Wednesday, April 11, 2007

NHL Playoffs - Round 1 Players to Watch

The 2007 Stanley Cup Playoffs are under way this evening with 4 games on tap.

Pittsburgh Penguins vs Ottawa Senators @ 7:00 pm
San Jose Sharks vs Nashville Predators @ 8:00 pm
Dallas Stars vs Vancouver Canucks @ 10:00 pm
Minnesota Wild vs Anaheim Ducks @ 10:30 pm

In round 1 of the NHL playoffs there are several tough matchup's which should produce some great games and some great scoring. I already went over my 1st round predictions here, today I will take a look at who I think will be the top 5 performers at each position as well as the disappointments, surprises and players/teams to stay away from in round 1.

Centers: I see the Penguins and Senators series as the one which will produce the most points. Sidney Crosby and Jason Spezza will probably lead all centers in scoring through round 1.

My top 5 Center Picks:
Sidney Crosby
Jason Spezza
Daniel Briere
Vincent Lecavalier
Chris Drury

Disapointments: Demitra almost completely disappeared through the last few weeks of the regular season, expect that to continue into the playoffs. Alexei Yashin will continue his lackluster play from past seasons as well.

Surprises: Pavel Datsyuk is not known as a playoff performer, expect that to change this season as he feels he has something to prove. Also keep an eye on Daymond Langkow in Calgary.

Wingers: Back to the Sens vs Penguins series, I look for Dany Heatley to continue his dominance here closely followed by Martin St. Louis of Tampa Bay.

Stay Away From: New Jersey Devils and New York Islanders, the Devils won’t score and the Islanders won’t last.

My top 5 Winger Picks:
Dany Heatley
Martin St. Louis
Marian Hossa
Jonathan Cheechoo
Henrik Zetterberg

Disappointments: Ryan Smith of the Islanders is a clutch performer, but I see the Sabres knocking out the Islanders in 5 games which limits his production in round 1. The Canucks Markus Naslund has had a let down season, expect it to continue into the playoffs.

Surprises: Thomas Vanek will likely play on the Sabres 3rd line but he will put up some good numbers as will Jason Pominville. Paul Kariya in Nashville will have a resurgence as the Predators prevail in 7 over the Sharks.

Defensemen: There are some obvious choices here, Niklas Lidstrom, Sergei Gonchar and Chris Pronger will be at the top of this list.

Stay Away From: Alex Tanguay may show up, he may not. Jaromir Jagr, he will probably show up but who can guess who else on the Rangers will join him.

My top 5 Defensemen Picks:
Niklas Lidstrom
Sergei Gonchar
Chris Pronger
Sergei Zubov
Scott Niedermayer

Disappointments: Wade Redden will perform, but not at the level you are looking for from him and the Senators and Marek Zidlicky will continue his subpar season on the blue line.

Surprises: Brian Campbell will push the Dman scoring leaders and Tom Preissing will step up for the Senators in place of Redden.

Stay Away From: Mattias Ohlund and Sami Salo, the Canucks scoring issues make them a scary bet. Matt Carle, tough series to call, could be a barn burner or a low scoring affair. Don’t gamble on any defensmen from either San Jose or Nashville… except maybe Shea Weber.

Goaltenders: Domink Hasek will remain healthy and single handedly pull the Red Wings over the Flames in Round 1. Expect this series to be low scoring as Hasek and Kiprusoff combine for a healthy number of shutouts.

My top 5 Goaltender Picks:
Dominik Hasek
Miikka Kiprusoff
J.S. Giguere
Roberto Luongo
Ryan Miller

Disappointments: Kari Lehtonen will crack under the pressure of his first NHL Playoffs, as will the rest of the Thrashers team. Ray Emery, yes he will win 4 games but his GAA and Save % will be horrendous.

Surprises: Johan Holmqvist will put up some good numbers, especially GAA and Save %, but will eventually lose against Brodeur and only get two wins. Niklas Backstrom will continue his strong play but it is not enough against Giguere and the Ducks, he will get 3 wins and probably 1 shutout though.

Stay Away From: The Nashville vs San Jose series. I picked Nashville to win the west but it could just as easily be San Jose, add that to the uncertain goaltenders issues in both cities and you want to stay away from both teams. Also keep away from the New Jersey vs Tampa Bay series, this is also a tough one to call and with the firepower up front for Tampa you could see Brodeur get shelled a few times.

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