(4) St. Louis vs. (5) Los Angeles
Pick: St. Louis in 6
Reason: Blues learned hard lessons last year; I believe they apply them here. Peaking at the right time.
(1) Chicago vs. (8) Minnesota
Pick: Chicago in 4
Reason: Blackhawks are better, deeper, more talented ... need I say more? Columbus would have been a more competitive fit here.
(2) Anaheim vs. (7) Detroit
Pick: Detroit in 6
Reason: Red Wings were in playoff mode weeks ago. They're still in their stride. Ducks have leveled off and can't score. Goaltending not nearly as good as it was early.
(3) Vancouver vs. San Jose (6)
Pick: San Jose in 7
Reason: Sharks are younger, faster; window if opportunity is closing. Canucks have question marks in regards to health, particularly in goal.
(1) Pittsburgh vs. (8) N.Y. Islanders
Pick: Pittsburgh in 5
Reason: Penguins are loaded from top to bottom. However, it wouldn't surprise to see the Islanders steal a game or two.
(2) Montreal vs. (7) Ottawa
Pick: Senators in 7
Reason: How can you pick against the team decimated with injuries but still managed to make a playoff run? Erik Karlsson's return sparks Sens.
(3) Washington vs. (6) N.Y. Rangers
Pick: Rangers in 6
Reason: Henrik Lundqvist. This is his time to shine and he will neutralize Alex Ovechkin. Also, the Rangers seemed to have found their game, and I really like Derek Stepan.
(4) Boston vs. (5) Toronto
Pick: Boston in 7
Reason: Even though the B's have stumbled into the playoffs, they find a way. I think Tuukka Rask out-plays James Reimer.