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Puck Daddy’s 2012 Stanley Cup Playoff Staff Prognostications

Greg Wyshynski
Puck Daddy

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In which your friends from Puck Daddy and Marek Vs. Wyshynski select the winners for Round 1 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs as well as their conference and Cup champions.

Greg Wyshynski, Editor, Puck Daddy

Canucks in 6
Blues in 6
Red Wings in 7
Blackhawks in 6

Rangers in 6
Bruins in 7
Devils in 5
Penguins in 6

Stanley Cup Final: Penguins vs. Blues
Stanley Cup Champion: Penguins
Conn Smythe: Evgeni Malkin

I'm picking St. Louis out of the West for two reasons. First, because I'm a sucker for defense, physical play and David Backes, three attributes the Blues proudly boast. Second, because I previously picked the San Jose Sharks out of the West before the season; hence, if the Sharks pull off the first-round upset — quite plausible — I'll quietly slip out of my Brian Elliott Fan Club T-shirt and back into my teal Zubaz, preparing copious amounts of I-told-ya-so's should the Sharks then go on to play for the Stanley Cup.

You might see this as a pundit covering his own ass, but in reality you're completely right because that's what it is …

Anyhoo, the other West series feature a Blackhawks team that edges Mike Smith and the Coyotes thanks to a kick in the rear by a returning Jonathan Toews and some Marian Hossa heroics. The Canucks could be in trouble if L.A. finds some semblance of offense; alas, the Kings don't play in either Chicago or Boston, so expect Luongo t0 pitch four shutouts.

As for the Red Wings and Predators … look, I also hang on to my cars and underwear for too long. There's every logical reason to expect the Predators will win this series, from their stellar defense to their underrated offense to Weber's beard. But I can't let go of the idea that they're being put over at the expense of the Red Wings, and Detroit's the last team that's going to allow itself to be treated like a stepping stone.

In the East, the Devils are the better team, so long as Marty isn't soft (I mean, he's soft, but I'm talking about his play here) and the Panthers don't win on irony (trapping the trappers). The Rangers could get a scare if the Senators' goaltending comes to play, but they're the better team and Lundqvist is a rock. The Bruins and Capitals are going to get epic, because Washington knows how to tease out an eventual disappointment — too much Chara on Ovechkin, not enough quality depth from the Caps.

[ Nicholas J. Cotsonika: Cast of stars, role players make Penguins the Cup favorite ]

As for the bloodbath in the Keystone State, the Penguins are going to stay away from the extracurricular stuff; they're finally going to wear down a Flyers defense that's battling inconsistency and injuries; and Marc-Andre Fleury is as money as Bryz has been flaky in the playoffs.

Pittsburgh wins the Cup with the league's deepest roster and most reliable stars, once again validating the Penguins Model.

Sean Leahy, Associate Editor, Puck Daddy

Rangers in 5
Bruins in 5
Devils in 6
Penguins in 7

Canucks in 5
Blues in 6
Coyotes in 6
Predators in 7

Stanley Cup Final: Rangers vs. Canucks
Stanley Cup Champion: Canucks
Conn Smythe: Henrik Sedin

I said before the season it would be Boston Bruins and San Jose Sharks, but six months later I don't feel as confident in those two teams making the two-month grind to the Final. So we're changing things up and going with a rematch of the 1994 Stanley Cup Final, except with a different result.

Even if Roberto Luongo struggles, Alain Vigneault can go right to Cory Schneider and the team won't miss a beat. The health of Daniel Sedin will be a big concern early on, but Vancouver has enough firepower to cover in his absence.

Yes, the expectations are high this season in Vancouver and coming within a game of glory a year ago will give the Canucks enough added motivation to finish the job this time around.

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Harrison Mooney, Associate Editor, Puck Daddy

Bruins in 6
Rangers in 5
Devils in 7
Penguins in 7

Canucks in 6
Blues in 7
Predators in 7
Coyotes in 6

I won't be the guy that bet against Sidney Crosby. This series is going to be awesome and tightly contested, but when it comes down to it, I don't think the Flyers have the defense to shut down both Crosby and Malkin enough to win a seven-game series.

The matchup to watch will be Chara vs. Ovechkin, and I think Chara wins it. It's that simple for me. If Ovechkin isn't producing the Capitals aren't winning, and I don't see him overcoming Chara when he'll already have to shake Patrice Bergeron to do it. I also don't see Dale Hunter out-coaching Claude Julien to beat the matchup.

A lot of people feel the Panthers are the team that shouldn't be here, but I'm simply not sold on the Senators either. Erik Karlsson is excellent, and Jason Spezza has rounded into a fine, two-way center, but I don't think this team isn't nearly deep enough to hang with the Rangers.

I don't trust the Panthers at all. But I don't trust the Devils either, which is why this goes seven. Lucky for the Devils, I trust the Panthers less. I wouldn't be surprised if we saw as many as three overtime games in this series.

The Canucks don't match up well against the Kings, who are not all that dissimilar from the Boston Bruins, but the Kings lack the scoring punch to keep up. The games will be low-scoring affairs, but the Canucks have more game-breakers, and that'll be the difference.

If you ask me, the Blues are the only team in the playoffs that has the smothering defensive posture to knock off the Pittsburgh Penguins. I don't think the two teams will ever meet. However, they'll definitely get to the second round. The Sharks have some offensive stars, but they don't have the speed to beat the smother.

The Wings have the edge up front. The Preds have the edge on the back end. Everything else is a wash, except for special teams, where Nashville is excellent and Detroit is mediocre. That will be the difference.

Another offensive team meets defensive team matchup. A lot of people are picking the Blackhawks to "upset" the Coyotes, although that wouldn't be much of an upset since the Coyotes earned the higher seed by virtue of winning their division, not winning more points. I think a Phoenix victory would be the real upset, and I'm calling it. Mike Smith is a great deal less flaky than the guy Phoenix had in goal last year, the team is more offensively potent, and Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Keith Yandle are due for coming-out parties. I think the Coyotes will keep these games tight, frustrate the Blackhawks' offense with their stifling defense, and win the series on the power play.

Stanley Cup Final: Canucks vs. Penguins
Stanley Cup Champ: Penguins
Conn Smythe: Evgeni Malkin

Dmitry Chesnokov, Senior Writer, Puck Daddy

I suck at predicting anything. That's the reason I haven't won the PowerBall or MegaMillions yet. So here are my picks. Just for fun:

Rangers in 6
Bruins in 6
Devils in 5
Flyers in 7

Vancouver in 6
Blues in 6
Chicago in 7
Red Wings in 6

I think the last few games of the season have shown the New York Rangers may be a little bit nervous about being in the unfamiliar territory as the No. 1 Eastern Conference team heading into the postseason. As long as they maintain their composure and get over being nervous, they should be able to advance. The Ottawa Senators, however, will punish any weaknesses. But the Rangers' defense corps and Lundqvist should see the Blueshirts through.

The Washington Capitals will have to rely on a young, inexperienced goaltender yet again in the postseason. While the run-and-gun offensive style of the past years meant the "Brazilian soccer" mentality — you score as many as you can, and we score as many as we want — the goaltending situation may not have been that much of a concern. It should be now as the Capitals are not very consistent in scoring and a lot of times are badly outshot by their opponents.

The Bruins, meanwhile, are a very balanced team with the experience of winning the Cup. Balance means depth as well, and Boston should be able to win this series. Of course, the vintage Alex Ovechkin is breaking through lately and no one challenges him more than Zdeno Chara, but I don't think it will be enough to see the Capitals through.

Ilya Kovalchuk's second half of the season was Hart-worthy. Martin Brodeur was also in fine form after the All-Star break. While the New Jersey Devils' defense looks to be a patchwork group, they should still feel confident their play will carry them through to the next round. The Florida Panthers do have veterans with playoff experience who can really make a difference, but the momentum of the last few games of the regular season wasn't the right one for the Cats.

The Penguins-Flyers series is the most difficult to predict. This is because both teams are immensely talented, hungry and tough. I wish this was the conference final. I think the series will be like a pendulum swing. It is tough to say what the difference will be between the two, but Ilya Bryzgalov's play lately has been stellar and he could be that difference in the end.

But cautiously. Jonathan Quick should be in consideration not only for the Vezina Trophy, but also the Hart. He didn't get much in the way of goal support. If he frustrates the Canucks forwards enough to get into their heads, the Kings may pull this one off. Kesler's goal drought continues and Daniel Sedin is only coming back from his injury. But the Canucks were a few goals/saves away from the Cup last season and should be able to rediscover the form that took them there.

The Sharks may have the momentum going into the series as they were fighting for the playoff spot until the end of the season, and the St. Louis Blues slumped, sort of, in their final dozen games. But the remarkable tandem of Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliot gives the Blues the edge. Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo is in consideration for the Norris Trophy and the Blues defense, overall, is strong. Couple that with Ken Hitchcock behind the bench and you have a pedigree of a playoff winner. Defense wins Cups, right?

The Coyotes-Blackhawks series is tough to predict as well. Chicago should have their captain back. It remains to be seen if Jonathan Toews will be effective after not having played a game since February. But the emotional boost will surely be felt. The Coyotes' hopes rest mostly, in my opinion, on Mike Smith continuing to have a terrific season. It's been tough for Phoenix for a number of years with the off-ice uncertainty. Maybe it's one of the reasons the team couldn't get over the hurdle of a playoff series win. Chicago has the experience to get it done.

Pavel Datsyuk told me recently that some years he just couldn't wait for the regular season to be over and for the postseason to start. Maybe that was the case for Detroit Red Wings this year as they didn't seem all that interested in the regular season at the end of it. But you can never write them off. These are seasoned playoff veterans who know how to win when it matters. They do so even when they look like they are pressed against the wall.

The Predators went all-in for this postseason and even gave up a year of Radulov's services for just a handful of games this year. The Preds are good. Very good. But I think it would be tough for them to play Weber and Suter against Detroit's best simply because players like Datsyuk and Zetterberg can be played on separate lines. It won't be a surprise if the Predators win. But Detroit still gets my vote simply because they're Detroit in a sense that this team just always finds the way to win.

Stanley Cup Final: Canucks vs. Flyers
Stanley Cup Champion: Flyers
Conn Smythe: Jaromir Jagr

Oh, what the hell…

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Ryan Lambert, Puck Daddy columnist

Rangers in 6
Bruins in 5
Devils in 5
Penguins in 7

Canucks in 6
Blues in 7
Blackhawks in 7
Predators in 6

I had all those picks above and I believe them to an extent, but I also don't remember ever feeling like a field was this unclear in both conferences.

If Jonathan Quick gets hot, I can very easily see the Canucks losing. The Flyers/Pens series is a tossup, as is Detroit/Nashville. San Jose looks like it's very capable of upsetting St. Louis in the first round. I wouldn't put it past a motivated Caps or Sens team to at least send their series deeper than people expect.

It's hard to envy any team that advances particularly deep in the East, because they're gonna get beat up by some pretty mean teams along the way. The West is just as intriguing because of how weird the whole season was, particularly in the Pacific. San Jose and Los Angeles, two good but flawed teams, have the ability to wreak havoc throughout the postseason, and we'd all be talking about how crazy the Preds/Wings series was if not for the certainty of death in the East 4-5.

Stanley Cup Final: Bruins vs. Predators
Stanley Cup Champion: Bruins (again)
Conn Smythe: Milan Lucic

(I agonized over this stuff.)

Darryl "Dobber" Dobbs, Puck Daddy Fantasy Hockey Writer

Rangers in 6
Bruins in 6
Devils in 7
Penguins in 5

Canucks in 7
Blues in 6
Coyotes in 6
Predators in 7

Stanley Cup Final: Penguins vs. Predators
Stanley Cup Champion: Penguins
Conn Smythe: Sidney Crosby

The Pens are going to waltz through the playoffs, going through opponents like a beach ball through Maple Leafs goaltending. It doesn't matter if they lose Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin to injury. As long as they don't lose both, the Pens will be fine. One thing that could stop them is another Kris Letang injury. When that guy goes down, the team comes back to earth.

I can see Mike Smith putting up a wall, stopping the Blackhawks in their tracks. His hot goaltending and the ageless Ray Whitney could see them steal a couple of rounds.

As for the Predators, they have all the pieces. From coaching, to experience, to depth at all positions. And now with Alexander Radulov they have a game-breaker. I don't think the West has an answer to that.

Kent Wilson, Puck Daddy writer/FlamesNation

 

Rangers in 6
Bruins in 7
Devils in 6
Penguins in 6

Kings in 7
Sharks in 7
Blackhawks in 5
Red Wings in 7

Stanley Cup Final: Sharks vs. Penguins
Stanley Cup Champion: Penguins
Conn Smythe: Evgeni Malkin

I decided against flipping a coin for all my selections and I'll likely regret it - a lot of weird stuff can happen over seven games and there doesn't seem to be any big time favorites or underdogs this season.

Perhaps I should spend time justifying the upsets I picked in Round 1 - namely, New Jersey over Florida, Los Angeles over Vancouver and Chicago over St. Louis.

The Devils upset is the easiest. The Panthers are the worst team in the post-season by a number of measures, including goal differential (-24). They placed third in the conference by virtue of the SE division being terrible and by collecting a lot of point in the first half of the year when a number of guys in cluding Stephen Weiss and Kris Versteeg were shooting lights out. Florida made a modest step forward this season after Tallon spent a sizable fortune in the free agent market, they remain by far one of the weakest clubs in playoffs this year.

The Kings over the Canucks pick might be the most controversial, but Los Angeles has been excellent since Darryl Sutter took over, particularly after the trade deadline when they landed Jeff Carter (and got rid of Jack Johnson). In fact, L.A. has been the best possession team in the league over that time frame and, as such, are the toughest eighth-placed squad in recent memory. Particularly if Jonathan Quick can keep his remarkable, Vezina worthy season going.

I also think the Sharks might beat the Blues, although I've far less confident about that prediction than most of the others - St. Louis is legitimately good this year and will be a handful for San Jose or anyone else they meet. It's likely this series will be decided by special teams play - the Sharks remain one of the scariest teams in the NHL with the man advantage (21.1 percent) while St. Louis' improvement at even strength this season wasn't matched by their PP (16.7 percent). So if the stripes decide to swallow the whistle in the first round, give the edge to the Blues. If they call things a little tighter, the Sharks have a good chance to advance to Round 2.

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Elena Pagliarello, Producer, Marek Vs. Wyshynski

Rangers in 6
Bruins in 7
Devils in 5
Flyers in 7

Canucks in 7
Blues in 5
Coyotes in 6
Predators in 6

Put it this way - if I had a dart board in my apartment, I'd be using it to make these selections. I'm a rookie at this whole "professional picks" thing - and generally no matter what I predict the opposite will happen - so here goes.

I hate just following the trendy picks, so I'll use some logic to convince myself - Ilya Bryzgalov says he's afraid of bears in the woods and not Penguins, so it pains me to say that the Bruins and Rangers will likely be your Eastern finalists (unless Bryz gets hunting tips from Brad Marchand). The fact that the Rangers are the consensus choice makes me want to pick against them, but I just don't know if another team can get their act together for long enough to work its way through the conference (that and I'm secretly hoping to reverse-jinx the Senators in to the second round, just to watch everyone's heads explode in Toronto). Also, I'm old-school hating on the Penguins and really, really can't bring myself to go with them

The West is such a crap-shoot that I really don't know where to go with these.... goalies have played their teams in, but could just as easily play their teams right out of the playoffs. Is there a "controversy" coming in Vancouver with Luongo and Schneider? Do Elliott and Halak platoon the playoffs successfully? Can Mike Smith keep leading the Coyotes? Could Pekka Rinne beat the Red Wings? Will Jonathan Quick be able to keep winning 1-0 games?

Who knows? Certainly not me. But there is something about the idea of Brian Elliott and the Blues going deep in the West and proving people wrong that appeals to me.

Stanley Cup Final: Rangers vs. Blues
Stanley Cup Champ: Rangers
Conn Smyth: Handsome Henrik Lundqvist

Jeff Marek, Smart Dude, Marek Vs. Wyshynski

Rangers in 5
Bruins in 5
Devils in 4
Penguins in 6

Canucks in 6
Sharks in 7
Blackhawks in 6
Predators in 7

Stanley Cup Final: Penguins vs. Chicago
Stanley Cup Champion: Penguins
Conn Smythe: Marc-Andre Fleury

While just about everybody is picking the Pens (myself included) the reality is it's jump ball for the Stanley Cup again this year so I'm sticking with the picks I made at the beginning of the season.

I don't know what else I (or anyone else for that matter) can really add to the conversation about Pittsburgh. They're solid at every position including behind the bench and what I think is lost on many is exactly how TOUGH Pittsburgh is. We tend to focus on the skill set the Pens throw at you but sometimes we forget not just how battle-tough this team is but also but physically imposing the Pens can be. This team would rather play you talent-on-talent but if you want to throw some salt on the fries they can still hang. There is no other team in the NHL that can allow you to dictate the way the game will be played then alter and beat you at it.

To paraphrase the Hanson brothers "that get's you right in the mind."

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