NHL Playoffs Preview

After 82 games and more than a couple of months, the 2011 NHL Playoffs are here. The action starts tonight with Phoenix-Detroit and Tampa Bay-Pittsburgh at 7 PM Eastern Time. The playoffs will be broadcast on a plethora of channels, according to each place the games will be played, but the main channels will be Versus, CBC, and TSN. There’s also the local TV stations, such as Sun Sports (Tampa Bay). This really bugs me, if you’re wondering. As a hockey fan, I’d rather watch all of the matchups rather than watch SOME of them. I know some people who don’t even have Versus! I seriously feel bad for them. Anyway, to the teams…

Who’s here

Eastern Conference

#1 Washington Capitals: 107 points

#2 Philadelphia Flyers: 106 points

#3 Boston Bruins: 103 points

#4 Pittsburgh Penguins: 106 points

#5 Tampa Bay Lightning: 103 points

#6 Montreal Canadiens: 96 points

#7 Buffalo Sabres: 96 points

#8 New York Rangers: 93 points

Western Conference

#1 Vancouver Canucks: 117 points

#2 San Jose Sharks: 105 points

#3 Detroit Red Wings: 104 points

#4 Anaheim Ducks: 99 points

#5 Nashville Predators: 99 points

#6 Phoenix Coyotes: 99 points

#7 Los Angeles Kings: 98 points

#8 Chicago Blackhawks: 97 points

NHL Regular Season Awards

Jack Adams Award (Coach of the year)

2010 winner: Dave Tippett, Phoenix Coyotes

My 2011 winner: Alain Vigneault, Vancouver Canucks

Why: I know, I know, the (very) popular pick for this award is Penguins coach Dan Bylsma. And for good reason, too. Finishing in 4th in the Eastern Conference without Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin for a lot of the year? That’s stunning. But how can you ignore 117 points for the Canucks, who finished the year a whole 12 points in front of the the second-best team, San Jose. 

Norris Trophy (Best Defensive Player)

2010 Winner: Duncan Keith, Chicago Blackhawks

My 2011 Winner: Zdeno Chara, Boston Bruins

Why: I’ve got one thing to say: Have you seen his plus-minus rating?

Calder Trophy (Rookie of the year)

2010 Winner: Tyler Myers, Buffalo Sabres

My 2011 Winner: Jeff Skinner, Carolina Hurricanes

Why: Skinner was one of the most consistent rookies all year, and almost led the Hurricanes to the final Eastern Conference spot, which was won by the New York Rangers. Let me tell you though, Taylor Hall had this award in the bag if he didn’t go out and get injured in his first career fight.

Vezina Trophy (best goaltender)

2010 Winner: Ryan Miller, Buffalo Sabres

My 2011 Winner: Tim Thomas, Boston Bruins

Why: What the guy has done this year is awesome. His goals allowed per game average is outstanding, and he’s no slouch when it comes to shutouts, either. He’s the sole reason why Boston is in the playoffs. Oh, did I mention he was backup to Tuuka Rask to start the year?

Hart Trophy (MVP)

2010 Winner: Henrik Sedin, Vancouver Canucks

My 2011 Winner: Corey Perry, Anaheim Ducks

Why: I said before that without Tim Thomas, the Boston Bruins wouldn’t be in the playoffs. The same could be said about Corey Perry and the Ducks. Perry’s improvement in the last few years has just stood out in my mind, and his offensive play and balanced approach really impressed me in the Ducks games I got to see on TV, which, admittedly, is not many, since they’re on the West Coast.

Playoff Predictions

Eastern Conference

#1 Washington Capitals over #8 New York Rangers, 4 games to 0.

Why: The Caps memorably got knocked out last year in the first round to Montreal. Those doubts should be completely washed away as they easily sweep past New York. 

#2 Philadelphia Flyers over #7 Buffalo Sabres, 4 games to 2.

Why: The Flyers were flying (no pun intended) through the regular season, and seemingly had the Eastern Conference locked up. Then things started to go bad for Philly at the worst possible time. They should be fortunate to be #2, but Buffalo isn’t a bad team, by any standards. And when you’re facing Ryan Miller, you have to be prepared.

#6 Montreal Canadiens over #3 Boston Bruins, 4 games to 3.

Why: UPSET! This might be the best series of the entire first round. The season series was awesome in the regular season, and I see no reason why that trend doesn’t continue. 

#4 Pittsburgh Penguins over #5 Tampa Bay Lightning, 4 games to 3.

Why: This is another great matchup. The coaches are both likely Coach of the Year candidates in Guy Boucher and Dan Blsyma. Another seven-game series, but ultimately experience wins out for Pittsburgh.

Western Conference

#1 Vancouver Canucks over #8 Chicago Blackhawks, 4 games to 2

Why: Well, Vancouver’s 117 points in the regular season isn’t any fluke. They’re the best team in the NHL, period. They steamroll the Blackhawks in a series that seems more of a blowout than the prediction appears.

#2 San Jose Sharks over #7 Los Angeles Kings, 4 games to 1

Why: The Sharks finally proved they could win a playoff series last year. Now, let’s see if they can do it again. I say they can, and quite easily against a team in transition, goalie-wise. 

#3 Detroit Red Wings over #6 Phoenix Coyotes, 4 games to 2

Why: This is a rematch of last year’s exciting series. This one will be a little bit more one sided, in favor of Detroit, but it will nonetheless be very interesting to watch.

#4 Anaheim Ducks over #5 Nashville Predators, 4 games to 2

Why: The Ducks have been here, done that, and I’m not convinced that Pekke Rinne can go full speed ahead and carry the Preds on his shoulders.

Second Round

#1 Washington Capitals over #4 Pittsburgh Penguins, 4 games to 2

Why: Washington finally beats Pittsburgh when it counts, but you have to applaud the effort put in without Crosby and Malkin.

#2 Philadelphia Flyers over #6 Montreal Canadiens, 4 games to 3

Why: This will be a nailbiter for both teams’ fans, but the Flyers barely pull this one out.

Western Conference

#1 Vancouver Canucks over #4 Anaheim Ducks, 4 games to 2

Why: The Canucks continue to navigate their way past another Western Conference team and don’t look they’re finished anytime soon.

#3 Red Wings over #2 San Jose Sharks, 4 games to 1

Why: Here comes a sigh from Sharks fans. The Sharks aren’t scary in the postseason, it’s as simple as that. They just run out of gas and get dominated by the proven Red Wings line.

Conference Finals

Eastern Conference

#1 Washington Capitals over #2 Philadelphia Flyers, 4 games to 1.

Why: Zzzzzzz……. Oh sorry, this might be the boringest (that’s not a word, is it?) series of all. It’s too bad.

Western Conference

#1 Vancouver Canucks over #3 Detroit Red Wings, 4 games to 3

Why: Wow! This one’ll be amazing, especially compared to the lame Eastern Conference finals. This should be a classic series and Vancouver should have a chance to get their first ever Stanley Cup trophy.

Stanley Cup Final

Vancouver Canucks over Washington Capitals, 4 games to 3

Why: Dramatic ending to another great Stanley Cup playoffs. I always find the regular season to be a bit slow, but the Stanley Cup playoffs is just something else. It very well might be the best playoffs in sports, in terms of excitement. Vancouver fans, get ready to celebrate your team’s first ever Stanley Cup title!

Canucks fans, get ready to celebrate! At least, according to me.


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16 Responses to NHL Playoffs Preview

  1. Chris Ross says:

    I think you already know that I’m cheering for Vancouver out of the west but out of the East I hope the Caps make it out to face Canucks in the final simply for the excitement of a series with the Capitals. It would be one of the best Stanley Cup Finals match-ups in my opinion because both teams play such an open style when they face off against each other.

    Omg also don’t get me started on versus! Apparently though ESPN is looking to buy back the rights after this year.

    • I definitely agree. Caps-‘Nucks would be awesome for the NHL and for fans. They’re both so exciting to watch. That’s good that ESPN is looking in to buying back the rights, but they need to put more focus on hockey in shows like “SportsCenter” and stuff to gain more recognition.

  2. BackCheck says:

    As qa Ducks fan and blogger it’s good to read others pick my Ducks over the Preds. I honestly don’t know. I hope but man this is just one tough, brutal series. Could come down to the last man standing.

    Chris Ross called that boring 😉

    • I can definitely see what Chris is trying to say, that Ducks-Preds isn’t the most interesting matchup, let’s just say. But rarely can you call a NHL Playoffs series boring. The NHL Playoffs is so great to watch and it just beats out other postseasons by far in terms of excitement level. I just hope my pick of the Capitals beating the Flyers in the Conference semis doesn’t end up a blowout like I predicted. I’d love to see a good series.

      • Pekka Rinne is still looking good, it’ll be a tough one for the Ducks. I always feel bad for the Preds. They always seem to struggle so hard getting to the playoffs each year and then leaving empty handed after the first round.

      • Yeah, I think I misjudged that matchup a bit. BackChecks pointed out the same thing. THough I still think Anaheim wins, but maybe not that easily.

    • caniacwiz says:

      I actually think this is one of the most intriguing series thus far, actually. I knew Nashville would be tough for handle to Anaheim, but they’re really giving the Ducks all they can handle. However, I think Rinne can only carry this team so far. Mike Fisher has been a pleasant surprise in this series, and Selanne… wow. Age is NOT stopping this guy.

      • Yeah, Selanne is just rolling along nonstop. And Fisher’s actually making a name for himself, not just “Carrie Underwood’s husband”. I always laugh when I remember that headline I read once that said “Underwood’s husband traded to Nashville” or something like that.

  3. Brad says:

    Canucks all the way! One thing though: in the NHL the highest seed always plays lowest seed (unlike NBA bracket-style seeding). So if the Habs upset Boston (which it looks like they will), they will play Washington in round two. Unless Buffalo beats Philly, which is in play…

    • Thanks for pointing that out! I actually didn’t know that. I’m really glad you mentioned that, I’ll remember that for future. Now that the playoffs have started and stuff, I’ll just keep it as is, but again, thanks a ton for telling me that. Sorry that I didn’t know.

  4. So glad you picked the Canucks, unlike the rest of the media. Seriously, out of 7 NHL editor picks, none picked the Canucks, a couple picked the Sharks, and one had the balls to say Buffalo would go home with the Cup.

    If there is a Red Wings and Canucks matchup, which seems likely considering how they are the two teams in the West cruising towards the Conference finals, it’ll be a 7 game series, and a damn good one at that. Problem is, whatever team wins the West might be worn down for the finals, so who knows?

  5. unclemonkey says:

    I just saw this, what a great run down of the playoffs. I hope the Caps can make it to the final. I too agree the Stanley Cup playoffs are the best. I seriously wasn’t copying you. 🙂

    • Thanks, I got it up a few days late. Washington’s a great all-around team, I’m not that surprised they beat New York easily in the first round. The Stanley Cup playoffs are on a whole different level. Personally, I find the regular season to be a bit boring, but the playoffs are awesome. I know you weren’t copying, you had a nice post of your own on your blog, it was a good read. I’d say a lot of people would agree that the Stanley Cup playoffs are great.

  6. unclemonkey says:

    Versus keeps blacking out the Capitals games. It’s pissing me off – not like there are any available tickets – why black it out?

    • I know! I tried to watch the Rangers-Caps game the other day, and it blacked me out! I hate when it does that, like on ESPN or something when the local team is playing or whatever.

  7. BackCheck says:

    Whoa, as always the Stanley Cup Playoffs humble most prognosticators. In the end, Preds just had too much discipline, depth and speed for the Ducks. Also to a man it seemed as though the Ducks D-men forgot the rule, “Take the man, then the puck.” For an old school “Take the man first” guy like myself some of that was brutal to watch.
    And the Blackhawks are scaring the beejeebers out of Nuckleheads everywhere. Kings did well extending the Sharks to six games.
    El-Eh was pretty banged up and a cou0ple players are showing their age.
    I had Phoenix as my upset special, (((DOH)))
    Down East Miller is proving the value of great goaltending. Roloson got hot at just the right moment. Habs/Bruins are the Ducks/Preds East. Meanwhile, will waiting help or hurt the Caps?

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