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Stanley Cup Playoffs: Day One Predictions

Chris BouthillierSenior Analyst IApril 15, 2009

WASHINGTON - MARCH 27:  Alex Ovechkin #8 and Nicklas Backstrom #19 of the Washington Capitals celebrate Ovechkin's first period goal against the Tampa Bay Lightning on March 27, 2009 at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C. The Capitals defeated the Lightning 5-3.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

It's safe to say the past few nights have been dull without any hockey. I even resorted to watching the draft lottery in hopes of generating excitement.

Sadly, it did not work.

But on the other hand, it's finally Wednesday. The Stanley Cup playoffs are here.

This is the time of year where the world stops turning. Both eyes are to be glued to your television sets—or your computer monitor if you have NHL GameCenter—as we get set for eight weeks of fast-paced action to determine who has the honor of lifting hockey's Holy Grail.

Here is a look at tonight's schedule:

Eastern Conference

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NY Rangers (7) @ Washington (2)

After pushing their way into game seven in last year's first round, the Washington Capitals are going to be looking for a different ending to the 2009 season. Led by goal-scoring dynamo Alex Ovechkin, the Capitals have one of the most potent offensive units in the league.

The New York Rangers don't have the ability to light up the scoreboard at will. During the regular season they averaged 2.44 goals per game—which was 28th in the league—and will heavily rely on all-star goaltender Henrik Lundqvist.

Along with the fact that the Capitals will be playing at a sold-out Verizon Center this could turn into a long night for the Rangers.

Game One Winner:  Washington

Philadelphia (5) @ Pittsburgh (4)

The battle of Pennsylvania is back for the second straight year. The Flyers will be looking to exact revenge on the Penguins after dropping the Eastern Conference Finals last spring in five games.

These teams have been two totally different stories down the stretch. Though the Flyers finished the season with six players with 25 goals or more there's no question they have struggled defensively.

Coach John Stevens gave the goaltending reigns to both Martin Biron and Antero Niittymaki and neither goalie has shown consistency. It is expected that Biron will start in goal Wednesday night.

The Pittsburgh Penguins will have their work cut out for them if they want to eliminate their state rival. Under coach Dan Bylsma, the Pens has been a revitalized group and are showing shades of last year's team which came within two games of winning the Stanley Cup.

Game One Winner: Pittsburgh

Carolina (6) @ New Jersey (3)

It seems that ever since Martin Brodeur became the all-time winningest goaltender in NHL history,the Devils have gone south. Meanwhile, the Carolina Hurricanes secured their first playoff berth in three seasons and finished the season on an 8-2-0 run.

The Carolina Hurricanes won the Stanley Cup in 2006 but have done very little since then—until now. The forward duo of Eric Staal and Erik Cole has been reunited in Raleigh and have two powerplay cannons in Joe Corvo and Anton Babchuk.

This is one of the few times New Jersey has a game-breaker who isn't their goalie. Zach Parise, Patrik Elias, and Jamie Langenbrunner have led the offensive charge but will it be enough to beat 'Canes netminder Cam Ward?

Game One Winner: Carolina

Western Conference

St. Louis (6) @ Vancouver (3)

What a story the St. Louis Blues have been this season.

They have lost two of their top forwards, two of their top defensemen and a total of 461 man-games lost to injury. Yes, they made it.

Led by the play of goalie Chris Mason and the emergence of their young core—David Backes, T.J. Oshie, Patrik Berglund, David Perron to name a few—the Blues have returned to the playoffs for the first time since the lockout.

The Vancouver Canucks have turned the page this season after losing Trevor Linden, Markus Naslund, and Brendan Morrison last summer. The 'Nucks have been led by the Sedin twins and have had plenty of contribution from Alexandre Burrows and Ryan Kesler.

Add that with the leadership of long-time NHLers Mats Sundin and Pavol Demitra and this team is looking to go in the right direction this playoff.

Oh, yeah, they got this Luongo guy, too. Not too sure if you heard of him...

Game One Winner: Vancouver

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