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NHL playoff preview

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This one is going to be epic. The Predators are a popular sleeper pick to make it all the way to the finals and it’s hard to disagree with that logic. They have a great goalie, two all worldly defenseman, and, with the recent return of star forward Alexander Radulov, more forward depth than almost everyone in the West.

We all know what Detroit is capable of. The Wings battled through injuries all season, but are now fully healthy heading in to the playoffs. With the addition of Kyle Quincey at the trade deadline, Detroit now boast the deepest defence core in the NHL.

Nashville wins if: They aren’t intimidated by the big red machine. The Predators needs some swagger.

Detroit wins if: Zetterberg and Datsyuk are able to elevate their games, and their offensive depth is able to take advantage of Nashville’s relative lack of blue line depth.

Prediction: Nashville in seven.

Eastern Conference

(1)New York Rangers vs. (8) Ottawa Senators

Season Series: NYR 1-2-1, OTT 3-1-0

For the last few weeks of the season it looked like the Senators would be matched up against the Boston Bruins in the first round. The Sens may be glad to see the Rangers instead, given their regular season success against the blue shirts. This series will see a few close games, probably a couple overtimes because the Rangers don’t score much, while at the same time the Sens will have their hands full putting the puck behind Vezina favourite Henrik Lundqvist between the pipes for New York.

The Rangers will win because: They are a deeper team, with a more balanced attack and better goaltending. The John Tortorella factor also gives the Rangers an edge, the coach knows how to win and will have the Rangers prepped for a deep run.

The Senators could get the upset if: They can steal an early win in New York and get lights-out goaltending in a couple OT wins. Defenseman Erik Karlsson put up 78 points from the backend this season, to have any chance the Sens will need a big series out of the youngster.

Prediction: Rangers in six.

(2) Boston Bruins v. (7) Washington Capitals

Season Series: BOS 1-2-1, WSH 3-1-0

Will think they have a chance given their 3 wins over the Bruins this season, but it is really only false hope. The Caps have a roster full of minus players and will have to start their third- string goalie, youngster Braden Holtby. Expect the defending Stanley Cup champs to get solid goaltending from Tim Thomas, and score more than enough goals to dispatch Washington.

The Bruins will win because: They are better up front, better on defense and way better in goal. The Bruins have some weaknesses with year but the Caps aren’t a team capable of exposing them.

The Capitals could get the upset if: Ovechkin, Semin and Backstrom decide this is the year to perform in the playoffs. So, basically they need a miracle.

Prediction: Bruins in five.

(3) Florida Panthers v. (6) New Jersey Devils

Season Series: FLA 2-1-1, NJ 2-2-0

The Panthers just don’t generate enough offence to beat the Devils in a 7-game series. They ranked 27th in the NHL this season in goals scored. On the other side, Ilya Kovalchuk seems to have found his game in New Jersey. With 83 points this season, including 37 goals, expect him to have a big series against Florida.

The Devils will get the upset because: They have more firepower and better goaltending. Martin Brodeur is probably looking at one of his last chances for a long playoff run, expect the future hall of famer to have a solid series and backstop the Devils to an easy series win.

The Panthers could win if: They get some timely powerplay goals and find a way to take advantage of home ice. If they can keep the games tight they could steal a few and make up for their lame offence.

Prediction: Devils in six.

(4) Pittsburgh Penguins v. (5) Philadelphia Flyers

Season Series: PIT 2-3-1, PHI 4-2-0

The battle of Pennsylvania will be the best series of the first round. The players hate each other, as do the coaches and fans. The arenas will be loud and the games boisterous and volatile. Because both teams have Stanley Cup aspirations and finished so close in points, there is a tendency to see the series going 7 games. If Sidney Crosby was missing from the Pens line-up I could see the Flyers forcing 7 games and probably winning the series. With Crosby at 100 per cent I think the Pens are Stanley Cup favourites and should have more than enough to beat the Flyers. It’s too bad Chris Pronger is out for the Flyers, if he was healthy this would be a 7-gamer for sure, with probably 5 or 6 overtime games along the way.

The Penguins will win because: They have more experience and their stars are just that little bit better. They also have they edge in goal. Marc-Andre Fleury is a proven playoff winner and should steal at least one game in the series.

The Flyers could get the upset if: Ilya Bryzgalov plays out of his mind. If Bryzgalov plays like the Flyers thought he would when they signed him in the offseason then they have a chance. They will need to keep the games tight and hope for a couple timely OT winners.

Prediction: Penguins in six.

Games get under way at 4:30 on Wednesday the 11th. Enjoy the real season.

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