The NHL playoffs really get revved up and going tonight when four different series get underway.
If you missed my super fast and straightforward predictions for the three series that started yesterday, look at those here. Four more first round tilts are set to drop the puck today as the Philadelphia Flyers clash with the New York Rangers; the Chicago Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues meet; the Minnesota Wild skate with the Colorado Avalanche; and the Los Angeles Kings take on the San Jose Sharks.
Ready for predictions? Here we go:
Philadelphia Flyers vs. New York Rangers:
Prediction: Flyers in seven. Why: The two clubs spit four games during the regular season, with the Rangers looking dominant in the contests at Madison Square Garden. If the Martin St. Louis and Brad Richards re-union had gone more like people thought it would, than I would have been inclined to go with New York in this one. But the Flyers comeback heroics present all year long and Claude Giroux‘s red-hot play for the last five months are enough to give the edge to Philadelphia.
Chicago Blackhawks vs. St. Louis Blues:
Prediction: Blackhawks in six. Why: Once (seemingly) everyone’s pick to hoist the Stanley Cup in June, the Blues have racked up injuries and losses the past month. Six-straight losses by St. Louis to close out the regular season and shaky play by goaltender Ryan Miller is enough to scare me away. The defending champs have been through the battles before and the return of Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews lead them over the Blues and sends St. Louis to another early playoff exit.
Minnesota Wild vs. Colorado Avalanche:
Prediction: Avalanche in five. Why: This is pretty close to an ideal first round matchup for a young Avalanche team. Colorado’s high-flying offense should be able to over-power the middle-of-the-road forward corps of the Wild. The lack of playoff experience for the Avalanche is not their Achilles heel in this series, because frankly, Minnesota’s roster isn’t filled with many postseason veterans either.
Los Angeles Kings vs. San Jose Sharks:
Prediction: Kings in seven. Why: These clubs are built in very similar manners. Big forwards, mobile defense and a tenacious forecheck are all characteristics of these California squads. Frankly, my only hesitation with the Sharks is the inconsistent play of goaltender Antti Neimi over the past two months. I don’t think San Jose did the Finnish netminder any favors by pulling and sitting him as much as they did over the past few weeks of the regular season, and it may be their undoing in what should be one of the most entertaining first round series to watch.
Only one other series will be yet to begin after tonight’s action; the Detroit Red Wings and Boston Bruins will finally play their first game tomorrow night.