In evaluating the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the most competitive series may just be the series with the one versus eight seeds involved.
The Chicago Blackhawks and New York Rangers have immense talent for a number eight seed and will push the Vancouver Canucks and Washington Capitals deep into the series.
The Blackhawks don’t forget are the defending Stanley Cup Champions and have eliminated Vancouver from the playoffs the last two years. They will be led by Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa and Patrick Kane.
There are elements of concern in Chicago heading into the playoffs. How much pressure will the top two lines be under without Dustin Byfuglien, John Madden, Kris Versteeg and Andrew Ladd on the squad? How healthy is Patrick Sharp who suffered a knee injury late in the regular season? What is wrong with Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith? After going a combined +41 in 2009-10, they were only a combined -1 this year. Can the Blackhawks go deep into the playoffs with rookie Corey Crawford in between the pipes or will head coach Joel Quenneville give any time to Marty Turco?
Due to the Blackhawks have more questions than answers, I’ll take Vancouver in 7.
The other series I see going the distance is the Capitals/Rangers. In looking in my crystal ball with this one, I see the series going deep. But I can’t see the Capitals being eliminated in the first round for the third time in the last four years. The Rangers will make things interesting because of the outstanding season of Henrik Lundqvist. The Swedish gold medallist from the 2006 Winter Olympic Games in Torino, had a regular season high 11 shutouts this year and is very capable of stealing a couple of games. But the bottom line is that the Capitals’ Alexander Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom are significantly better than the Rangers’ Brandon Dubinsky and Marian Gaborik.
Tags: alexander ovechkin, andrew ladd, Chicago Blackhawks, Dustin Byfuglien, henrik lundqvist, joel quenneville, john madden, jonathan toews, kris versteeg, Marian Hossa, new york rangers, nicklas backstrom, patrick kane, Vancouver Canucks, washington capitals