Pittsburgh Penguins vs New York Islanders- While I respect the great season the NYI have had, I don't see this series going more than 5 games. The Penguins were firing on all cylinders since the return of Malkin and Neal, and with Sidney Crosby close to a comeback as well, the Pens will be too much for John Tavares and the NYI to handle.
Penguins in 5 games. Sleeper Pool Picks: Beau Bennett, Jussi Jokinen, Tyler Kennedy.
Montreal Canadiens vs Ottawa Senators- Goaltending will be front and center in this series, and the Habs will need Carey Price to be better than Craig Anderson. Containing Erik Karlsson will be a handful but I think the Habs depth is greater than the Sens and will get the job done.
Canadiens in 6 games. Sleeper Pool Picks: Lars Eller, Brian Gionta, David Desharnais.
Washington Capitals vs New York Rangers- This could be the best series in the East as the red hot Alex Ovechkin will try to keep his team rolling and get past the Rangers. This is a tough series to call, but I think the Rangers hold the advantage in goal and on defense and will get enough offense from Nash, Richards, Stepan and Callahan to squeak by the Caps.
Rangers in 7 games. Sleeper Pool Picks: Carl Hagelin, Derek Brassard, Michael Del Zotto.
Boston Bruins vs Toronto Maple Leafs- Both teams finished poorly in the regular season, but I think this will be a very close, entertaining series. The key for the B's will be to play a very tough game, yet stay disciplined. If they can do that, I think they will take this series.
Bruins in 6 games. Sleeper Pool Picks: Dan Paille, Gregory Campbell, Milan Lucic.
Chicago Blackhawks vs Minnesota Wild- The Wild spent a ton of money to be better this year, and they were, but still barely slipped in to the post season. Much like the Pens/Isles, I don't think Minnesota can match up with the Hawks in any aspect. The Hawks are playoff experienced, tough, and highly skilled and I think they will walk through the first round.
Hawks in 4 games. Sleeper Pool Picks: Brandon Saad, Viktor Stalberg, David Bolland (if healthy, he will miss at least the first game of the series).
Anaheim Ducks vs Detroit Red Wings- Its hard to consider the Wings as underdogs in any playoffs, but they clearly are this season. The Ducks had a strong, consistent season, while the Wings got in on the last day of the season.You can never underestimate a team with Datsyuk, Zetterberg and Kronwall, but I do think the Ducks will prevail in this series.
Ducks in 6 games. Sleeper Pool Picks: Andrew Cogliano, Matt Beleskey, Cam Fowler.
Vancouver Canucks vs San Jose Sharks- Another tough one to call, but I think that this will be the year that the Sharks make a bit of noise in the playoffs, and knocking off the Canucks will be a good start. The Sharks had a good start and finish to the year and no one is talking much about them, which may relieve the pressure and punch a ticket to the 2nd round.
Sharks in 7 games. Sleeper Pool Picks- Brent Burns, Martin Havlat, Raffi Torres.
Los Angeles Kings vs St.Louis Blues- The defending Champs will be put to the test right off the bat as the Blues will be more than a handful for the Kings. LA will need to be physical and get offense from all 4 lines. The deciding factor for me will be goaltending, and I think the Kings have the advantage in this category.
Kings in 7 games, Sleeper Pool Picks: Jake Muzzin, Jarret Stoll, Dustin Penner.
I could be all right, all wrong or somewhere in the middle, but I think we will once again be treated to some outstanding playoff hockey this Spring and now into Summer (Thanks again Gary).
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