It all begins tomorrow night when 16 of hockey's best teams will begin battling for the number-one spot.
In just a few of the most action-packed months the calendar has ever seen, we will know who the 2010-2011 NHL Stanley Cup champions are.
Will it be the defending champs from Chicago? Could it be Luongo, the Sedin twins, and President's Trophy winners the Vancouver Canucks? Or can teams like Nashville, Montreal, and Phoenix who have consistently played well all year win it all? Come the middle of June, we will know who hockey's greatest team is. For right now, let's look at 20 bold predictions for the 2010-2011 NHL Playoffs.
Chicago fans, it's not going to happen. Your team is nowhere as good as last season, and, thanks to Dallas not being able to win on the road, you barely squeezed into the playoffs.
Chicago has to face this season's best team in Vancouver and has the tough task of beating one of the best goalies in the world in Roberto Luongo.
Vancouver in five.
San Jose hosts Los Angeles in the first round. These two teams split the season series 3-3. Now that it's the playoffs and the stakes are higher, the teams are going to play each other even harder.
Kopitar and the Kings keep it close, but...
Sharks win in seven.
Last season, it took Detroit seven games to knock off the Coyotes in the first round. This season, it wont take as many games, but will be the same result. Detroit beat Phoenix two out of three times this year and Zetterberg and Datsyuk will be to much for Ilya Bryzgalov and the Coyote defense to handle. Phoenix had the fourth worst penalty kill in the league while Detroit had the fifth best power play.
Detroit in six.
Last season, it was Jaroslav Halak who carried Montreal deep into the postseason. This season, the surprise goaltender will be Pekka Rinne. Rinne won 33 games this year and posted the second best save percentage in the league with .930. Rinne and the Preds will give us our first upset of the postseason, by outlasting the Anaheim Ducks.
Predators win in five.
The New York Rangers solved Bruce Boudreau's Capitals three out of four times this year. In those four games, Lundqvist shot down Ovechkin. Ovechkin had 21 shots on goal and scored zero times. He only recorded two assists.
It will be the same story in the playoffs.
Like I said in the previous slide, New York beat Washington three out of four times this season. Brandon Dubinsky and Sean Avery have what it takes to knock of Washington.
This is by far the boldest prediction I can make.
New York wins in six.
Philadelphia knows how to play in the postseason. They showed that last year by making it all the way to the finals.
This Flyers team scores 3.1 goals a game and has the third best offense in the NHL. These two teams split the season series 2-2, but Philly prevails in the postseason.
Flyers sweep in four.
Tim Thomas was the best goaltender in the NHL this season. He won 35 games, posted a .938 save percentage, and only gave up two goals a game. He starts off postseason play against a Montreal team that averages only 2.1 goals a game and who holds the leagues 21st best offense.
Thomas continues the outstanding play in the postseason.
Unless Carey Price plays like an immortal, Boston will beat Montreal.
Boston has a top five offense on top of the second best defense in the league. Even though Montreal has a solid defense, they struggle putting the puck in the net. The struggles will continue against a top goaltender like Tim Thomas.
Bruins in five.
It is already clear that the Penguins will be without Sidney Crosby for the opener. I suspect he wont even play in this round. But even without Crosby, the Penguins still find success. Since Crosby went down, the Penguins went 23-13-3 and ended up with the same amount of points as their division winner Philadelphia. The Penguins found their success from their defense. Behind goaltender Marc-Andre Fluery, the Penguins had the sixth best defense in the league and the best penalty kill. The Penguins have a difficult task, playing against a Lightning team that ranks in the top ten in both goals per game and power play percentage, but the defense will carry them to round two.
Penguins in six.
This matchup is a clash of the titans. Two of the top goaltenders in the NHL will face off in the second round and give fans a real treat. It is going to be hard to turn away from the television when these two goalies go head to head. Each of them won at least 33 games, had a save percentage of over .928, and a goals against average of at least 2.12 or lower.
This series will go the distance.
Because of the great goaltending, this series will go all seven games. However, the Canucks offense will prove to be to much for Rinne and the Nashville defense to handle.
Vancouver had the best offense in the NHL, they had the best power play in the NHL, they also had the best defense in the NHL. The Canucks ranked third in the league in penalty kill. This Vancouver team is too strong for Nashville to beat. But the series will be close.
Vancouver in seven.
blackhawks stanley cup
Last season, San Jose knocked of Detroit in the second round in five games.
This season, they will meet in the second round again. Even though Detroit shows signs of struggling on defense, they still have on of the best offense in the league. Detroit scored 261 goals this season. They also had the fifth best power play, scoring 22.3 percent of the time. Detroit is going to beat San Jose because of the special teams. San Jose has one of the worst penalty kills in the NHL. Detroit will take advantage of that.
Detroit beat the Sharks in six games.
san jose sharks kings
These Atlantic Division rivals will square off in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Philadelphia's strong offense will go up against one of the best goalies in the league in Henrik Lundqvist. The Flyers will prove they are legit contenders when the knock off New York.
Flyers advance to Eastern Conference Finals in five games.
He's back! Sidney Crosby returns to the ice for the second round. After having one of the best first halves of a season the NHL has ever seen, Crosby returns from his 41 games absence and makes a huge impact for the Pittsburgh Penguins.
new york rangers capitals
Another very bold prediction. But I can see it happening.
Seriously, if Crosby comes back and plays in the second round, will it surprise anyone if he ends up winning the series for Pittsburgh? He already has a Stanley Cup, a gold medal, and tons of hardware in his trophy case. He can do anything.
If he doesn't come back, it will be very tough for Pittsburgh to beat the Bruins. But if he does return, which I predict he will, the Penguins beat Boston.
Penguins win in five games.
This matchup is going to be the most exciting series out of the Western Conference.
Detroit scored 261 goals (averaging 3.1 per game), and had the fifth best power play (scoring 22.3 percent of the time).
Vancouver scored 262 goals (averaging 3.1 per game), and had the best power play (scoring 24.4 percent of the time).
This series will be full of offense. The Canucks have the better defense and better goalie and that will be the reason they will be playing for the Stanley Cup.
Vancouver wins in six.
The Eastern Conference Final is going to be the most exciting series in the entire postseason.
We have two teams from the same state playing for one spot in the Stanley Cup Final. On one side we have the Philadelphia Flyers, a team who was so close to winning the holy grail of hockey they could smell it. However, they fell short to the hands of the Blackhawks in six games. On the other side we have the Pittsburgh Penguins, who won it all in 2009 and are craving the Stanley Cup again.
The Flyers are carried by Jeff Carter, Claude Giroux, and an offense that ranks third in the NHL.
The Penguins will make it this far because of their great play by goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury and their defense which has the best penalty kill in hockey.
The battle for Pennsylvania is going to be epic.
The "resurrection" of Sidney Crosby and the goaltending of Fleury are going to do it for the Penguins.
Pittsburgh reaches the Stanley Cup Final in seven games.
vancouver canucks predators
Pittsburgh Penguins vs Vancouver Canucks
The 2009 Champs vs a team that historically has never reached it's potential and is eliminated early.
Fleury vs Luongo
This series is going to be incredible because it is full of superstars.
The Sedins, Luongo, and Kesler. Crosby, Staal, and Fleury.
But the great production from the Sedin twins and the brick wall goaltending of Roberto Luongo give the city of Vancouver their first ever Stanley Cup.
Vancouver in six.
Luongo was one of the best goalies in the NHL this season, he is not going to let up in the postseason. Luongo is going to be the reason the Vancouver Canucks win the Stanley Cup. He will put the team on his back and be awarded the MVP because of it.