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NHL Playoff Preview

Carmine Vetrano / Special to The Recorder

The end of the regular season in the NHL is the most exciting time for hockey fans and other sport fans because it means only one thing. We get to embrace the Stanley Cup Playoffs.  The 82 game schedule is finally done and now the remaining 16 teams only have to win 16 games to earn the most prized trophy in all of sports, the Stanley Cup.  Here are my first round predictions for both the Eastern and Western conference.

East
Boston vs. Montreal – The Boston Bruins seem to be cursed when facing the Canadiens in the playoffs, but Boston is way beyond Montreal this year. The Bruins are all-around better than Montreal and have the scoring, defense and goalie to pull this series out. Canadiens goalie Carey Price is not having the season they expected of him, and I think that he will be the Achilles heel for them. Boston is the top seed for a reason and will win this series. Boston in 5

Washington vs. New York Rangers- The Rangers snuck into the playoffs with big wins toward the end of the season. New York needs their top guns to come out in Chris Drury, Scott Gomez and Nik Antropov if they want to move on to the next round. Washington, like Montreal, does not have the goaltending to make them as dangerous in these playoffs. Alex the great cant do it all by himself. Rangers in 6

Carolina vs. New Jersey- The Devils did not have future hall of fame goaltender Martin Brodeur for most of the season, but still found ways to win. Devils forward Zach Parise lights the lamp with help from guys like Jamie Lagenbrunner and Travis Zajac. With a playoff hungry Brodeur, the Devils can be dangerous. Carolina rides the offense of Eric Staal, and if goalie Cam Ward plays the way he did in 2006, Carolina can be just as dangerous. I like Carolina just for the fact that the Devils defense has been non-existent down the stretch.  Carolina in 7

Pittsburgh vs Philadelphia- The battle of Pennsylvania was not a likely matchup midway through the season. However, the beauty of hockey draws these two rivals together in a first round matchup. Both of these teams have great offense and goaltending, but it comes down to two men. No, not Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin; Flyers forwards Jeff Carter and Daniel Briere. If these two are clicking Philadelphia should have no problem dispatching the flightless birds.  Philly in 6

West
San Jose vs. Anaheim- San Jose just wrapped up the President’s Trophy for the first time in team history, and should be the team to beat in the West. They have the key ingredients to win it all with their scoring and goaltending. Anaheim squeaked their way into the last playoff spot with solid play in the last couple of games and should play San Jose tough. The Sharks are just too good though, and should take this series.  San Jose in 5

Detroit vs. Columbus- This is bittersweet for Columbus fans. Their team makes the playoffs for the first time in franchise history, and they draw the defending Stanley Cup champions in the first round. We all know how good Detroit is with Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsuyk, but Columbus does have soon to be Rookie of the Year goalie Steve Mason. Detroit is too much for Columbus to handle, though.  Detroit in 5

Vancouver vs. St. Louis- Who would have thought of St. Louis to jump into the playoffs based on their early season performance? The Blues went from cellar-dweller to 6th in a blink of an eye. With the way they are playing combined with forwards David Backes and the return of Paul Kariya, St. Louis can make this series interesting. Vancouver has star goalie Roberto Luongo and the Sedin twins though, which should carry them through a tougher test than expected.  Vancouver in 6

Chicago vs. Calgary- Chicago makes the playoffs for the first time since 2002 and can thank the pair of Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane for that. Calgary has an X-factor goalie in Miikka Kiprusoff who can take his team on his back and carry them for several rounds. Jarome Iginla and newly arrived Oli Jokinen help Calgary move on as well.  Calgary in 7.

Stanley Cup Finals: Vancouver over Boston in 7.

Other staff picks:

Sports Editor Kyle Dorau:

Boston over Montreal in 5

Washington over New York in 6

New Jersey over Carolina in 4

Philadelphia over Pittsburgh in 6

Anaheim over San Jose in 7

Detroit over Columbus in 6

Vancouver over St. Louis in 5

Chicago over Calgary in 5

Stanley Cup Finals:

Boston over Detroit in 6

Asst. Entertainment Editor Michael Walsh:

Boston over Montreal in 6

New York over Washington in 7

Carolina over New Jersey in 6

Pittsburgh over Philadelphia in 6

San Jose over Anaheim in 6,

Detroit  over Columbus in 5,

St. Louis over Vancouver in 7,

Chicago over Calgary in 7

Stanley Cup Finals

San Jose over New York in 6