The National Hockey League (after playing a shortened 48-game schedule due to the owner imposed lockout) will begin the playoffs tonight and the Chicago Blackhawks, who won it all three years ago, are the
The Blackhawks dominated the Western Conference from game one this season and haven't let up as they had an incredible unbeaten streak to start the season.
The overall points leaders (36-7-5 for 77 points) will face off tonight in Chicago against the Minnesota Wild.
Meanwhile, the Pittsburgh Penguins are the favorites to advance from the Eastern Conference and face the Hawks in the Stanley Cup Finals. The Penguins finished the regular season with 72 points by compiling a 36-12-0 record.
Pittsburgh lead the NHL in goals scored while the Hawks led the league in defense, allowing the fewest goals this season.
But one thing to remember is to expect the unexpected when it comes to playoff hockey.
Last season's Stanley Cup champions, the Los Angeles Kings, were the bottom seed entering the Western Conference playoffs and they wound up winning it all beyond solid defense, consistent scoring and the emergence of goaltender Jonathan Quick, who was outstanding last spring.
With all that said, here goes nothing as Heftyinfo attempts to pick this year's Stanley Cup champions.
(1) Chicago Blackhawks over (8) Minnesota Wild, 4-1
(2) Anaheim Ducks over (7) Detroit Red Wings, 4-2
(6) San Jose Sharks over (3) Vancouver Canucks, 4-3
(5) Los Angeles Kings over (4) St. Louis Blues, 4-3
(1) Pittsburgh Penguins over (8) New York Islanders, 4-2
(2) Montreal Canadiens over (7) Ottawa Senators, 4-1
(6) New York Rangers over (3) Washington Capitals, 4-3
(4) Boston Bruins over (5) Toronto Maple Leafs, 4-2
The NHL re-seeds the playoffs following the opening round, so if the first round picks hold true, here are the rest of the picks ...
(1) Chicago over (6) San Jose, 4-0
(5) Los Angeles over (2) Anaheim, 4-3
(1) Pittsburgh over (6) NY Rangers, 4-2
(2) Montreal over (4) Boston, 4-3
Chicago over Los Angeles, 4-2
Montreal over Pittsburgh, 4-2
STANLEY CUP FINALS
Chicago over Montreal, 4-3