By Jacob Kornhauser on April 9, 2014
Entering the home stretch of the season, the NHL playoffs are on the horizon and several teams seem capable of hoisting the Cup at season's end. However, there can be just one champion. With several intriguing match ups in both the Western Conference and Eastern Conference, here's how the playoffs figure to shake up.
The Pick: Bruins def. Blue Jackets 4-0
Simply put, the Bruins are far too deep for the Blue Jackets to even try to handle. Boston comes at opposing teams in waves and if Columbus won more than a game in this series, it would be a major surprise.
The Pick: Canadiens def. Lightning 4-2
Even though the Lightning have the best player in this series in Steven Stamkos, the Canadiens are the deeper team and score in a number of different ways. This series could come down to the wire, but Carey Price is capable of single-handedly winning games and that's what he'll need to do for Montreal.
The Pick: Penguins def. Red Wings 4-2
The Red Wings are a tough out for a first round wild card team, but the Penguins are the more talented team. They're getting Kris Letang back and have plenty of depth. This figures to be a high scoring series, but the Penguins will get the better of Detroit when it's all said and done.
The Pick: Flyers def. Rangers 4-3
Sometimes in playoff hockey, all it takes is being the hotter team. Philadelphia has been one of the hotter teams in hockey lately and that could carry them into the second round. These teams are evenly matched and it could easily go the distance, being decided in Game 7.
The Pick: Bruins def. Canadiens 4-2
Montreal will provide a stiffer test for the Bruins, but Boston is still the most deep and talented team in the NHL. Likely, the Canadiens will be able to pull out a game or two at home, but the Bruins should keep control of the series and move on to the Eastern Conference Finals.
The Pick: Penguins def Flyers 4-2.
Despite the fact that the Flyers are so hot, sometimes talent beats a hot team. Pittsburgh has loads of talent and that should be enough to get it past a red-hot Philly team. By even making it a series, the Flyers would surprise a lot of people, but this seems like it will be where their run comes to an end.
The Pick: Bruins def. Penguins 4-2.
In what has the makings of an epic series, the Bruins control home ice and that could be the difference. This series could easily go seven, but the Bruins are going to be the hungrier team, wanting to get back to the Stanley Cup Finals to claim what they missed out on last season.
The Pick: Blues def. Stars 4-2.
While the Stars are a talented wild card team, the Blues are deep and talented and will be too much for Dallas. Some may be surprised to see the Stars give St. Louis a series, but in the end the Blues will move on because they have the advantage on both sides of the puck.
The Pick: Blackhawks def. Avalanche 4-2.
As the defending Stanley Cup champions, the Blackhawks aren't going to go down easily. Colorado has virtually no playoff experience and Chicago has loads of it. Even though the Avalanche beat them 4-1 in the regular season series, the Blackhawks will come out on top because of talent and experience.
The Pick: Ducks def. Wild 4-1.
A team everyone around hockey always seems to forget about is the Ducks. They could still claim the top seed in the conference, but either way they are a top three team in the conference. The Wild have some scorers, but not nearly enough to push Anaheim in this series.
The Pick: Kings def. Sharks 4-3.
This may be the best first round series in the entire playoffs and it should go right down to the wire. In the end, the Kings have just enough offense to fend off the Sharks. As always, L.A.'s defense will lead it to victory.
The Pick: Blues def. Blackhawks 4-3.
In what has the makings of an all-time classic playoff series, the Blues and Blackhawks, who are very similar teams, will face off. This should go all seven games and home ice may decide it. This seems like a different Blues team that can finally get over the hump and reach the Conference Finals by barely edging out the defending champs.
The Pick: Ducks def. Kings 4-2.
Even with the Kings' stellar defense, Anaheim has too much firepower for L.A. to be able to keep up with them throughout an entire seven game series. This could easily go seven, but the Ducks' high-powered offense gives them the edge in this one.
The Pick: Ducks def. Blues 4-2.
A lot of people expect the Blues to come out of the Western Conference, but they've been extremely cold lately. If they can reach the Conference Finals that obviously will have changed a bit, but the Ducks have more going their way at this point and if goalie Jonas Hiller gets hot, he could carry them.
The Pick: Bruins def. Ducks 4-2.
Boston gets back to where they were last year, but plays an Anaheim team that isn't as stout defensively as Chicago was a year ago. The Bruins are a rare team that can play both a physical and finesse game and that's what is going to push them over the top and propel them to their second Stanley Cup in the past four years.
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