It is time! The 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs begin tonight, so it’s time to reveal our predictions for the first round. These picks can been seen and compared against the rest of the staff at The Fourth Period.
Boston over Detroit in 7
Why – Boston might be the best team in the NHL this year, but Detroit’s been playing well and might be getting healthy at the right time. The Wings gave the Hawks all they could handle last year, and could do the same against the Bruins this time around.
Montreal over Tampa in 5
Why – lots of folks are piling on the Tampa bandwagon, and they have certainly earned respect. But Carey Price is playing too well and the addition of Thomas Vanek has taken some of the offensive pressure off Max Pacioretty.
Pittsburgh over Columbus in 6
Why – Columbus taking the series to six games would be the best postseason performance in franchise history. This is a series where, on paper, the matchups favor Pittsburgh almost across the board – except in net. If Marc-Andre Fleury falls apart again, the Jackets could advance.
NY Rangers over Philadelphia in 5
Why – like the Montreal-Tampa series, this series has most fans and analysts split. If you look at my pick for series MVP at TFP, though, I believe Martin St. Louis will explode out of his funk and have a strong series against the Flyers. Why only five games? I don’t trust either goaltender in Philly.
Dallas over Anaheim in 7
Why – Tyler Seguin brought a Boston-size dose of swagger to Dallas, and the Stars might be young and naïve enough to not know they’re supposed to lose this series. Add to that the questions that exist between the three goaltenders the Ducks could play in the series, and I think Dallas has a shot at the upset.
Los Angeles over San Jose in 6
Why – can we agree that the Sharks disappointing in the playoffs has become an annual rite of passage? The Sharks have Tomas Hertl back, and Joe Pavelski had a magnificent season, but they also have issues in net and LA has experience on their side. This will be a great, physical series with the better defensive team coming out on top.
Colorado over Minnesota in 5
Why – the Avs might not have Matt Duchene for the first round, but they have too much depth for the Wild. Minnesota will need Ilya Bryzgalov to stand on his head for this series to go the distance.
Chicago over St. Louis in 5
Why – as we wrote a couple of days ago, the difference in this series will likely come in net, and Corey Crawford has been the better of the two goaltenders over the last month. If – a huge if – both teams are physically ready to go on Thursday night, this will be a nasty series between two teams that legitimately don’t like each other. But the Hawks’ depth will serve them well in a war of attrition.