It's hard to talk about what is clicking for a team right now because the puck only just dropped to begin the playoffs. Similarly, how can I possibly get on a team for what they're missing before they even play a game? So, as my own little playoff preview, I've instead decided to blog about the first-round series that I think is easiest to pick and the one I think that can be the upset special.
My predictions are included in this the blog ...
Rangers over Senators
Bruins over Capitals
Devils over Panthers
Flyers over Penguins
Rangers over Devils
Flyers over Bruins
Rangers over Flyers
Canucks over Kings
Blues over Sharks
Coyotes over Blackhawks
Predators over Red Wings
Canucks over Predators
Blues over Coyotes
Canucks over Blues
Rangers over Canucks
Conn Smythe Trophy: Henrik Lundqvist
It is the Boston-Washington series.
I think Boston is starting to play at that high level again and the Capitals have a young goaltender in Braden Holtby who they're going to have to hope finds a hot streak in the pressure cooker that is the playoffs.
There are just far too many questions with Washington.
Is Alexander Semin going to show up? Is Nicklas Backstrom going to be ready for playoff hockey? Is Mike Green going to find a way to score a point?
These are all issues that they'll have to deal with. They're all issues the Bruins don't currently have.
I love the way Tyler Seguin and Brad Marchand are playing. They're young guys that are flying high and playing some really great hockey. Tim Thomas is heating up at the right time, and he always gets extra jacked up for the playoffs. Chris Kelly and Danny Paille are playing well.
I like the Bruins' overall grit. I like the whole team. And they're getting down to the grind now and playing with the substance that Boston is known for.
The Capitals won't be able to avoid the physical game; the question is can they play it? I'm not so sure.
You can push Semin right out of the game or even the series by intimidating him. Backstrom might be tentative after missing so much time with a concussion. He might have a little bit of the nerves going.
It's going to be up to Washington's tough guys. Brooks Laich has to be solid and strong. Troy Brouwer has to be the same way. I think Jason Chimera is a guy that people overlook, but he can be a very physical presence that can score goals. He has to.
Bruins in five.
If you're looking for an upset ...
It's kind of weird because I think the biggest upset that could happen is Ottawa beating the New York Rangers, and if you read below I have the New York Rangers winning the Stanley Cup.
Yes, I know that sounds crazy and maybe it is, but a lot of the reason why I think the Rangers might win the Cup is because if they beat a very tough opponent in Ottawa in the first round it could really give them a lot of momentum and confidence.
The Rangers have not played well against Ottawa. They lost three out of four games to the Senators this season.
The Rangers don't match up very well with Ottawa in terms of styles. The Senators' high-powered offense can be a problem depending on how the Rangers do offensively. They have to score goals, but they can't get into a run and gun, trading chances, horse race style of game and series. They have to play stringy defense, get timely goals, and they have to make sure they get their power play going.
They have worked hard at trying to fix their power play and they need to get it going now.
The Senators, meanwhile, don't really have much pressure on them, and yet they're here in the playoffs because their top guys got them here.
Jason Spezza is having a career year. Milan Michalek is having a career year. Daniel Alfredsson is playing very well still. And having Erik Karlsson, who has shattered all the defensemen in the League in the points race, is huge and really dangerous for the Rangers.
The key to success for the Senators is in goaltending. Can Craig Anderson hold down the fort?
When Ottawa doesn't win, it's because its goaltender gives up some very shady goals. He's got to find a way to shut the door.
If Anderson is good, this might be one of the toughest opponents the Rangers will face. So, even though it's kind of weird for me to pick the Rangers to win the Cup and then look at them as a possible first-round bust, this could happen.
I still think the Rangers win this series, but it'll take seven games and it won't be easy.