A look at the first round of the NHL playoffs

Trevor Crawley's take-aways on the first eight series.

WESTERN CONFERENCE

BLACKHAWKS VS BLUES

I pegged Chicago to come out on top of this series, but with the first two games going to OT, the Blues found the game winner in both counts. The Blackhawks were able to respond with a 2-0 shutout on Tuesday night to make up for the heartbreak in the opening two matches. The series features Kootenay Ice alumni Adam Cracknell and Roman Polak, the former scoring his first career NHL playoff goal in the opening game. After yet another OT battle, the Blackhawks and the Blues are even at 2-2. St. Louis played really well this season, but I still have the Blackhawks engineering a comeback.

DUCKS VS STARS

The Anaheim Ducks are the favourites in their series with the Dallas Stars, but both are tied up at 2-2. Dallas put a dent in Anaheim’s momentum on Monday, picking up a shutout with a 3-0 win on home soil, and won Game Four in their home arena as well. Ryan Getzlaf, the captain for the Ducks, blocked a shot with his face in Game Two, played in Game Three and sat out in Game Four. Anaheim is a deeper team but that Stars line of Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin and Valerie Nichushkin will make them pay if given half a chance.

SHARKS VS KINGS

The San Jose Sharks were juggernauts this season, finishing in fourth place, tied at 111 points with the St. Louis Blues. They’re currently up 3-0 in the series against the L.A. Kings—the same team that won in Game Seven in last year’s playoffs. Though two games have gone to OT, the Sharks came out with the win and spanked the Kings 7-2 in between. They’re a deep team up front and in the back and goaltender Antti Niemi is playing lights out. They’ll be competing in the Western Conference championship. You heard it here first.

AVALANCHE VS WILD

Patrick Roy is arguably one of the greatest goaltenders of all time, and he’s all but a lock for coach of the year in his rookie season at the helm of the Colorado Avalanche. The Avs are up 2-1 in their series over the Minnesota Wild, with rookie Nathan MacKinnon upstaging everyone out on the ice. Seriously, the 18-year-old has seven points in three games. Yes, you read that right. The Avs have suffered a blow on the blue line, with Tyson Barrie injuring his MCL on a knee-on-knee collision with Matt Cooke. After an in-person hearing on Wednesday, the NHL hit Cooke with a seven game suspension for the move on Barrie—justafiable sentence due to his history of questionable decisions during his career.

EASTERN CONFERENCE

BRUINS VS RED WINGS

The Boston Bruins were upset by the Detroit Red Wings in the opening game of their series, with Pavel ‘The Magician’ Datsyuk scoring a ridiculous goal less than three minutes to go to win the game. However, the Bruins bounced back with a 4-1 win and a 3-0 shutout to take a 2-1 series lead. The Red Wings, coached by Mike Babcock—with Cranbrook native Tom Renney also on the bench—always seem to be a perennial threat, but Boston is the favourite to come out of this one. True to their style for the last couple years, they will rely on their physical ruggedness to wear down the Wings.

CANADIENS VS LIGHTNING

Montreal is the first team into the second round this post-season run after sweeping the Tampa Bay Lightning. I had picked the Habs to come out of this series, with the caveat that Carey Price stand on his head, which he certainly did. The Canadiens are a darkhorse team in the Eastern Conference and rolled four lines to wear down the Lightning. Tampa Bay is a good team with some top rookies in Ondrej Palat and Tyler Johnson, but with Steven Stamkos, who still isn’t 100 per cent after recovering from a broken leg, and the loss of Martin St. Louis, the Bolts just couldn’t get it done this year.

BLUE JACKETS VS PENGUINS

You got to give the Columbus Blue Jackets some credit for getting into the playoffs. The perennial losers from Ohio have been going through some changes after John Davidson took over as president of hockey operations and hired a new GM a day later in October 2012. With some savvy roster moves, namely sending Rick Nash to the NY Rangers as part of a five-player package, the Blue Jackets were able to have a decent season and earn a wild card spot this year. They drew the powerhouse Pittsburgh Penguins, yet have managed to even up the series at 2-2. They won’t be able to match the scoring depth of the Penguins, but they will make Pittsburgh work for the series win.

RANGERS VS FLYERS

The Vancouver Canucks, unsatisfied with head coach Alain Vigneault, fired him last offseason. The NY Rangers, unsatisfied with their bench boss John Tortorella, did the same. The two switched jobs, with AV heading to the Big Apple and Torts going to Vancouver, with the hopes that his coaching style would elevate the play of the Canucks. The result? Vancouver missed the playoffs, while AV took the Rangers into the post-season dance. The Rangers currently lead the Philadelphia Flyers 2-1 in the series and have outscored the opposition 10-6. The Flyers have been missing regular starter Steve Mason, who is recovering from an upper body injury sustained at the end of the regular season. Count on the Blueshirts to make it into the second round.

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