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The board has been set. With the conclusion of the NHL regular season yesterday, the match-ups for the first round are finalized and boy are there some exciting ones.
I filled out a bracket on NHL.com, which has a fun and easy tool to use (see the featured image).
As you can see, I have the Bruins winning it all (big surprise.) I do have a few interesting upsets, though, and the first round will be fascinating to watch.
What a story for Colorado this season, going from a basement dweller to the top team in the West. On the other hand, Minnesota is a team that just squeaked by. This is an easy one. Avalanche in 5.
Wow. The Blues were a top 3 team all season long, but a major collapse in the final 6 games (and .500 hockey since the Olympics) have brought to light some major issues. They’re dealing with some major injuries (as are the Blackhawks) but I’m going to go with the proven entity here. Blackhawks in 7.
I don’t expect this one to be too close, either. The Stars are not a team built for the playoffs. Seguin and Benn should be able to steal a game, but Anaheim moves on here. Ducks in 5.
The other “wow” out west. It’s pretty unreal that of the Sharks, Kings, Blues, and Blackhawks, only 2 will make it past the first round. I’v already said my piece on the Sharks. Defense wins championships. Jumbo Joe takes an early exit once again. Kings in 7.
This is honestly the least favorable match up the Bruins could have gotten in the first round as far as I’m concerned. The Wings seem to be the only team that could really stymie the Bruins all season long. However, the Bruins have better depth, defense, and goaltending. Bruins in 6.
Yawn. I like the Habs here because of playoff experience, the addition of Vanek, but most importantly, Carey Price. Ben Bishop isn’t healthy. I expect Stamkos to put on a show for a game or two, but the Lightning will fall short. Habs in 6.
You gotta like what Columbus has been able to do this year, and Bobrovsky is definitely the real deal. However, when you’ve got the talent that Pittsburgh has as well as the experience, it’s a tough matchup for the Bluejackets. Penguins in 5.
Most predictions I’ve seen have the Rangers moving on, but I like the Flyers here. This is definitely going to be the best match up in the East. There’s no love lost between these two teams. It’s hard to say the Flyers goaltending can match Lundqvist, but I think Giroux and company can squeeze one out here. Flyers in 7.
As I’ve said before, the one job of the Avalanche is to beat the Hawks, which they’ve done all season long. I originally had the Avalanche taking a second round exit, but the seeds have changed. Would love to see this happen. Avalanche in 6.
Depth almost always beats a team in the playoffs that relies on two star players, and that’s exactly the situation we have here. The Ducks are very top-heavy and I don’t expect that to translate well against the deep roster the Kings have. Kings in 6.
Who doesn’t love a great rivalry? The Bruins have notoriously struggled against Montreal in the regular season and always have their hands full in the playoffs. However, with the Bruins firing on all cylinders, it’s hard not to pick the Black and Gold. Bruins in 7.
Another great rivalry match-up. To be honest, I don’t think the league could be any more pleased than a Boston/Montreal and Pittsburgh/Philadelphia Conference Semifinals. Pens have elite firepower as always, but their defense is suspect and the Flyers always seem to have Marc-Andre Fleury’s number. I’m going with the Broad Street Bullies. Flyers in 6.
The new and exciting against the experienced veterans. I’ve said that this will be a learning experience for Duchene, Landeskog, and MacKinnon and I stand by it. They’ve got the talent, but it takes more than that to win at this level. Kings will shut it down in a great series. Kings in 6.
This is really a nightmare matchup for the Flyers. Bruins have superior offense, defense, and goaltending. I think guys like Giroux and Voracek could steal a game, but it will all be for naught. Bruins in 5.
I know I originally predicted a Bruins/Blues finals, but that was before seeing the skid that St. Louis ended with as well as the match-ups. Which brings me to the Kings. Like the Bruins, they play a shot-blocking war of attrition game that shuts down opponent’s offense. And we all know Jon Quick can be a brick wall at times. But when it comes down to it, I give the Bruins an edge in every category. And I expect them to be hungry. They are not a group of guys who will go to the Finals and lose twice in a row. Bruins in 7.