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Great Playoff Debate: 2011 Conference Quarterfinals

by Staff Writer / Florida Panthers
Panthers broadcasters Steve Goldstein (FSN Florida) and Randy Moller (560 WQAM) are back for their fourth go around to break down the Playoffs series all the way until the Stanley Cup. The two will each pick a winner for each series and why they think that team will win. There will of course be some jawing, but all in good fun.

Eastern Conference
The Capitals' Alex Ovechkin and the Rangers' Henrik Lundqvist
(#1) Washington vs (#8) NY Rangers

Randy Moller - No hope for the Blue Shirts unless Marian Gaborik wakes up and snatches the series MVP. Even the heroics of “King” Henrik Lundqvist in the Ranger nets can't keep New York in this one. Ryan Callahan’s injury is devastating to the New York cause. The Capitals' Alex Ovechkin fills the net a lot this series...Washington in 5.

Steve Goldstein - Michael Neuvirth will make a name for himself in goal for the Caps. The Rangers will fight tooth and nail but Washington will not go home early again. Tight, low-scoring games are on tap with the Alex Ovechkin led Caps winning at home in the 7th game. Washington was my preseason pick to win the Cup and I will stick with them and their new defensive philosophy...Washington in 7.

The Flyers' Sergei Bobrovsky and the Sabres' Tomas Vanek
(#2) Philadelphia vs (#7) Buffalo

Goldstein - Shocker here as the red-hot Sabres take down a top dog. The Flyers were the East's top team most of the season but its not how you start. It's how you finish. Ryan Miller is one the the world's best goalies. The Flyers....who knows what will happen in net. Add a rusty Chris Pronger coming off an injury and it's the Sabres with Lindy Ruff calling the shots moving on...Buffalo in 6.

Moller - The best first round match-up in the East in my opinion. The Flyers hopes rests on the return of All-Star defenseman Chris Pronger and rookie netminder Sergei (Bob) Bobrovsky. Sir Bob was very average down the regular season stretch, so give Buffalo a huge advantage in goal with Ryan Miller. Key to this series…will Sabres sniper Tomas Vanek step up and provide the offense, or disappear after a first game elbow from Flyers Mike Richards?...Buffalo in 6.

The Bruins' Zdeno Chara and Canadiens' Andrei Kostitsyn
(#3) Boston vs (#6) Montreal

Moller - The most physical series this year (at least of the first round). Home advantage will be key for the Bruins. Both sport world class goaltenders in the Bruins Tim “Tool Time” Thomas and the Habs Carey Price. The Canadien’s forwards are no match for Boston’s giant, Zdeno Chara. If Boston plays their physical style but stays away from Montreal’s lethal power play, Boston will advance over “Jacquey Hockey”...Boston in 5.

Goldstein - One of the best rivalries in all of sports is back but it won't be a classic series. Tim Thomas has been the league's best goalie this season and will shut down the small Canadiens forwards. The Bruins remember last year's epic playoff collapse, blowing a 3-0 lead to the Flyers. This time they close out Montreal early...Boston in 5.

The Lightning's Steven Stamkos and Penguins' Zbynek Michalek
(#4) Pittsburgh vs (#5) Tampa Bay

Goldstein - This was such a tough call for me that I had to flip a coin. Steven Stamkos and the Lightning have had a super season and will score some goals for sure but the Penguins are playoff tested and I like them to grind out a Game 7 win at home. Pittsburgh's blue line will need to supply some offense. Look for Kris Letang to have a big series. Will Alexei Kovalev be in the mood to play?...Pittsburgh in 7.

Moller - The Penguins fought through the losses of their two biggest stars (Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin) and several other hobbled key contributors throughout the season to post 106 points. Will Crosby suit up at all? Marc-Andre Fluery gives the Pens a sizable edge in goal, but Tampa’s big “3” , Steven Stamkos, Vinny Lecavalier and team MVP Marty St. Louis have the edge offensively...Tampa Bay in 7.

Western Conference

Goldstein -  In the wild wild west I have a funny feeling we are going to see the unexpected. I'm going out on some limbs here so I will likely endure a summer of Randy Moller having bragging rights. I may have to shut off the cell phone if thats the case. Here we go anyway!

The Blackhawks' Marian Hossa and Canucks' Roberto Luongo
(#1) Vancouver vs (#8) Chicago

Moller - All eyes will be on this series as these two meet for the 3rd consecutive playoffs. The Canucks and their fans still sting from the previous two meetings in the post season. The pressure on “all world” Roberto Luongo in Vancouver’s net will be intense. There's no pressure on Chicago as they “back doored” their way to qualifying for the playoffs. The Sedin twins (Daniel and Henrik) will be too much for the Hawks wobbly defense...Vancouver in 5.

Goldstein - I know, I'm nuts and probably wrong. But I'm still a believer in the Blackhawks even though they backed into the playoffs. The Sedin twins are so good it's scary but they have to knock out the champs in my mind. Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharp will supply the big goals for the Hawks and the Madhouse on Madison will be rocking...Chicago in 6.

The Sharks' Patrick Marleau and the Kings' Dustin Brown
(#2) San Jose vs (#7) Los Angeles

Goldstein - The Kings were my preseason pick to reach the Cup Finals so I'm sticking with them despite the advantage San Jose has. The Sharks have a lot to prove in the post-season. We'll see if Joe Thornton can get them over the hump...LA in 7.

Moller - Injuries anyone? The Kings will be without their two top scorers in Anze Kopitar and Justin Williams. The Sharks boast a better all-around roster, but remember…San Jose melts like ice in a cheap margarita in Spring. LA’s Jonathan Quick must be series MVP for the Kings to advance...San Jose in 5.

The Coyotes' Shane Doan and the Red Wings' Brian Rafalski
(#3) Detroit vs (#6) Phoenix

Moller - It's hard to believe but Phoenix finished ahead of Detroit in the standings, but will still be underdogs for this 1st-round dance. The Red Wings will miss Henrik Zetterberg and netminder Jimmy Howard is a mystery in post-season play. If the Desert Dogs score three or more goals a game, they will control the series...Detroit in 6.

Goldstein - The Wings are a scary team even with a banged up Henrik Zetterberg. Pavel Datsyuk is a top-5 player even though he never gets mentioned as such. The Coyotes are well coached and have a super goalie (Ilya Bryzgalov) but Detroit will be too tough for the Desert Dogs. I just hope it's not the last we see of the NHL in Phoenix as they find a way to get the ownership situation straightened out!...Detroit in 6.

The Ducks' Corey Perry and the Predators' Pekka Rinne
(#4) Anaheim vs (#5) Nashville

Goldstein - Another toss up for me but I will go with the excellent blue line of the Predators led by Shea Weber and Ryan Suter. This will be a classic series, maybe the best of all the first rounders. Corey Perry is my pick for MVP after a 50-goal season. The Ducks are solid but the Preds have the goalie advantage so I'll go with them in Game 7. Nashville's organization does things the right way and will be rewarded, finally in the playoffs. Look for Mr. Carrie Underwood (Mike Fisher) to come up big as well for Nashville...Nashville in 7.

Moller - The Ducks sport the best line in hockey, led by 50-goal scorer and MVP candidate Corey Perry holding a scorching stick right now going in. Nashville has the edge in goal with Pekka Rinne, the games best goaltender (who nobody knows about). Will ageless wonder Teemu Selanne tip the scales for Anaheim on the power play? Nashville will make it to the 2nd round for the first time in franchise history with a stingy defensive plan...Nashville in 7.
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