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EB’s Playoff Picks – First Round

I’m certain the readership, and the hockey world for that matter, are awaiting my 2012 NHL Playoff picks. Before diving right into it, I would like to remind everyone to participate in Hockey World Blog’s Playoff Bracket Challenge presented by Dekree and Blue Ice Hockey. It is free to enter and two winners will receive a top-of-the-line hockey stick. You can find more information here.

So, without further delay, here are my picks and my somewhat sound rationale.

Western Conference Round 1

1. Vancouver Canucks vs. 8. Los Angeles Kings

Perhaps my hatred for the Canucks slightly skewed my decision. The Canucks have an overall excellent team, despite having players that whine, bite and flop like a fish out of water. I think the referees are going to be aware of that this year more than previous years and will put the whistles away and let the boys play. This should curb one of the leagues top powerplays. Further, the Kings have their star player Anze Kopitar in the lineup. For those who forgot, Kopitar broke his ankle just before the first round of the playoffs last year (ugly to watch). The Kings have a solid netminder in Jonathan

John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images

Quick as well as depth in Mike Richards, newly acquired Jeff Carter, Justin Williams, Drew Doughty and so on.

Winner: Los Angeles Kings

4. Nashville Predators vs. 5. Detroit Red Wings

The Wings are my home team but not quite sure they have enough to take the Predators down. Detroit has looked good the last couple of games but have been snake bitten, hitting a lot of posts and such. The problem for the Wings this year, which is abnormal, is the defense and their untimely mistakes. The Predators on the other hand have the media behind them and a lot of bandwagon fans for that matter. Goalie Pekka Rinne is a monster,

newly acquired Alexander Radulov has transitioned well, and the team has solid depth both on defense and up front. The

Mark Buckner/NHLI via Getty Images

Predators are going to be able to knock around the feeble Wings without any backlash.

Winner: Nashville Predators

3. Phoenix Coyotes vs. 6. Chicago Blackhawks

Captain Jonathan Toews is a game time decision for the Blackhawks. This, for Blackhawks fans, is a double edged sword. If he plays great, but at the same time, is he game speed ready? Netminding is shaky and the team lacks the depth to defeat those pesky Coyotes. Phoenix continues to go against the odds both on the ice and existing in Phoenix. Under appreciated Radim Vrbata netted 35 goals in 77 games, gritty Captain Shane Doan will lead them, and goalie Mike Smith is a rock in net.

Winner: Phoenix Coyotes

2. St. Louis Blues vs. 7. San Jose Sharks

Who would have thought the Sharks would have played so poor this year? Not many, that is for sure. Still, they made the playoffs going 7-3-0 in their last 10 games played. Can the momentum carry into the playoffs? Oh wait, who are they playing again? That’s right, out-of-nowhere St. Louis Blues. Sorry Sharks fans, the Blues are too dominant. Two netminders who have split time, both posting goals against averages under 2.00. That is just sick. David Backes continues to be a workhorse while the youth movement provides the untiring pressure. Injured players are now healthy and they are all lead by Head Coach Ken Hitchcock who has been to the Stanley Cup Playoffs nine times. Guidance, youth and depth equals a first round win.

Winner: St. Louis Blues

Eastern Conference Round 1

Francois Laplante/NHLI via Getty Images

1. New York Rangers vs. 8. Ottawa Senators

Seems like a lopsided contest, a number 1 seed versus a number 8 seed, but, that is hardly the case. The Senators have beat the Rangers three of the four meetings this season. Furthermore, the Senators have a healthy team. Their kryptonite might be their goaltending if Craig Anderson cannot get back to from after his culinary run-in. The Rangers are a good team lead by an idiot Head Coach in John Tortorella. I say it over and over, his antics distract the team. Until he is out of there, the team will not win a Stanley Cup ring.

Winner: Ottawa Senators

4. Pittsburgh Penguins vs. 5. Philadelphia Flyers

What fan is not looking forward to this series? If there is one wish, all fans hope for a 7 game series full of yelling coaches, Hulk Hogan mockeries and good hockey. To be honest, this was a toss-up. I’m jumping on the bandwagon, that is not a bandwagon but more a reality, of the Penguins having whining babies. Plus, not a fan of Lemieux and his rants (glass houses, shouldn’t throw stones, you know).

Winner: Philadelphia Flyers

Scott Levy/NHLI via Getty Images

3. Florida Panthers vs. 6. New Jersey Devils

Another tough match-up to pick. The Panthers have been up and down this season while the Devils have been down and then up as of late. The Panthers do not get much media attention, leaving them to be undesirable while the Devils have Ilya Kovalchuk, Zach Parise and of course Martin Brodeur. Neither team should make it past the first round, but on the basis of

the Devils playing better as of late, they had the advantage.

Winner: New Jersey Devils

2. Boston Bruins vs. 7. Washington Capitals

The Capitals are a tease. They are high flying, defense lacking, Head Coach a swapping, but not going to go anywhere because they have too much of an ego. The Bruins on the other hand, besides Tim Thomas and his antics this year, is a tough nosed, hard working team. The Bruins will miss Nathan Horton who is out with an injury, but the team still has big Zdeno Chara, Thomas in net and a whole lot of depth up top. Tough to go back-to-back, but it does not look like they have any hangover.

Winner: Boston Bruins

Stanley Cup Finals

4. Nashville Predators vs. 2. Boston Bruins

Too much for the Bruins to handle after winning it last season. Plus, I’m a Western Conference fan and believer (unless Vancouver is in the Finals).

Stanley Cup Winner: Nashville Predators

There are my first round selections. May agree, may disagree, that is what I am going with. My whole bracket is made out and can be seen if you participate in our free Playoff Bracket Challenge. Check it out, fill it out, trash talk my picks, the playoffs are here. Hooray!

8 Comments

  1. Hockey

    April 11, 2012 at 7:38 pm

    Picking the underdogs in most of the matchups. Interesting.

  2. JP

    April 11, 2012 at 8:00 pm

    Chicago has a really deep bench, even with Toews gone they have been great. I’m sure the only reason he hasn’t played for this long is because they were saving him for the playoffs. I don’t think the Coyotes have much of a chance.

  3. EB

    April 11, 2012 at 8:10 pm

    I like Phoenix, Smith is better in net and Phoenix is a grittier team. Chicago lost their Cup team after the fire-sale.

  4. JP

    April 11, 2012 at 11:26 pm

    True, they did lose a good group of guys; but they still have the core team. I agree with the goalie situation as well, that’s going to be Chicago’s big challenge. I still feel though if Chicago plays as well as they have without Toews, they have a good shot against the Coyotes. We’ll see how it goes tomorrow in game one.

  5. bobby

    April 14, 2012 at 5:05 pm

    buddy, stick to equipment you have no clue what you’re saying at all k thanks

    • EB

      April 14, 2012 at 5:56 pm

      Ha, perhaps. Which specific pick(s) do you dislike? Right now my LA and PHI picks are looking pretty good; not many picked those.

  6. Mike

    April 17, 2012 at 2:43 pm

    I get why you picked Ottawa and believe they can still beat the Rangers if they can get to Lundqvist because losing Hagelin hurts our top line scoring more than most people realize. But my comment is more about Tortorella, why do you think they cannot win with him? He has done nothing but brought this team together to play defense first, including star players like Gaborik and Richards. I think that is pretty impressive. Yeah so he curses a lot and complains about refs in his post games (usually rightly so), but that just shows he’s representing his team and let’s them not worry about it. As a Ranger fan I’m really happy to have a fiery coach like him. The main issue with him is the inability to get a powerplay that works.

    • EB

      April 17, 2012 at 3:36 pm

      Perhaps I am a product of more silent, possibly reserved could be used, coaches. So, Tortorella just rubs me the wrong way. That being said, there are more than one way to do something to achieve good results.

      Tortorella has done a good job, taking the Conference has to be credited. Still, playoffs is a more intense time and it is always better to stay calm under pressure. I feel Tortorella creates a panic when players need to focus. He has lead a team to the Stanley Cup, but in the same breath, he has lost in the first round 4 times and in the second round 1 other time. His record come playoffs is not necessarily stellar.

      The Rangers have immense talent, I just don’t think Tortorella is the coach the Rangers lead.

      On a different note, although I don’t think there was intent to injure, missing Alfredsson hurts the Senators. I hope he returns to make a good series out of it. The Senators need to contain Brian Boyle who has been amazing player, with and without the puck. As for getting to Lundqvist; never going to happen as he is too good.

      Good series so far.

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