Michael Russo's NHL playoff breakdown

  • Updated: April 11, 2012 - 6:55 AM

Who'll hoist the Cup come June? Expect Pittsburgh, New York, Vancouver and St. Louis to battle it out.

hide

With Evgeni Malkin and a healthy Sidney Crosby, the Pittsburgh Penguins boast plenty of offensive talent entering the playoffs.

Photo: Gene J. Puskar, ASSOCIATED PRESS

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

WESTERN CONFERENCE

[1] VANCOUVER VS. [8] LOS ANGELES

Records: Canucks 51-22-9, 111 points; Kings 40-27-15, 95 points • Season series: Tied 2-2

The skinny: Every significant piece of last year's Western Conference champion, except Christian Ehrhoff, returned for Vancouver. As long as the Roberto Luongo-Cory Schneider goalie drama isn't overwhelming the series, the Canucks should be able to take this series easy. Jeff Carter will return from a foot injury, but for some reason, the Kings haven't been able to score all season. Jonathan Quick usually gets little goal support and it hasn't disabled him yet.

Russo's pick: Canucks in six.

[2] ST. LOUIS VS. [7] SAN JOSE

Records: Blues 49-22-11, 109 points; Sharks 43-29-10, 96 points • Season series: Blues won 4-0

The skinny: The question for the Blues is who will start in goal -- Jaroslav Halak or Brian Elliott. Look for Halak, because Elliott has been dinged up a bit. It doesn't matter who has been in net, the Blues have found a way to win ever since coach Ken Hitchcock took the helm in November. They are deep up front, deep on the back end and deep in goal. The Sharks had to scratch and claw all season to make the playoffs. They've been erratic in virtually area and, although with weapons such as Joe Pavelski, Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau up front and Dan Boyle and Brent Burns on the blue line, the Blues are one tough foe.

Russo's pick: Blues in seven.

[3] PHOENIX VS. [6] CHICAGO

Records: Coyotes 42-27-13, 97 points; Blackhawks 45-26-11, 101 points • Season series: Coyotes won 3-1

The skinny: Phoenix might get the higher seeding and home ice by virtue of winning its division, but the Blackhawks are a dangerous, dangerous team. They have the star power in Jonathan Toews (if he returns from a concussion), Marian Hossa, Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharp; they have terrific blue liners in Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith; and they have depth. Nick Leddy and Johnny Oduya might have been their best defense pair down the stretch. The one question is in goal, with Corey Crawford. That hasn't been a problem for Phoenix, which has gotten tremendous goaltending all season from Mike Smith. The only way the Coyotes win is if they bore the game down, so to speak.

Russo's pick: Blackhawks in six.

[4] NASHVILLE VS. [5] DETROIT

Records: Predators 48-26-8, 104 points; Red Wings 48-28-6, 102 points • Season series: Tied 3-3

The skinny: How do you pick against Detroit and Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Johan Franzen and Nicklas Lidstrom? Just watch the Predators play. They're as structured a team as there is in this league, beyond deep up front. They come at you in waves. And you win in the playoffs with defense, and they have the two best blueliners in Shea Weber and Ryan Suter --and a superstar goalie in Pekka Rinne.

Russo's pick: Predators in six.

EASTERN CONFERENCE

[1] N.Y. RANGERS VS. [8] OTTAWA

Records: Rangers 51-24-7, 109 points; Senators 41-31-10, 92 points • Season series: Senators won 3-1

The skinny: The Senators have stars with Jason Spezza up front and Erik Karlsson on the back end, but the Rangers are built for the postseason by playing the hard-nosed style their coach, John Tortorella, demands -- tight, blocking shots, physical. They also have sniper Marian Gaborik, playmaker Brad Richards and depth with guys such as Derek Stepan -- if he can get healthy -- Ryan Callahan and Brandon Dubinsky. They also have the best goalie in the conference in Henrik Lundqvist.

Russo's pick: Rangers in five.

[2] BOSTON VS. [7] WASHINGTON

Records: Bruins 49-29-4, 102 points; Capitals 42-32-8, 92 points • Season series: Capitals won 3-1

The skinny: The defending Stanley Cup champion Bruins have "been there, done that," and it would be a shock if they don't have a relatively easy time with the Caps. Yes, Washington has Alex Ovechkin, but it has significant injury problems in goal. Led by Zdeno Chara on the back end and Tim Thomas in goal, the Bruins skate, they're physical and they can shoot the lights out.

Russo's pick: Bruins in four.

[3] FLORIDA VS. [6] NEW JERSEY

Records: Panthers 38-26-18, 94 points; Devils 48-28-6, 102 points • Season series: Panthers won 2-1-1

The skinny: The Panthers have been the feel-good story of the season by making the playoffs for the first time since 2000. But that's where the story ends. Florida limped into the postseason in dramatic fashion (2-3-5). The Devils have been playing terrific hockey in the New Year. Devils goalie Martin Brodeur, Florida's nemesis, has been great; Ilya Kovalchuk and Panther killer Patrik Elias have had outstanding seasons; and Zach Parise turned it on the past two months. Plus, Wild castoff Marek Zidlicky has provided a solid dimension on the back end playing with pals Elias and Petr Sykora.

Russo's pick: Devils in six.

[4] PITTSBURGH VS. [5] PHILADELPHIA

Records: Penguins 51-25-6, 108 points; Flyers 47-26-9, 103 points • Season series: Flyers won 4-2

The skinny: One thing is certain: The winner of this series will be beaten up. These two teams hate each other, but it's hard to pick against the Penguins, who have the two best players in the world, leading scorer and likely MVP Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby. Toss in James Neal, a red-hot Pascal Dupuis, Kris Letang on the blue line and Marc-Andre Fleury in goal, it'll be difficult for Philadelphia to overcome such power, despite the presence of the always-clutch Claude Giroux.

Russo's pick: Penguins in six.

DOWN THE LINE ...

Western Conference final: Vancouver over St. Louis in six games.

Eastern Conference final: Pittsburgh over the N.Y. Rangers in six games.

Stanley Cup Final: Pittsburgh over Vancouver in six games.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Chicago 14 3rd Qtr 8:59
Detroit 24
Philadelphia 3:30 PM
Dallas
Seattle 7:30 PM
San Francisco
Cleveland 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Buffalo
Washington 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Indianapolis
Tennessee 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Houston
San Diego 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore
NY Giants 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Cincinnati 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Oakland 11/30/14 12:00 PM
St. Louis
New Orleans 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Pittsburgh
Carolina 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Minnesota
Arizona 11/30/14 3:05 PM
Atlanta
New England 11/30/14 3:25 PM
Green Bay
Denver 11/30/14 7:30 PM
Kansas City
Miami 12/1/14 7:30 PM
NY Jets
Edmonton 7:00 PM
Nashville
ULM 54 FINAL
Robert Morris 71
Santa Clara 57 FINAL
Tennessee 64
Oklahoma 44 2nd Half 10:23
Butler 28
Austin Peay 26 1st Half 5:31
Brown 25
Princeton 17 1st Half 4:07
Texas-El Paso 20
Coastal Carolina 1:30 PM
Chattanooga
Kansas 1:35 PM
Rhode Island
Wisconsin 2:30 PM
Georgetown
FIU 2:30 PM
USC Upstate
Long Island 3:00 PM
Stony Brook
San Diego 3:30 PM
Xavier
Illinois 4:00 PM
Indiana State
Western Ky 5:00 PM
Saint Josephs
Cal State Fullerton 5:00 PM
Wright State
Michigan State 5:30 PM
Rider
UCLA 6:00 PM
North Carolina
Marquette 7:30 PM
Georgia Tech
Long Beach State 7:30 PM
Western Mich
Stephen F Austin 8:00 PM
Prairie View
UAB 8:30 PM
Florida
Rice 8:30 PM
Mercer
San Jose St 10:00 PM
Washington
Washington St 10:59 PM
UC Santa Barbara
Baylor 10:59 PM
Memphis
LSU 6:30 PM
Texas A&M
(6) TCU 6:30 PM
Texas
Northern Ill 11/28/14 10:00 AM
Western Mich
Nebraska 11/28/14 11:00 AM
Iowa
Western Ky 11/28/14 11:00 AM
(19) Marshall
UCF 11/28/14 11:00 AM
So Florida
Houston 11/28/14 11:00 AM
SMU
Akron 11/28/14 12:00 PM
Kent State
Ball State 11/28/14 12:00 PM
Bowling Green
Buffalo 11/28/14 12:00 PM
Massachusetts
Toledo 11/28/14 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
Arkansas 11/28/14 1:30 PM
(17) Missouri
Navy 11/28/14 2:00 PM
South Alabama
(13) Arizona State 11/28/14 2:30 PM
(12) Arizona
Stanford 11/28/14 2:30 PM
(9) UCLA
(21) Colorado State 11/28/14 2:30 PM
Air Force
Virginia 11/28/14 7:00 PM
Virginia Tech
East Carolina 11/28/14 7:30 PM
Tulsa
North Texas 11/29/14 11:00 AM
TX-San Antonio
Old Dominion 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Fla Atlantic
(16) Georgia Tech 11/29/14 11:00 AM
(8) Georgia
Kentucky 11/29/14 11:00 AM
(24) Louisville
So Carolina 11/29/14 11:00 AM
(23) Clemson
West Virginia 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Iowa State
Rice 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Louisiana Tech
Michigan 11/29/14 11:00 AM
(7) Ohio State
Purdue 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Indiana
Illinois 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Northwestern
Cincinnati 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Temple
NC State 11/29/14 11:30 AM
North Carolina
Syracuse 11/29/14 11:30 AM
Boston College
Louisiana 11/29/14 11:30 AM
Troy
Utah 11/29/14 12:00 PM
Colorado
Texas State 11/29/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Idaho 11/29/14 1:00 PM
Appalachian St
Wyoming 11/29/14 2:00 PM
New Mexico
New Mexico St 11/29/14 2:00 PM
Arkansas State
UAB 11/29/14 2:30 PM
Southern Miss
(4) Miss State 11/29/14 2:30 PM
(18) Ole Miss
Notre Dame 11/29/14 2:30 PM
USC
(10) Michigan State 11/29/14 2:30 PM
Penn State
(22) Minnesota 11/29/14 2:30 PM
(14) Wisconsin
(5) Baylor 11/29/14 2:30 PM
Texas Tech
Florida 11/29/14 2:30 PM
(1) Florida State
Rutgers 11/29/14 2:30 PM
Maryland
San Jose St 11/29/14 2:30 PM
San Diego St
Tennessee 11/29/14 3:00 PM
Vanderbilt
Kansas 11/29/14 3:00 PM
(11) Kansas State
Connecticut 11/29/14 3:00 PM
Memphis
BYU 11/29/14 3:30 PM
California
ULM 11/29/14 5:00 PM
Ga Southern
Middle Tennessee 11/29/14 6:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
Hawaii 11/29/14 6:00 PM
Fresno State
Wake Forest 11/29/14 6:00 PM
Duke
Pittsburgh 11/29/14 6:00 PM
Miami-Florida
(15) Auburn 11/29/14 6:45 PM
(2) Alabama
(3) Oregon 11/29/14 7:00 PM
Oregon State
Utah State 11/29/14 9:15 PM
(25) Boise State
Washington 11/29/14 9:30 PM
Washington St
Nevada 11/29/14 9:30 PM
UNLV
UCF 12/4/14 6:30 PM
East Carolina
Hamilton 11/30/14 5:00 PM
Calgary
Hartford 36 2nd Half 7:06
Furman 44
Clemson 45 2nd Half 14:45
Ohio State 45
Idaho State 20 1st Half 4:48
San Diego State 23
East Carolina 11 1st Half 7:58
(22) Syracuse 30
Santa Clara 2:30 PM
Texas-El Paso
Florida State 2:30 PM
Washington
Wichita State 2:30 PM
Fla Gulf Coast
Wisconsin 3:15 PM
(1) South Carolina
BYU 5:00 PM
BYU-Hawaii
Kansas State 5:00 PM
LSU
Charlotte 5:00 PM
Montana
Illinois 5:00 PM
(9) Kentucky
Central Michigan 7:00 PM
Richmond
Oklahoma 7:15 PM
South Florida
Princeton 7:30 PM
Wake Forest
(19) Oregon State 8:00 PM
Butler
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Who is your favorite Wild player?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close