Philly Reign Staff
It's playoff time, baby! And I gotta admit, with this being the first article authored by each member of Philly Reign collectively, we're all pretty pumped. Each of us has submitted our picks for the first round of the playoffs, and naturally we disagree. But I digress. Without further adieu, ladies and gentlemen, we give you our picks for the first round of the 2011 NHL playoffs!
Western Conference Quarterfinals ― 1 Vancouver Canucks v. 8 Chicago Blackhawks
Mike: There’s absolutely no question Vancouver will finally have their revenge against the Stanley Cup defending champs. The last two consecutive seasons the ‘Nucks have been eliminated in the Cup run by the Red & Black of Windy City, but something’s telling me that the third time’s a charm. Chicago may still have its “core”, but the Sedin twins are more than enough firepower to take down Toews, Hossa, Kane and Byfuglien Seabrook. Canucks in 5.
Tyler: Ah, this one’s exciting (but not my favorite). Much has been said about Luongo in the playoffs, and the ‘Hawks have historically had the ‘Nucks’ number. But this season, all that changes. The Sedin twins and Ryan Kesler lead a high-powered offense in front of one of the most formidable goaltenders―a goaltender, by the way, who no longer feels the pressure of captaincy. Chicago, I hope you’ve enjoyed your run, cos it’s about to end. Canucks in 4.
Tim: Chicago comes into the playoffs by the hair of their chinny chin chin, almost receiving the dubious honor of not being able to defend their Stanley Cup from a year ago. Their dreams of repeat, however, won’t last long when they run into the buzz saw that is the Vancouver Canucks. Far and away the best team in the regular season, Vancouver’s momentum will push them past the first round. Selke favorite Ryan Kesler will be a huge factor. Canucks in 5.
Joe: Vancouver, with the double-headed monster named Sedin and with one of the greatest goalies on the planet, makes me hard-pressed to pick an upset here. Losing Maholtra to an eye injury and Torres for the first two games (suspension) shouldn't hurt them too much in this round. The Hawks barely got into the playoffs and, unlike the Flyers last season, they needed help to get in. And because of cap issues, they had to get rid of some key players from last year’s Cup-winning team. Canucks in 5.
Western Conference Quarterfinals ― 2 San Jose Sharks v. 7 Los Angeles Kings
Mike: I hope Randy Newman still loves L.A. after their Stanley Cup dreams become victim to a season-ending Shark attack. Although the Kings allowed the least goals this year in the Pacific division, it’s going to be hard to keep up with The Big Three while missing your leading scorer, Anze Kopitar. Better luck next season, Los Angeles. As for now, they're nothing more than a bunch of chum afloat in the Shark Tank. Sharks in 6.
Tyler: This, to me, is the most intriguing and exciting quarterfinal match this postseason. Both the Sharks and Kings come into the playoffs red hot. The Sharks have an amazing PP but a crappy PK―the Kings, an amazing PK but a crappy PP. But the Sharks will persevere with the versatile Antti Niemi in net. He’ll augment the fact that San Jose ranked in the top 10 in goals per game while Los Angeles ranked in the top 10 in goals against per game. Sharks in 6.
Tim: After decimating the Kings just a few games ago, the Sharks are full of swagger coming into this series. L.A. is without leading goal scorer Anze Kopitar. But before you make your reservations in the second round Sharks fans, don’t look past a scrappy Los Angeles team. With the likes of Dustin Brown, Jack Johnson, and Quick between the pipes, the Kings won’t go away easy. Will the Sharks win? No way, San Jose! Kings in 7.
Joe: Very good match up here. Logan "Super Rookie" Couture has breathed new life into the Sharks. Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Dany Heatly―the team is loaded with offensive weapons. Meanwhile, in L.A., captain Dustin Brown has brought the Kings back from mediocrity. Anze Kopitar was the guy I would have looked at as the guy to propel the Kings to the next round, but an injury has ended his season. In my opinion, that will mean the end to the Kings season as well. Sharks in 6.
Western Conference Quarterfinals ― 3 Detroit Red Wings v. 6 Phoenix Coyotes
Mike: There’s a first time for everything and right now it’s the Coyotes’ turn for their first. Phoenix hasn’t won a single playoff series in its franchise’s history. However, I think with a steady mixture of relentless grinding, speed, and physical play the ‘Yotes could extend this seven game series to its entirety and make history. I’ve been told I need my brain CAT scanned, but something in me is saying Shane Doan and Ilya Bryzgalov will be the two standout stars of this match up. Coyotes in 7.
Tyler: Ah, a bit of déjà vu I see! The Coyotes are back and are looking for revenge against the Red Wings. Ilya Bryzgalov has been a work horse this season, Keith Yandle is one of the league’s most exciting defensemen, and captain Shane Doan’s leadership capabilities will prove priceless to this squad. But once again it will not be enough to get past half of freakin’ Team Sweden (oh, and that Russian guy named Dats-something or another) will once again prove to be the superior squad. Red Wings in 4.
Tim: Zetterberg, Zetterberg, where fore art thou Zetterberg! For you are the key to my predictions in this series. Detroit will be looking to get the second most important Henrik in the playoffs back early in this series (Sedin is third). I think he is the ace in the hole that Detroit has in their favor. The aura of the team from Detroit will be too much, as Lidstrom and the Motown Winged Wheels push on to the second round. Red Wings in 6.
Joe: They meet again! Last season the Coyotes took the favored Wings to the brink, only for the Wings to smack their little brother around when it came time to do so. The Winnip―er, Phoenix Coyotes have never won a playoff series. Shane Doan is one of the most underrated players in all of hockey, but he can't do it all. That's why Bryzgalov is important for this team. Jimmy Howard is having a solid season in Detroit. If I was starting a franchise, Mike Babcock would be the head coach I'd hire, death stare or not. Red Wings in 7.
Western Conference Quarterfinals ― 4 Anaheim Ducks v. 5 Nashville Predators
Mike: Everyone and their grandmothers know Anaheim’s probably one of (if not, THE) hottest Western Conference team heading into the Cup run, however the Predators have had a tendency to keep their opponent’s goals below their average. Now, if the Preds continue their defensive bombardment and keep the Quacks grounded then I’m picking my second upset of Round 1. Predators in 7.
Tyler: With the combo of Ryan/Getzlaf/Perry up front, the Ducks have been on a tear lately and are perhaps the most offensively-capable team coming into the playoffs. But Nashville’s defense is no joke. Not only do they have a strong defense containing Norris candidate Shea Weber, but they have Pekka Rinne in net. Rinne, a Vezina candidate, kept the Preds in this thing the entire season. Look for more goaltending superiority in this series. Predators in 5.
Tim: Just as in the east, the Western Conference 4/5 matchup will be the most fun to watch. The talented Predators ride a hot goaltender in Pekka Rinne into the second season. A solid defensive corps led by veteran Shea Weber has been playing well all year. Anaheim comes in with Corey Perry’s gun still smoking in the holster. After netting 50 goals this season, Perry will be looking to lead his team to the Promised Land. Offense trumps defense. Ducks in 6.
Joe: Hart Trophy finalist Corey Perry and the Anaheim Ducks are flying south for the ... spring? Ray Emery and Jonas Hiller are a very good one/two punch so long as they remain healthy. Ryan Getzlaf, Bobby Ryan and Corey Perry are the best line in hockey but it won't be enough if they have to rely on Dan Ellis between the pipes. The Predators have yet to win a series, but this is their year. And here's why: Rinne. Weber. Suter. Predators in 5.