Vancouver Canucks vs. Los Angeles Kings
In the sometimes strange world of the NHL’s playoff setup, even though the third-seeded Canucks are matched up against the sixth-seeded Kings, in reality, the teams finished only two points apart in the standings.
Vancouver got a terrific performance this season from forward Henrik Sedin, who won his first Ross Trophy with 112 points to lead the league.
The Canucks also have goaltender Roberto Luongo, who helped Canada capture the gold medal at GM Place two months ago and now looks to bring a silver trophy to the arena for his NHL club.
Los Angeles returns to the postseason for the first time since the 2001-02 season, as after some failed rebuilding attempts finally paid off this season with only the second 100-point season in franchise history. The Kings are led by Anze Kopitar’s 34 goals, and Jonathan Quick’s netminding.
The Canucks’ playoff experience gives them an edge over the Kings, and should help them prevail in the series.
The Pick: Canucks in seven.
Phoenix Coyotes vs. Detroit Red Wings
The most unusual playoff matchup of the first round features Phoenix against the two-time defending Western Conference champs from Detroit.
Phoenix began the year after an NHL takeover and the very future of the franchise in Arizona in doubt, leading to sparse crowds for home games and little excitement heading into the season. But thanks to the stellar goaltending of Ilya Bryzgalov, who finished with a 2.29 goals-against and a .920 save percentage, the Coyotes — despite still being owned by the league — made the playoffs for the first time since 2002.
As for the Red Wings, one of the most consistent powerhouses in the NHL seemed like they might miss the postseason for the first time since 1990 as little as a month ago, but thanks to a great performance by their young netminder they climbed up to the fifth seed.
Jimmy Howard posted a 2.27 goals-against and a .924 save percentage in 62 games for the Red Wings, after having just nine games of NHL experience heading into the season.
But the Wings boast a lot of playoff experience, and while the Coyotes’ story has been the best of the playoffs, it might not be a long stay in the postseason.
The Pick: Red Wings in six.
Ted Starkey, a Web editor for the continuous news desk, has written for and edited high-traffic websites, including AOL News, AOL Sports, FanHouse.com, USAHockey.com and BuffaloBills.com. He also has covered the 2002 and 2010 Winter Olympics, Stanley Cup playoffs, NFL, NHL, MLB and NCAA hockey during his career.
He is a graduate of American University, with a double major in ...
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