By Douglas Smith @DFresh39 on April 13, 2014
The new setup in the NHL has provided an interesting opening round in the playoffs. The teams that many thought were the top four in the Western Conference will now be battling each other to move on to round two. The Eastern Conference went a bit more as expected, but is sure to bring a lot of physical battles. Anything can happen, and here's a look at how the first round will play out.
Dallas has had a great second half to sneak into the playoffs, but now they get the top team in the Western Conference. In the regular season, the two teams were separated by 23 points, so it looks like an easy call. However the Stars will have the emotional backing from Rich Peverley's recovery. There is definitely the makings of an upset here, but it will not be enough.
Prediction: Ducks in five
Detroit made the playoffs for the 23rd straight year despite many injuries to key players. They have not faced Boston in the playoffs since 1957. The Bruins were the runaway top seed in the east, but Detroit and coach Mike Babcock know what to do in the playoffs. This could be a tight series.
Prediction: Bruins in six
The Blues have been one of the top teams in terms of possession, and scored more points than Chicago on the season. However, St. Louis limps into the playoffs with six consecutive losses. Chicago does well in the possession category too, so momentum decides this one.
Prediction: Chicago in seven
This is a fun matchup for the non-purists. Colorado took home the division crown with Patrick Roy having the inside track on the Coach of the Year award. This one may be more of a toss-up than any of the other pairings in the opening round. Minnesota has more players who have been to this stage who can provide leadership for the young players.
Prediction: Avalanche in seven
The Sharks finished with more points than the Kings but Los Angeles took the season series. Los Angeles also has a lot of Stanley Cup winners still on the team, with San Jose feeling more of the pressure. Sharks fans want nothing but the Cup. The advanced stats say this is a battle of heavyweights. Goaltending will be the difference-maker.
Prediction: Kings in seven
Tampa Bay won home ice on Sunday with a shootout victory and also took the season series vs. Montreal 3-1. The two teams have similar records in the last 10 games leading up to the playoffs, but Tampa Bay has a four-game winning streak going. In the opening round, the team that scores more overall gets the advantage.
Prediction: Tampa Bay in six
Columbus is a great story and they have made big moves that position them well for many years. For the Penguins, all eyes will be on Marc-Andre Fleury. Luckily ,the goal may just be to outscore the Blue Jackets in the first round as it looks like Chris Kunitz and Evgeni Malkin will be back. A little defense couldn't hurt. Pittsburgh swept the season series.
Prediction: Penguins in six
This is the one for the die-hard hockey fan. Philadelphia will need to get the power play going, but they have their fair share of agitators that will need to stay out of the box. New York is a top-five penalty killing team on the year. The Rangers had a strong finish to the season and have learned how to hang on to the puck. The Rangers should be able to take the physical beating.
Prediction: Rangers in six
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