The NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs are beginning, and it promises to be an interesting time for all of the teams involved.

       On Friday, April 18, the Boston Bruins will take on the Detroit Red Wings in an exciting series.

The Red Wings just recently got back superstar center Pavel Datsyuk. They lost key players like Datsyuk, captain Henrik Zetterberg and defenseman Niklas Kronwall for stretches of time, forcing them to rely on young prospects. The number of injuries forced forward Gustav Nyquist into a large role, scoring 28 goals and 48 points in 57 games.

The Bruins, however, have not been so lucky, suffering injuries to Loui Eriksson and Dennis Seidenberg. Eriksson is back, but Seidenberg may not be able to return. The Bruins’ saving grace has been their strong defensive play, as well as excellent goaltending from Tuukka Rask.

The Bruins should win this series, but not easily. The Red Wings will put up a real fight, and Nyquist will play like a man possessed, but the strong play of Rask and the Bruins’ defense will be too much.

On Thursday, April 17, the New York Rangers will take on the Philadelphia Flyers.  There has been bad blood here for years, but the two haven’t met in the playoffs since 1997.

The stellar play of Rangers’ goaltender Henrik Lundqvist has kept the team afloat.  Additionally, the combination of Benoit Pouliot, Derick Brassard and Mats Zuccarello has been the Rangers’ best line. If the Flyers are not careful, this line can cause trouble.

The Flyers are led by Claude Giroux and present a serious scoring threat. Forwards Wayne Simmonds and Jakub Voracek have been playing great, scoring nearly all the goals.  Additionally, defenseman Andrew MacDonald has played very well and should continue to do so.

If Lundqvist continues to play like himself, the Rangers should be able to win this series.  However, if Giroux and the Flyers are able to get shots by Lundqvist, the Rangers may lack the offensive depth to respond.

The Pittsburgh Penguins will face off against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Wednesday, April 16. The Penguins boast offensive firepower with the likes of Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby and James Neal. However, they do have an inconsistent goaltender in Marc-André Fleury.

The Blue Jackets don’t have many big-name offensive players aside from youngster Ryan Johansen, who scored 33 goals and 63 points in 82 games. They do, however, have a solid goaltender in Sergei Bobrovsky.

If Bobrovsky can shut down the Penguins’ scoring threats, the Blue Jackets will be able to win this series. However, if the Penguins gain any early leads, the Blue Jackets will have a difficult time, giving the Penguins a chance to win this series.

The final series from the Eastern Conference is between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Montreal Canadiens. The Canadiens, led by excellent goaltending from Carey Price, have good offensive players in Max Pacioretty and P.K. Subban.

The Lightning are similar to the Canadiens in that they have great goaltending in Ben Bishop, are led by offenseman Steven Stamkos and have great defensemen. However, the Canadiens have Price healthy and ready for their games, but the Lightning cannot say the same with Bishop as he sits with a wrist injury.

Without their starting goaltender, the Lightning should fall to the Canadiens. The only way they will win is if they score goals on Price and are able to block enough shots to keep goaltender Anders Lindback in the games.

In the Western Conference, the Colorado Avalanche will take on the Minnesota Wild. The Avalanche are being led by the play of Nathan MacKinnon. The rookie scored 24 goals and 63 points this year. They have also been backstopped by the play of goaltender Semyon Varlamov.

The Wild have been devastated by goaltender injuries. Josh Harding, who was playing well while recovering from setbacks due to multiple sclerosis, is again sidelined. Additionally, goaltender Niklas Backstrom suffered an injury forcing him to miss the remainder of the season.  The Wild did pick up goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov at the trade deadline and additional strong play from their best players (Zach Parise, Ryan Suter and Jason Pominville) has made them contender to win the series if they can play good defense and consistently beat Varlamov. However, the Avalanche should have the upperhand in this series because they are younger and faster than the Wild.

On Thursday, April 17, the Chicago Blackhawks will take on the St. Louis Blues. The defending Stanley Cup Champion Blackhawks have a lot of expectations. They have skilled forwards in Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp, as well as solid defensemen in Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith.

The Blues acquired goaltender Ryan Miller at the trade deadline and enter the postseason riding a six-game losing streak. Miller has regressed and is playing adequately. He will need to get right if the Blues want to be Stanley Cup contenders.

This series could go either way, but the slight edge goes to the Blues. The Blackhawks boast one of the most complete lineups in the sport, but when comparing Chicago goaltender Corey Crawford to Miller, the latter is given the advantage.

The Dallas Stars will take on the Anaheim Ducks in a quick series on April 16. The Ducks have a lineup full of offensive threats, as well as a good goaltending controversy. The Ducks have two goalies that are so good that a starter has yet to be named.

The Stars have gotten mediocre play from goaltender Kari Lehtonen and don’t have many offensive players other than Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin. Their lack of big-name players will haunt them against a better Ducks team.

The Ducks should have no problem dispatching the Stars, as the latter team won’t keep pace. The Stars could win if they get depth goal scoring from their forwards, but that doesn’t seem likely.

Finally, the Los Angeles Kings will take on the San Jose Sharks on April 17. The California rivals are both at the top of their game. The Kings boast offensive depth and have increased this by acquiring sniper Marian Gaborik. Additionally, they have the great defensive work of Jonathan Quick.

The Sharks are a similar team that has all-around depth and solid goaltending from Antti Niemi. They should be able to stay in this series by overpowering the Kings’ defense and getting a good amount of shots on Quick.

The Sharks will win this series, but just barely. Their more talented offense will prevail.

All in all, this should be a fun playoff season to watch. The first round should be great, and the later rounds even more entertaining.

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