1) Pittsburgh Penguins vs. 7) Ottawa Senators
This will be the fourth time in six seasons that the Penguins and the Senators have met in the playoffs. The previous three meetings came in the Conference quarterfinal. However, with the stakes raised higher, I’d expect this series to be like the Penguins’ previous series against the Islanders. The Senators have to find ways to steal some wins, just like they did in their last series against Montreal. Craig Anderson has to perform lights out against the most potent offense in the NHL. As for the Penguins, they just have to stick to their plan, now with Tomas Vokoun as their preferred guy between the pipes. However, I expect this series to potentially go the distance.
Prediction: PIT in 6
4) Boston Bruins vs. 6) New York Rangers
The last time these two Original Six teams met in the playoffs was in 1973. Yes, 40 years ago, back when these two teams were defined by Bobby Orr, Gerry Cheevers, and the GAG Line. It was then that the Rangers beat the then-defending Stanley Cup Champion Bruins in 5 games. The Bruins come in to the Conference semifinal nearly blowing a 3-1 series lead to the Toronto Maple Leafs, only to fall to a 4-1 hole in a Game 7 situation. Then, like often, the Bruins found a way to win, scoring 3 goals in thew final 10:42 of the 3rd period to tie the game at 4. In overtime, the guy who tied the game, Patrice Bergeron, won the game at the 6:05 of the first overtime period. The Bruins, with only 2 days of rest until Game 1, will face a goaltender who hasn’t given up a goal in 2 games — Henrik Lundqvist is coming in to the series with back-to-back shutouts to end the Capitals’ run at the Stanley Cup. This series is gonna be physical with a capital P.
Prediction: BOS in 6
1) Chicago Blackhawks vs. 7) Detroit Red Wings
It’s the last time these two Original 6 rivals will meet as Conference rivals before Detroit plays in the East next season. Since their first playoff meeting in the 1934 Stanley Cup Final, the Hawks and the Wings have met 15 times in the playoffs, with the Hawks winning 8 playoff series. Yet the last two times the Hawks and the Wings have met in the playoffs, the Wings were the higher seed, and they beat the Hawks in the Western Conference Final in 5 games, with the 5th game ending in overtime at The Joe. In 1995, Slava Kozlov blasted the series-clincher against Ed Belfour. In 2009, Darren Helm punched the Wings’ ticket by putting a juicy rebound past Cristobal Huet. The last time the Hawks beat the Wings in the playoffs was in 1992 in the Norris Division Final. The Hawks shocked the world by sweeping the Wings in four straight games that year. The last time the Hawks were the higher seed in a playoff series against the Wings was in 1985, and they swept the Wings in 3 straight games. But enough about the history. You got two teams that know each other very well. Both teams love to possess the puck, both teams have legit goaltending, and both teams can roll four lines. The huge difference-maker in this series will be can the Red Wings defend The Joe against the Blackhawks. In the last 4 seasons, the Hawks have won 9 of their last 11 games at The Joe. So if the Wings want a chance to pull off the huge upset, not only do they have to steal a game in Chicago, but they’re gonna have to find a way to defend home ice against the team with the best road record in the NHL this season.
Prediction: CHI in 6
5) Los Angeles Kings vs. 6) San Jose Sharks
The Kings and the Sharks have split the regular-season series, but I expect this series to be very tight. Both teams have good goaltending, both teams can light it up. But the reasoning on why I believe this series will be tight is because in the conference quarterfinals, both teams played complete shutdown hockey. The Kings gave up 10 goals to the St. Louis Blues, while the Sharks only gave up 8 goals to the Vancouver Canucks. Watch out for the Sharks in Game 1. This will be their first game in a week, so the Sharks could be rusty. Either way, with both teams having quality goalies in net, it’s whoever can find a way past the other goaltender — having their number — will punch their ticket to the Western Conference Final.
Prediction: LA in 7