, who has been battling concussion symptoms for some time now. I think Phoenix can keep their magic going for at least a little while longer.
Winner: Coyotes in 6 games.
4) Nashville Predators vs 5) Detroit Red Wings
This is pretty simple. Detroit has been hurt, and while they've gotten healthier lately, they're not 100%. Nashville has built itself for a deep playoff run with its trade deadline moves and the return of Alexander Radulov. Pekke Rinne has been big for Nashville all season. Detroit plays well at home, not so much on the road, but Nashville has the home ice advantage this round. This was the first season Nashville finished ahead of Detroit in the standings. This will also be the first time Nashville defeats Detroit in a playoff series as well.
Winner: Predators in 5 games.
1) New York Rangers vs 8) Ottawa Senators
This is an interesting matchup. Like St. Louis, the Rangers succeed by being physical and shutting the other team down. This is the case despite having definite offensive talent in Brad Richards, Marian Gaborik, Ryan Callahan and others. Ottawa gets by with mostly their offense. Erik Karlsson, who leads all defensemen by far in points, is a heavy Norris trophy candidate (even though its a defensive award, not an offensive one, but whatever). Can this ragtag group of Ottawa Senators break through the rough and tough New York defense? I'm guessing... probably not.
Winner: Rangers in 5 games.
2) Boston Bruins vs 7) Washington Capitals
Its a brand new season for Washington, right? They can forget all about the problems and such that plagued their regular season and refocus for their matchup against the defending Stanley Cup champions. Or, they could fall flat on their faces while Boston quietly sweeps them away from the playoffs. I'm leaning towards the latter. Maybe not a sweep, but it'll be a short series.
Winner: Bruins in 5 games.
3) Florida Panthers vs 6) New Jersey Devils
Its nice to see New Jersey back in the playoffs after that disaster of a season last year, I wonder if this may be Martin Brodeur's last postseason or not. Either way, I don't think the Devils will have too much trouble with Florida. As I pointed out in the Standings article, Florida won its division - and a playoff spot - on the strength of 18 OT Losses. Sadly for them, losing in OT has no ass-backwards benefit for them in the playoffs.
Winner: Devils in 4 games.
4) Pittsburgh Penguins vs 5) Philadelphia Flyers
This series, this series right here. Likely the best series of the bunch, and by far the one with the most hatred involved. The Penguins are the more skilled team when healthy while the Flyers are a much tougher bunch. Ilya Bryzgalov has played much better in net for Philly lately, but he fell apart in last year's playoffs for Phoenix and there's no telling whether he'll do the same here. With a relatively healthy Sidney Crosby, quite a few people are pegging Pittsburgh as the best team in the league and they have the record to prove it, but even if they find a way to get past the Flyers, one would have to wonder if they would have any strength left for the next round. Its a question that can be posed later (for either team). As for this matchup, I do think the Penguins do edge out the Flyers. It could go either way, really, but I think a combination of Pittsburgh combating Philly's roughness and Bryzgalov having a subpar series will ultimately give the Penguins the series.
Winner: Penguins in 7 games.