#1 Vancouver Canucks vs #8 Los Angeles Kings
Schedule: Game 1: Wednesday April 11, Game 2: Friday April 13, Game 3: Sunday April 15, Game 4: Wednesday April 18, Game 5: Sunday April 22, Game 6: Tuesday April 24, Game 7: Thursday April 26.
By The Numbers
Head To Head: Vancouver 2-1-1 L.A. 2-2-0
Vancouver Canucks: Special Teams, Power Play 4th (19.8%) and Penalty Kill 6th (86.0%)
Goals For per Game 3.0 (5th) and Goals Against per Game 2.4 (4th)
Los Angeles Kings: Special Teams, Power Play 17th (17.0%) and Penalty Kill 4th (87.0%)
Goals For per Game 2.4 (29th) and Goals Against per Game 2.2 (2nd)
Players to Watch
Vancouver: Henrik Sedin (14G-67A-81P) and Daniel Sedin (30G-37A-67P) Looks like Daniel will be ready for Game 1. Still waiting for the Sedin's to dominate the playoffs. Alex Burrows (28G-24A-52P) Third member of Sedin line, Sedin's take the majority of the defensive coverage allowing Burrows room to work. Ryan Kesler (22G-27A-49P) Dominated round 2 last year then took on a defensive role in rounds 3 and 4. Could be the difference if he plays all 4 rounds this year like the Nashville series last year. Roberto Luongo (31-14-8) and Cory Schneider (20-8-1) Luongo will start game 1 but we will see Schneider at some point in the playoffs. This could be the make or break point for Luongo's future with Canucks, Schneider is ready to be #1.
Los Angeles: Jonathan Quick (35-21-13) The only reason L.A. is in the playoffs. Will be in the running for the Vezina. Needs to be spectacular for the Kings to have a chance. Anze Kopitar (25G-51A-76P) The offensive leader on an offensively challenged team. Mike Richards (18G-26A-44P) Been through the battles with Philadelphia, plays in all situations. Needs to produce points.
~ Jeff Carter (LA) and Daniel Sedin (Vancouver) should be ready for game 1.
~ Vancouver's defence is better than last years with a healthy Dan Hamhuis and an improved Alex Edler
Vancouver Canucks in 5. L.A. can't score. Vancouver can. Yes Jonathan Quick could steal a few games but so could the 2 goalies at the other end. Vancouver is to deep at all positions.
#2 St. Louis Blues vs #7 San Jose Sharks
Schedule: Game 1: Thursday April 12, Game 2: Saturday April 14, Game 3: Monday April 16, Game 4: Thursday April 19, Game 5: Saturday April 21, Game 6: Monday April 23, Game 7: Wednesday April 25.
By The Numbers
Head To Head: St. Louis 4-0-0 San Jose 0-4-0
St. Louis: Special Teams, Power Play 19th (16.7%) and Penalty Kill 7th (85.8%)
Goals For per Game 2.6 (21st) and Goals Against per Game 2.0 (1st)
San Jose: Special Teams, Power Play 2nd (21.1%) and Penalty Kill 29th (76.9%)
Goals For per Game 2.8 (13th) and Goals Against per Game 2.6 (8th)
Players To Watch
St. Louis: Jaroslav Halak (26-12-7) and Brian Elliot (23-10-4) Goalies shared the load all year, will be interesting to see what Hitchcock does for the Playoffs. Suspect it will be status quo. David Backes (24G-30A-54P) Led team in scoring and is a defensive leader as well. Name is mentioned in the Selke discussions. Alex Pietrangelo (12G-39A-51P) Thriving under Hitchcock's system, strong in his own end and can put up points as well.
San Jose: Logan Couture (31G-34A-65P) Coming out party was last season, needs to continue to produce at crucial times. Joe Thornton (18G-59A-77P) Still puts up numbers but not so much in playoffs. Doesn't need to be the go to guy anymore. Patrick Marleau (30G-34A-64P) Consistency tends to be Marleau's problem in the playoffs, can be amazing one night and disappear the next. Joe Pavelski (31G-30A-61P) Needs to be a factor to take a little heat off of Thornton and Marleau. Antti Niemi (34-22-9) Won a Cup with Chicago the came to San Jose, has been inconsistent at times.
~ San Jose had to scratch and claw to get into the post season up until the last weekend.
~ Maybe as an under dog they can achieve what they couldn't as a contender.
San Jose Sharks in 7. St. Louis has had a remarkable year under the guidance of Ken Hitchcock. This series is a coin flip but I believe with the less pressure San Jose will come out on top in the end.
#3 Phoenix Coyotes vs #6 Chicago Blackhawks
Schedule: Game 1: Thursday April 12, Game 2: Saturday April 14, Game 3: Tuesday April 17, Game 4: Thursday April 19, Game 5: Saturday April 21, Game 6: Monday April 23, Game 7: Wednesday April 25.
By The Numbers
Head To Head: Phoenix 3-1-0 Chicago 1-2-1
Phoenix Coyotes: Special Teams, Power Play 29th (13.6%) and Penalty Kill 8th (85.5%)
Goals For per Game 2.6 (18th) and Goals Against per Game 2.5 (5th)
Chicago Blackhawks: Special Teams, Power Play 26th (15.2%) and Penalty Kill 27th (78.1%)
Goals For per Game 3.0 (6th) and Goals Against per Game 2.9 (22nd)
Players To Watch
Phoenix: Mike Smith (33-18-10) Had a fantastic season and crept into the Vezina discussion. Will need to continue strong play. Ray Whitney (24G-53A-77P) Turns 40 in May and led the Coyotes in scoring. The Wizard will have to work his magic for the Yotes to have a chance. Radim Vrbata (35G-27A-62P) Mediocre player before he came to Phoenix, has turned into a real scoring threat. Shane Doan (22G-28A-50P) Been in the Desert for every year the Coyotes existed. Leading Phoenix to second round would be a feel good story.
Chicago: Jonathan Toews (29G-28A-57P) Blackhawks leader looks to be ready to return, how effective will he be. Marion Hossa (29G-48A-77P) Do everything guy like Toews, Hossa can score and play in his own end. Patrick Kane (23G-43A-66P) Has game breaking skill, will need to provide it until Toews gets back up to speed. Corey Crawford (30-17-7) Young goaltender who experienced a tough series with Vancouver last year. Has a Cup finalist in Emery backing him up.
~ Phoenix won first Division Title in franchise history.
~ Kieth and Seabrook pairing for Chicago will be key to defence as goalies are just OK.
Chicago Blackhawks in 6. The Hawks have to much experience and outclass Phoenix in high end talent and difference makers. Mike Smith will keep games close.
#4 Nashville Predators vs. #5 Detroit Red Wings
Schedule: Game 1: Wednesday April 11, Game 2: Friday April 13, Game 3: Sunday April 15, Game 4: Tuesday April 17, Game 5: Friday April 20, Game 6: Sunday April 22 Game 7: Tuesday April 24.
By The Numbers
Head To Head: Tied 3-3-0
Nashville: Special Teams, Power Play 1st (21.6%) and Penalty Kill 10th (83.6%)
Goals For per Game 2.9 (8th) and Goals Against per Game 2.6 (9th)
Detroit: Special Teams, Power Play 22nd (16.1%) and Penalty Kill 18th (81.8%)
Goals For per Game 3.0 (7th) and Goals Against per Game 2.5 (7th)
Players To Watch
Nashville: Pekka Rinne (43-18-8) One of the league's top goalies the last few years, Always in the Vezina discussion. Alexander Radulov (3G-4A-7P) Played last 9 games for the Preds after coming back from Russia. Could be a game breaker. Martin Erat (19G-39A-58P) Preds leading scorer, needs to stay healthy and be a contributor every night. Shea Weber (19G-30A-49P) Cannon from the blue line, big reason Preds PP is #1 league wide, IF Detroit over commits to his side others will be open.
Detroit: Henrik Zetterberg (22G-47A-69P) Conn Smythe winner in 08. Pavel Datsyuk (19G-48A-67P) One of the best 2 way players of all time. Nicklas Lidstrom (11G-23A-34P) Turns 42 at the end of the month and still leads Detroit in ice time. Jimmy Howard (35-17-4) Has the ability to be a show stopper, may need it.
~ Nashville added pieces this year to contend for the Stanley Cup. Andrei Kostitsyn and Paul Gaustad add some depth but Radulov may be the guy that puts them over the top.
~ Detroit is one of the oldest teams in the league. Could be last chance at a run.
Flip a coin, but I will take Nashville in 7. I believe Radulov was the key, if he doesn't score he will open up room for others. Weber and Suter will outplay Lidstrom and Kronwall.
Stanley Cup Prediction
Like any other playoff year, a number of things will factor into who lifts Lord Stanley's mug. Who can stay healthy longer, will guys coming back from injury be effective, and the ever popular which goalie will get hot at the right time. That being said, I am like most pundits and see Pittsburgh and Vancouver in the finals. It will be another 7 game series and both teams are deep with elite level players at all positions. Vancouver comes up short again and Pittsburgh claims the Cup for a 4th time. Sidney Crosby earns the Conn Smythe.