2012 NHL Playoff Preview

The most exciting time n the NHL calendar is here as the playoffs are about to start with 16 teams all looking to be the new champions. This year in the NHL some teams came out swinging and never stopped as they remained on top of the rankings all year. Then there were the teams that seemed to be out of it at the beginning of the year but came back to earn their chance at the Stanley Cup. There are teams who are very familiar with the playoffs as they have been here before. This includes the two teams who fought it out for the title last year. Then there are the teams who are a part of the biggest turnarounds in the NHL this year as they have gone from missing the playoffs in 2010-11 to being some of the top teams this year. There are plenty of stories to watch this year in the playoffs including a potential repeat and the chance for a very unexpected champion. Anything is possible in the playoffs as the strong teams may falter and the teams that few expected to win could get on a hot streak. This is what the playoffs are all about as every series will be sure to give every fan enough highlights and enough excitement to make this year another great playoffs.

 

Eastern Conference:

 

 

 

 

The Eastern Conference this year will boast the defending Stanley Cup champions along with 5 teams that reached over 100 points. The East is strong at the top this year but also has a number of teams that limped into the playoffs. The New York Rangers, Florida Panthers, and Ottawa Senators all ended their season in less than impressive fashion. On the other end the Pittsburgh Penguins, Philadelphia Flyers, and New Jersey Devils came into the playoffs in great fashion. All of these teams will look to forget the regular season as it means nothing and whether or not you won a lot leading in or not you are still at 0-0. The playoffs will be a tough road in the east as teams will need to go through two recent Stanley Cup champions and a few teams that surprised everyone this year. It will be a tough go but there will be plenty of action with some of the best players in the league playing against each other. Although every series will be good the most interesting round 1 series will be the battle of Pennsylvania as the Pittsburgh Penguins take on the Philadelphia Flyers. These two teams have never liked each other and the rivalry heated up at the end of this season making this a series to watch in round 1. The potential for a New York vs. Boston conference finals is also exciting as the Bruins and Rangers are top two and both looking to prove their rankings. Meanwhile the Florida Panthers are looking for another 1996 season where they moved into the finals in another unexpected year. With so much to look forward to the East will be an exciting fight with all 8 teams looking to get hot at the right time and move into the Stanley Cup Finals.

 

1. New York Rangers

Strength: Offence (Mike Richards has the experience to lead the team into the playoffs)

Weakness: Their Cold (They have lost 7 of their last 10 games against playoff teams)

What They Need to Do:

Get support from their offence on defence to reduce the dependence on a young corps

 

2. Boston Bruins

Strength: Experience (The defending champions are built to play in the playoffs)

Weakness: Inconsistency (They have struggled at moments throughout the playoffs)

What They Need to Do:

Play Bruins hockey that is meant for the playoffs and won them the Stanley Cup last year

 

3. Florida Panthers

Strength: History (Made an improbable run in 1996 that they hope to repeat)

Weakness: Timely Goal Scoring (Do not score when needed with 18 overtime losses)

What They Need to Do:

Get ahead and stay ahead by tightening up defensively and not allowing overtime games

 

4. Pittsburgh Penguins

Strength: Offence (Crosby and Malkin make two of the best lines in the playoffs)

Weakness: Injuries (Crosby may not be ready for the intensity of the playoffs)

What They Need to Do:

Avoid letting Crosby get into the grinding role and let him do what he is best at


5. Philadelphia Flyers

Strength: Scoring Talent (Claude Giroux and Jaromir Jagr have provided some great offence)

Weakness: Inconsistent Goaltending (Ilya Bryzgalov is on a hot streak but is unreliable)

What They Need to Do:

Prevent the game from riding on Bryzgalov by padding the score and playing great defence

 

6. New Jersey Devils

Strength: Defence (They depend on Brodeur and the defence to stop teams)

Weakness: Offence (Kovalchuk has been good but will him and the offence keep going)

What They Need to Do:

Score more goals to keep up with offensive teams that may break through their stingy defence

 

7. Washington Capitals

Strength: Their Hot (Went 10-4-2 in their last 16 games to earn a spot in the playoffs)

Weakness: Goaltending (Tomas Vokoun has not played up to par)

What They Need to Do:

Play well defensively to avoid having the game ride on the shaky Vokoun

 

8. Ottawa Senators

Strength: Offence (Spezza, Michalek, Alfredsson, and Karlsson are all top-tier goal scorers)

Weakness: Defence (Allowed the most goals by any team in the playoffs)

What They Need to Do:

Stop depending on the output and give their goalies support defensively

 

Prediction:

Conference Quarter-Finals

New York Rangers 4 – 1 Ottawa Senators

– The Ottawa Senators snuck into the playoffs and although they have some great offence they will not be able to stop the Rangers attack and will find it hard to get past Henrik Lundqvist and the defence of the Rangers

 

Boston Bruins 4 – 1 Washington Capitals

– The defending champions are built for the grind of the playoffs while the Capitals are not as they rely on their skill as opposed to their grit as the Bruins will grind them out in a fairly easy series for the defending champions

 

New Jersey Devils 4 – 2 Florida Panthers

– The Devils are on a hot streak going into the playoffs with a great defence as they take on the weakest division winner in the Florida Panthers who are simply not ready to make a run at the Cup this year

 

Pittsburgh Penguins 4 – 3 Philadelphia Flyers

– This could be the best series in the playoffs as both teams truly do hate each other and represent different styles but the Penguins skill will be too much for the Flyers grit as they will take this seven game series

 

Conference Semi-Finals

New York Rangers 4 – 2 New Jersey Devils

– The Rangers will take on their rivals in the Hudson River rivalry for the second series and although the Devils are on a hot streak their aging defence will be their downfall against the young defence of the Rangers

 

Pittsburgh Penguins 4 – 3 Boston Bruins

– The Pens are one of the best teams in the playoffs with two of the best players in the NHL and although Boston is a team built for the playoffs the two lines of the Penguin will be too much for the defending champions

 

Conference Finals:

Pittsburgh Penguins 4 – 3 New York Rangers

– The Rangers played well all season and might get a little lucky with their playoff draws but all of that will catch up to them when they face the clear favorites in the Penguins who will overwhelm a young defence with their top two lines

 

Western Conference:

 

 

 

 

The Western Conference has always been a tough conference with more grinding teams than the east. This year is no different with so many teams separated by so few points including a number of teams who have seen their share of success. With the defending conference champions back on top the Western Conference will have its favorite. The Vancouver Canucks have won the President’s Trophy a year after losing the Stanley Cup Finals last year. The Canucks will be looking to improve on their playoff performance from last year and win the Cup becoming the first Canadian team to do so since the Montreal Canadiens did it in 1993. They will have their share of challengers though as they will need to get through a number of teams that have seen success. The Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings are two such teams with the Red Wings being the dominant team of the last decade and the Blackhawks winning the Stanley Cup two years ago. These three teams will bring their experience to the playoffs but there will also be some new blood who have a good shot at the Cup themselves. The St. Louis Blues and Nashville Predators looked poised to make a serious run at the Stanley Cup as two new powerhouses. Any of these teams can make a run including the others that are looking for their shot at the title with anything being possible in the West. The best series in the first round will be between the #4 and #5 teams as usual with the veteran Red Wings taking on the newcomers in the Nashville Predators. The Red Wings will try to use their savvy against the young and tough Predators to get back to the finals. The road to the Stanley Cup in the West is a tough one with so many teams looking so good going into the playoffs and that promises to be a great run at the cup.

 

1. Vancouver Canucks

Strength: Experience (Like the Boston Bruins the Canucks are built for the playoffs like last year)

Weakness: Mental Strength (Specifically Luongo who fell apart in high pressure games last year)

What They Need to Do:

Get production from the Sedins, who were silent last year, to support their goaltenders

 

2. St. Louis Blues

Strength: Goaltending (Jaroslav Halak has the experience to guide the Blues)

Weakness: Scoring (None of the offensive players are standouts and could be shut down)

What They Need to Do:

Return to their midseason form and do not let the weight of the playoffs crush them

 

3. Phoenix Coyotes

Strength: Defence (The team is based on defence and goaltending to win games)

Weakness: Powerplay (Averaging 13.8% and tied for worst in the league)

What They Need to Do:

Get ahead early and let their defence win games for them, they went 32-4-6 when scoring first

 

4. Nashville Predators

Strength: Toughness (They have the ability to grind out games with every aspect)

Weakness: Offence (They can score but they struggled last year to keep up in the playoffs)

What They Need to Do:

Play the same type of grinding game that they have become known for in recent years

 

5. Detroit Red Wings

Strength: Experience (They are the most experienced team in the playoffs)

Weakness: Age (The usual problem as they may break down in the playoffs)

What They Need to Do:

Steal away games as they are the best home ice team in the playoffs

 

6. Chicago Blackhawks

Strength: Their Hot (One of the hottest teams going 11-2-4 in March and April)

Weakness: Goaltending (They have allowed the 2nd most goals of all playoff teams)

What They Need to Do:

Get back to their scoring way and hope that Corey Crawford has a great performance

 

7. San Jose Sharks

Strength: Experience (They have been a constant fixture in the playoffs for the last decade)

Weakness: History (They have not made a Stanley Cup Finals despite regular season success)

What They Need to Do:

Put the past behind them and stop getting into their own heads about lack of playoff success

 

8. Los Angeles Kings

Strength: Goaltending (Jonathan Quick is the key to this team’s playoff run)

Weakness: Goal Scoring (They have the least goals of all 16 playoff teams)

What They Need to Do:

Keep up their recent goal scoring touch to give their defence a break

 

Prediction:

Conference Quarter-Finals

Vancouver Canucks 4 – 2 Los Angeles Kings

– The Canucks are good again this year but they will not make it easy on themselves against the LA Kings as this series will come down to a battle of goaltenders that Roberto Luongo will win against Jonathan Quick

 

St. Louis Blues 4 – 3 San Jose Sharks

– The Blues stumbled into the playoffs and the Sharks are one of the most experienced teams in the playoffs as they will give the Blues a run for their money but Halak will come out as the first star in the series pushing the Blues to the next round

 

Chicago Blackhawks 4 – 2 Phoenix Coyotes

– The Blackhawks are not as good as they were two years ago but they got a good draw against the Coyotes who do not still seem ready to move on to the next round with all of their off the ice drama

 

Nashville Predators 4 – 3 Detroit Red Wings

– This will be a very tough grind it out series with two teams ready to fight for their chance at the next round but the Red Wings may be overlooking a very good Predators team that will get to play at home away from Joe Louis Arena 4 times

 

Conference Semi-Finals

Vancouver Canucks 4 – 3 Chicago Blackhawks

– This series has produced the Stanley Cup team in the past two years and this year both of these rivals will face off again with the Canucks just edging out the Blackhawks who will struggle with their goaltending

 

Nashville Predators 4 – 3 St. Louis Blues

– There are a lot of people overlooking the Predators but they are a good team and the Blues have struggled heading into the playoffs as the Preds defence will shut down the Blues offence ending their season

 

Conference Finals

Nashville Predators 4 – 3 Vancouver Canucks

– The Canucks seem to get in their head too much and this makes it hard to pick them to repeat as Conference Champions leaving the very underrated Predators who will be able to match the grittiness and toughness of the Canucks for the series win

 

2012 Stanley Cup Finals

Pittsburgh Penguins 4 – 2 Nashville Predators

– The Penguins are clearly the best team heading into the playoffs and seem destined for the Stanley Cup again and although the Predators will be able to grind the Pens and keep it close but the Pens will be two much in 6 games for the Preds

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  1. […] Stanley Cup Finals. I changed my tune though when it came to the playoffs as I then looked to a Nashville vs. Pittsburgh Finals. I may not have had the entire finals predicted before the season but moving away from the Los […]



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