DETROIT >> Breakdown and predictions of the first round of the NHL playoffs, which begins Wednesday.
(1) Boston Bruins vs. (WC2) Detroit Red Wings
The Wings were the only team this season to beat the Presidents’ Trophy winning Bruins three times; unfortunately none of those wins carry over to the postseason.
“The reality is you have to play well,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “If you look at it in their shoes they’ve got to believe they’re in the driver’s seat. We believe we’re going to be a tough out so something’s got to give.”
Boston is as physical a team as you’ll find in the NHL that has a solid four lines, great goaltending and a strong defensive core.
“I think we’re actually a harder team than we’ve ever been since I’ve been here,” Babcock said. “I think we have the ability to play heavy. We have some smaller type players that have the ability to be physical. What sets them aside from anyone else is (Milan) Lucic and (Zdeno) Chara. They have them, we don’t. We have a lot of big bodies as well.”
Pick: Bruins in 6.
(2) Tampa Bay Lightning vs. (3) Montreal Canadiens
All four meetings this season between the teams have been very close, three of which were decided after regulation and another didn’t become a two-goal advantage for the Lightning, who won three of the four games, until an empty net goal in the final minute. This series will come down to goaltending and the Canadiens have a decisive edge with Carey Price. But Lightning rookie sensations, Ondrej Palat and Tyler Johnson, could help steal a game or two.
Pick: Canadiens in 5.
(1) Pittsburgh Penguins vs. (WC1) Columbus Blue Jackets
If Marc-Andre Fleury can shake off his past two postseasons – 4.11 goals-against average and a .857 save percentage in 11 appearances – the Penguins should advance with ease. Pittsburgh won all five meetings with the team, outscoring Columbus 16-7. The Blue Jackets’ only hope is a strong performance from their netminder, Sergei Bobrovsky, who played in just one game against Pittsburgh this season.
Pick: Penguins in 6.
(2) New York Rangers vs. (3) Philadelphia Flyers
It’s all about home-ice advantage in this series and the Rangers have it, winning eight straight at Madison Square Garden over the Flyers. Claude Giroux has really come on strong for Philadelphia ending the season third in the league scoring race after not notching his first goal until 15 games in.
Pick: Rangers in 5.
(1) Colorado vs. (WC1) Minnesota
Patrick Roy’s Avalanche have been quite the story all season long and should breeze into the next round in large part because of the edge in goal with Semyon Varlamov. The Wild’s Ilya Bryzgalov played well down the stretch, but has had his meltdowns in the postseason.
Pick: Avalanche in 5.
(2) St. Louis vs. (3) Chicago
This series had all the makings for a classic. It can still if the Blues, who lost six straight to end the season, get a few of their injured forwards back sometime in the series. The Blackhawks expect to have two of their key injured players back – Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane.
Pick: Blackhawks in 4.
(1) Anaheim vs. (WC2) Dallas
The Ducks’ season ended in the first round a year ago and it could end the same way this year against the offensive-minded Stars. Anaheim has a lot of questions in goal, while Dallas, which has won two of the three meetings this season, has a 33-win Kari Lehtonen between the pipes.
Pick: Stars in 7.
(2) San Jose vs. (3) Los Angeles
Easily could be the best series in the opening round. The teams played a classic series last year with the Kings prevailing in seven games, with five of the games being decided by one goal. Look for more of that this time around.
Pick: Kings in 7.