(1) Vancouver Canucks vs. (8) Los Angeles Kings
The Kings’ Jonathan Quick has the ability to steal a series, recording a league-high 10 shutouts as part of a 35-win season. However, L.A. has problems scoring goals as Quick had 15 games where he allowed two goals or fewer and suffered a loss in regulation, overtime or a shootout. The Canucks, who could be without Daniel Sedin (concussion) at the start of the series, have Roberto Luongo between the pipes and an able backup in Cory Schneider, who proved that in last year’s playoff run.
Pick: Canucks in 6.
(2) St. Louis Blues vs. (7) San Jose Sharks
The Sharks have the edge in playoff experience, reaching the Western Conference finals each of the last two seasons. They also sport three 30-goal scorers. St. Louis swept the four-game season series and did it by splitting up starts between goalies, which the Blues may do in this series no matter which netminder has the hot hand.
Pick: Sharks in 7.
(3) Phoenix Coyotes vs. (6) Chicago Blackhawks
This series should come down to goaltending. The Coyotes’ Mike Smith was stellar down the stretch, posting 38 wins with eight shutouts. Chicago has gone back-and-forth with Corey Crawford and Ray Emery as its starter. If Crawford, who will be the starter in Game 1, can regain his form from last year’s playoffs the Blackhawks should advance.
Pick: Blackhawks in 6.
(4) Nashville Predators vs. (5) Detroit Red Wings
It’s hard to find many experts giving the Wings a shot against Nashville. But history is on Detroit’s side, winning the two previous playoff meetings between the teams and winning 11 Stanley Cups. The Predators have moved past the first round of the playoffs just once in their history, doing so last season.
Pick: Wings in 6.
(1) New York Rangers vs. (8) Ottawa Senators
The Rangers have the definite edge in goaltending with Henrik Lundqvist, who’s a Vezina Trophy and even a Hart Trophy candidate. He finished with 39 wins with a 1.97 goals-against average and .930 save percentage. Ottawa has given up 240 goals this season.
Pick: Rangers in 5.
(2) Boston Bruins vs. (7) Washington Capitals
The defending Stanley Cup champs are deep in every position on the ice, but Washington did win three of the four meetings with the Bruins this season. Boston’s a plus-67 goal differential, while the Caps are a minus-8.
Pick: Bruins in 6.
(3) Florida Panthers vs. (6) New Jersey Devils
Do the Devils need any more incentive than to win the series for their first-year coach Pete DeBoer, who was fired by Florida two seasons ago? The Panthers limped into the playoffs, going 2-3-5 over their last 10, while New Jersey won its last six games.
Pick: Devils in 5.
(4) Pittsburgh Penguins vs. (5) Philadelphia Flyers
This Atlantic Division series battle has got seven games written all over it. The Penguins have Sidney Crosby back and Evgeni Malkin is a serious contender to win the Hart Trophy. The Flyers spent a ton of money on goalie Ilya Bryzgalov and was strong in March with 10 wins, four of which were shutouts.
Pick: Penguins in 7.