The NHL's second season begins tonight. Whether the Dallas Stars are in the mix or not is somewhat irrelevant if you're hockey nerds like us. The first round is the best two weeks of sports television of the year without question. There's an absurd amount of hockey on every single night, and the more overtimes the better. The drama is unmatched in sports.
So while we may not have a spot in these playoffs, or an owner, or a coach, or a Brad Richards contract, or much sense of where this team is headed this off-season, we do have a lot of hockey to geek out over and we're going to give our two cents about it whether anyone likes it or not, so without further adieu here are our predictions.
Please chime in with yours in the comments!
(1) Vancouver vs (8)
Dallas Stars Chicago Blackhawks
Art - The Canucks can’t possibly be bounced three years in a row to the same team can they? No, they can’t. The only chance the Blackhawks have here is if they steal game one in Vancouver. If they do that, then they get right back in the heads of the Canucks who start gripping the sticks a lot tighter. The Canucks are more than just the twins and Luongo now and are probably the deepest team in the West. My personal belief when doing these things is to go with the champs until the champs are beaten. Only thing is the champs this year haven’t looked like they did last year – for good reason of course. Canucks in 5.
Pat - It's funny how the tables have turned for both of these franchises. This year, it's the Canucks with the immense depth and the Blackhawks with Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa and some other hockey players. Don't get me wrong, the Blackhawks still have plenty of ability to put the biscuit in the basket. But Vancouver just has so much more. Honestly, the Canucks might be the most complete team in the NHL, and that's even after their blueline was gutted with injuries. I can't see Chicago winning this one again. Canucks in 5
Continued after the jump...
Brad - It's tough to argue with Pat and Art on this one. The Canucks just seem to have everything working for them this season even without Malhotra and the defensive injuries. Still, I believe the intangible of having "been there, done that" for much of the Blackhawk team gives them at least a chance to fight a little. Canucks in 6.
Brandon W. - The Blackhawks just aren't the defensive power they were last season and they're going to have a hell of a time keeping the attack of the Canucks in check. Crawford has been miraculous at times this season but you just get the feeling it won't be enough, not this time. The Canucks have superior depth on all four lines, their defense is scary good and they have Roberto Luongo in net. Canucks in 6.
Brandon B. - Even the resident Hawks fan here at DBD thinks Vancouver is better. Canucks addressed personnel issues to deal precisely with this series and the Blackhakws are missing one of their bigger offensive catalysts from last spring in Dustin Byfuglien. Canucks in 6.
(2) San Jose vs (7) Los Angeles Kings
Art - If the Kings had full health and / or at least Anze Kopitar in their line-up, I'd say they have a chance. They don't though and while I do question San Jose's goaltending (some things never change) and clutch ability of some of San Jose's key players (again, some things never change) the Kings are just a little too banged up at this point. Sharks in 5.
Pat - If you remember back to the opening DBD podcast of the year, the Kings were my pick to make the Stanley Cup Finals. With the way they've played down the stretch, I'd have to stick with that pick if not for the Anze Kopitar injury. That's a key cog on the power play for them, one I don't know if they can replace. Meanwhile the Sharks have been playing consistent hockey as of late. This will end up being a bruiser of a series, but I see San Jose coming out on top. Sharks in 6
Brad -The universe let us down on this one. A hurt Kings team that can't score where there should be the Ducks. How great would that have been? So great. Just like two seasons ago. Anyway, this will be a slaughter and would be even if they had that raccoon looking guy in there ;) Sharks sweep.
Brandon W. - Well, at least the Sharks can win another easy first round series before choking in the second round, I guess. Jonathan Quick won't be enough to hold off the Sharks, especially with the Kings limping into the postseason with injuries up and down the roster. Sharks in 5.
Brandon B. - Any hope the Kings had of winning any playoff series went out the window when Kopitar got hurt. And that's after Justin Williams hurt his shoulder. Sharks are firing on all cylinders right now. And for their fans, this really does look like it could be their year. Sharks in a sweep.
Art - Last year I picked the Coyotes because I wasn't sure Jimmy Howard was ready while I was convinced Ilya Bryzgalov was. I was also convinced that Dave Tippett was a decent coach in the playoffs, didn't really give Mike Babcock much credit for being a great coach in the playoffs and that maybe the Wings were a little too old and had reached their apex. I do feel this year the Coyotes have more talent compared to last year and I still worry about Detroit's injuries, but I'm not going to make the same mistake I did last year though I do feel this series can go either way. Red Wings in 7.
Pat - Deja vu? Interesting that these two teams will play each other once again in 2011. Unfortunately for Phoenix, I don't see it ending much differently. Detroit is dealing with nagging injuries, but if you've watched them play this year you know that they're just as solid as ever. Veteran depth is something you can't take for granted. On the other side of the coin, the Coyotes have been scoring by committee all year. It's worked so far, but how well will it work when Detroit shuts down Keith Yandle and Shane Doan? Can we really expect Lee Stepniak and young Kyle Turris to carry the team? Bryzgalov is as solid as ever, but in the playoffs you need more than just a goaltender. Wings in 5
Brad - The playoffs are a special time filled with special players. Quick, name all of the Coyotes special players. I wonder if Ilya Bryzgalov can score in overtime, or if Dave Tippett will alter the game plan from the regular season which was seemingly "just get to overtime". The reactive style of the Coyotes doesn't work in the playoffs. Detroit's inconsistent play down the stretch makes them ripe for an upset but when the Coyotes NEED a goal, can they get it? I wish they could, but I won't believe it unit they show us. Wings in 6.
Brandon W. - My heart is with the Coyotes on this one, but my head is telling me Red Wings. The Coyotes' style of play is not suitable for the postseason and it resembles the Dallas Stars' approach from 2007, when they were bounced in the first round due to lack of timely scoring. The Red Wings are hurting though and you wonder if Tippett and Co. learned a thing or two from last season's loss. Head or heart? Coyotes in 7.
Brandon B.- In the ultimate gut punch, the Coyotes could finally win a playoff series in Phoenix...only to possibly leave town? Perhaps. But not the winning the series part. Red Wings in 7.
Art - I really like watching the Predators play hockey because they are a great team and Barry Trotz is a fantastic coach who doesn't get enough recognition nationwide. That said, even though I'd really like the Preds to win a playoff series and really help the status of hockey in Nashville I can't pick against the Ducks who have underrated depth in their roster as well. Goaltending may be a little iffy for the Ducks, but if Ellis or Emery (who has been to a cup final before) can get hot.. look out! Ducks in 6.
Pat - This will be painful for me to watch for two reasons. First of all, I hate the way Nashville plays. Granted, it works. But it's so slow and conservative and boring and meh. Meanwhile the Ducks are exciting but I also can't stand the Ducks. So I may just ignore this series all together. (Probably not.) Anyways, it will be interesting to see who wins the battle between the Ducks' RPG line and the Preds' combo of Weber, Suter and Rinne. I hate to pick the Ducks, but their depth and inspired play gives me no choice but to advance them. Ducks in 7
Brad - There for but the flip of a coin go we. Had the Stars hung on to two extremely late third period leads they would have been playing for the 4 seed on Sunday. Instead, here are the Ducks, riding that inexplicable wave of magic that put them here. Why did they always need that magic to qualify? Why were they behind so often? Will it run out? People like to point to their question marks in goal but that didn't stop them down the stretch. The Nashville Predators are also playing in this series. Ducks in 6.
Brandon W. - Can I just pretend this series doesn't exist? Predators in 7.
Brandon B. - Both teams are evenly matched. But I have to go with Anaheim and Teemu Selanne ridiculously uncanny ability to score timely goals. Ducks in 7.