NHL Playoff Schedule 2013: Power Ranking Top First-Round Matchups

Richard LangfordCorrespondent IApril 29, 2013

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 10: Marcus Johansson #90 of the Washington Capitals takes a shot on goal against Matt Gilroy #97 of the New York Rangers during the third period at Verizon Center on March 10, 2013 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images

The NHL may have produced a truncated season, but it will find a thrilling postseason to recoup any lost drama. 

These playoffs are stacked from top to bottom with great matchups. Here are three first-round matchups I expect to go seven games. 

*View the full schedule on NHL.com.


No. 3: Washington Capitals (3) vs. New York Rangers (6)

Both of the teams enter the playoffs off of a surge to end the season.

Led by Alex Ovechkin's 19 goals in the final 19 games, the Capitals went 15-2-2 in that span. 

Meanwhile, the New York Rangers turned their season around as Henrik Lundqvist kept up his stellar play and the rest of the defense put the clamps down to go 10-3-1 to close out the year.

That sets up a fabulous matchup with Ovechkin and the Capitals' offense goes against the Rangers stingy defense. New York is going to have to hope it wins that battle, as they are going to have take on Braden Holtby. 

The Rangers will need Rick Nash, Derek Stepan and Carl Hagelin to lead their attack and muster a few goals because they will be tough to come by.


No. 2: Anaheim Ducks (2) vs. Detroit Red Wings (7)

The Detroit Red Wings, who haven't missed the playoffs in over two decades, snuck into the postseason with little fanfare as the seventh seed. 

Of course, there are a multitude of reasons to foster such low expectations, not the least of which is the Red Wings' penchant to go through long stretches looking completely inept attacking the goal. This is a team that failed to replace Nicklas Lidstrom and has been hampered by injuries, and the results have suffered. 

However, Jimmy Howard is an underrated goaltender, and now he will be going against a team that slumped down the stretch. Production slipped from just about everyone on the Ducks, and Bobby Ryan and Teemu Selanne, who looked so promising early in the year, struggled.

The Red Wings only allowed 115 goals this year. They could stifle the Ducks early and gain confidence in this one. 

This series has a chance to be the biggest upset in this year's playoffs. 


No. 1: St. Louis Blues (4) vs. Los Angeles Kings (5)

In defense of the Stanley Cup, the Kings have been mediocre and quiet, which is actually a step up from last year when they slipped into the playoffs as the eighth seed. Now we'll see if they can recapture that playoff magic to become the first team to repeat since 1998. 

The Kings are better equipped on offense this year with Jeff Carter having poured in 26 goals this season, and they still have Jonathan Quick in the net. Quick had a solid season, but he struggled some on the road, and the Blues have the home-ice advantage. 

St. Louis finished the year in strong fashion by winning 12 of its last 15 games. Brian Elliott has came on strong in the net , no more than a goal in nine of his last 11 starts. 

This is a team that looks ready to peak at the right time, and they will have to.

The Kings have owned the Blues as they've taken eight straight from them, including winning their three games this year by a combined score of 14-7. 

This series is a prime candidate to go the distance.