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2012 Stanley Cup playoff predictions, first-round

April 8, 2012

Yes, it’s the most wonderful time of the year, again. I am going to take a look at just the first-round, for now. I will run a full bracket in a few days. But for now, let’s take on just the wildest, most exciting round: the first one. Without further ado…

Western Conference

1. Vancouver Canucks v. 8. LA Kings

Vancouver, in six. The Kings started to rebound from a dreadful start under a Sutter, but can they take down the President’s Trophy winner (two times going) and do so with change to spare? Jonathan Quick has been incredible, the Kings’ offensive began firing of late. But their frayed nerves from the Pacific race may be pressed further by their much Northerly neighbors. The ‘Nucks have this.

2. St Louis Blues v. 7. San Jose Sharks

St Louis, in five. Nothing can stop a Ken Hitchcock train, least of all the aging and increasingly dull Sharks. Sure, the Sharks are the kind of balanced, strong club that can beat any team, any time, injured or healthy. But they lack the pop, and fearsome fight, they had before. And the Blues are just too good, their goaltending elegant and efficient.

3. Phoenix Coyotes v. 6. Chicago Blackhawks

Chicago, in six. Chicago’s got this. They’re a playoff team par excellence. There’s little more to it. As much as we’d love more success in the desert nationwide, Chicago is simply too deep. The Coyotes, like the Sharks, can give any team fits. But unlike the Sharks, the Yotes’ are still ascendent, with young talent and decent draft picks to propel them for years to come. The Blackhawks do have question marks: this has been Patrick Kane’s worst season, and Jonathan Toews will be returning from a concussion that’s left him sidelined for two months. Phoenix does have a shot.

4. Nashville Predators v. 5. Detroit Red Wings.

Nashville, in five. This will be perhaps one of the most thrilling series. I think Nashville’s time is now, its health is now, its goaltending is now. The Red Wings struggle too much on the road–but truly, that’s the only knock against them. Otherwise the Wings march on, older, but still nimble creatures of happen, capable of scoring at all angles, possessing the puck mightily, stout in their defense, decent if not strong in goal.

Eastern Conference

1. New York Rangers v. 8. Ottawa Senators

Ottawa, in seven. Yup, it runs counter to all logic and wisdom. Won’t say more than that.

2. Boston Bruins v. 7. Washington Capitals

Boston, in six. And while the regular season series tilted in the Caps’ favor primarily due to Boston’s injuries or psycho-drama, I think this series could give them fits they aren’t expected. Brayden Holtby could play out of this world and change everything, too. Also, I’m going to raise the homer card on this: the Bruins have to win.

3. Florida Panthers v. 6. New Jersey Devils

NJ, in seven. I wish the Panthers had the might to move forward, but I am afraid they do not. The Devils have playoff experience as a unit, they have superstar scoring. The Panthers have a bunch of fellas that have won Cups and played big time games, and this will make it close, however. I wonder about goaltending for both clubs. This could be a surprisingly exciting series.

4. Pittsburgh Penguins v. 5. Philadelphia Flyers

Christ, I have no idea, but probably Pittsburgh in seven, in triple OT.

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