Hey all! What a first round that was! While we collectively lament the fact that the Winnipeg Jets will be using their summer to shake the rust off their golf swing, purchase new fishing tackle or spend cool summer nights boating the great lakes of Minnesota, eight battle-tested teams will continue the fight for their chance to win this years Stanley Cup trophy. With the Vancouver Canucks and Boston Bruins both eliminated in the first round - along with a plethora of other "upsets" - we will not witness a renewal of last years rivalry. At this point, a birth in the Finals is up for the taking.
Stick around for the Semifinal round picks of Trevor, Ben, Gabe, Ryan, Tim, Graham, Derek and a 25 cent Canadian quarter. Feel free to point out just how wrong we are and how awesome the quarter is.
After the Quarterfinals, here are our "expert" standings:
Trevor 6-2, Ryan 5-3, 2011 25 cent Canadian quarter 5-3, Gabe 4-4, Derek 4-4, Graham 4-4, Ben 3-5, Tim 3-5.
St. Louis Blues (2) vs. Los Angeles Kings (8)
Los Angeles holds the season series 3-1.
Why St. Louis will win: Fun Fact I: The Blues were the only two teams that actually out-shot their opponents on the way to winning their series (New Jersey being the other). They continued their "Hitchcock Brand" of defensive dominance in the first round of the playoffs, limiting the Sharks to only eight goals in six games. Andy MacDonald and Patrick Berglund have been carrying the team offensively, while Alex Pietrangelo continues log big minutes defensively. Brian Elliott has also been a stud between the pipes.
Why Los Angeles will win: The Kings played spoiler with contributions up and down their line-up. Even pancake enthusiast Dustin Penner marked two points in their series versus the Canucks. This round will likely come down to goaltending, and only Los Angeles lays claim to 2012 Vezina nominee, Jonathan Quick.
Gabe's Take: I'm really on a roll after picking all eight opening round series correctly. So was I right or was I right? Vancouver was not clutch and neither was San Jose. Things will be a little tighter in this series. Both LA and St. Louis had huge goaltending this year and they both have trouble putting the puck in the net. Basically, they're the same team. But I think LA has less to prove and more to lose, a confluence of psychological conditions that usually leads to winning.
Trevor's pick: St. Louis in 6.
Ben's pick: Los Angeles in 7.
Gabe's pick:Los Angeles in 7.
Ryan's pick: St. Louis in 6.
Tim's pick: St. Louis in 7.
Graham's pick:Los Angeles in 7.
Derek's pick: St. Louis in 6.
2011 25 cent Canadian quarter picks: Los Angeles.
Phoenix Coyotes (3) vs. Nashville Predators (4)
Season series tied 2-2.
Why Phoenix will win: Mike Smith singlehandily detonated a team who finished sixth overall in regular season goal scoring (Chicago). The Coyotes are another team whose success comes from scoring in bunches, which bodes well once the calendar hits April.
Why Nashville will win: Opposite Smith will be 6'5" 209LBS Finnish netminder Pekka Rinne. Rinne, like Quick, is also a 2012 Vezina Trophy finalist and posted gaudy first round stats against the Detroit Red Wings. Nashville's defensive corps has picked up the slack in the goal scoring department, as the Preds wait for for Martin Erat, Patric Hornqvist and Sergei Kostsitsyn to pick up their games.
Gabe's Take: Were Edmonton and Minnesota not available for a snooze-fest of a series? Both of these teams have rabid fan basesthat hang on every goal and missed net. It's not clear that either squad can stand up to that kind of pressure, so this series is a true coin flip. My coin flips to Phoenix in 6.
Trevor's pick: Phoenix in 7.
Ben's pick: Nashville in 6.
Gabe's pick: Phoenix in 6.
Ryan's pick: Nashville in 6.
Tim's pick: Nashville in 6.
Graham's pick: Nashville in 5.
Derek's pick: Phoenix in 6.
2011 25 cent Canadian quarter picks: Phoenix.
New York Rangers (1) vs. Washington Capitals (7)
Season series tied 2-2.
Why New York will win: While it took seven games to eradicate the Ottawa Senators, the Rangers remained calm, cool and collected with their backs up against the wall. While Marian Gaborik has underwhelmed, Brad Richards has been weel worth the money New York invested in him last off-season.
Why Washington will win: The Capitals were able to upset the defending Stanley Cup Champion Boston Bruins in seven games due to the stellar play of third string goaltender Braden Holtby. For Washington to continue to have success against the Rangers, Holtby will have to deliver a duplicate performance. Fortunately for Caps fans, Alexander Ovechkin should be as well rested as they come for the start of this series.
Gabe's Take: I can't lose. I picked Washington to win The Cup in pre-season and New York to win The Cup two weeks ago. But it seems like Ovechkin is playing with a broken stick, so I'll give it to the Rangers.
Trevor's pick: New York in 6.
Ben's pick: New York in 6.
Gabe's pick: New York in 6.
Ryan's pick: New York in 7.
Tim's pick: New York in 6.
Graham's pick: New York in 6.
Derek's pick: New York in 5.
2011 25 cent Canadian quarter picks: New York.
Philadelphia Flyers (5) vs. New Jersey Devils (6)
Season series tied 3-3.
Why Philadelphia will win: Fun Fact II: Ilya Bryzgalov is 3-0 with a 0.29 GAA and a .987 save percentage this year against the Devils. They also have Claude Giroux who led the league with 14 (!) points in their first round series against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Why New Jersey will win: This Devils roster may not possess the same amount of depth as the Flyers do, but the line of Ilya Kovalchuk, Zach Parise and Travis Zajac have the skills to carry this team.
Gabe's Take: Look, the Devils are 20-30 in the playoffs over the last decade. Even the Coyotes win a series every once in a while and that's basically better than the Devils have been. You think the Sharks are unclutch? Try New Jersey.
Trevor's pick: Philadelphia in 6.
Ben's pick: Philadelphia in 6.
Gabe's pick: Philadelphia in 6.
Ryan's pick: Philadelphia in 5.
Tim's pick: New Jersey in 7.
Graham's pick: Philadelphia in 6.
Derek's pick: Philadelphia in 5.
2011 25 cent Canadian quarter picks: Philadelphia.