PHOENIX (3) vs. CHICAGO (6)
I’m picking the Phoenix Coyotes to win their first playoff series since they were the Winnipeg Jets (version 1) in 1987.
Winners of the Pacific Division with 97 points, the Coyotes (like the Blues) have a balanced attack on offence with eight players at 30 or more points on the season. Ageless Ray Whitney (39) led the Coyotes with 77 points, while Radim Vrbata had 35 goals alone. Like the Blues, the Coyotes have more than solid goaltending in Mike Smith, who this year had a career high season with .930 SV% and 8 shutouts in 67 contests. If I’m a Coyotes fan, I feel pretty confident heading into this one with my defence. Keith Yandle can play for the Oilers any day of the week. He can bring Ekman-Larsson with him too. The Blackhawks have their usual artillery of firepower that comes with superstars Marian Hossa, (77 points) Patrick Kane (ze hockey player?!?, 66 points) and Patrick Sharp (69 points), and are well able to do battle on defence with proven players in Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook. I’m a little concerned about my 5-6 on defence if I’m Chicago, and the roller coaster that’s been the goaltending all season.
WHY THERE COULD BE AN UPSET:
The Chicago Blackhawks, man.
Can Jonathan Toews make a triumphant return after missing over 20 games with a concussion? Toews is a huge cog in Chicago’s offence, but he’s missed 23 straight games leading up to now. Phoenix’s Mike Smith has played in a big fat zero NHL playoff games, so expect some pressure there. If Chicago can exploit Smith early in this series, the scales could tip the way of the Blackhawks. Corey Crawford is going to have to play the series of his life, well over his season .903 SV%. Can he?
Phoenix over Chicago in six games.
NASHVILLE (4) vs. DETROIT (5)
1989-90 was the last year the Detroit Red Wings failed to qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Since then, they’ve won four Stanley Cups, made the finals six times, and have had a pretty strong showing over the past twenty years. The Red Wings are no strangers to firepower on offence; they’ve got ten players with 30 or more points. Led by Henrik Zetterberg (69 points), Pavel Datsyuk (67 points) and Valtteri Filppula (66 points), the Wings are never short on goals. Nick Lidstrom is still holding down the Red Wings’ blue line, and there’s plenty of support with guys like Niklas Kronwall, Brad Stuart and Jakub Kindl. It’s going to be hard to bet against this year’s Predators, however. Also equipped with ten players with 30 or more points, Nashville has plenty of firepower of their own. I’m finding it hard not to take Nashville’s stodgy defence over Detroit’s offence. You all know about Shea Weber and Ryan Suter, but first rounder Ryan Ellis is starting to make his mark. Add guys like Kevin Klein and Francis Bouillon to round out, and it’s a more than capable six on the blue.
I like Pekka Rinne in the net quite a bit more than Detroit’s Jimmy Howard, but I’m convinced that Detroit’s weapons on offence are going to be too much for Nashville to handle.
WHY NASHVILLE COULD WIN
This is a tough series to pick. Nashville’s got a fantastic defence, and if they can keep Detroit’s big guns to the outside, it could be a short series for the Wings. If Pekka Rinne can do the unthinkable and put the bagel up in the first game, it surely will wear on the minds of the Wings. It’s not probable, but it’s possible that Lidstrom and Company could be a half step slower than Nashville’s forward set. Rinne will have to play at least at his regular season SV% of .923, and likely a little bit better.
Detroit in seven games.
So there’s your West. Stay tuned, your East predictions will soon follow.
Now let’s go make some dollars.
Follow Oil On Whyte on the Twitters.
Jeff – @OilOnWhyte
Samson – @threwittki
Ian – @ibleedoil
Click Here to visit our NHL main page “Too Many Men” – Fansided’s Hockey Home on the Internets