My dearest Annabelle, it is said we shall begin maneuvers tomorrow night at 9:30 pm (central). Many of our comrades in the East begin their skirmishes tonight. I feel that things must surely be coming to some kind of ending, though I know not what glory may await those who ride in victory. There are no trophies in war, only that sweet freedom that a cessation of arms shall bring. I cannot predict what outcome awaits the men tomorrow, though some may try. To those souls I say only, good luck.
Chicago Blackhawks (1) vs Nashville Predators (WC2)
Taylor: This might be the most exciting matchup of the first round, and I think they're evenly matched. I'll give the slight edge to Chicago because they've been there before. Blackhawks in 6.
Derek: The Preds know that they're going to need to beat teams like the Hawks to finally take that next step as a franchise, so they're ready for this series. All hands on deck! The Hawks are always a tough out, but playoff mental fatigue will set in again. Predators in 7.
Ann: I'm disinclined to pick the Blackhawks to win anything, but it's hard to bet against them in a series against the Predators. This pains me, but. Blackhawks in 6.
Mike: As much as I want to think Nashville can pose a challenge to Chicago, they really won't. Maybe the Predators can get one at home. Blackhawks in 5.
Robert: Death to narratives. Predators in 4.
Wes: Nashville made the dance thanks to 12 OTLs (they were 7 points ahead of the 9-seed). Only Anaheim abused the NHL's Participation Point more. No, it isn't a good omen for long-term success. Blackhawks in 6.
Melissa: You know what? I want to believe. P.K. Subban comes to play, and Nashville manages to steal this one from Chicago. Predators in 7.
Erin: I already made my "pick with my heart" prediction in the Eastern Conference, and as such, I can't let it run away with me here. Chicago isn't the team of the past, but Nashville was a participation point champion. Blackhawks in 6.
Jordan: While these two teams finished in just about exact opposite positions that I thought they would, I'm sticking with my preseason pick of the Predators. I think they underachieved in the regular season and will show what they can do in the postseason. Predators in 6.
Kathleen: Chicago has all the experience, but the Perds may have worked too hard to get here just to leave early. Flip of a coin: Predators in 7.
Minnesota Wild (2) vs St Louis Blues (3)
Taylor: Zzzzzzz....sorry, fell asleep trying to remember who I'm picking here. Blues in 7.
Derek: These two teams are so evenly matched for a series like this. Minnesota, however, has the trump card: goaltending. Dubnyk plays lights-out and not even some jaw-dropping performances from Tarasenko can save St. Louis. Wild in 7.
Ann: I believe in Minnesota's goal tending and shot suppression more than I believe in St. Louis's fire power. Wild in 6.
Mike: This may be the most evenly matched series in the Western Conference. St Louis came on strong once Ken Hitchcock was fired, but Minnesota has been rolling since day one. Minnesota's defense will win this series. Wild in 7.
Robert: Minnesota can score now, but I'm gonna have to follow my heart and say Giant Meteor in 1.
Wes: Jake Allen's career post-season statline: .902 SV%, 2.29 GAA, 3-5 record. Minnesota, meanwhile, had nine players top 40 points. It's not Tarasenko, but it's a heckuva committee. Wild in 7.
Melissa: The Blues closed the season on a 7-1-2 run, and their hot streak continues into the postseason. Blues in 6.
Erin: Minnesota can score. St. Louis had a quasi-dead cat bounce after the coach change. Between the rock and a hard place of sports karma, give me the former fighting Hitchcocks. Blues in 6.
Jordan: Is anyone else just not really interested in this series at all? Minnesota is limping into the playoffs but they shouldn't have too much trouble with the Blues. Wild in 6.
Kathleen: These two teams seem to be crossing paths at different points in their arcs. Are the Blues peaking at the right time? I'm making the meaningless internet wager that they are. Blues in 6.
Anaheim Ducks (1) vs Calgary Flames (WC1)
Taylor: I'd love to see the upstart Flames upset the Ducks, because I like bathing in Duck fan tears. Flames in 6.
Derek: The Flames have been riding underdog momentum all season long, so don't be surprised when they catch an older, slower, damaged Ducks team off guard. Their curse in Anaheim will finally be broken with some enormous road wins. Flames in 6.
Ann: While it's in the Stars best interest that the Ducks make it to the Conference Final, I just don't believe in it. I also believe in causing the most amount of existential pain to Ducks fans possible, so let's draw it out. Flames in 7.
Mike: While I'd like to see an old Stars fan favorite, Patrick Eaves, succeed - I in no way want to see Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf win anything. Plus, I feel Calgary can be very dangerous if the Ducks don't take them seriously. Glen Gulutzan has done a fantastic job with a young Flames team. Flames in 6.
Robert: I generally pick the Ducks to get swept, as a rule, but I'm trying to take these seriously because hey Glen is trying to win and who doesn't love Glen? Also Flames in 4.
Wes: My head says Anaheim's +22 goal differential is the winner (Flames were +5). Then I look at Corey Perry (19g) and Ryan Kesley 2nd in team scoring (58 pts) and wonder how. John Gibson (.924 SV% / 2.22 GAA) is the key. Ducks in 6.
Melissa: It hurts me to type this, but I'm doing it for Patrick Eaves and Annabelle. Plus, Anaheim beat Calgary 4 out of 5 times during their season series. Ducks in 6.
Erin: Glen Gulutzan has matured as a coach since he was overwhelmed in his role in Dallas, but the Ducks win the talent battle here. Give me four goals for the modern major general. Ducks in 5.
Jordan: Calgary literally cannot win in Anaheim and the Ducks have home ice advantage. Ducks in 5.
Kathleen: Another case in which one team is coming in with quite a bit of momentum, and it's hard to argue with 8-0-2 in the last 10. Another victory for Major Eaves: Ducks in 5.
Edmonton Oilers (2) vs San Jose Sharks (3)
Taylor: Not sure the Sharks can contain Connor McDavid enough to make it back to the Stanley Cup final, but the Oilers team is awfully inexperienced with the post season. Oilers in 6.
Derek: All eyes will be on McDavid, the dazzling boy wonder, and rightfully so. The Sharks, however, are battle-tested, and hungry after losing in the finals last season. It's going to be a hard series that the young Oilers won't be fully ready for Sharks in 6.
Ann: McDavid may have won the Art Ross and the hearts of Oilers fans everywhere, but he's still just one kid on that team. I'm reliably informed you need more than one great player, which the veteran Sharks have. Sharks in 6.
Mike: Connor McDavid is otherworldly. Period. Call me crazy, but I believe in the young Oilers. Between the youth, speed and superb goaltending of Cam Talbot, Edmonton can, and will, eliminate the defending Western Conference Champions. Oilers in 7.
Robert: No self-respecting fan wants the Oilers to win anything for a long, long time, but they have goaltending and scoring and some warmish bodies on the blue line. Sharks in 7.
Wes: The veteran Sharks are trying old the "show just enough to make the dance" strategy. The Oilers have Connor McDavid. Karma takes one more bite at an Oilers team that needed 4 tries to get a first overall draft pick right. Sharks in 7.
Melissa: The Sharks get out to an early lead in the series, but Connor McDavid helps turn the tide back in Edmonton's favor. Oilers in 7.
Erin: The Oilers are exactly the type of team who scares the heck out of first round opponents - young, fast and not quite ready to make a long run, but with plenty of weapons to get through at least one round. San Jose is getting pretty long in the tooth, so this will be a battle. Flip a coin and call it Sharks in 7.
Jordan: This one is going to be so much fun to watch. I think the Oilers are going to be just too quick for San Jose to handle. Oilers in 6.
Kathleen: I have to go with age and treachery here. The Sharks are out for blood (and to crown the careers of two legit greats in Thornton and Marleau). Edmonton will have to wait a little longer for their turn. Sharks in 6.