WestChicago/Vancouver - Canucks in 6...
Don't these two teams play one another every spring? It certainly seems that way. Well, This will be the year that the Canucks finally get the better of the Hawks. The Defending Stanley Cup Champs needed an upset win by the Wild over Dallas to even qualify for dance and are not in any way as deep as last year's team! Roberto Lunongo who has been criticized in past playoffs for not providing Vancouver with the kind of netminding needed in the post season is well rested and should be the difference in the series.
LA/San Jose- Sharks win in 4... How many times have we seen San Jose make an unexpected early exit from the playoffs. Not this year or at least not in this opening round series with LA. The Kings are minus their go to guy in Anze Kopitar and the Sharks have too many offensive weapons led by Big Joe Thornton who needs to show the Sharks faithful and team management that he can lead a team deep into the playoffs.
Detroit/Phoenix - Red Wings in 7... The way that the Red Wings finished the season my first thought would be to pick Phoenix. But, with all the experience in the Detroit line up and this might just be the final time we see Lidstrom wear the Red Jersey in the post season I will pick the Wings to win the series. Last Springs matchup with these two teams went the limit. With Illya Bryzgalov in the Coyotes nets I expect him to again steal a game or two in the series, so it will again go the distance with the Wings advancing.
Nashville/Anaheim - Ducks in 7... This one is the most difficult for me to predict. I really like the way the Ducks finished the season, but with Barry Trotz behind the Predators bench and Pekka Rinne in their nets this is going to be a terrific series! Anaheim has the horses led by Perry, Getzlaf and Ryan, as good a line as their is in the NHL. But what about their goaltending? Jonas Hiller hasn't played much since the All Star game and Ray Emery despite a impressive return from serious surgery and a new beginning in Anaheim is also not one hundred percent. Its a toss up! So I will say Anaheim wins game 7 in Triple overtime!
New York Rangers/Washington - Rangers win in 7... This one could prove to be an upset special! Washington should win with their offense alone. The likes of Ovechkin, Backstrom and Semin should be enough to give the Rangers defense fits! Except for the fact New York has Henrik Lundqvist in goal and believe me he CAN steal the series. This one goes 7 with the Rangers winning the series in the 7th game in double overtime costing Bruce Boudreau his job.
Buffalo/Philadelphia - Sabres in 5... The Flyers were dreadful down the stretch. They don't have reliable goaltending at all and with Chris Pronger still not practicing after surgery on his hand days before the start of the series how effective can he be even if he plays? As for the Sabres, I really like their team having seen them at Nationwide this past Saturday. They are solid in goal with Ryan Miller, they have a mobile blueline led by young Tyler Myers and up front although they lack size they DO have ample firepower led by Vanek, Pominville and Stafford. This one over in quick order.
Montreal/Boston - Bruins in 7... This one is a classic throw back to the NHL's old times. Boston on paper should win but lets not forget Montreal's surprising run last year in the playoffs. The difference this year its not Jaroslav Halak in the Canadiens nets but an improved Carey Price. That said, how can I not pick Boston to advance. Tim Thomas in goal, a blue line led by captain Zdeno Chara and forwards like Lucic, Krejci, Bergeron and Horton. This will be Horton's coming out party, his first ever playoff appearance and he will have an impact.
Tampa Bay/Pittsburgh - Penguins win in 7... No Crosby at least that's what the Penguins are saying and after not playing for the past three months why risk it? And no Malkin but Pittsburgh is a well coached and talented team none the less. With Marc-Andre Fleury in goal he will out duel Dwayne Roloson and keep the likes of Stamkos and St. Louis in check. Its another long series.
*Throughout the season, AAA will bring you the Broadcaster's Blog - Rimer's Game Day Ramblings. The Columbus Blue Jackets' television play-by-play man will try to keep you updated on all the season action through his blogs, especially when the Blue Jackets are on the road.