Will post a more detailed Rangers-Sens forecast in the paper, and here, tomorrow, but here’s a quick take on the rest of the first-round matchups, which begin tonight:
No. 2 Bruins-No. 7 Capitals: Deeper defending Stanley Cup champs will rev it up, and I’m not sold on rookie G Braden Holtby, who will see a lot of traffic. Bruins in six.
No. 3 Panthers-No. 6 Devils: This shook out just fine for the Jerseyites, who might face the Rangers in Round 2. Just haven’t been impressed with Florida---18 shootout losses and losers points---all season, while Devs are rounding into form. Kovalchuk, Parise, Brodeur should be the difference. Devils in five.
No. 4 Penguins-No. 5 Flyers: If I wasn’t covering Rangers, this is the series to attend. Great storylines, a major test for Ilya Bryzgalov, the latest in a line of Flyers post-season goalie hopefuls. To say there’s bad blood is an understatement, and both teams will be battered. Penguins in seven.
No. 1 Canucks-No. 8 Kings: Jonathan Quick may steal a game or two, and Daniel Sedin is out for the early games, at least. Just don’t think there’s enough offense in Hollywood. Canucks in six.
No. 2 Blues-No. 7 Sharks: It’s easy to overlook the Sharks and lean toward the Blues superior goaltending. St. Louis has some quality youngsters, too, and an edge behind the bench. Blues in six.
No. 3 Coyotes-No. 6 Hawks: Big question here is in net. Mike Smith vs. Corey Crawford could be a wash, and the health of Jonathan Toews, for me, is the key. Hawks have the edge in skill. Very, very tough to pick against maturing Yotes, but…Hawks in seven.
No. 4 Predators-No. 5 Wings: Like in the East with Pens-Flyers, this is the series I wouldn’t mind seeing in person. Older Wings have more experience, but have not been great on the road. Preds have goaltending and defensive studs in Weber and Suter. Preds in seven.