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Yes, there were some big stories that happened in the world of sports yesterday.  Tim Tebow was released by the New York Jets.  NBA center Jason Collins came out yesterday and said he is gay in a Sports Illustrated interview.  Reaction to these stories on Wednesday. The Stack is here today to talk NHL playoffs as they start today.  It's going to be an amazing ride so let's get right to it and see what is in "the stack" for today, Tuesday, April 30:

Puck drops on the NHL playoffs

After a short season in which essentially every game mattered, the 2013 NHL Stanley Cup playoffs are upon us.  There are almost no more unpredictable playoffs  than the NHL playoffs, just see the #8 seed Los Angeles Kings winning the Stanley Cup last year.  Do they have what it takes to repeat this year?  We're about to find out.

Eastern Conference

#8 New York Islanders vs. #1 Pittsburgh Penguins

The Islanders are back in the playoffs for the first time since 2007 and their reward?  They get to play the Pittsburgh Penguins, a team primed to hoist Lord Stanley's cup.  The Penguins have thrown all of their chips in the middle of the table saying we're here to win the cup this year.  Sidney Crosby will hopefully come back from jaw surgery and be effective, but even without the Penguins are loaded with Evgeni Malkin and guys they traded for including Jerome Iginla and Brenden Morrow. The Penguins were the highest scoring team during the regular season averaging almost three-and-a-half goals a game.  They will get by easily here.

Prediction: Penguins in 5

#7 Ottawa Senators vs. #2 Montreal Canadiens

You know Canada is absolutely stoked to have four teams from the eastern conference in the playoffs.  This series promises to be a good and very passionate one. Montreal played really well all year, but Ottawa finished just seven points behind them.  Ottawa was second in the league in goals allowed at just over two.  The two teams split the regular season series.  I can see a possible upset here, but a seven game series will do.

Prediction: Canadiens in 7

#6 New York Rangers vs. #3 Washington Capitals

The Rangers were supposed to be the team of destiny this year given they had traded for Rick Nash during the offseason.  However things did not go as planned and the Rangers needed to win a couple of games the final week just to make the playoffs.  They play a Capitals team that started out slow, but really turned it on in April losing just twice and only once in regulation.  The Capitals have the best power play in the league and score three goals a game.  Henrik Lundqvist is going to have to be great in net for the Rangers to win.  A smell upset here though.  Capitals don't play that well in the playoffs for whatever reason and I think the Rangers can do it.

Prediction: Rangers in 6

#5 Toronto Maple Leafs vs. #4 Boston Bruins

Divisional opponents are reaquantied in this series.  The Bruins won three of the four games this season against the Maple Leafs.  Toronto hasn't been to the playoffs in a few years.  Unfortunately, I don't think their playoff stay will last long.  Boston plays some great defense led by Zdeno Chara and they are prime for a playoff run.  Good series, but the B's have it.

Prediction: Bruins in 6

Western Conference

#8 Minnesota Wild vs. #1 Chicago Blackhawks

The Wild made the headlines in the offseason by getting the top two free agents on the market in Zach Parise and Ryan Suter.  The Blackhawks made headlines with their point streak to begin the season that lasted what, 24 games? The Wild's weakness appears to be goalie where Niklas Backstrom who hasn't looked great the last couple of weeks.  He still tied for first in the NHL in wins, but he played a lot this season.  Is it just wear and tear or something more?  Chicago is the best team in the NHL for a reason.  They shouldn't have too much trouble with the Wild.

Prediction: Blackhawks in 6

#7 Detroit Red Wings vs. #2 Anaheim Ducks

The playoffs essentially started for the Red Wings a week ago when they had to win every game to make the playoffs.  They did and that should give them a ton of momentum.  However hot the Red Wings are right now, they still aren't as good as the Ducks.  Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry are really good, tying for the team lead with fifteen goals.  They have two good goaltenders and in the playoffs, you can ride a hot goalie to the Stanley Cup.  Detroit should give them a series, but it won't be enough.

Prediction: Ducks in 6

#6 San Jose Sharks vs. #3 Vancouver Canucks

The Sharks started the year hot, then went on a big losing streak before rattling off another win streak.  They lost three of four to end the year so are they in the midst of another slide?  Well they've never been able to find much success in the playoffs.  No matter how good this team has been, they just can't win a series.  The Canucks will be just fine in this series.

Prediction: Canucks in 5

#5 Los Angeles Kings vs. #4 St. Louis Blues

The Kings begin their defending Stanley Cup championship run in a rematch of a playoff series from last year.  The Kings won that behind Jonathan Quick.  The Blues have a hot goalie in Brian Elliott, but the Kings aren't ready to give up the Stanley Cup yet.  Either a goal scoring spurt will break out or this will be a goaltender series.  I'm going with the latter.

Prediction: Kings in 6

 

In the eastern conference, I like Pittsburgh.  They have been ready for a run like this for quite some time.  In the western conference, I'm flirting with either Chicago or Los Angeles and I think the winner of that series, should they play in the semi-finals will win the west.  I'll go out on a limb and say Los Angeles though Chicago-Pittsburgh in the Stanley Cup Finals would be great for the NHL.  And in the end, it's the Pittsburgh Penguins who will win the Stanley Cup playoffs and hoist Lord Stanley's cup.  Can't wait for it all to start tonight.  Enjoy the playoffs everyone!

Coming up Wednesday: NBA and NHL playoff reaction from Tuesday night, plus Tim Tebow and Jason Collins thoughts

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