NHL Playoff Matchups 2013: Overview of 1st-Round Matchups

Jeremy Fuchs@@jaf78Correspondent IIIApril 28, 2013

OTTAWA, CANADA - APRIL 22: Marc Methot #3 of the Ottawa Senators lays his stick on the ice to defend against a puck carrying Pascal Dupuis #9 of the Pittsburgh Penguins during an NHL game at Scotiabank Place, on April 22, 2013 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.  (Photo by Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images)
Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photo/Getty Images

The 2013 NHL playoffs are almost here, and it's time to give an overview of the potential first-round matchups.

While not every clash is set, there is plenty to talk about leading up to postseason play and to predict the battles of Round 1.

Which matchups are destined to go seven games? Which are a cakewalk for one team? Which ones are going to be boring?

Read on to take a tour of each first-round series .


Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Ottawa Senators

This matchup is not set in stone, as the Senators have a chance to earn the seventh seed with a win Sunday night. However, if this is the matchup, this is an absolute cakewalk for the Penguins.

The Penguins, who have the best offense and second-best penalty kill in the league, are simply better than the Sens. They are 3-0 against the Senators this year and have almost 20 more points. The Senators have been decimated by injuries all year, and while the fact that they're in the playoffs is a nice story, they just don't have the firepower to hang with Pittsburgh.

This series could be over very quickly. If it's not a sweep, then the Penguins will win in five.


Montreal Canadiens vs. New York Islanders

These are two of the surprise teams in the NHL, as not many expected them to make the playoffs.

This is another matchup not set in stone, because if the Senators win Sunday night, then they will be in the seventh seed. However, if the Boston Bruins win on Sunday, then they will be the second seed, not Montreal.

But if this is the matchup, it will be fun to watch. The Islanders are a young, exciting team that should be good for the next few years. The Canadiens have more experience and veteran leadership.

That said, the Islanders have beaten the Canadiens twice in three games this season. The Canadiens will have to find a way to stop John Tavares, who has 28 goals this season. 

Still, the Canadiens have more leadership and better goaltending and defense, and they should win this series in six.


Washington Capitals vs. New York Rangers

The Rangers and Capitals are two of the hottest teams in hockey. The Caps are 11-1-1 in April, while the Rangers are 10-3-1 in this month. The Rangers own the season matchup, with a record of 2-0-1.

The Rangers will need to find a way to stop the Capitals' top-ranked power play in the league. That might be a tall order, seeing as they have just the 15th-ranked penalty kill in the league. However, the Rangers do have a better goaltender in Henrik Lundqvist and a much better defense overall. If their defense can stand tall, then the Rangers will win.

It will be a fantastic series that will probably go seven games. Look for the Rangers to eke out a hard-fought series win.


Boston Bruins vs. Toronto Maple Leafs

With a win on Sunday, the Bruins could earn the second seed, which would mean the Canadiens would play the Maple Leafs. If they Bruins do not win, however, they will find a tough foe in the Maple Leafs.

The Leafs have defied expectations this year and have brought playoff hockey back to a hockey-crazed city.

But the Bruins have had good success against the Leafs this season and are 3-1 against Toronto. They should win this series pretty easily. They have a much better goalie, in Tuukka Rask and have much more experience and scoring depth. James Reimer, the Maple Leafs' goalie, is good, but Rask is having an outstanding season. The better goalie usually wins out.

Look for the B's to win this series in five. 


Chicago Blackhawks vs. Minnesota Wild

The Blackhawks have won the Presidents' Trophy with the best record in the league. They have been a powerhouse all season.

The Wild have had to scratch and claw their way into the postseason, despite the high-priced acquisitions of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter in the offseason. 

Chicago is 2-0-1 against the Wild this season and has 22 more points. Quite simply, it is a much better team. Look for Chicago to win this in five, and the series as a whole won't be too competitive.


Anaheim Ducks vs. Detroit Red Wings

The Ducks have had a fantastic season, notching 66 points and playing balanced hockey. However, they run into an opponent that no one wants to face: the Detroit Red Wings.

Despite the fact that Red Wings barely made the playoffs, they have the most experience. Led by Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg, the Wings have beaten the Ducks twice in three matchups this season.

Detroit has struggled to score this season, but this is a team that knows how to win in the postseason. It has a great defense and plenty of grit.

This series will go seven games, with Detroit edging out the victory. The team's experience will put it over the top.


Vancouver Canucks vs. San Jose Sharks

The San Jose Sharks are undefeated against the Canucks this season. That's good news for them, especially since the Canucks have some goalie questions.

Goaltender Cory Schneider is out with an undisclosed injury, meaning that, at least for the time being, Roberto Luongo will take over. 

Luongo has decent numbers, with a 2.56 goals-against average and a .907 save percentage. What's concerning, however, is the fact that he let up six goals in the third period against Edmonton on Saturday.

The Sharks are quite excited to have to face Luongo instead of Schneider, because Luongo has famously struggled in the playoffs. He was pulled after two games last season in favor of Schneider after he surrendered seven goals.

Look for the Sharks to win this series pretty handedly, most likely in five games.


St. Louis Blues vs. Los Angeles Kings

The defending Cup champions go up against one of the hottest teams in hockey in what should be a fantastic matchup.

The Blues are 12-3 in April, as they have surged to the fourth seed. They are 0-3 against the Kings, however.

In hockey, though, it's always wise to pick the team that's hot. The Kings are just 7-4-2 in April. And while they have the experience, as of now, the Blues are playing better.

The Blues should win this one in six, but it will be quite an entertaining series. 


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