Canucks and Bruins Will Return To Stanley Cup Finals
We hope you like sequels. The 2012 Stanley Cup Finals, according to our crystal ball, will be a repeat of 2011. The Vancouver Canucks and the Boston Bruins will once again battle for Lord Stanley’s trophy. What we hope doesn’t happen again is a riot in B.C.
Of course, getting there won’t be easy. The Bruins will have to navigate past the Capitals, a team from Pennsylvania, and then, more than likely, a team with “New” in their name. For the Canucks, their road is a little bit easier. They open against the Kings, and then will probably face a fierce predator from the South followed by a Midwestern team that’s likely to sing the Blues.
Below, Clickitticket breaks down each of the opening round series. We not only look at the key matchups but we highlight the players you should be watching. We also give our predictions as to which team will advance and in how many games.
#1 New York Rangers vs. #8 Ottawa Senators
These two teams finished the regular season separated by 17 points. That might give some fans reason to write off this series. Mark our words, the New York Rangers will not waltz passed the Ottawa Senators. The Sens have veteran leadership (Daniel Alfredsson) and they won’t just roll over. Their manic net minder Craig Anderson will prevent a sweep. Rangers’ goaltender Henrik Lundqvist is going to have to play big. He will but not before the Sens’ sensational scorer Jason Speeza (34 goals) finds the back of the net a few times.
Winner: Rangers in 5
#2 Boston Bruins vs. #7 Washington Capitals
The Boston Bruins are built for defense (see goalie Tim Thomas). The Washington Capitals have no problems lighting the lamp (see Alex Ovechkin). Bruins versus Capitals is about as pure of a defense vs. offense matchup as you’re going to get in the postseason. Of course, since it is the Stanley Cup Playoffs it’s always wise to go with a defensive team like the Bruins, especially one with Zdeno Chara and adroit penalty killing. Even if they don’t win the Eastern Conference, Washington won’t be the team that ends Boston's reign.
Winner: Bruins in 4
#3 Florida Panthers vs. #6 New Jersey Devils
In an NFL-like quirk in the playoff seeding, the Florida Panthers have home ice advantage over the New Jersey Devils despite the fact that they finished the regular season with eight fewer points. The Panthers grabbed the three seed due to winning the woeful Southeast Division—it’s their first trip to the postseason since 2000 (when they were swept by New Jersey). It’s hard not to like the Devils in the opening round of playoffs as they finished the season strong while the Panthers won just two of their last 10 games. It’s also hard to go against Martin Brodeur even if he’s pushing 40.
Winner: Devils in 6
#4 Pittsburgh Penguins vs. #5 Philadelphia Flyers
This is the marquee series of the first round. The Penguins and the Flyers meet for the third time in five years. Fans with Penguins playoff tickets will see a bunch of stars including Sidney Crosby, Art Ross winner Evgeni Malkin, future hall of famer Jaromir Jagr, and Claude Giroux. Both teams are deep and versatile and this should be an exciting seven-game series. We think it will come down to the goalies and we like the Pens’ Marc-Andre Fleury over the Flyers’ Maxime Talbot. Unfortunately, these teams will beat each other up so much they won’t have anything left for round two.
Winner: Penguins in 7
#1 Vancouver Canucks vs. #8 Los Angeles Kings
When dissecting this playoff matchup, most pundits immediately go to the net minders, Vancouver Canucks’ Roberto Luongo versus Los Angeles Kings’ Jonathan Quick. Many are talking about Luongo being on a short leash and Quick as the front-runner for the Vezina Trophy (he had ten shut outs). Let’s not forget that the Canucks won the Presidents’ Trophy this regular season and are the defending Western Conference Champions. They know how to score, their power play is awesome, and they have plenty of depth. The team from the west coast of Canada will roll.
Winner: Canucks in 4
#2 St. Louis Blues vs. #7 San Jose Sharks
This first round matchup should be called the “Surprise Series.” Many hockey fans were surprised by the success of the St. Louis Blues and shocked by the lack of success of the San Jose Sharks. If you have tickets to see the Blues and Sharks you’re going to see youth battle experience and elite goaltending trying to stop three 30-goal scorers. We love Joe Thornton but we don’t think his Sharks have the diversity to defeat the Blues. Not only that but Jaroslav Halak is going to step up for the Blues and play big between the pipes.
Winner: Blues in 5
#3 Phoenix Coyotes vs. #6 Chicago Blackhawks
This may sound crazy but the Phoenix Coyotes are glad to be playing the Chicago Blackhawks in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Coyotes were sent home by the Red Wings in their last two trips to the postseason. The Coyotes have fewer points than the Wings but are the higher seed because they won the Pacific Division. We would pick the Blackhawks to win this series but we don’t know the condition of their captain, Jonathan Toews. The Blackhawks also have some questions in front of the net. The Coyotes don’t. They are fully behind the pads of 30-year old goalie, Mike Smith. Ultimately, Smith is why the hockey team from the desert will advance to the second round. We should also mention our love for Coyotes defensemen Keith Yandle and Oliver Ekman-Larsson.
Winner: Coyotes in 7
#4 Nashville Predators vs. #5 Detroit Red Wings
The Red Wings have reached the Stanley Cup Playoffs 21 seasons in a row. Meanwhile, the Nashville Predators have qualified for the postseason just eight times in their history. Of those eight playoff appearances, the Predators have faced off against the Red Wings three times (this being the third). The Red Wings defeated the Predators in six games in both 2004 and 2008. The Detroit has the experience (or age depending on how you look at it), but these aren’t your father’s Red Wings. The Predators are favored for a good reason and that’s they don’t fear Hockey Town U.S.A. Shea Weber will out play Nicklas Lidstrom and Nashville will advance.
Winner: Predators in 7
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