The chill of the winter has been replaced by the blooms of spring.  The birds are singing.  The sun is shining.  This can only mean one thing. 

You need to get to the arena – the playoffs are starting! 

That’s right.  After 82 high-paced, rock’ em, sock’ em hockey games, the real season is about to begin.  Which means only one thing.  A whole bunch of us are going to pick the winners for the first round, and then sit back and watch all of the upsets. 

You see, unlike most sports, any team that reaches the hockey playoffs has a legitimate chance to go all the way.  Watching the homestretch of the regular season this year, this group is full of upsets waiting to happen. 

But we’re not about to let that stand in the way of making our predictions, are we?  Of course not.  So without any further ado, here we go! 

Let’s start in the East. 

#8 Ottawa Senators (92 points) vs. #1 N.Y. Rangers (109 points) – Well, I’d love to think that this will be a close series, but the Rangers are just too good to let that happen.  They’re not #1 in the East for nothing.  This will be over quick. – Rangers 4-0 

#7 Washington Capitals (92 points) vs. Boston Bruins (102 points) – This one might be a little closer than the 1 vs. 8 matchup, but not by much.  The Bruins have been here before (remember last year?), and they know how to win in the playoffs. – Bruins 4-1 

#6 New Jersey Devils (102 points) vs. #3 Florida Panthers (94 points) – Since the Panthers have home ice advantage (well, at least for the first game), I’ve got to at least give them one win.  Problem is, the Devils are one of the better teams in the East.  This might go six games, but I don’t think so. – Devils 4-1 

#5 Philadelphia Flyers (103 points) vs. #4 Pittsburgh Penguins (108 points) – This might very well be the best matchup of the playoffs.  Not just for round one, but for the entire playoffs.  These two teams truly do not like each other.  Heck, even their coaches almost went after each other last week!  This will be a hard fought series, but I’ve got to go with Pittsburgh. – Penguins 4-3 

Now let’s take a look at the West. 

#8 Los Angeles Kings (95 points) vs. #1 Vancouver Canucks (111 points) – It’s really difficult to pick the President’s Cup winners to lose in the first round.  So I won’t even try.  The Kings are a good team and I don’t expect them to simply crumble.  They will make it interesting.  – Canucks 4-2 

#7 San Jose Sharks (96 points) vs. #2 St.Louis Blues (109 points) – I wouldn’t want to be the team that has to face the Blues right out of the chute.  The way they lost the #1 spot in the last week of the season has to be enough motivation for them to come out and destroy anyone that gets in their way. – Blues 4-1 

#6 Chicago Blackhawks (101 points) vs. #3 Phoenix Coyotes (97 points) – Another team that I would not want to face in the first round is the Coyotes.  They appear to have regained their form from the month of February, winning their last five games of the season, three by shutout, to capture the Pacific Division title for the first time in franchise history.  Expect the Blackhawks to give them a battle, but goalie Mike Smith is playing like a man possessed right now. – Coyotes 4-2 

#5 Detroit Red Wings (102 points) vs. #4 Nashville Predators (104 points) – This one will be almost as good as the battle of Pennsylvania.  These teams are very evenly matched and are two of the best teams in the West.  Problem is, one of them seems to turn it up a notch this time of year.  Whether you love them or hate them, you just can’t bet against them (at least not in the first round).  Red Wings 4-2 

Okay…there you have it.  Write them down and take ‘em to the bank.  Oh they’re not worth anything, but I’m sure you’ll find a hockey fan or two at the bank! 

Since I am very confident that I’m going to miss a few series winners this year, I’ll hold off until the end of this round to make my predictions for the future rounds. 

Meanwhile, enjoy the playoffs!!



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