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Thursday, April 14, 2011

Stanley Cup Playoffs: Round 1 Predictions

At the request of one of our most attractive readers, it is time we inform you about he goings on in the world of the National Hockey League.

As some of you may be marginally aware, hockey, originally known as "ice canes" is a sport played on an ice rink with "sticks" and "pucks". The idea being to hit the puck with your stick into the goal without icing, roughing, hooking, tripping, slashing, fighting, synthesizing nuclear fusion, or high sticking.

But enough about all that fundamental business. It's time for playoff hockey. It's time to really fear the beard, as every player will not shave until their team is eliminated from the playoffs. Also, men around the nation are given yet another reason to not shave and annoy their significant others. Everybody wins!

The NHL playoffs are set up like the NBA. Each division winner takes the top 3 seeds in each conference, then the next 5 best records from each conference fill out the 16 team playoff bracket. Each series is set up as a 2-2-1-1-1 best of seven series, and the winners of each conference eventually meet to battle for the right to drink from Lord Stanley's Cup.

Though the playoffs did begin last night, here's a rundown of what's going on in the 2011 Stanley Cup playoffs, and my predictions on the first round results:

Eastern Conference:

1. Washington Capitals v. 8. NY Rangers
The Alex Ovechkin led powerhouse Capitals square off against the Rangers who just squeaked into the playoffs with only 2 more points than the Carolina Hurricanes. In last night's tussle, Ovi made a late goal to force overtime, then the Caps won it on a goal from Semin. Caps should win this thing pretty handily in 5 games.

2. Philadelphia Flyers v. 7. Buffalo Sabres
The Sabres are another team that just squeaked into a playoff spot, but they did it by going 16-4-4 over their last 24 games. The Flyers, meanwhile, have struggled of late, going 7-7-6 over their last 20. The Sabres beat them twice during that time. My money is on the hot team, especially in goalie Ryan Miller can lock it up. Sabres in 6.

3. Boston Bruins v. 6. Montreal Canadiens
In an original six matchup, the Bruins and Habs might be on of the most interesting matchups in the first round. These two teams do not like each other at all. Get prepared for some sweet chippiness and maybe some brawls between the squads (whether or not you agree with it, it's gonna be there). I don't think Montreal will have the firepower to win this one, but the defense and goalie Carey Price should keep it close. Bruins in 6. Fights: any one wanna take my by of over 10?

4. Pittsburgh Penguins v. Tampa Bay Lightning
Arguably the best defense in the Eastern Conference comes up against one of the top offenses. The Penguins were still able to net 106 points even with Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby lost to injury. The weak Tampa defense might be the weak link here, especially if Crosby can get on the ice. Penguins still showed up to play without him, winning game 1. Penguins in 6.

Western Conference

1. Vancouver Canucks v. 8. Chicago Blackhawks
The President's Cup winning Canucks take on the defending Stanley Cup winning Blackhawks. The Canucks went out and blanked the 'Hawks 2-0 in game one last night, and didn't have too much trouble doing it. Unfortunately for Chicago, they're going to make an early exit. Canucks in 5.

2. San Jose Sharks v. 7. Los Angeles Kings
Thornton, Marleau, Niemi and company square off against a team few in their home city go to see play. 4 of the 5 teams from the Pacific division made the playoffs, with Dallas only missing entry by 2 points. The Sharks are loaded, and Antti Niemi (last year a Blackhawk knocking the Sharks out of the playoffs) has been fantastic between the posts. Sharks take this one in 5. (And call me a homer, but they are my pick to win the Western Conference).

3. Detroit Red Wings v. 6. Phoenix Coyotes
Not much to say about these guys, Redwings in 5. They looked really good last night, and "Hockeytown" knows how to win.

4. Anaheim Ducks v. Nashville Predators
Nashville stole a win last night against the home team Ducks, and I'm having trouble making a clear decision on this one. I think the Ducks don't have enough offense to win against the tough defensive Predators. Predators in 7.

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