#1 Vancouver Canucks vs #8 Chicago Blackhawks
The Canucks are out for blood and the Blackhawks are about to be fed to… the whales. The Hawks have knocked the Canucks out of the playoffs two years in a row and this is just what the doctor ordered for Vancouver. The Blackhawks are but a shell of the team that won the Stanley Cup last year, but nevertheless, getting past their most recent arch-nemesis will be a huge confidence-builder for Roberto Luongo and the Canucks.

This is a recipe for a sweep.

Canucks in 4

#2 San Jose Sharks vs #7 Los Angeles Kings
The Kings are a great up-and-coming team with the likes of Anze Kopitar, Jack Johnson and the duo of Jonathan Quick/Jonathan Bernier between the pipes – they kind of remind me of the Blackhawks of a couple of seasons ago, and we all know how that turned out.

But Kopitar and second-leading scorer Justin Williams are both hurt, and the Kings simply won’t be able to overcome those losses.

On the other hand, while I have zero confidence the Sharks will get the playoff monkey off their backs and win the Stanley Cup, I’m very confident they’ll make it with relative ease to Round 2. They simply have too much firepower.

Sharks in a sweep

#3 Detroit Red Wings vs #6 Phoenix Coyotes
All of Winnipeg will be thrilled when the Coyotes knock the Red Wings off in a hard-fought series and then move back home this summer. The Jets ‘Yotes are due for some playoff success, having not advanced past Round 1 since well before the invention of the World Wide Web, and the Wings just feel ripe for the picking.

Of course, Detroit has been the NHL’s model franchise for just about the last 15 years or so, but it just feels like they’re due for a surprise. This one’s purely a hunch, but I’m calling Phoenix moving on to Round 2.

Coyotes in 6

#4 Anaheim Ducks vs #5 Nashville Predators
I can’t help but cheer for Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu. And even Ray Emery at this point. At the same time… Sergei Kostitsyn is reason enough to cheer against the Predators.

It’s probably a wash in terms of calibre, coaching, depth, goaltending and even jersey ugliness between these two teams. This will be one of the closest series of Round 1, but I’m going with Anaheim based on experience and likeability.

Ducks in 7