Before we go into the Caps/Rangers Series A, let's take a look at the big picture and go through what will be some dynamite series as we roll to the 2011 Stanley Cup Final. Before I have done the Eastern Conference before the Western. This year I am flipping it. As always, you can leave your thoughts below in comments.
In the Western Conference things took a while for the final 8 to settle into their final series places. In fact it took the very last game of the season between the Minnesota Wild and Dallas Stars to see if last year's champs even make a return to the post season (they did with a Star loss). This Conference has been ultra competitive, but one team has walked away from everyone. The Canucks may not want such a distinction given the fact they are facing a very good Blackhawk team in the first round.
Western Conference Quarter-Final
#1 Vancouver Canucks vs. #8 Chicago Blackhawks
The Canucks won the President's Trophy for most points in a season. They have the top point getter, most wins by a goaltender and an assist leader to give them a power house team that took their conference by storm. But I don't think they wanted to take on the Cup champs from last year in the first round. While the Hawks have had their bumps in the road, they have played well down the stretch to sneak in on the very last day. With some hard work and a little luck, the Blackhawks look to repeat with the same lack of respect they showed in last season's run. This should be a war of a series.
Vancouver sneaks past Chicago in 7 games.
#2 San Jose Sharks vs. #7 Los Angeles Kings
I really like the Kings this year, if for nothing else they have just wanted their wins more this season. If their goaltender Jonathan Quick can stay on top of his game and the Kings show that never say die attitude they could be a handful for the Sharks. But the Sharks have been bitten by the Cup bug shaking some old demons that have plagued them in post seasons past. The Sharks have shown some offensive supremacy against the Kings at times, but the season series is tied at 3 games a piece. If the Kings can make the score tight, they have a very good chance.
San Jose defeats LA in 7 games
#3 Detroit Red Wings vs. #6 Phoenix Coyotes
It's round two for these two teams from a year ago. Only this time, the Red Wings have home ice advantage. The Coyotes lean heavily on their goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov. He has the opportunity to steal a series for them and they will need him against the Detroit powerhouse. The Red Wings do have a weakness this season. Jimmy Howard is the go to guy with no serious back up to, well.. back him up. It makes these two teams a lot even than you might think.
Detroit defeats Phoenix in 5 games
#4 Anaheim Ducks vs. #5 Nashville Predators
This should be an interesting series. Neither team really has a history playoff wise to speak of. The Ducks are coming off their best second half of the season in some time. It helped them secure a playoff spot early and they are looking to return to the promise land. The Predators are still inexperienced at this whole playoff thing, but their emotion and some smart goaltending should help them steal a series from the Ducks.
Nashville upsets Anaheim in 6 games
Western Champs: San Jose Sharks
Just about every pundit has the Canucks coming out of the Western Conference with flying colors. But just looking down the line they have to play a tough team in Chicago in the first round then face teams like San Jose or Detroit down the stretch. I just don't see that happening. The Canucks are already limping into the post season as it is. I think the Sharks have the best line to make it to the Western Conference Final and a chance to actually play for Lord Stanley's Cup.