The 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs are upon us, in all of their delicious glory. We'll be previewing each first-round series this week and providing you with a sugar rush through our poorly executed dessert porn theme. Check out all the previews to find out who takes the ... er, taco.
When Marian Hossa(notes) signed a 12-year deal with the Blackhawks over the summer, the joke was that it would be 12 more years that Chicago would be without a Stanley Cup. If the "Hossa Curse" isn't a curse, then the Blackhawks have their best shot in years in raising another banner inside United Center.
For Nashville, they want to rid themselves of the "first round curse" that's befuddled them four out of the past five seasons - something that's on the mind of the team:
"There are a lot of guys in this room that have been part of four one-and-outs, so I think there's a lot of motivation to get out of the first round,'' said defenseman Dan Hamhuis(notes), who's played in every Nashville postseason contest.
"This franchise has gotten to the point where getting to the playoffs isn't a goal anymore. That's just one step. Our goal is to go deep in the playoffs.''
There's only so much more patience that Predators fans can have if they fall in the first round again. Can Nashville knock off one of the Cup favorites earlier than expected?
Friday, April 16 at Chicago, 8:30 p.m. TSN2, VERSUS (JIP)
Sunday, April 18 at Chicago, 8:30 p.m. TSN, VERSUS (JIP)
Tuesday, April 20 at Nashville, 9 p.m. TSN, VERSUS (JIP)
Thursday, April 22 at Nashville, 8:30 p.m. TSN2, VERSUS (JIP)
*Saturday, April 24 at Chicago, 3 p.m. NBC, TSN
*Monday, April 26 at Nashville, TBD TSN
*Wednesday, April 28 at Chicago, TBD TSN
* If Necessary/JIP: Joined in Progress
Kane, Toews, Versteeg, Brouwer, Hossa, Sharp ... that's a lot of weapons that Pekka Rinne's(notes) going to have to worry about. Already having shown they can produce come playoff time, Patrick Kane(notes) (30 goals) and Jonathan Toews(notes) (25 goals) will be just one part of the offensive wave thrown Nashville's way.
Patric Hornqvist(notes) was a pleasant surprise for the Predators going from the final player picked in the 2005 NHL Draft to a 30-goal scorer to lead the team in goals, tied for first in points (51), plus-minus (+18), power play goals (10), and game winning goals (8).
Jason Arnott(notes) (46 points), Steve Sullivan(notes) (51 points) and Martin Erat(notes) (21 goals) are some of the Predators' vets that will be relied upon to counter Chicago's high-powered offense.
because depth scoring is what helps takes you places in the playoffs.
Minute-munchers Shea Weber(notes) and Ryan Suter(notes) help the offense from the blueline with their combined 20 goals and 80 points. Dan Hamhuis and rookie plus/minus leader Cody Franson(notes) (+15) will be relied upon to help slow down Chicago's skilled forwards.
Brian Campbell(notes) will be back for the Blackhawks at some point this series - possibly Game 2. In his absence, Quenneville moved Byfuglien back to the blueline and paired him with potential Norris Trophy winner Duncan Keith(notes). Niklas Hjalmarsson(notes) was placed with Brent Seabrook(notes).
takes the cake. Being able to moved Byfuglien to defense and continue being successful is one of Quenneville's options with Campbell out of the lineup. Once Campbell is healthy the defensive chokehold only gets tighter when Keith and Seabrook are back together.
All eyes will be on Niemi as he takes his 26-7-4 record into the playoffs. Having played well down the stretch has calmed some nerves around Chicago, but with Cristobal Huet(notes) not having done much to prove his worth this year, a faulty Niemi could signal an early round ouster.
Rinne is entering the playoffs as one of the League's top goaltenders. With four shutouts and a 12-4-1 record since the Olympics, he's proved himself to be another in the long line of blossoming goaltenders out of Nashville.
takes the cake because Rinne can stand on his head if need be to stall the Chicago offense.
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