In less than a day, the Stanley Cup playoffs will be upon us.
For some fans, it is a bitter reminder of a season that could have been.
For others, it's the anticipated start of a long awaited postseason.
Whether your team made the cut or fell out of the running, this is what the NHL is all about. This is the reason we've watched the previous 82 games. This is the road to the Stanley Cup.
Every round of the playoffs is filled with excitement, energy and emotion. As it stands, the first round of the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs looks to hold some intense matchups.
The following are my predictions for each series in the first round of the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs.
Wait, did I just say that?
Most hockey fans and probably even some sports analysts would argue that the Canucks, the team with the best record in the NHL at the end of the regular season, will plow through the eighth seed Kings.
I have to disagree.
I believe goaltending and defense wins a playoff series. That being said, Jonathan Quick is a great matchup for Vancouver's Roberto Luongo.
While Vancouver appears to be at an advantage, an improved Kings offense with a hot Jonathan Quick could allow the Kings to steal the series.
Prediction: L.A. Kings in seven
Although I'm not usually one to count regular season performance in the playoffs, it's hard to deny that the Blues had an amazing season.
Though I haven't watched a great deal of Sharks hockey, I feel that the dominance the Blues have displayed will continue.
I wouldn't count San Jose out, nor would I call them a bad team, but If St. Louis can ride either a hot Elliot or hot Halak, I see the Blues coming away victorious.
Prediction: St. Louis Blues in five
It might be easy to count the Hawks out in this series, especially with the possible absence of Jonathan Toews.
However, Crawford has been playing better as of late, and the Blackhawks struggles seem to be a thing of the past.
Phoenix is a great team, but they may underestimate the Blackhawks just enough to see a first-round exit.
Prediction: Chicago Blackhawks in seven
One would be tempted to say the Wings will sweep the Predators in this series, as they appear to be a much more dominant team, despite their low seeding.
I wouldn't put Detroit over so easily. Both teams are home to solid defensive play, scoring ability and elite goaltending.
As much as I want to call a sweep, it just isn't logical. Both Jimmy Howard and Pekka Rinne have the talent to steal a series all on their own.
That being said, I thing Howard will prevail, but it won't be easy.
Prediction: Detroit Red Wings in six
Before I lay out this prediction, I need to acknowledge the fact that I'm a die-hard New York Rangers fan, but that has nothing to do with it.
The Rangers are the best team in the east, and many fans want to see a first-round sweep.
I'm sorry, fellow Rangers fans, but that's not happening.
Ottawa is a talented team, they wouldn't be in the playoffs if they weren't.
Though I believe the Rangers defensive-minded game will stifle the Senators offense, it certainly won't be an easy series to take.
If Hank is on his game and the Rangers secondary scoring is alive, they should win the series.
Prediction: New York Rangers in five
This series places a team who's heating up against a team who's struggling to match their mid-season performance.
Both teams are talented, but when it comes down to it, Boston is much more consistent when it comes to offense, and they have an outstanding goaltender in Tim Thomas.
Though he surely isn't the youngest goaltender out there, he has proven his ability to come through in the clutch.
If the Bruins can maintain consistency in offense and shut down Ovechkin, they should leave the series victorious.
Prediction: Boston Bruins in six
This may be one of the easiest of the first-round matchups to predict.
Martin Brodeur is no where near his peak form, but he's certainly still great.
Couple that with the offensive ability of Kovalchuk and Parise, and the Devils shouldn't have to much of a problem coming away with this one.
Prediction: New Jersey Devils in five
Even as a Rangers fan, I have no problem saying that this will be the most exciting series of the first round.
Two heated rivals who regularly battle for the unofficial title of "best team in Pennsylvania" will now battle it out for a chance at the Stanley Cup.
This series will, without a doubt, be intense physically and emotionally. Fights will break out, and this longstanding rivalry will become even bitter.
The Flyers have shown dominance over the Penguins in the regular season, but the Penguins are now a healthy team with some momentum behind them.
The overall physicality of the series has me thinking the Flyers will edge the Penguins, but it wont be an easy series to win by any stretch of the imagination.
Prediction: Philadelphia Flyers in seven