The 2012 NHL playoffs have arrived. Unfortunately, the Habs will be
nowhere near them after a 28th place finish that instead yielded them their top
draft pick since 1980. Nonetheless, there are still many intriguing
matchups and storylines to follow. Our writers have analyzed the matchups
and provide their prognostications for the series starting Wednesday.
PIT vs. PHI
Mitchell Tierney predicts: PIT in 7
Brian La Rose predicts: PHI in 7
Alex Létourneau predicts: PIT in 6
Norm Szcyrek predicts: PIT in 7
(Mitchell) This is the first round series that most fans are looking forward to for the quality of hockey most of them hope will be played. The underlying fact of this series is that these teams really don’t like each other. A late season brawl which got quite heated only puts the spotlight even more on this series. Both teams have some world class players: Malkin, Crosby, Letang, Fleury, Neal, Giroux, Jagr, Hartnell and Simmonds will all compete for their respective teams. As for how the series will go it will probably come down to goaltending like many of these series so far. While the teams are similar in terms of offense and defence there is a bit of a divide in between the goaltenders. Fleury is the better goaltender and has the experience over Bryzgalov and should prove to be the difference in this one.
(Brian) Can I just flip a coin? That’s what I think this series comes down
to. Both teams have similar strengths and weaknesses, I’d give the Pens a
bit more of an edge in scoring but the Flyers the edge in physicality.
Like everyone else, I think this will be a long and very physical series.
Given Philly’s propensity for physical play coupled with a couple of top
Penguins having been shaken up already this year (Letang and Crosby), I think
the Flyers have the oh-so-slight edge.
(Alex) This will be a bloodbath. Easily the most entertaining series to watch and Pittsburgh is coming out of it on top. The Flyers won four out of six over their inter-state rivals but a healthy Penguins team should be able to handle Philadelphia. The main catalyst in this series will fall on goaltending and Marc-André Fleury has the pedigree over whoever the Flyers put in the crease. This series will have all the elements of what playoff hockey is supposed to look like.
(Norm) This series will be a war, thanks in part to some ugliness that occurred in their last regular season game, April 7th. The Flyers are missing too many regulars and/or have too many questionable starters for game #1(Claude Giroux, Daniel Briere, Chris Pronger, Andrej Meszaros, James van Riemsdyk) which will put them at a big disadvantage. While the Flyers do have Jaromir Jagr, one of only a few active players with 4 OT playoff winning goals, the Penguins can counter that with the experience of young veterans who have been through these wars before, like Malkin and Crosby. The X factor in this season should be Kris Letang, who despite a couple of injuries and missing 31 games, still managed 42 points in 51 games. He is the Pens blueliner leader, and they’ll need him to step up for the Penguins to taste success in the first round.
VAN vs. LA
Mitchell Tierney predicts: VAN in 6
Brian La Rose predicts: VAN in 6
Alexander Letourneau predicts: VAN in 5
Norm Szcyrek predicts: VAN in 6
(Mitchell) Plenty of people are going with the Kings in this series. But I think discounting Vancouver is ridiculous. The Canucks know what it takes to win, not just the first round but the whole thing. The Kings have had problems scoring all year and Roberto Luongo is not near as terrible as everyone makes him out to be. If they can get two healthy Sedins I have no idea how you can bet against the best team in the NHL. It should come down the Canucks goaltending and I believe whether Luongo or Schneider they get the job done.
(Brian) Another year but the same questions surround the Canucks as no one
trusts Roberto Luongo. Meanwhile the biggest question with Los Angeles is their
lack of scoring during the season despite some prominent players up front. If
Luongo falters early on, that could give the Kings the offensive boost they
need. With Jonathan Quick at the other end, Vancouver’s scorers are likely to
be frustrated before long. I give the edge to Vancouver but for a 1-8 series,
this is a closer than normal matchup.
(Alex) The Canucks have been the hottest team in the NHL of late while the Kings have been mediocre. The teams split the season series but I can’t see the Presidents
Trophy winners getting bounced in the first round. The Canucks seem to have addressed the issues that brought them to within a game of lifting the Stanley Cup and I think they’ll be one of toughest teams to beat in the postseason. Jonathan Quick at his best will not be able to steal this series.
(Norm) Los Angeles has the advantage in goal, due to Jonathan Quick’s Vezina worthy season. But Vancouver has the edge in offense and depth, especially if Daniel Sedin returns from his concussion injury for game #1 as expected. The X factor in this series will be Ryan Kesler, who had an relatively poor regular season but is an exciting playoff performer.
NSH vs DET
Mitchell Tierney predicts: NSH in 7
Brian La Rose predicts: DET in 7
Alexander Letourneau predicts: NSH in 7
Norm Szcyrek predicts: NSH in 6
(Mitchell) The best series in the NHL’s Western Conference and possibly in the league will feature two of the NHL’s best teams. The veteran Red Wings take on the young Predators team. But this time the stakes are higher for Nashville. With Weber and Suter possibly departing during the off season and Alexander Radulov’s situation unclear the time is now for the Predators to take a shot at the cup. That being said the Red Wings are now easy team to beat and feature plenty of playoff experience. But they are poor away from home and that will cost them dearly in this series.
(Brian) This series is a battle between the upstarts and the grizzly
veterans. Nashville went all in for this postseason and based on the overall
depth of the lineups, I’d give them the edge. Detroit’s top players all had
down years; in general scoring is a bit of an issue some nights. But for me,
it’s hard to go against the players who have been there and have proven time and
time again that they can elevate their game. I expect at least a couple of
games will be OT-bound as this one should be really close but in the end I
suspect Detroit is best equipped to take Game 7.
(Alex) I think this will be the tightest series in the first round. Nashville edged out Detroit by two points to claim the fourth seed while they split a six game season series. Detroit is, well, Detroit. They boast a winning culture and ooze experience. They also boast a horrid away record, one of the worst of the 16 teams who qualified for the playoffs. This will be a battle but ultimately I swing it in favor of the team with home ice. The Predators aren’t too shabby either. Expect Pekka Rinne to stand on his head and steal few.
(Norm) Detroit lost an enormous advantage when they gave up their #4 spot to rival Nashville. The Red Wings have the best home ice record in the league, and set a new home undefeated streak this season to prove their dominance. However, they fluttered at the end of the season, losing their last 2 games, and scored only 9 goales in their last 6 games. Had they taken one more point, they would have tied Nashville and gained their coveted home ice advantage for the playoffs. Nashville starts the post season with all of the regulars healthy, and only enforcer Brian McGrattan injured. Detroit has a few depth players injured or questionable to start the playoffs; forwards Darren Helm, Dan Cleary, Patrick Eaves and defenceman Jakub Kindl may not be ready to go for game 1. Both teams have good goaltending and defence, with Detroit scoring more than Nashville during the regular season. The X factor for this series could be Alexander Radulov, the Russian forward who defected from Nashville back to his native Russia 4 years ago. Radulov managed to score 7 points in 9 games, and seems to have readjusted to the style of play in the NHL. While Detroit has owned Nashville in every playoff match in the past, this may be the first time the Predators will get heir revenge. Look for defenceman Shea Weber to be this series X factor, as he’s capable of dominating the game in all 3 zones.