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Ranking 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs first-round series: Which ones are must-see?

Greg Wyshynski
Puck Daddy

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The 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs matchups are set. But which ones are worth watching?

[Also: Which NHL player sold the most jerseys in 2013?]

Admittedly, some series have a bit more going for them than others, whether it’s the hate quotient or the potential for chaos or star power or atmosphere. And let’s face it: Those series that might go the distance intrigue us more than the Penguins and Islanders those that might be a bit shorter.

Your friends at Puck Daddy now provide you with a handy ranking of the eight first-round series, based on the following factors: Star Power, Secondary Plotlines, Hate, Controversy, Arena Atmosphere, Game 7 Probability and the potential for awesome playoff facial masterpieces, a.k.a. Beard-o-sity.

Each category gets a number grade from 1-to-10, with 10 being the highest grade.

So which playoff series ranked highest in our very scientific poll?

8. Pittsburgh Penguins (1) vs. New York Islanders (8)

Star Power - 7
Secondary Plotlines - 4
Hate Factor - 7
Controversy Quotient - 5
Arena Atmosphere - 8
Game 7 Probability - 1
Beard-o-sity - 5

FINAL SCORE: 37

The Islanders are seemingly overmatched by the Penguins’ fully armed and operational battle station, but that’s why they play the games. If nothing else, the atmosphere for the games at Nassau should be electric – expect a few Pittsburgh fans to make it through the turnstile.

Wonder if any of those old nasty feelings creep into this one? Or do we need a Rick DiPietro goalie fight for that?

Beard-o-sity sits at a tidy ‘5’ out of fear of what Sidney Crosby’s jaw injury might do to his already hideous playoff scruff.

7. St. Louis Blues (4) vs. Los Angeles Kings (5)

Star Power - 5
Secondary Plotlines - 6
Hate Factor - 6
Controversy Quotient - 6
Arena Atmosphere - 7
Game 7 Probability - 5
Beard-o-sity - 4

FINAL SCORE: 39

A rematch from last postseason, the Blues obviously want their comeuppance vs. the reigning Stanley Cup champs.

One of the more underrated plotlines of the postseason: The journey of Brian Elliott back to a position of prominence for the Blues, after getting buried on the depth chart by a rookie this season.

Given the physical nature of these teams – and especially their captains – we could see the hate factor spike up a little.

And as we saw last season, the Kings have some impressive hockey facial hair if given the chance to sprout.

Obviously, the most compelling plotline: The beginning of Jay Bouwmeester’s Conn Smythe campaign.

6. Chicago Blackhawks (1) vs. Minnesota Wild (8)

Star Power - 8
Secondary Plotlines - 6
Hate Factor - 6
Controversy Quotient - 4
Arena Atmosphere - 10
Game 7 Probability - 3
Beard-o-sity - 4

FINAL SCORE: 41

Zach Parise and Ryan Suter have a playoff berth to go along with their fat contracts, while Jonathan Toews and Co. have the President’s Trophy. The Wild’s first playoff appearance since 2008 will have their home fans matching the volume and hysteria of the Chicago faithful.

We’re sure there will be more hate when they’re division rivals beginning next year, but we could still see some delightful Norris Division-esque chaos. But not for seven games, we imagine.

Clutterstache aside, this series leaves something to be desired on the beard front. Unless of course Toews goes Victorian Vampire on us again.

5. Montreal Canadiens (2) vs. Ottawa Senators (7)

Star Power - 6
Secondary Plotlines - 7
Hate Factor - 3
Controversy Quotient - 5
Arena Atmosphere - 9
Game 7 Probability - 8
Beard-o-sity - 6

FINAL SCORE: 44

Not much in the way of hate between two teams meeting for the first time in the Senators’ franchise history, but that could change with one Chris Neil run at Carey Price. There’s some star power here in the P.K. Subban vs. Erik Karlsson showdown, and the arenas in both cities should be rocking – especially when you consider how deep this tightly played series could go.

Is this Daniel Alfredsson’s final playoff ride?

4. Anaheim Ducks (2) vs. Detroit Red Wings (7)

Star Power - 10
Secondary Plotlines - 8
Hate Factor - 7
Controversy Quotient - 6
Arena Atmosphere - 7
Game 7 Probability - 5
Beard-o-sity - 7

FINAL SCORE: 50

These teams have had some postseason wars in the past, and this star-studded series shouldn’t be any different. The Red Wings are looking for one more run before heading into a transitional phase; the Ducks will try to take “playoff choker” off of Bruce Boudreau’s résumé. Oh, and try to win another Cup for Teemu Selanne before he retires. You know, in 2030 ...

The Beard-o-sity of this series is contingent on Todd Bertuzzi’s health for Detroit. Because there’s no Scott Niedermayer beard walking through that door for Anaheim.

3. Vancouver Canucks (3) vs. San Jose Sharks (6)

Star Power - 8
Secondary Plotlines - 7
Hate Factor - 7
Controversy Quotient - 9
Arena Atmosphere - 8
Game 7 Probability - 7
Beard-o-sity - 9

FINAL SCORE: 55

It’s the second time in three seasons these teams have met, with the last time coming in the Western Conference Final that propelled the Canucks to the Cup Final.

You know the names on these two rosters, but remember this one: Brent Burns, who might take on the role of Canucks goalie tormentor previously filled by Dustin Byfuglien.

Controversy? One bad game by Cory Schneider – or great game by Roberto Luongo – and we’ll have it with the Canucks. And don’t look now, but perennial playoff whipping boy Patrick Marleau hasn’t scored a goal since the Clinton Administration (or so it seems).

Some of you might question giving this series a Beard-o-sity of ‘9’ when the Canucks’ best two players are gingers, but trust us when we tell you Brent Burns Ya’ll …

2. Boston Bruins (4) vs. Toronto Maple Leafs (5)

Star Power - 6
Secondary Plotlines - 10
Hate Factor - 9
Controversy Quotient - 8
Arena Atmosphere - 10
Game 7 Probability - 6
Beard-o-sity - 7

FINAL SCORE: 56

Two words: Kessel trade.

Two more: Rask trade.

Two more: Lucic, Phaneuf.

From a storyline perspective and the potential for chaotic loathing, this is must-see hockey. The atmosphere in both buildings will be epic. It’s a rivalry renewed, with an undercurrent of intrigue over the play of Phil Kessel vs. that of Tyler Seguin (struggling) and Dougie Hamilton (struggling even more so).

And if Brian Burke takes time from prosecuting Poonerman long enough to comment on this series in a meaningful way, Twitter might break.

Really, the only things keeping this series from the top spot are a lack of superstars – due respect to the ‘famous for Toronto’ celebrity Leafs – and the fact that this series probably doesn’t go the distance.

1. Washington Capitals (3) vs. New York Rangers (6)

Star Power - 9
Secondary Plotlines - 8
Hate Factor - 7
Controversy Quotient - 9
Arena Atmosphere - 9
Game 7 Probability - 9
Beard-o-sity - 7

FINAL SCORE: 58

Yes, it’s the Rangers and Capitals. Again. But this time it’s a little different.

This time Alex Ovechkin enters the series as the Hart Trophy favorite he was the first time the teams met. This will be the fourth time in five years the Rangers and Capitals have done their playoff dance.

This time the Rangers bring Rick Nash to the proceedings, as the power forward enters only his second postseason in the NHL. He was brought to New York to solve their playoff scoring woes; can he do it?

The controversy quotient is at Tortorella levels. The atmosphere in both arenas will be loud and intense. But the reason this just edges out the Leafs and Bruins atop the rankings: Two of the last three playoffs series between the two have gone seven. So could this one.

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