Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images
No. 1 Vancouver Canucks vs. No. 8 Los Angeles Kings
Is Jonathan Quick the best goalie in the NHL? He will have to prove himself in this series. The problem is that the Kings have had trouble scoring, and even though Roberto Luongo has been inconsistent in goal in the playoffs, the Canucks' potent offense should be able to outscore Los Angeles.
Prediction: Vancouver in 7
No. 2 St. Louis Blues vs. No. 7 San Jose Sharks
In my opinion, this will be the best series of the first round. The Sharks have been to two straight Western Conference Finals and are red-hot entering the playoffs, while the Blues have dominated them all year and make it extremely difficult to score goals against them. This Sharks team is not as good as the teams in recent years, but the Blues are trying to win their first playoff game since before the lockout.
Prediction: St. Louis in 7
No. 3 Phoenix Coyotes vs. No. 6 Chicago Blackhawks
While the relocation rumors have been swirling around more than ever, the Coyotes have wrapped up their first-ever division title and are hoping to win a playoff series for the first time in the desert. Chicago is definitely no pushover, finishing with a solid 101 points and a great offense. Their problem is their defense and goaltending, while Phoenix has a goalie who has somehow given up only two goals in his last five games. If Mike Smith can shut the door on the Blackhawks, Phoenix should have no problem scoring goals with Radim Vrbata, Shane Doan, and Ray Whitney.
Prediction: Phoenix in 6
No. 4 Nashville Predators vs. No. 5 Detroit Red Wings
The Wings have made the playoffs for the twenty-second consecutive season, but they have an extremely tough test in the first round. With the return of Alex Radulov and stars like Shea Weber and Pekka Rinne, this may be the best Predator squad in history. Detroit will only win this series if they can steal a game or two on the road, as they have had struggles in opposing stadiums all season. They also need to win as many of their two-to-three home games as possible.
Prediction: Nashville in 7