While there are many great prediction articles out there already, I decided to write this one just to throw another one into the mix. (You can decide if it's great or not.)
You may have noticed that I already have a Bruins-Canadiens preview out there—but that was before I realized that the playoffs start tonight and I wouldn't have enough time to write seven more preview articles.
With that, let's get to it! Who will win the Stanley Cup this year?
As I mentioned in my article, if the Montreal Canadiens want to win this series, Alex Kovalev will have to be huge.
Goalie Carey Price will also have to have the series of his life, because the Bruins' depth at offense will leave no room for error.
Special teams will also be a big factor in this series. Boston has the fifth-best power play in the league, and Montreal's penalty-killing percentage is a mediocre 82.4, so look for the Bruins to take advantage of whatever penalties the Habs take.
In the end, I just think that Boston has too much offense for the banged-up Canadiens defense.
Boston in 5.
The Sharks' playoff collapses have been all the rage lately entering the playoffs.
Goaltender Evgeni Nabokov certainly has experience, but he never has been able to get the job done in the playoffs. He does have the edge in this series over Jonas Hiller, the Anaheim goaltender.
Anaheim is coming into the postseason hot though, going 10-2-1 in their last 13 games of the year.
Driving this bus to the eighth seed has been the top line of Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, and Rookie of the Year candidate Bobby Ryan.
Will San Jose's defense be able to stop this machine? I think they will. This defense has experience, depth, and the ability to score, something all Stanley Cup contenders need.
The Sharks are solid in all aspects of the game, and I think that they will be too much for Anaheim to handle.
Sharks in six.
Scoring has been a problem for the New York Rangers all season long.
No player on their roster scored more than 30 goals this season, and the Washington Capitals outscored them by 68 goals in the regular season.
Although Jose Theodore has been shaky in net for the Caps, he should play well enough to get by the low-scoring Rangers offense.
The Capitals won the season series, going 3-0-1 against the Broadway Blues. Perhaps the only advantage the Rangers have over Washington is special teams.
The Rangers have the No. 1 penalty killing unit, killing off 87.8 percent of their penalties.
Compare that to Washington only scoring on four of 15 power play chances against the Rangers this year, look for the Rangers to build some momentum off the the penalty kill.
Dan Girardi and Marc Staal will play against the Alexander Ovechkin line, but I think this Washington offense has too many weapons to lose.
Ovechkin, Alexander Semin, and Mike Green will all have a very good series.
Washington in five.
This next stat will ultimately be the reason why Columbus won't win this series: Detroit players have 1,793 games of experience. This is Columbus' first playoff appearance.
This certainly won't be a breeze for Detroit, though.
Chris Osgood will start in net for the defending champions, something that makes many Red Wings fans (including myself) skeptical.
Osgood does have the rings, but his play this year has been the worst of his storied career.
Ty Conklin is a good backup, but I'd rather not have to turn to that option unless absolutely necessary.
Columbus will need to create a whole lot of offense to score on the team that allowed the second fewest shots against in the league.
Rick Nash, who has two hat-tricks against the Red Wings this season, will lead the team and will expect the others to follow suit.
Overall the Red Wings may be the best team in the playoffs if they can get solid play from Osgood.
I don't think Columbus, while they are a great story, has enough to get by Detroit.
Detroit in five.
The Carolina Hurricanes enter the playoffs as the six seed facing the three seed New Jersey Devils.
The Hurricanes won the season series 3-1-0, and the power play was a major factor in those victories.
On the man advantage, Carolina went seven-for-16, a whopping 44 percent success rate.
Although they have been so good against New Jersey, this might be the hardest series to pick.
Martin Brodeur is, well, Martin Brodeur. Pair him with New Jersey's top nine forwards, who have experience and talent (i.e. Zach Parise), they have the ability to score on the Hurricanes defense.
Eric Staal, who has 40 goals on the season, may be the deciding factor. If he can have a better series than Parise, then the Hurricanes have a very good chance to win.
Carolina in seven.
These two teams may be the hottest entering the playoffs.
The St. Louis Blues, a wonderful Cinderella story who slid into the six seed, had a NHL best 25-9-7 second half.
The Northwest Division winner, the Canucks, had a 23-7-2 record in their final 32 games.
It is hard for me to pick against the Blues, because they are a great story, but they don't decide the games based on good stories.
I think this will be the year the Sedin's, Daniel and Henrik, finally step up big for the Canucks in the playoffs.
With contributions from the Sedins, and guess who, Mats Sundin, it will be more than enough for All-World goalie Roberto Luongo.
Luongo said it best, when the whole team performs well in front of him, he will perform well.
This St. Louis team will give them a challenge though, but I think the run will end in the first round.
Vancouver in six.
This may in fact be the best series of the first round.
"The Battle of Pennsylvania" enters round two this year, as the Penguins and Flyers will battle in what will be a very good series.
The Flyers blew an opportunity for home-ice advantage in the final game of the regular season, which allowed the Penguins to slip into the fourth slot.
The key matchup in this series will not be between Sidney Crosby and Mike Richards, but it will be between Martin Biron and Marc-Andre Fleury.
Can Biron continue the postseason success he had last year? No matter what, the Flyers will need him to play great, because now Crosby and Evgeni Malkin have one more year of experience and are looking to avenge their loss in the Stanley Cup Finals.
The Flyers have won three of four playoff series against the Penguins, but I think that the home-ice advantage will be key in this series. For that reason, I am going to pick the Penguins to advance to round two in a battle of two very evenly matched teams.
Pittsburgh in seven.
Just like the Detroit-Columbus series, I think this one will come down to playoff experience.
The Calgary Flames, who a lot of people have written off as of late, have 730 games of playoff experience.
You can't even compare that to the Chicago Blackhawks, who only have five players who were in the NHL when they last made the playoffs in 2002.
On paper, it looks like the Hawks should definitely win this series. They won the season series in dominating fashion, going 4-0-0.'
Goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin is 22-5-2 against the Flames in his career.
This will be a very physical series, which is why I think the Flames have the upper hand.
They have size at the forward position, and their defense has enough talent to neutralize the speed of Chicago's young guns.
Even without Robyn Regehr most likely, I still think the Flames will win this series.
Oh, and I didn't even mention the one player who can change a series: Jerome Iginla.
Calgary in seven.