NHL Trade Deadline 2011: How the Playoffs Will Shape Up with the Current Rosters
With the NHL trade deadline passing February 28th, the rosters are basically set for the rest of the year.
Teams are left with less than 20 games remaining in the regular season, and playoffs are just around the corner.
Some teams are locks for making the postseason, while others still have a lot of work to do. Here's how each series in 2011 will turn out.
East Round 1: No. 1. Philadelphia Flyers vs. No. 8. Buffalo Sabres
The Philadelphia Flyers have been one of the best teams in the NHL all year.
They will take the top spot in the Eastern Conference with ease, and will be highly favored. Buffalo will just narrowly make the playoffs, taking the eighth seed over the Carolina Hurricanes.
Philadelphia should control this series, and make quick work of the Sabres.
Winner: Philadelphia Flyers. 4-1
West Round 1: No. 1. Vancouver Canucks vs. No. 8. Nashville Predators
The top spot in the Western Conference will be filled up by the Vancouver Canucks, who have been the best team in the NHL by far.
Five teams are competing for the final two spots in the West, and the Nashville Predators will get the eighth seed.
Vancouver owns a goal differential of +59, which is 30 points ahead of the next closest team in the West. Along with that, the Canucks have been amazing at home, and should take care of Nashville.
Winner: Vancouver Canucks, 4-1
East Round 1: No. 2. Boston Bruins vs. No. 7. New York Rangers
Boston has had a very strong second half, which will pay off when they clinch the second seed. They will face a New York Rangers squad who has been pretty stagnant in the standings all year, but have played consistently well throughout the season.
This series will actually be very close, with both teams taking control on their home ice.
Winner: Boston Bruins, 4-3
West Round 1: No. 2. Detroit Red Wings vs. No. 7. Dallas Stars
Detroit is once again near the top of the standings in the Western Conference.
They will face the Dallas Stars, who after a very strong start to the season, will fall all the way to seventh. In previous years this series wouldn't be close, but Detroit has lost some stars and hasn't been playing as well on home ice as they usually do.
Winner: Detroit Red Wings, 4-3
East Round 1: No. 3. Pittsburgh Penguins vs. No. 6. Montreal Canadians
The Pittsburgh Penguins were one of the highest favored team to win the Eastern Conference before the season.
Taking the third seed and facing the Montreal Canadians in the first round isn't too terrible of a situation to be in though. Pittsburgh is still a pretty dominant team, especially when Sidney Crosby is healthy and at his best.
Winner: Pittsburgh Penguins, 4-1
West Round 1: No. 3. San Jose Sharks vs. No. 6. Phoenix Coyotes
The San Jose Sharks have been blisteringly hot in the past few weeks and had their eight game win streak snapped by Dallas recently.
Round one for the Sharks should feature a division rival Phoenix Coyotes, who are 0-3 against San Jose this season. The playoffs shouldn't be any different, especially if the Sharks can stay as hot as they have been.
Winner: San Jose Sharks, 4-2
East Round 1: No. 4. Washington Capitals vs. No. 5. Tampa Bay Lightning
Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals were another team who was highly favored coming into the year.
In the first round they will face the Tampa Bay Lightning, led by the young and highly talented Steven Stamkos, who has revamped the Lightning franchise.
While I would like to move the Capitals past Tampa Bay, Washington just hasn't played overwhelmingly well at home or away and will probably struggle in this series, leaving room for Tampa Bay to "capitalize."
Winner: Tampa Bay Lightning. 4-2
West Round 1: No. 4. Chicago Blackhawks vs. No. 5. Los Angeles Kings
After winning the Stanley Cup in 2010, the Chicago Blackhawks will only get the fourth seed in the Western Conference in 2011.
They will face a Los Angeles Kings team who has only recently started to become a playoff franchise.
The Blackhawks are 4-0 against LA so far this season, and the Kings shouldn't be a huge threat to stop Chicago's attempt at back-to-back titles.
East Semifinals: No. 1. Philadelphia Flyers vs. No. 5. Tampa Bay Lightning
While Tampa Bay was able to get past the Capitals in round one, they won't find the same success in the semifinals.
The Lightning don't have any playoff experience, and the semifinals will bring bullying from the Broad Street Bullies.
Winner: Philadelphia Flyers, 4-1
West Semifinals: No.1. Vancouver Canucks vs. No. 4. Chicago Blackhawks
Rivals Chicago Blackhawks and Vancouver Canucks will square off in the Western Conference semis.
While Chicago will fight as hard as they can to repeat as champs, Vancouver will be a big threat to stand in their way.
This series should be a battle, and it will come down to who wants it more. Vancouver hasn't had a team as good as their current squad in a long time, and their desire to win will prevail.
Winner: Vancouver Canucks, 4-3
East Semifinals: No. 2. Boston Bruins vs. No. 3. Pittsburgh Penguins
Pittsburgh and Boston will be another great semifinal match up in which either team can make a statement at any time.
Sidney Crosby is back and healthy, and will play great in this series. He will carry the Penguins on his back against the tough Bruins defense, and will be the reason that Pittsburgh gets to advance.
Winner: Pittsburgh Penguins, 4-3
West Semifinals: No. 2. Detroit Red Wings vs. No. 3. San Jose Sharks
Detroit and San Jose have become huge rivals in the past few years.
San Jose has been playing great, and has been putting the pressure on the Red Wings to keep their second seed, but it won't really matter once they meet up in the playoffs.
Anti Niemi will prove to the Sharks why they signed him in the offseason and will hold the Detroit offense at bay.
Winner: San Jose Sharks, 4-3
East Finals: No. 1. Philadelphia Flyers vs. No. 3. Pittsburgh Penguins
The state of Pennsylvania love their sports teams with a passion, and the Eastern Conference finals will be a battle of the two Pennsylvanian rivals.
Whenever these teams meet up in the regular season or the playoffs, they always provide fireworks for the fans.
Although Sidney Crosby always plays well in the playoffs, Philadelphia will essentially shut him down in this series, and will take home the Eastern Conference title.
West Finals: No. 1. Vancouver Canucks vs. No. 3. San Jose Sharks
San Jose and Vancouver have put on a great show every time they've played this season.
Both teams won games in the regular season series, and the Finals will feature some of the same great play. San Jose always finishes well in the regular season, but usually chokes somewhere during the playoffs.
This year, the Sharks won't choke, but they will stumble upon a team who is just better then them.
Winner: Vancouver Canucks, 4-2
Stanley Cup Finals: Philadelphia Flyers vs. Vancouver Canucks
What better matchup than the two number one seeds, and the two teams that have been consistently better than everyone else the entire year?
Vancouver hasn't seen playoff glory in a long time, and Philadelphia wants to win badly after tasting defeat in the Finals last season.
Another fantastic Stanley Cup Finals, the Flyers and Canucks will be dynamite on their home ice, and it will take a breakout game from Danny Briere to seal the championship glory for Philadelphia.
Winner: Philadelphia Flyers, 4-3