NHL Playoffs – First Round

Last update: Wednesday, April 11, 2012.
By Craig Barnes.
Send Craig an email here: [email protected]

2012 NHL Playoff Picks:
First Round | Second Round | Third Round | Final Round
Western Conference

No. 1 Vancouver Canucks vs. No. 8 Los Angeles Kings
This is an interesting series, as you have the President’s trophy-winning Canucks against an upstart Kings team that can also boast solid goaltending. Often times, it is the hot goalie who can win a series, but in this case, I think Vancouver’s offense and playoff experience will hold true.

Prediction: Canucks in six.
Incorrect: Kings in five (4-1)

No. 2 St. Louis Blues vs. No. 7 San Jose Sharks
The Blues at one point looked to be a powerhouse club that was capable of shutting down anyone defensively. Of late, that has changed. The Sharks at one point looked like they weren’t even going to make the playoffs. That has also changed. I think this round has all the makings of an upset even though San Jose is not traditionally a strong postseason team.

Prediction: Sharks in seven.
Incorrect: Blues in five (4-1)

No. 3 Phoenix Coyotes vs. No. 6 Chicago Blackhawks
This could be a wildly entertaining series, as you have a solid top-to-bottom team with a goalie playing quite well in Phoenix, against a team with a great deal of offensive capability and questionable goaltending. The Coyotes gets the No. 3 seed by virtue of their division win, but I think tbe Blackhawks are peaking at the right time, and offense wins out in this series.

Prediction: Blackhawks in six.
Incorrect: Coyotes in six (4-2)

No. 4 Nashville Predators vs. No. 5 Detroit Red Wings
Normally at this point in the year, people start thinking in terms of how many series Detroit is going to win. Nashville, not known for playoff success is usually just hoping to be competitive. However, the Redwings are playing very poorly by their standards and the Predators seem poised to make a bit of a run in the postseason this year.

Prediction: Predators in six.
Correct: Predators in five (4-1)

Eastern Conference

No. 1 New York Rangers vs. No. 8 Ottawa Senators
There weren’t many people who felt the Senators would fall into the last spot in the Eastern Conference, but here they are. The Rangers, with goalie Henrik Lundqvist await them. Indeed, Ottawa has been a feel-good story this season just by getting to the playoffs after most people had the teams pegged as a rebuilding franchise. However, Lundqvist and New York will be too much for the Senators in this series.

Prediction: Rangers in five.
Correct: Rangers in seven (4-3)

No. 2 Boston Bruins vs. No. 7 Washington Capitals
This is another interesting matchup because most had Boston slated to play Ottawa, a team the Bruins have had much success against this season. They instead have to play Alexander Ovechkin and more importantly a healthy Nicklas Backstrom and the rest of the Washington Capitals. Despite the Capitals strong play of late, I do feel their goaltending is just not strong enough to win a playoff series, especially against the defending Stanley Cup champions.

Prediction: Bruins in six.
Incorrect: Capitals in seven (4-3)

No. 3 Florida Panthers vs. No. 6 New Jersey Devils
The No. 6 seed is really a choice placement in most playoff years because it guarantees a team the chance to play the weakest of all the division winners in the first round. Such is the case for New Jersey which gets to play a struggling Florida team in round one. The Panthers really have played over their heads all year, and I think are coming back to earth right now. The Devils have been steady all season and still have Martin Brodeur in net.

If it’s one thing you learn as a hockey fan, never count Brodeur out.

Prediction: Devils in five.
Correct: Devils in seven (4-3)

No. 4 Pittsburgh Penguins vs. No. 5 Philadelphia Flyers
This is by far the most difficult series to predict. You have two excellent teams that are, at the moment, playing excellent hockey. You’d like to look at playoff experience and say one has the edge over the other. You can’t do that here. Goaltending is pretty much at a push, even though Marc Andre-Fleury of Pittsburgh has been more consistent.

I think it comes down to the fact that the Penguins are now fully healthy and capable of beating anyone in a seven-game series. This one truly could go either way, but I’ll be surprised if it doesn’t go the full distance.

Prediction: Penguins in seven.
Incorrect: Flyers in six (4-2)

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