Category Archives: Hockey

The End of a Magical Run and Conference Finals Picks

Thursday night marked the end of one of the most thrilling but brutal best-of-seven series I can remember.

The series, just like my emotions, endured a roller-coaster ride full of twists and turns that ended at heartbreak city for Red Wings’ fans. The Red Wings valiant effort at the epic comeback fell, yep, you guessed it, one goal short as the San Jose Sharks knocked off the Wings 3-2 in Game 7.

Just as the Wings did in the series, they fell behind early and were forced to play catch-up. The 2-0 deficit in the first and 3-1 deficit in the third proved to be too much for the Wings. In the end, it’s the Sharks that are moving on to face the Vancouver Canucks in the Western Conference Finals, rather than the Wings.

The Red Wings line up to shake hands after falling to the San Jose Sharks 3-2 in Game 7 of the Western Conference semifinals. (Image via Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

First off, I’d like to congratulate the San Jose Sharks and their fans. I didn’t believe the Sharks had what it took to beat the Wings in Game 7. In the past, when the lights were the brightest, when every players’ play was placed under a microscope, the Sharks’ stars, specifically Joe Thorton and Patrick Marleau, couldn’t handle the pressure and they would become non-factors.

In Game 7 against the Wings, Thorton started the Sharks off on the right note with a beautiful pass that was one-timed by Devin Setoguchi to grab the lead in the first period. Marleau was clutch when the Sharks needed it most scoring the game-winning goal with 8:47 left in the third period. A strong performance under the spotlight will not get rid of the critics, but it will silence them for the time being, which has to be a good feeling for the Sharks.

As a Red Wings fan, I could not be prouder of the effort the Red Wings put forth this series. It would have been easy to quit when facing a 3-0 deficit. They could have packed it in and none of us could have complained. The same goes for Games 5 and 6 where they trailed in the third period, but they didn’t.

The Wings never gave up and were so close to making history. Although a second round exit in the playoffs isn’t your ideal result, the Wings should keep their heads held high and take the offseason to learn from this year to make another run at the Cup.

During Game 7, I was freaking out. I was pacing around the room, jumping up and down, throwing my hands up in the air and yelling at the T.V. I was told that it was just a game and that I was too emotionally invested in the Wings.

In my opinion, it was more than just a game. For me, I have to be emotionally invested in the team I am rooting for. I’m sure there are some of you who feel the same way I do as well as some of you who think I’m insane for caring so much about a sport. I guess we will have to agree to disagree.

The worst part about Game 7 is that the chances were there for the Wings to comeback, but they weren’t able to capitalize on them. Some may blame the injuries, referees, or just plain bad luck on the Wings’ loss to the Sharks but it was the stellar play by Anti Niemi and missed opportunities that prevented the Wings from moving on. Ultimately,  the better team, the team that won four games first, won the series.

Now that the match-ups for the conference finals are set, here are my picks:

Western Conference Finals

1 Vancouver Canucks vs 2 San Jose Sharks

It only seems right that two of the worst underachievers come playoff time meet in the conference finals for a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals. The Sharks were in this position last year but were swept by the Chicago Blackhawks who eventually went on to win Lord Stanley. Both teams are physical, fast and talented with plenty of depth. Both teams have had difficulties closing out their series as they have each watched a team come back from a 3-0 hole only to win Game 7.

Ryan Kesler came to life in the Predators series and the Sedin twins picked up their play towards the end of the series. Luongo has recovered from his shaky start against Chicago and has been solid. San Jose heavily relied on Anti Niemi against Detroit and I’m not sure that Niemi will be as reliable against Vancouver. In the end, the Canucks are just too big and talented for the Sharks.

Canucks in 7

Eastern Conference Finals

3 Boston Bruins vs 5 Tampa Bay Lightning

In case you forgot, there are still two Eastern Conference teams remaining in the playoffs. It’s been a while since these two teams played considering they both swept their opponent. Tampa Bay has rattled off seven straight wins since being down 3-1 to Pittsburgh in the first round. The Boston Bruins got revenge on the Philadelphia Flyers with their sweep and they looked dominant while doing it. The Bruins were better than the Flyers in every aspect of the game, especially goaltending.

The more Steven Stamkos plays playoff hockey, the more he understands what it takes to be productive and ultimately, win. Veteran leaders Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier have been incredible this postseason combining for 25 points in 11 games. The Bruins are lead by giant defenseman Zdeno Chara who leads the playoffs with a plus-11 rating. The Bruins took a hit with the loss of the leading playoff point producer Patrice Bergeron who suffered a concussion against the Flyers. The Lightning look like a team hungry for another trip to the Stanley Cup Finals and the loss of Bergeron hurts the Bruins offensive output.

Lightning in 6

The Eastern Conference Finals get underway on Saturday at 8 PM while the Western Conference Finals kick off on Sunday at 8 PM. Since my beloved Red Wings weren’t able to advance, you can bet I’ll be rooting for the Tampa Bay Lightning who’s GM is Steve Yzerman. Yzerman was my favorite player growing up and since the Wings can’t win, I would love to see him achieve success in Tampa. Hopefully, one day he returns to the Wings’ organization in some shape or form.

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Why Not Us?

“Don’t Stop Believin’” is more than just a crowd-pleasing song played during the Red Wings’ hockey games. It also serves as the message the Red Wings were trying to send to its fans: Don’t stop believin’ in us Hockeytown.

Well, message received, loud and clear.

I’ll admit, after a Devin Setoguchi wrist shot beat Jimmy Howard in overtime of Game 3 to cap yet another third period comeback by the Sharks, my belief in the Wings was nonexistent.

The Detroit Red Wings celebrate Darren Helm's empty net goal which secured a flight back to San Jose with a trip to the Western Conference Finals on the line. (Image via Julian H. Gonzalez of the Detroit Free Press)

As the rumblings of “why not us?” circled throughout the Wings’ fan base I couldn’t help but look towards the negatives. The Wings had outplayed the Sharks in two out of the three games, yet they had nothing to show for it. Turnovers, penalties and costly mistakes had the Wings down in the basement starring up at 3-0 deficit — a deficit only three teams in NHL history had overcome. I kept asking myself, “what will happen if the Sharks start playing better?”

As it turns out, I was asking myself the wrong question. I should have been asking myself, “what will happen if the Red Wings start playing Red Wing hockey?”

The answer: Three straight wins and a plane ride back to the Shark Tank for an improbable Game 7.

The Wings got back to playing simple hockey. They made smart pinches, maintained possession of the puck, worked hard back on defense, had active sticks in passing lanes and threw pucks at Anti Niemi at every opportunity.

The Wings have been playing desperation hockey for three games straight and seems they thrive under the pressure.

Trailing 3-1 with 19:06 remaining in the third period of Game 5, the Wings took their play to another level. Jonathan Ericsson, Dan Cleary and Tomas Holmstrom scored three straight goals for the Wings to lead them to a 4-3 victory in a game where they were outshot 42-22.

In Game 6, the Wings completely dominated the play the first two periods of the game but the scoreboard still read 0-0 heading into the third period leaving Wings fans with an unsettling feeling in the pit of their stomachs.

Less than four minutes into the third period the Sharks’ Logan Couture slapped a puck towards Howard that trickled through his pads and barely over the line. From that point on, the Wings flipped a switch.

The duo of Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk led another third period comeback for the Wings. It was almost as if the two were playing a game of “anything you can do I can do better.” Zetterberg’s tip on Kronwall’s shot displayed incredible hand-eye coordination only to be topped by Datsyuk’s saucer pass across ice to Valtteri Filppula who slammed it home. Darren Helm locked up a Game 7 in San Jose with his empty net goal with just over a minute left.

Heading into the playoffs, if you would have told the San Jose Sharks they would have a Game 7 at home against the Detroit Red Wings for a chance to head to the Western Conference Finals, many of them would have taken that situation under normal circumstances.

This Game 7 did not come about under normal circumstances and I don’t believe the San Jose Sharks are built to win Game 7 considering the recent sequence of events.

Their lead in Game 5 evaporated before they could recover. Their lead in Game 6 lasted barely long enough for them to gain any semblance of hope before it disappeared into thin air. The Sharks 3-0 lead in the series no longer exists, and the tension is rising. Their confidence is shattered, the momentum has shifted, and now, all the pressure rests on their shoulders.

The Sharks are widely known as choke artists and this year doesn’t look to be any different. The stars in their locker room consist of people who shrink under the pressure and criticism, rather than shine. There’s a reason Joe Thorton, Patrick Marleau and Danny Heatley haven’t been able to succeed in the playoffs and it’s not because they lack talent.

The old saying “when the going gets tough, the tough get going” describes exactly what the Sharks aren’t and exactly what the Red Wings are.

The veteran leadership in the Wings locker room is part of what brought them back in this series. Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg have been sensational on both sides of the puck and have created multiple match-up problems for the Sharks’ defense.

Thursday’s Game 7 in San Jose will mark the eighth time a team has come back from a 3-0 hole to force a game seven in NHL history. The record for teams who have forced a Game 7 after being down 3-0 is 3-4. It only makes sense for the Red Wings to even out history and become the fourth team to complete the inconceivable comeback.

The players believed it, the coaches believed it, and it’s about time we all started to believe it. “Why not us?”

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Different Year, Same Story

Devin Setoguchi and teammates Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Patrick Marleau celebrate after scoring the game winning goal in overtime against the Detroit Red Wings to take a commanding 3-0 lead in the series. (via Washington Post)

A deflection here, a lucky bounce there, and the Detroit Red Wings could be looking to close out the San Jose Sharks at home tonight.

Unfortunately, the deflections here and the lucky bounces there haven’t happened. Instead, the Red Wings head into tonight’s game down 3-0 in the series to the Sharks. All three losses have been by one goal. Sound familiar? It should. This is the same situation the Wings were in last year. The similarities are eerie.

Last year, on May 4, the Red Wings led heading into the third period. The Sharks came back to tie the game up and force overtime, where they would eventually win 4-3. This May 4, same exact result.

Last year, on May 6, the Wings demolished the Sharks 7-1 and forced the series back to San Jose only to lose the next game 2-1.

The results have to be demoralizing for the Red Wings. The 3-0 hole they face isn’t an accurate indication of how the Wings have been playing. At times, the Wings have imposed their will on the Sharks. At times, the Wings have played the style of hockey they have become famous for. They have kept possession of the puck, created traffic in front of the net and fired shots at the opposing goaltender. At times, they have played disciplined defense and forced the opposing team to take stupid penalties. And at times, perhaps the most crucial times, they haven’t.

In two out of the three games, the Wings led heading into the third period, only to watch San Jose tie it up and eventually win in overtime. The Wings aren’t getting outplayed as badly as a 3-0 series deficit would suggest, but in the end, a 3-0 hole is a 3-0 hole no matter how you look at it.

The road back from being down 3-0 isn’t impossible, the Philadelphia Flyers proved that just as recently as last year, but it is unlikely. The epic comeback has been achieved by only three teams in the history of the NHL.

The Wings have the talent to come back and become the fourth team to accomplish this incredible feat, but they need to focus on winning Game 4 first. Before you can win four games, you have to win one.

Tonight, Wings fans hope the road doesn’t end in Hockeytown.

If the Red Wings season does end to the San Jose Sharks , we may be witnessing the end of an era. Tonight could be the last time Nicklas Lidstrom and Kris Draper put on a Red Wings uniform. Hopefully, they will both suit back up in the red and white for one last run at the Cup.

In the past two postseasons combined, the Wings have seven one-goal losses to the Sharks. It’s about time the deflections here and the lucky bounces there start going in the Wings favor. Hopefully, tonight is the start of the turning of the tides.

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Hockey, Basketball and Football, Oh My!

What. A. Week.

We just crossed over the “hump” and I’m already physically and emotionally exhausted. I’m like a defensive lineman returning a fumble 60 yards for a touchdown. Find me the oxygen tanks! ASAP! I’m not saying I’m as big as a defensive lineman, but you get the analogy.

This week has been beyond intense: My blood pressure has definitely gone up. My ability to focus on anything other than sports has been disabled. There have been multiple occasions of cheering in jubilation or screaming in disbelief, which leaves me surprised my neighbors haven’t complained yet.

Speaking of cheering/screaming, I was almost 100 percent sure the police where going to show up at my house when Landon Donovan scored the game-winning goal against Algeria in the 91st minute. Absolutely incredible. The World Cup has  to be one of the most exciting things in the world of sports. Another dramatic and electrifying event in sports? Game 7.

In the first round of the 2011 NHL Playoffs, 4 out of the 8 series were decided by a Game 7. Two of the 4 series that went to a Game 7 also needed overtime to see who would be heading on to the next round.

The effort, heart, will, passion and never-give-up attitude on display during the first round of the NHL Playoffs was extraordinary. The teams not fortunate to make it out of the first round should keep their heads held high, their efforts were commendable.

Note to the Chicago Blackhawks and Pittsburgh Penguins: Better luck next year. Enjoy the golf courses, you will not be missed.

In an effort to have this blog post remain a blog post and not a 5-page essay, I will do my best to be clear, concise and correct.

After going 6-2 in the first round of the NHL Playoffs we move on to the second round:

(Remember, I’ll try to keep these short)

Western Conference

1 Vancouver Canucks vs 5 Nashville Predators

Vancouver needed 7 games plus OT to knock of the Blackhawks. They have to be feeling the effects of the long series physically and mentally. The Predators are underrated and play great defense, They may surprise some people.

Canucks in 7

2 San Jose Sharks vs 3 Detroit Red Wings

Yes, the Detroit Red Wings are still in the playoffs in case you forgot about them, everyone else seemed to. The Sharks needed 3 OT wins to beat the Kings and Niemi didn’t look too solid. The Wings get healthy and are well rested for a tough match-up with the Sharks. Jimmy Howard’s play will be crucial this series.

Wings in 6

Eastern Conference

1 Washington Capitals vs 5 Tampa Bay Lightning

Tampa Bay Lightning, meet the Pittsburgh Penguins 2.0. The Capitals can defend and rough you up, while having the ability to finesse their way to some truly beautiful goals. Ovechkin is healthy and Stamkos was largely absent in the Pittsburgh series.

Capitals in 6

2 Philadelphia Flyers vs 3 Boston Bruins

They meet again. Last year, the Flyers came back from down 3-0 to win a Game 7 against the Bruins. The Flyers looked like their old self in Game 7 against Buffalo. The Bruins special teams was pathetic the whole series against the Canadiens and they were undisciplined. The Flyers seem to be regaining their confidence again.

Flyers in 6

Now that I’ve covered the main source of my exhaustion, let’s move on to basically everything else happening excluding baseball because it’s a 162-game season and there is a lot of time left to discuss baseball.

The NBA Playoffs have been somewhat entertaining this year. The Thunder look dangerous. The Lakers look lackadaisical . The Heat look like they may have figured it out. The Magic look lost. The Celtics dismantled the Knicks and the Grizzlies look to become the second 8 seed to knock off a 1 seed while Derrick Rose continues to prove he’s the MVP  The first round of the playoffs hasn’t been close to matching the intensity of the NHL Playoffs but the second round should provide the match-ups we’ve been hoping for.

When news broke about Jim Tressel and the trouble he was in I could not hold back my smile. My smile then turned to laughter and then I was struck with a fearful thought: Urban Meyer. Now, thanks to Urban’s daughter Nicki Meyer, I don’t have to worry about that. Nicki said on twitter, “Stop txting me abt my dad. HE IS NOT repeat NOT, GOING TO OHIO STATE. thanks.” The more trouble Tressel gets himself into, the more I am not surprised. It was bound to happen. Now I just hope the NCAA doesn’t shy away from a harsh punishment.

Finally, today marks Day 1 of the NFL Draft. I debated making a mock draft but decided it was silly. I’m a 20-year-old college student who loves sports. I don’t have connections to people in the NFL or NCAA. I don’t know what teams are thinking and who they are leaning towards. Instead of playing “eni meeni mini mo” with 4 different mock drafts to compile my own, I decided you could do that yourself. Instead, I am going to give my winners and losers after the first round. Granted, I’m not sure how accurate that will be, but it should be entertaining.

Kick back, relax, and take pleasure in an action-packed Thursday with the NHL Playoffs, NBA Playoffs and NFL Draft all set to make my brain explode by 10PM.

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2011 NHL Playoffs: Momentum Swings

The 2011 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs have been spectacular and can be summed up in two words: Momentum swings.

What is momentum though? The dictionary defines momentum as the impetus and driving force gained by the development of a process or course of events. Although I have faith in the dictionary, momentum is much more than that.

Momentum is something that can’t be seen, only felt. It’s like a breeze on a hot sunny day. You can’t see the breeze, but you sure can feel it.

It can start with simple plays such as an elegant display of skill or a bone-crushing collision. Or it can come from staring elimination in the face and playing with a sense of urgency. It rises the fans from their seats followed by the “ooohhhs” and “aaahhss.” The chants of the home crowd grow throughout the arena. The fans feel it. The players feel it. Everyone feels it. The tide is turning.

As a player, I remember the indescribable feeling. It’s an adrenaline rush within a second. The cheers from the crowd give you an energy like none other. It’s these moments, within a game, a series, a season, that can make all the difference in the world.

In the 2011 NHL playoffs, three teams have captured these momentum swings and taken full advantage of that indescribable feeling. The San Jose Sharks, Boston Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks have seized the moment and are riding the wave of momentum through the first round.

The Sharks looked to be in danger of getting blown out in Game 3 against the Los Angeles Kings and falling behind in the series 2-1. Down 4-0 in the second period, the Sharks dominated the Kings the rest of the game and won 6-5 in overtime. The Sharks used the momentum swing to their advantage and won Game 4 by the score of 6-3 to take a 3-1 series lead heading home to the Shark Tank.

The Bruins headed to Montreal for Game 3 being down 2-0 in the series after being swept at home. The Bruins turned the tide on the Canadiens and won Game 3 by the score of 4-2 and then won Game 4 in overtime, 5-4. The Bruins head home with the series tied 2-2 and look to continue to maintain momentum by winning a critical Game 5.

Momentum swings have been the microcosm of the Blackhawks season. After winning the Stanley Cup last year, they started the 2011 as a lock for the playoffs. The Blackhawks were once out of the playoff picture, then in by a hair, then all the way up to a 5 seed and then eventually squeaked in on the last day of the season. In danger of getting swept by the Vancouver Canucks, the Blackhawks played with a sense of urgency and won Game 4 convincingly, 7-2. The domination didn’t stop there. In Game 5, the Blackhawks won 5-0. The Blackhawks have all the momentum heading back to Chicago for Game 6 and look to continue their epic comeback.

A team with a ton of confidence and momentum that no one is talking about is the Detroit Red Wings. The team that many placed on “upset alert” in the Western Conference, swept the Phoenix Coyotes and are the only team to have moved on to the second round.

As a Red Wings fan, I would have only changed one thing in their series. Call me psychotic, insane, stupid and soft, but I wish the Red Wings would’ve won the series in 5 games, not 4.*

* I would have wanted the Coyotes win Game 4 only if it was a guarantee that the Wings would win Game 5 and there wouldn’t be any injuries to the Wings. I know that isn’t possible to guarantee, but hear me out.

There are three main reasons why I wish the Wings would’ve won in 5 games.

1. Close Out at Home:

Maybe it’s just me, but it seems the Red Wings never close out at home. They won the Stanley Cup on the ROAD. The next year, they lost the Stanley Cup at home. In 2010, they won Game 7 on the ROAD in the first round against the Phoenix Coyotes. In 2011, the Wings won Game 4 on the ROAD and advanced to the second round. I know I’m probably being silly, but it would be nice for the Wings to close out at home.

2. Bye Bye Momentum:

After dominating the Coyotes in 4 games, you just wish the Wings could continue to play playoff hockey, and sooner rather than later. The Wings have a certain swagger to them right now and they are playing well. With Chicago making the Vancouver match-up a series and the Ducks-Predators battling it out, we are already headed to two Game 6’s. If Los Angeles can steal Game 5 in San Jose, we will be headed to a third Game 6.

While all these teams are playing, the Wings are practicing. Granted, I know they are getting healthy, but having two less days of rest wouldn’t of killed them. Jimmy Howard seems focused and is playing well enough to give the Wings a chance to win the Stanley Cup. The last thing the Red Wings need is for anyone to lose focus. Whenever the Wings resume playing, they will have to come out sharp and ready to go. I’m just not sure a long layoff is what the doctor ordered.

3. The Phoenix Coyotes

This is where many of you will call me soft and wonder if I know anything about sports, that is, if you haven’t already reached that point. I wish the Red Wings would’ve lost Game 4 in Phoenix, for the sake of the Phoenix Coyotes. Many rumors concerning the future of the Coyotes have been swirling around and whether or not the Coyotes will stay in Phoenix is uncertain. I wish the Coyotes would have been able to win what might be their last home game. EVER.

Before you bash me, put yourself in their shoes. For me, that was difficult to accomplish. The sports teams of Detroit have never faced the threat of being re-located. I’ve never had to deal with having one my teams taken away from me. Even when the Lions struggled to make first downs, there was no thought of the Lions disappearing, as much as some of us would have liked them to.

The only thing I could vaguely relate to this situation is graduating high school. I was happy to be moving on to college, but sad to be leaving behind the sports aspect of high school. I had connected with the fans and the school. My teammates and I were all heading in different directions. I remember wanting nothing else except to win my last home game.

As fans, we try to relate to athletes. Because of what they do, they almost seem super-human. We try our best to make them “human”. As much as I dislike Shane Doan, I felt for him at the end of Game 4. You could see the emotion in his watering eyes. You could feel the disappointment in his body language. You could tell how badly he wanted to win through his play in the series. You could see how much he cared as he fought back tears skating off the ice. At that point, Shane Doan was a “human” again. I could relate to Shane Doan and I am sure he was not the only Coyote feeling that way. I feel for the fans of the Coyotes. The images of the fans holding signs that begged and pleaded for the Coyotes to remain in Phoenix were touching. If that is the last home game for the Phoenix Coyotes, it would’ve been nice for them to go out with a win.

Nevertheless, the Wings won Game 4, advance to round two, and can enjoy a nice, long lay-off to get healthy for their next opponent.

With all but one match-up still in progress, there is plenty of more hockey left to be played in the first round. Here are your updated match-ups:

Western Conference:

1 Canucks vs 8 Blackhawks: 3-2 Canucks

2 Sharks vs 7 Kings: 3-1 Sharks

3 Red Wings vs 6 Coyotes: 4-0 Wings advance

4 Ducks vs Predators: Tied 2-2

Eastern Conference:

1 Capitals vs 8 Rangers: 3-1 Capitals

2 Flyers vs 7 Sabres: Tied 2-2

3 Bruins vs 6 Canadiens: Tied 2-2

4 Penguins vs 5 Lightning: 3-1 Penguins

If you want to reference my picks, click here!  So far, they are doing well, but that can change with one swift breeze, one swing of momentum. Enjoy the end to round one and look ahead to the potential second round match-ups.

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2011 NHL Playoffs Preview

Now that Butler and UConn have closed out March Madness, we look towards a postseason filled April.

First up on our plates, is the NHL playoffs, which starts today! If this past month has taught us anything, it’s that the postseason is different. It’s an atmosphere like none other.

This postseason provides many interesting match-ups including an Original Six rivalry and a meeting between the 2011 President’s Trophy winner and the 2010 Stanley Cup Finals champion.

If the drama in the 2010-11 NHL regular season is any indication of what will occur this postseason, we are all in for a treat.

Anything can happen in the playoffs, but I will do my best to pick the team that will advance to the second round. Without further delay, here are your first round winners:

Western Conference

1 Vancouver Canucks vs 8 Chicago Blackhawks

After failing to beat the Red Wings on the last day of the season, the Blackhawks put their postseason hopes in the hands of the Minnesota Wild. Fortunately for the defending Stanley Cup Champions, Dallas wasn’t too interested in making the playoffs. The Canucks have been the best team in the West for the majority of the season and are the 2011 President’s Trophy winners. In a rematch of last year’s second round match-up, the Canucks will be seeking revenge. The Canucks get their revenge and advance to the second round through the stellar play of the Sedin twins.

Pick: Canucks in 6

2 San Jose Sharks vs 7 Los Angeles Kings

At one point in the season, the Sharks were flirting with missing the playoffs. Then, they were on an incredible tear trampling every team in their paths. Now, they head into the playoffs as the second seed in a ultra competitive Western Conference. On the last weekend of the season, the Los Angeles Kings were in a position to obtain home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs. Last season, the Kings pushed the Vancouver Canucks to six games. This season, a similar result is likely. Although the Sharks are infamous for early-round exits, they will escape the first round.

Pick: Sharks in 6

3 Detroit Red Wings vs 6 Phoenix Coyotes

Two familiar foes meet again. Last season, the Wings and Coyotes faced off in a first round match-up with Detroit eventually winning in seven games. The series was bizarre. The goal tending was absurd. The games were nerve racking and we shouldn’t expect less from this year’s series. The Wings are once again hampered by injuries, most notably Henrik Zetterberg suffering from a lower body injury. The series may be won in between the pipes, where Bryzgalov and Howard will have to be huge for their teams. The Wings get off to a quick start and rely on their veteran experience to close out the series while once again preventing the Coyotes from advancing to the next round.

Pick: Wings in 7

4 Anaheim Ducks vs 5 Nashville Predators

The teams atop the Western Conference standings were desperately hoping they would not draw the Ducks in the first round of the playoffs. Lucky for them, they won’t have to play the Ducks until the second round of the playoffs if the Ducks are able to advance. The Predators are always a tough out in the playoffs and last year took the eventual Stanley Cup Champions to six games and had a chance to win the series. The Predators could’ve caused damage in this year’s playoffs, but got a tough draw. The Ducks are just too big and too physical for the Predators to overcome.

Pick: Ducks in 6

Eastern Conference

1 Washington Capitals vs 8 New York Rangers

The Washington Capitals sit atop the Eastern Conference thanks to their dominating play down the stretch along with the faltering of the Philadelphia Flyers. The play of Alexander Ovechkin has improved as the playoffs approached which could mean bad news for the rest of the NHL. The Rangers battled their way into the playoffs and hold the regular season series lead over the Capitals, 3-1. The Rangers will be heaving dependent upon stud goalie Henrik Lundqvist, who has been their savior this year. The Rangers will be looking to accomplish what the Montreal Canadiens accomplished last year by knocking off the number-one seed Capitals. Last year was a humbling experience for the Capitals and they won’t let their mistakes repeat themselves.

Pick: Capitals in 5

2 Philadelphia Flyers vs 7 Buffalo Sabres

A month ago, if you would have asked anyone who they thought would represent the Eastern Conference in the Stanley Cup Finals, nearly everyone would have said the Philadelphia Flyers. Now, people are unsure if they will make it out of the first round. The Buffalo Sabres come into the playoffs on a roll and are hoping to get Ryan Miller back in net. Something has to be said about playing your best hockey at the right time. After stumbling to the finish line, the Flyers’ confidence must be wavering. Fortunately for them, they will have a long offseason to think about their mistakes. The Sabres pull the upset and advance to the second round.

Pick: Sabres in 6

3 Boston Bruins vs 6 Montreal Canadiens

A heated rivalry. An Original Six match-up. In what should be a hard-hitting series, emotions will run high. The Bruins probably have the best goalie in the NHL with Tim Thomas in net while the Canadiens are hoping Carey Price finally steps up. The match-up of the physical play of the Bruins against the speed of quickness of the Canadiens will be a deciding factor in this series. After Zdeno Chara’s bone crushing hit on Max Pacioretty, the Canadiens sweet revenge will be sending the Bruins home early. Unfortunately, they fall just short, as the Bruins advance.

Pick: Bruins in 7

4 Pittsburgh Penguins vs 5 Tampa Bay Lightning

What a series this could have been. We could have had a Crosby vs Stamkos opening round series. The Lightning were in the number three spot in the Eastern Conference but faltered down the stretch. What the Penguins have accomplished this year without Crosby has been remarkable. Marc Andre Fleury will have to be sensational for the Penguins to advance, and even then, they may not be able to handle the offensive fire power of the Lightning.

Lightning in 6

Marvel at the talent and skill displayed on the ice. Appreciate the heart and passion the players put into the game. Most of all, enjoy this year’s playoffs, I know I certainly will, whether my picks are right or wrong.

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