Playoff Previews: Predators vs Red Wings

4 Nashville Predators vs 5 Detroit Red Wings

Do my eyes deceive me? Have the Nashville Predators indeed achieved home-ice advantage? And against the Detroit Red Wings? Next you’ll tell me that Florida and Phoenix won their divisions. As incredible as it sounds, the Predators are considered by many this season to be a legitimate contender.

But not if Detroit has anything to say about it. The Red Wings have battled through some key injuries and inconsistencies to finish fifth in the Western Conference. Each year we all wonder if age has finally caught up to the Wings. Their window of opportunity could be closing soon. Can they make a solid push in this years playoffs?

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Playoff Previews: Coyotes vs Blackhawks

3 Phoenix Coyotes vs 6 Chicago Blackhawks

These are exciting times for the Phoenix Coyotes, even if they are being rumored to play next year in any of six different locations. The Desert Dogs earned their first division title in… ever. Even going back to their days as the Winnipeg Jets, this franchise has never won a division. Wow. I had to look it up to be sure it was true. Can they now also win their first playoff series in Phoenix?

Imagine how great the Blackhawks could have been had Dale Tallon not missed that one teeny-tiny deadline? Instead, they have to settle for backdooring into a playoff spot and hoping their stars can catch fire.

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Playoff Previews: Blues vs Sharks

2 St Louis Blues vs San Jose Sharks

What a difference a coach makes. Under Davis Payne, the St Louis Blues began this season with a 5-7-1 record. Not terrible, but certainly below expectation for a young, up and coming team. Payne was fired after a 2-1 loss to Minnesota on November 5, 2011. He was replaced by Ken Hitchcock who guided the Blues to a 44-15-10 record the rest of the way.

Maybe San Jose should have taken note. They too had high expectations coming into this season. Exchanging forwards Dany Heatley for Martin Havlat and sending F Devin Setoguchi to Minnesota for D Brent Burns was supposed to shake things up and add defensive depth. The result was the Sharks not even entering into the playoff picture until March and April. He may have held his job to this point, but coach Todd McLellan is likely on a short leash depending on the outcome of these playoffs.

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Playoff Previews: Canucks vs Kings

1 Vancouver Canucks vs 8 Los Angeles Kings

The Vancouver Canucks enter this years playoffs with one goal in mind. To win one more game than last year. It took game 82 of the regular season to clinch their second straight Presidents Trophy, but the Canucks are maybe an even better team than they were last season when they got to game seven of the finals. But you have to start at round one, and nothing is guaranteed.

That is the sentiment that the LA Kings are hoping to capitalize on. Vancouver may be the favorites, but this is an LA team that has underachieved and they, more than anyone, realize they have the depth and talent to compete with anyone, including Vancouver.

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Playoff Previews: Penguins vs Flyers

4 Pittsburgh Penguins vs 5 Philadelphia Flyers

Pittsburgh heads into the playoffs as healthy as they have been in the past three years (They won the cup three years ago). Sidney CrosbyJordan Staal and Kris Letang all missed significant time this year and all are ready to play in what should be the best series of the first round and, if I am bold enough to predict so, the entire playoffs this year.

It’s no secret that the Flyers have some serious hate for their cross-state rivals. The teams split their last two games and combined for 115 penalty minutes in them. Even the coaching staff got involved. If there is one prediction likely to come true, it’s from Scott Hartnell: “It’s going to be a bloodbath.”

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Playoff Previews: Panthers vs Devils

3 Florida Panthers vs 6 New Jersey Devils

Let’s face it, The Florida Panthers are lucky to be in the playoffs. But, they haven’t been here in twelve years, so it’s hard to hold it against them. Someone had better tell Kevin Dineen that there are no loser points in the playoffs, though. The Panthers lead the league with 18 OT/SO losses. Their 32 regulation and overtime wins were just one better than Toronto. Let the games begin!

New Jersey, on the other hand, played solid hockey for most of the season and they are certainly a better team than their sixth seed would suggest. This is not the first time that a sixth seed team is considered a favorite over the much-maligned third seed, but I can’t think of a time where the difference was this great. This series could end quickly.

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Playoff Previews: Bruins vs Capitals

2 Boston Bruins vs 7 Washington Capitals

At times this season, the Bruins have played so well that only they could beat themselves. At other times they did just that. It’s been a controversy filled season with suspensionsnon-suspensions and even political distractions. Taking injury and inconsistency into the playoffs with them, this Bruins team will face some challenges if they look to repeat as champians champions.

The Capitals entered this season with high hopes after an off-season that saw GM George McPhee add depth to an already good team in addition to acquiring a true number one goaltender in Tomas Vokoun. The team failed to live up to the hype and just narrowly avoided missing the playoffs in one of the most disappointing seasons the franchise has had. Can they regroup and give the Bruins a good run?

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