It's that time of year again where all the "experts" do their best to use the crystal ball to see into the future. So here we go. After the Jump you will see all our first round choices to move on toward the Stanley Cup.
Capitals (1) vs. Rangers (8) - The Rangers have had their way with the Caps during the regular season and would appear to have the advantage in goal with Henrik Lundqvist. The Rangers will miss Ryan Callahan and look to others to pick up his share of the load. The Capitals have spent the entire 82 game season reworking the team's game plan to focus more on defense with a less offensive style just for the playoff run. I don't see that this will be a seven game series in spite of what the NHL marketers would hope for. Capitals in six
Flyers (2) - Sabres (7) - The Flyers stumbled into the playoffs going 3-4-3 in their final ten games of the season and have missed the defensive leadership of Chris Pronger. On the other hand, the Sabres have played lights out since a collapse against the Predators last month. Due to an injury, Ryan Miller has had a bit of rest going into the playoffs. The Flyers depth should be the difference maker but I would not be surprised to see an upset if Miller gets hot and stymies the Flyers. Flyers in seven
Bruins (3) - Canadiens (6) - This is the grudge match that every one has wanted to see. In spite of calls to have ambulances standing by, I think that the two teams will try to play hockey and leave most of the regular season bad blood on the sidelines. It will be a gritty series but Boston is clearly the favorite and has more depth and should make a short series of it. Bruins in five
Penguins (4) - Lightning (5) - This will be a classic match between the Bolts offense and the Pens defense and goaltending. Without Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, Dan Bylsma reinvented his team mid-season and has stayed competitive, coming within the tiebreaker of winning their division. In spite of the injuries, I think Pittsburgh will still be able to make it through the first round. Penguins in seven.
Canucks (1) - Blackhawks (8) - In spite of past problems against Chicago, this is the match that Vancouver wanted in order to to exorcise a few demons on the way to what they hope is a long cup run in spite of the President's trophy jinx. Vancouver has all the pieces that makes a team great and Chicago has been inconsistent all season. An upset would make several great storylines, but it's not going to happen. Canucks in five
Sharks (2) - Kings (7) - The Sharks have played great hockey the second half of the season and should have no trouble dismissing the injury riddled Kings in this in-state match.The big question will be where the Kings' goals will come from with their top two scorers on the sidelines. San Jose has the edge on both sides of the puck while the Kings may have a slight edge in goal. Sharks in six
Wings (3) - Coyotes (6) - In a rematch of last years first round match, the Coyotes hope to be able to get over the hump and get past the playoff veteran Wings. The Wings will miss Henrik Zetterberg but have plenty of other weapons in the cupboard. The key to the Yotes success will be Ilya Bryzgalov in net. If he can stand on his head for the entire series and frustrate the Wings, the Coyotes may have a chance. I think it will be a long series but I don't see an upset in the making. Wings in seven
Ducks (4) - Predators (5) - Both teams had to play well down the stretch to finish where they did in the tough Western Conference. It will be the Ducks' firepower on their first two lines against the Preds team defense and goaltending led by Shea Weber, Ryan Suter and Pekka Rinne. I expect to see this be a more defensive series than the regular season meetings. Call it a homer pick, but this will be the year the Preds move on to the second round. Preds in six
Washington in six.
Philly in six.
Boston in five.
Tampa Bay in six.
Vancouver in five.
San Jose in six.
Phoenix in seven.
Nashville in seven.
Buddy and Jackson Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass