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Playoff Picks - Broadcasters Select First Round Winners

by Blue Jackets Staff / Columbus Blue Jackets

Every year the Columbus Blue Jackets television and radio broadcasters breakdown the playoffs and give you a feel for what to look for when the puck drops in the postseason.



This season, each will give you a key(s) to the series, three stars of the series as well as their picks for all of the first round match-ups.

WESTERN CONFERENCE

We start in the Western Conference with the Central Division representatives Nashville vs. Detroit and Dallas vs. Anaheim series - Bill Davidge has the breakdown.

No. 8 Nashville vs. No. 1 Detroit

Detroit in 5 games

Key… Don't under estimate the goaltending. When the Cup is on the line, Osgood and Hasek have proven their post season success. The real key does lie in the defensive core. The highest scoring duo in the NHL of Lidstrom and Rafalski lead the way. Puck position and the quick transition is the Wings game. Try to contain an explosive offense with Zetterburg and Datsyuk chalking up career highs this year. Johan Franzen filled the vacancy of Tomas Holmstrom, so now the Wings are loaded with two PP units.

Three Stars

3rd… Niklas Lidstrom will shine with solid play from all facets. The best +/- in the league, and the most points as a defenseman are not flukes.

2nd… Tomas Holmstrom will take a step to again help out. With limited PP's in the playoffs, he chips in again at even strength, a foot from the net.

1st… Dan Cleary is coming back with a vengeance after missing 19 games with a broken jaw. Look for Dan to chip in with some big plays and goals

Other Picks: Gare - DET in 5, Rimer - DET in 6 and Matthews - DET in 6.

No. 5 Dallas vs. No. 4 Anaheim

Anaheim in 5 games

Key… The experience of last year's Cup win is priceless for the Ducks. Loaded with the mid-season additions of Teemu Selanne and Scott Neidermeyer just made this team primed for repeating. Leading scorer Ryan Getzlaf stands tall in both ends of the game and can be a game breaker. There are no issues with goaltending with Giguere as he is capable of putting out the Stars sporatic offensive woes.

Three Stars

3rd… Sammy Pahlsson is back again for Anaheim… do not under estimate face-off wins and gutsy performances in the defensive game

2nd… Corey Perry surprises even himself with timely offense.

1st… No surprise here. Jean-Sebastian Giguere steps up again at this time of the year. The best penalty killer will be J-S… remember, Anaheim plays that physical game!!

Other Picks: Gare - ANA in 6, Rimer - ANA in 6 and Matthews - ANA in 6.

Continuing in the Western Conference, George Matthews gives us his breakdown of Calgary vs. San Jose and Colorado vs. Minnesota.

No. 7 Calgary vs. No. 2 San Jose

San Jose in 6 games

Key… The pressure of being the Cup favorites. Can the Sharks handle that pressure, especially because they've never been in this position before. Calgary's key will be Mike Keenan, will he be a positive or negative in this series.

Three Stars - *note: In no particular order

3rd… Joe Thornton because it's his time to lead his team to the Cup.

2nd… Brian Campbell was a great pick up for San Jose, they are 14-2-2 with him in the lineup and he is a key guy on the power play.

1st… Miikka Kiprusoff... If Calgary wins, he will have to be the star of the series.

Other Picks: Gare - SJ in 6, Rimer - SJ in 7 and Davidge - SJ in 5.

No. 6 Colorado vs. No. 3 Minnesota

Colorado in 6/7 games

Key… Veteran players for Colorado - one last kick of the can for Adam Foote, Peter Forsberg and Joe Sakic. Minnesota has a decided advantage in special teams and were 4-0-0 against the Avalanche at home in the regular season and 1-2-1 in the Mile High City.

Three Stars - *note: In no particular order

3rd…  Niklas Backstrom has been the key with an improved Wild team down the stretch of the regular season and will be important in this series if Minnesota is to win it.

2nd… Jose Theodore has played the best hockey of his career since coming to Colorado from Montreal in a trade in 2006. He was 14-18-2 with the Avs before going 28-21-3 with 2.44 GAA and a .910% save percentage. He's also looking for a new contract.

1st… Ryan Smyth, despite his limited time in Colorado, is a heart and soul guy and will provide that for the Avs in round one.

Other Picks: Gare - COL in 7, Rimer - MINN in 6 and Davidge - COL in 6.

EASTERN CONFERENCE

Switching sides, we look at the Eastern Conference with No. 1 seed Montreal taking on Boston and the New York Rangers squaring off with New Jersey - Danny Gare has the breakdown.

No. 8 Boston vs. No. 1 Montreal

Montreal in 6

Key... Montreal Special Teams. They are in the top five in the league in penalty kill and power play, meaning they have the ability to swing the momentum of the game whether they take a penalty or gain the man-advantage. Watch for big PK's and PP goals from the Habs.

Three Stars - *note: In no particular order

3rd... Tomas Plekanec(MTL)/Zdeno Chara(BOS)... both are good back end players and Plekanec is a young strong guy who can change the momentum of games.

2nd... Alex Kovalev has stepped up for this team and will need to continue that with the loss of Captain Saku Koivu. Kovalev is a good leader and has been a breath of fresh air in Montreal.

1st... Carey Price because goaltending is always important in the playoffs. Price is better than his counterpart, Tim Thomas of Boston. Although Price is young, he has won everywhere he's been, especially in the postseason and the Canadiens have confidence in him.

Other Picks: Davidge - MTL in 6, Rimer - MTL in 5 and Matthews - MTL in 5.

No. 5 New York Rangers vs. No. 4 New Jersey

New York in 6

Key... Goaltending - Martin Brodeur vs. Henrik Lundqvist. Everyone knows what Brodeur has done and can do in a playoff series. Lundqvist has to out play Brodeur.

Three Stars - *note: In no particular order

3rd... Martin Broduer has won three Stanley Cups, which means he's been there and done that, knows what to expect and can handle any kind of pressure. He knows what the playoffs are all about.

2nd... Henrik Lundqvist signed a new deal and led the NHL in shutouts with 10. The contract shows the Rangers are committed to him, now he needs to show that he's committed to them. It's his time to shine and he brings great confidence to the team.

1st... Chris Drury is a great playoff player. He's had a good year and is an emerging leader on this team. He's won before and plays well under pressure, maybe one of the best in pressure situations - plus he takes big face-offs, kills penalties and can play the power play.

Other Picks: Davidge - NJ in 6, Rimer - NYR in 7 and Matthews - NYR in 6/7.


The other two series in the Eastern Conference will feature Philadelphia facing Washington and the Ottawa Senators playing Pittsburgh Penguins - Jeff Rimer has the breakdown.
 

No. 6 Philadelphia vs. No. 3 Washington

Washington in 6

Key... Alex Ovechkin must continue his prolific scoring and the Capitals must handle the Flyers physical play as well as keep Jeff Carter, Mike Richards and Danny Briere off the score sheet.

Three Stars

3rd... Capitals D-man Mike Green is one of the top scoring defenseman from the regular season and that will not change in the playoffs.

2nd... Washington goaltender Cristobal Huet because goaltending is a key in any playoff series.

1st... Alex Ovechkin speaks fro himself, he is the MVP of the NHL.

Other Picks: Davidge - PHI in 7, Gare - WSH in 6 and Matthews - WSH in 6/7.

No. 7 Ottawa vs. No. 2 Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh in 5

Key... Pittsburgh needs Sidney Crosby to stay healthy, since coming back from the high ankle sprain he has not been the same (see Rick Nash a year ago). That injury is a tough one for a hockey player to play with and recover from.

Three Stars

3rd... Sidney Crosby because he's Crosby. When he is healthy, he can dominate and I expect him to be healthy enough to dominate in this series.

2nd... Evgeni Malkin proved if Crosby is 1, then he is 1A - based on his performance when Crosby was out of the lineup in the regular season.

1st... Marc-Andre Fluery will have a coming out party in the 2008 playoffs beginning in round one against the Senators.

Other Picks: Davidge - OTT in 6, Gare - PITT in 5 and Matthews - PITT in 6.
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