2012 NHL Playoffs Stanley Cup Bracket Predictions: Who Survives Rivalries?
2012 NHL Playoffs, Stanley Cup Bracket Predictions: Eastern Conference Will Showcase Atlantic Division Rivalries with Devils Rangers, Flyers Penguins.
Last season, our NHL playoffs predictions and playoff bracket hit the entire first round, including most of the correct series lengths. We had the Stanley Cup teams correct, picked the Bruins to win the whole thing at the trade deadline, and even hit the Bruins in seven games. This year looks far more difficult. The Eastern Conference playoff bracket is loaded with potential rivalry games, as the four best records in the conference belong to division rivals. The other best record in the conference represents the defending champions. The east could even be decided with an Original Six rivalry, unless the Devils, Flyers, or Penguins have something to say about it.
In the West, perennial choke artists (let’s start our annual Canucks bashing early) represent the top spot in the NHL, while the Blues backed into the postseason after seemingly owning the top seed all year. As a result, the bracket could go any number of ways. Defense could be the deciding factor in a tough bracket, but it will likely come down to whoever gets hot. The Coyotes have the hottest goalie in hockey, the Preds reloaded, the Red Wings have experience, and the Canucks have the car-flipping passion that could propel them to the Cup.
EASTERN CONFERENCE BRACKET:
1. New York Rangers Vs 8. Ottawa Senators
The New York Rangers have a goalie, which is something the Senators can’t say with much confidence. While the New York Rangers offense isn’t exactly a strong point, they can rely on Henrik Lundqvist to wait for their opportunities and capitalize on Ottawa’s aggression. This is the same Senators team that allowed a 5 on 1 break during a penalty kill against the Devils to end the season.
Gaborik, Richards, and Callahan should be enough to get past one of the easiest draws in the bracket. The Senators collapsed to 8th place to end the season, and suddenly look like little competition to the top seed, even though both teams have slowed down a bit.
Rangers in six games
2. Boston Bruins at 7. Washington Capitals
With Nicklas Backstrom back in the lineup, the Capitals are the same team that captured the top seed in a mediocre Eastern Conference last season. They have a young and unproven goalie, one of the best players in the game, two support players, and a healthy Mike Green on defense to provide a boost. They’re a good team, make no mistake about that.
However, they drew the defending champions in the first round. The Bruins have a proven goaltender in Tim Thomas, and he should be able to hold off some of the Caps’ powerful offense by himself. The depth of the Boston Bruins gives them four lines that can take advantage of the limited depth of the Washington Capitals. If this series turns into a grind, the Bruins will win. If the Caps can turn it into an open-ice scoring contest, they have a chance. I think the Bruins on home ice should be able to control the Caps.
Bruins in seven games
3. Florida Panthers at 6. New Jersey Devils
The Panthers fell apart to the point that they needed a win in their final game just to hold onto the division title, which had to be important to a team that hasn’t contended in years. Their goaltending became mediocre, their scoring disappeared, and the top-line that guided them through the regular season became less impressive.
The Devils have won six in a row. The only reason I’m not picking a sweep here is because I have tickets to game five in Miami. Worst comes to worst I’ll get a refund and the Devils win in four. The Panthers have no chance here.
Devils in five
4. Pittsburgh Penguins at 5. Philadelphia Flyers
Somewhere deep behind the cheap hits, whining, complaining to the media, and one team’s undying support from the league, there’s a really great series here. This is as good as it gets; an intra-Pennsylvania rivalry showcasing three of the best scorers in the league. Let’s hope we can weed through the shenanigans and focus on the hockey, which could be part of a hard-hitting and fantastic series.
The Penguins have two superstar scorers, while the Flyers only have one. Additionally, without Chris Pronger I don’t think the Flyers are capable of holding off the Penguins for four wins. Ilya Bryzgalov is formidable, but since an ill-timed injury he seems far from his shutout form. Plus, in a close game, the Penguins are a phone-call away from a power play.
Penguins in seven
WESTERN CONFERENCE BRACKET:
1. Vancouver Canucks Vs LA Kings
The Kings have Jonathan Quick, which can certainly shift a series, especially when the Canucks offense has struggled a bit without Daniel Sedin. However, the Canucks are winning games. A first round date with the 8th seed isn’t exactly the type of pressure that forces a Roberto Luongo collapse, so I’ll ride the Canucks, for now. A lot of people have the Kings here, but a lot of people are wrong.
Canucks in five
2. St. Louis Blues Vs 7. San Jose Sharks
The Blues backed into the playoffs, but the Sharks backed through the whole season. The Sharks have an experience edge, but I just don’t think they’re a very good team. I think the Blues hold off the Sharks in the first round.
Blues in five
3. Phoenix Coyotes Vs 6. Chicago Blackhawks
Mike Smith is the hottest goalie in hockey. That’s good enough for me.
Coyotes in seven
4. Nashville Predators Vs 5. Detroit Red Wings
The Red Wings are banged up and can’t win on the road. While the Predators vaunted defense hasn’t exactly been up to snuff this year, I think the Preds find a way on home ice.
Predators in seven
SECOND ROUND EASTERN CONFERENCE
1. New York Rangers Vs 6. New Jersey Devils
The Rangers and Devils split the series during the regular season, with the Devils winning two lucky games. Realistically, the Rangers were one goalie interference call and a funny bounce off a stanchion from winning the series 5-1. However, the Devils can hang with the Rangers. The games are always close, the Devils have an offensive edge and the Rangers have a, cough, better goalie.
The Panthers should be a relative piece of cake for the Devils. They aren’t overly physical, and the Devils are on fire. They should enter the series winners of at least 10 of their last 11 games. The Sens could bother the Rangers a bit, testing an injured Henrik Lundqvist, though I don’t think the Rangers will really struggle there either. Ultimately, I think these two teams have the path of least resistance through the playoffs. The winner could go on to take the Stanley Cup after the Flyers, Penguins, and Bruins beat each other up.
I like the Devils’ top line, but I also like their depth. The Rangers can’t really compete with Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise centered by Travis Zajac, save for Henrik Lundqvist in net of course. The Devils have depth now, and it’s resulted in the longest active winning streak in hockey. All four lines can play. The Rangers have a good team, but not a dominant one. If the Devils stay hot they can easily hang with the Rangers.
This comes down to Marty Brodeur’s last deep run in the playoffs, and the magic of a legend between the pipes. This isn’t one of the Devils’ Stanley Cup teams of old, but it’s a good team with great scoring. It’s constructed differently, but it can still win, particularly against the Rangers. If Marty can keep up with Lundqvist and the Devils offense picks up where he leaves off, this could be an epic playoff series. I like the Devils here, riding the momentum of a solid end to the season.
Devils in seven
2. Boston Bruins vs 4. Pittsburgh Penguins
If the last two meetings were any indication of the Bruins’ inability to keep up with the Penguins’ scorers, ten goals in two games could be the type of scoring we expect all series. However, the Penguins will barely survive the Flyers. The Philadelphia Flyers a physical, cheap, dirty team. The Bruins are a physical, bruising team. How much checking can Sidney Crosby possibly withstand?
The Bruins are banged up and their goaltending has looked old. The Penguins dominate the series, but the Penguins will be tired. I think the Bruins can steal this one.
Bruins in Seven
WESTERN CONFERENCE ROUND TWO
1. Vancouver Canucks Vs 4. Nashville Predators
Pekka Rinne vs Roberto Luongo sounds like a favorable matchup for the Preds, who added at the deadline and finished the year hot. Alex Radulov and Hal Gill give the Preds enough on both sides of the ice to contend with the Canucks. Since I think it’s a close series decided by defense, can you really side with the goalie that seems to collapse every year?
Predators in six
2. St. Louis Blues Vs 3. Phoenix Coyotes
Mike Smith is hot and the Blues are cold. Assuming that carries through the first round, the Coyotes have a shot here. Again, expecting a close series with very little offense, I think goaltending will be the deciding factor. I also think these goalies are just about equal.
Normally I’d toss this up to home ice deciding the series, but instead I’ll toss it up to the magic of Phoenix hockey possibly being on it’s last legs.
Coyotes in six
EASTERN CONFERENCE FINALS
2. Boston Bruins VS 6. New Jersey Devils
The Rangers and Devils won’t beat each other up nearly as much as the Bruins, Penguins, and Flyers will. Ultimately, as others fall to fatigue and lengthy series, the winner of the Devils Rangers series will have the advantage of energy.
Marty is old and struggling, Tim Thomas is old and struggling. The Devils have dynamic scorers, the Bruins have depth. While the Bruins dominated the season series, will they dominate in the playoffs? I think this is New Jersey’s year.
Devils in six
Western Conference Finals
3. Phoenix Coyotes 4. Nashville Predators
I think the Preds have a balanced offense, deep defense, and the best goalie in hockey. The Coyotes have the hottest goalie in hockey, decent scorers, and desperation on their side. Ultimately, I think that favors the Preds in every way except home ice.
Predators in five
Stanley Cup Finals
4. Nashville Predators Vs 6. New Jersey Devils
Maybe this is Kovy’s year? Maybe the Devils really want Zach Parise to resign. Maybe the Devils have a goalie on his last legs, like in Rocky V. In fact, Rocky V could be a great theme for this series. Pete DeBoer coaches like he has brain damage, Kovalchuk passes like he has brain damage, but somehow they’ll win.
I don’t think the Devils have any real advantages on the Preds, but I just believe in the magic of Martin Brodeur.
Devils in six
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