The NHL regular season is complete and for 16 teams the real season begins. It's a fresh start for everyone. Though some teams have a more realistic goal of winning, each club has a 1 in 16 chance to win the Stanley Cup. Not bad odds, not bad at all. This 1st round has the makings to be the best 1st round in the salary cap era, all 16 teams are strong, skilled and determined with no team having a huge edge over the other. If you enjoyed the regular season, let us remind you, you ain't seen nothing yet.
Boston Bruins vs Detroit Red Wings
From first glance you have to think the Bruins have it in the bag and are just waiting to see who their opponent will be in the next round. But don't think that way because, well, they are playing the Detroit Red Wings. The Wings played without their superstars for parts of the season but still managed to make the playoffs once again. They're getting scoring from their young guys and Datsyuk seems like he's almost at 100%...you can't count them out.
Then again, they're playing the Bruins, the top team in the entire league. When you look at the Bruins, you literally can not find one hole in their game, everything is solid from front to back, side to side. Over the last few seasons they know what it's like to win the Stanley Cup as well as lose in the finals, combine both of those together with their experience, it's scary.
Bruins in 7
Tampa Bay Lightning vs Montreal Canadiens
After such a dreadful season a year ago the Lightning were able to bolt (pun intended) out of the league's basement and be mentioned as a top team in the league. With a shootout win on the final day of the season they were able to secure home ice advantage against the Canadiens. By doing so you can expect to see Stamkos and the two rookies, Ondrej Palat and Tyler Johnson bring the heat to Montreal.
What will be difficult for the Canadiens? Can they all play as a team, provide Price with the strong defense he needs and will the forwards grind it out for the entire series against a young, quick Lightning team. The moment you start to count them out they always seem to pull out a win and do something you wouldn't have expected them to do.
Canadiens in 6
Pittsburgh Penguins vs Columbus Blue Jackets
When you hear the Blue Jackets you think of one of the worst teams in the NHL. Since they've came into they league they only have one playoff appearance and now they have the task of taking on Crosby and the Penguins. The great thing about the Blue Jackets, they don't have any players on their team who give up, if you watch one of their games you're guaranteed to enjoy every last minute.
But let's be real, they are facing the Pittsburgh Penguins, a rejuvenated Pens squad that has a Letang back after suffering a stroke. This season saw Fleury actually play like he knows what he's doing, ton of confidence in himself and from the coaching staff. Crosby has to be the difference maker in this series, play like he did for Team Canada.
Penguins in 5
New York Rangers vs Philadelphia Flyers
If you want, you can be completely honest right now. Did you think the Flyers were going to make the playoffs? They had such a horrible start to the season it had everybody believing they were destined for at least the 3rd overall pick in this year's draft. With Giroux turning things around and the Flyers playing hard nosed hockey, they fought their way into the playoffs.
On the other side of the series, the Rangers always seem to spend so much money on talent but never really do anything when it comes to the playoffs. When you have Lundqvist in your net you always have a chance, the addition of St.Louis could make them a huge threat, though he hasn't found his feet in the Big Apple just yet. With that being said...
Rangers in 7
Colorado Avalanche vs Minnesota Wild
The surprise team of the league, the Avalanche went from the 2nd worst team in the league to the 3rd best. Powered by strong and clutch goaltending from Varlamov, confidence and trust from Hall Of Famer Patrick Roy, and young, fast, skilled players such as Duchene and Mackinnon...this is a team to watch. From the start of the season until the end, they've been counted out, they've fed off of that.
If you were watching the 2003 playoffs and happened to tune into game 7 of the Wild and Avalanche game, you would've seen the Wild score in overtime and ends St.Patrick's career on a sour note. Minnesota has two of the best defencemen in the game with Ryan Suter and Jonas Brodin and skilled forwards that all seem to mesh well together.
Avalanche in 5
St.Louis Blues vs Chicago Blackhawks
Both teams are entering the playoffs with injury questions and losing streaks, but none of that matters. This is the playoffs, these are professionals and you're going to want to watch this series. The Blackhawks feature the likes of Toews, Kane and Keith, 3 of the top 10 in the NHL today. If they're all healthy, who knows what can happen.
The Blues are singing the blues right now. Up front they are missing some very important pieces and if they can't get them back into the lineup, they're toast. For the majority of the season the Blues seemed poised to make it to the finals, they can still do so, but if they keep hoping the d-core and Ryan Miller can keep them steady, they're mistaken.
Blackhawks in 7
Anaheim Ducks vs Dallas Stars
Most of the season saw the Ducks being the top team, they were scoring goals when it mattered most, playing strong defense and Bruce Boudreau looked like a genius. This could very well be Selanne's last playoffs and though he didn't have a superb season, his true talent comes out when it matters the most. The Ducks can overpower any team with their big scoring forwards.
When you look at the Dallas Stars you have to be a bit surprised they were able to make it into the playoffs. You look at the roster and besides a few names, nothing really jumps out at you. But the Stars played with one heart this season, by doing so they were able to overcome obstacles and you should expect them to really bring it to the Ducks.
Ducks in 6
San Jose Sharks vs Los Angeles Kings
The only team to come up short more times than the Rangers, is the Sharks. Something within this franchise collapses and their season ends a lot sooner than people predicted. This team seems to be built on such a strong base that they have the tools, experience and grit to take it all the way, and not just to the finals but to win it all. This series will be such a low scoring series, it will either be boring or the series of the decade.
The Kings have had the same problems all year, scoring goals. Quick grabbed the William Jennings trophy and if guys like Kopitar, Richards and Carter don't produce, then Quick will feel the heavy burden of being relied on way too much. The first game will set the pace, so if the Kings can come out wreaking havoc along the boards, it could break the sharks down very quickly
Sharks in 6
When it's all said and done there can only be one. A simulated season on NHL14 for PS3 has the Blackhawks winning, so we can't agree with them. After filling out a bracket and giving it some thought on which series will be tougher for the winner of the previous series, it leaves us with one team.
The Colorado Avalanche
They're the only team in the league, to beat all 29 opposing teams, which really means nothing, but it's a cool fact. Looking at the Avalanche and seeing that no one ever saw them as a threat will work to their advantage and can really take their #WhyNotUs campaign to the Stanley Cup.
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