Jimmy Howard’s Time to Shine

Jimmy Howard’s Time to Shine

Jimmy Howard’s Time to Shine

MEGA 2012 Stanley Cup Playoff Preview

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Predictions for the other first round series

EAST:

No. 1 New York Rangers vs. No. 8 Ottawa Senators: The Rangers have all the star power, but the Senators have been a terrific story all year. Ottawa could throw a scare into the Rangers if they’re caught napping, but any team coached by John Tortorella won’t be allowed to nap at any point. Rangers in 5.

 

No. 2 Boston Bruins vs. No. 7 Washington Capitals: Boston started cold, then got hot during the holidays, but have been inconsistent since January. Nathan Horton likely won’t be available for the playoffs and that’s a major blow for the defending Cup champs. Washington’s been the most underwhelming team in the NHL this season and at times have looked lifeless. But the playoffs are a new season, and now that Washington has its full deck of weapons with Nicklas Backstrom back from injury, the Capitals could throw Boston for a curveball if they’re not looking. However, Boston knows how to climb the mountain since they did it last year. Bruins in 6.

No. 3 Florida Panthers vs. No. 6 New Jersey Devils: If you had this as a playoff series back in October, well you’re straight up lying. Florida is in the playoff party for the first time since 2000 and is looking to show that their spot in the dance is no fluke. The Devils have a lot of playoff experience and have the biggest edge between the pipes in Martin Brodeur. The Panthers may be the new kid on the block, but they won’t be greeted kindly. Devils in 6.

No. 4 Pittsburgh Penguins vs. No. 5 Philadelphia Flyers: This will be the best series of the opening round of the playoffs. These two teams hate each other’s guts, both have supreme talent, and both have Stanley Cup aspirations. Only one team will keep those dreams alive. There will be blood, there will be fights, and there will be a lot of penalties. There won’t be a winner in this series, only a survivor. Penguins in 7.

WEST:

No. 1 Vancouver Canucks vs. No. 8 Los Angeles Kings: These two teams met in the first round in 2010 with Vancouver winning that year in six games. This year’s series will be decided on the health of Daniel Sedin. If he plays the whole series, Vancouver will be fine. If he misses time, the Kings will have opportunities to capitalize. L.A. is very stingy defensively and has one of the league’s best goalies in Jonathan Quick. L.A.’s penalty killing unit must slow down Vancouver’s power play to have a legitimate chance in this series. Vancouver starts slow, but survives. Canucks in 7.

 

No. 2 St. Louis Blues vs. No. 7 San Jose Sharks: St. Louis made a coaching change early in the season and brought in Ken Hitchcock. All that did was turn around a bottom feeder and make them one of the top teams in the NHL. They’re led by strong team defense and a goalie tandem in Brian Elliot and Jaroslav Halak that posted the best goals against average in the NHL this year. San Jose has been disappointing this season and must use their size and experience if they’re going to have a shot at pulling the upset. For most of the Blues, this is their first rodeo in the playoffs in a long time, if not ever. If the Sharks can plant a seed of doubt into the Blues’ heads early in the series, they’ll have a chance. Blues in 7.

No. 3 Phoenix Coyotes vs. No. 6 Chicago Blackhawks: A matchup of two inconsistent teams. Phoenix relies on stifling team defense and are hoping that goaltender Mike Smith can keep his hot hand going that he developed over the last two months of the season. Questions are swirling around the Coyotes as to whether or not this year will be their final season in Arizona. (again) The $64,000 question for Chicago is will Jonathan Toews be ready to go for this series? The Blackhawk captain missed the last month and a half of the regular season and it’s uncertain if he’ll be ready for the series opener in Phoenix. Corey Crawford has been inconsistent all year long and must play his best hockey of the year for Chicago if the Blackhawks plan to advance. Coyotes in 6.