No. 1 Capitals vs. No. 8 Canadiens—Montreal has no shot against the President trophy winning Capitals. The Caps are too deep and talented and will be way too much for the Habs to handle. Capitals in 4.
No. 2 Devils vs. No. 7 Flyers—These two Atlantic division rivals typically do not like each other and I expect an intense, physical, penalty filled series. Watching these two teams play each other in the playoffs is a Ranger fan’s worst nightmare. The playoff experience of Marty Brodeur and company should be enough to get the Devils through the first round. Devils in 6.
No. 3 Sabres vs. No. 6 Bruins—The Buffalo Sabres return to the post-season after their Eastern Conference finals run a few seasons ago. They’ll face a Bruins team that stumbled a little bit down the stretch, but still managed to finish in sixth place. The main attraction in this series will be the battle of Team USA net minders: Buffalo’s Ryan Miller against Boston’s Tim Thomas. Sabres in 5.
No. 4 Penguins vs. No. 5 Senators—Ottawa also makes its return to the playoffs after a brief absence, but unfortunately it runs into a talented and deep Penguins team that beefed itself up at the trade deadline. The defending champs will look to close out the Igloo in style and I expect Ottawa to be a small bump on their road. Penguins in 5.
No. 1 Sharks vs. No. 8 Avalanche—The Avalanche were left for dead at the start of the season, then surprised everyone by being in contention for a postseason berth. They briefly fell out of the top eight, but managed to slip in over the Calgary Flames. The Sharks do not have the pressure of being the President’s trophy winners this time around, but they do have a history of choking in the playoffs. They’ll make it past the first round, but not without a little bit of a scare. Sharks in 6.
No. 2 Blackhawks vs. No. 7 Predators—The Blackhawks have been one of the best teams in the West all season long and they are poised for another run at the Western Conference finals. Despite their issues in goaltending, their offense should be enough to get them past the Predators. Blackhawks in 5.
No. 6 Kings vs. No. 3 Canucks—The upstart Kings, who haven’t been to the playoffs since 2002, will have to find a way to beat Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo, as well as limit the amount of times the Sedin twins end up in the box score. Luongo has fallen apart in big games and since I feel compelled to pick an upset, I'm picking this one. Kings in 7.
No. 4 Coyotes vs. No. 5 Red Wings—On paper, this should be the best series of the first round. The surging Coyotes, who have no idea where they’ll be playing in the future, take on one of hockey’s premiere dynasties in the Detroit Red Wings. With all the young talent and acquisitions the Coyotes made at the deadline and all of Detroit’s veteran playoff warriors healthy and at the top of their game, this is a series a true hockey fan will love. Coyotes in 7.