2013 NHL Playoff Predictions: Who will win the Stanley Cup?

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The 2013 NHL regular season officially concluded Sunday and the playoffs are set. Here are my picks:

WEST

(1) Chicago Blackhawks vs (8) Minnesota Wild

Minnesota is coming into these playoffs on one leg, having been destroyed in three of their last six games and nearly choking away their playoff appearance. The consolation prize is a date with the best team in the league. They'll play tough but the Wild will head home early.

Prediction: Blackhawks in 5

(4) St. Louis Blues vs (5) Los Angeles Kings

The Blues were up and down all season but after winning six of their last seven to end the season, they might be the league's hottest team at the right time. This should be a heavy, pounding series - the best one in the West's first round.

Prediction: Blues in 7

(3) Vancouver Canucks vs (6) San Jose Sharks

Prediction: Should be a dandy of an offensive series with these west coast teams. I'm expecting to see goals galore. That said, the winner will be the team with better goaltending. That's the Nucks, who can throw in Schneider or Luongo in goal and get equal results.

Prediction: Canucks in 6

(2) Anaheim Ducks (7) Detroit Red Wings

Boy, are those Ducks "mighty" once again.  They haven't been this good since they beat Ottawa for the 2006 Stanley Cup. Detroit on the other hand, had an unusually off season, but their 21 year playoff streak is intact. That doesn't stop them from going home early though.

Prediction: Ducks in 6

EAST

(1) Pittsburgh Penguins vs. (8) NY Islanders

The Isles played valiantly this year and have some elite talent (Tavares, Moulson, Nielsen) but the Pens are too much, even if you take away Crosby. Malkin won the Hart trophy last year, just in case Crosby is out.

Prediction: Pens in 5

(4) Boston Bruins vs (5) Toronto Maple Leafs

The Leafs are in for the first time since 2009, and have new talent pool. Kadri, van Riemsdyk and Co., will only lead them to two wins against the much bigger, more bruising Bruins squad.

Prediction: Bruins in 6

(3) Washington Capitals vs (6) New York Rangers

The Caps are red-hot right now, led by Alex Ovechkin, who will very likely take home this year's Hart trophy for his efforts in turning this team around 180 degrees. The Rangers eliminated their superstar ego problem by trading Marian Gaborik, but they might think twice about that now.

Prediction: Caps in 6

(2) Montreal Canadiens vs. (7) Ottawa Senators

Good news for the Sens: word is that D man Erik Karlsson might somehow be back for the playoffs. They'll need him to match up with the Habs' mammoth forwards. Until (or if) he returns, the Sens are putting this series in the hands of their elite net minder, Craig Anderson. He will win them games by himself.

Prediction: Canadiens in 7

WEST Semis

(1) Blackhawks vs (8) Blues (CHI in 7)

(2) Ducks vs (3) Canucks (VAN in 7)

EAST Semis

(1) Penguins vs (4) Bruins (PIT in 7)

(2) Canadiens vs (3) Capitals (WAS in 6)

WEST Finals

(1) Blackhawks vs (3) Canucks (CHI in 6)

EAST Finals

(1) Penguins vs (3) Capitals (PIT in 5)

STANLEY CUP Finals

West (1) Blackhawks vs East (1) Penguins (CHI in 7)

Prediction: The Hawks will win the 2013 Stanley Cup in one of the most epic finals in NHL history.