Spring is in the air, playoff beards are blooming (in some special cases playoff mullets), and you know summer is just around the corner when the NHL Playoff action heats up on the Ice with some very intriguing first round matchups. The appetizer features the Philadelphia Flyers opening play at MSG to take on their much hated rival the New York Rangers. While the Los Angeles Kings take it to the Shark tank in San Jose for the late game tonight. Today I will profile Chicago and Detroit’s first round series’ at a glance. In Chicago, fans are cuing up the “Chelsea’s Dagger” theme song as the defending Stanley Cup champions open up action at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis tonight. However, expect most of the NHL fandom to be locked in tomorrow night when the Boston Bruins face-off against the Detroit Red Wings in a classic Original 6 showdown!
Chicago and St. Louis have each been bit with the injury bug which has led to their recent struggles to close out the regular season. However, no one has been struggling more than former MSU netminder Ryan Miller who has lost 5 of his last 6 games of the regular season. Chicago will attack with the prolific firepower of Patrick Sharp, Duncan Keith and Marian Hossa. Miller is going to need a flawless performance and play sharper than he’s ever been between the pipes. While the Blues may be without the services of several key players and play with a banged up David Backes and Brenden Morrow. The magnitude of the injuries sustained could be enough to bury Miller in hole early. The St. Louis Blues are reeling entering the playoffs with a depleted roster which gives the Blackhawks a considerable edge. My intuition tells me that the Blackhawks will be too overpowering in this best of seven series. Despite St. Louis’ record win total and home ice advantage, it’s not enough for me to pick them in this series. In fact, the Chicago Blackhawks are an unfortunate first round draw for the St. Louis Blues especially with the return of a healthy Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews. All indications point to Chicago being the favorite and moving on to the next round. It will be a Madhouse on Madison for game 3 when Jim Cornelison gets the adrenaline flowing at the United Center with his marveled rendition of the Star Bangled Banner next week. I got Blackhawks in 6.
In Beantown, the Boston Bruins are the overwhelming pick to hoist the Lord Stanley Cup this summer and deservingly so with stingy play of Tuukka Rask behind the crease and their stymie defense led by Zdeno Chara and a burgeoned Torey Krug. However, I’m a believer in the Winged Wheel. In fact, the last time the Detroit Red Wings were absent from the NHL playoffs I wasn’t even a teenager. In the past 23 years Detroit has won 6 Presidents’ Trophies and fell short of hoisting the Stanley Cup four times. This year, Boston is the Presidents Trophy winner and they matchup against a Detroit Red Wing club that is near full strength with the return of Pavel Datsyuk, Justin Abdelkader, and Darren Helm all playing great hockey. Is this enough for me to give Detroit a legitimate shot in this series? Not exactly, but I will consider their depth, experience, and the coaching abilities of Mike Babcock to make all the right moves. With the injuries sustained during the season, the Red Wings have a found diamonds in developing Tomas Jurco, Tomas Tatar and finding a breakout star in Gustav Nyquist. Demanding the youth of Detroit to slay the giant is indeed a tall order. However, this is their golden opportunity to brand themselves in this heated series. With everything else going, Jimmy Howard is the X-factor here and must out glove Rask if there is any hopes for surviving and getting into the second round. Although the B’s play physical and can pound you from blue line to blue line, the Red Wings are a faster team and speed kills.
So after 23 straight playoff appearances, I have cued up Eminem’s “Survival.” Ready for Hockeytown to go crazy in game 3 if Detroit can steal one in Boston. By game 6 expect drama and octopi swinging at the Joe Louis Arena for this Original 6 thriller. You never know, It could be a Willis Reed like entrance on ice when Henrik Zetterberg reunites with Datsyuk and the blazing speed of Detroit’s new rising star, Gustav Nyquist. Ken Kal, I can’t wait for your call! Upset City in Boston, I Got Detroit in 7. BELIEVE!