Picks for Rd. 1, Stanley Cup Final

Blackhawks and Penguins are favored, but who will hoist the Cup?

Originally Published: April 29, 2013
By Craig Custance | ESPN Insider
Patrick KaneJonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesCan Patrick Kane and the Hawks claim another Stanley Cup?

In today's NHL, seedings mean very little. It's the beauty of the Stanley Cup Playoffs -- It's all about the matchups. On Saturday, one longtime scout was talking about the Sharks and whether or not they could make a run. Their game that night would decide whether or not they'd be playing the Kings or Canucks.

In his mind, the Kings were the tougher draw and that one game could determine whether or not San Jose was poised for a long spring.

"You might have your answer by tonight," he said.

Well, the matchups are in and it's time to project some winners and teams lining up to make a run:

Eastern Conference

No. 1 Pittsburgh Penguins vs. No. 8 New York Islanders

The breakdown: This is the worst possible draw for the Islanders, who dropped four of five against the Penguins this season. There was momentum building for the Islanders to make a run with the way they were playing to close the season, they just needed a more favorable first-round opponent for that to happen. The Islanders are a fast team that can skate and has a top line as good as any in the league. But the Penguins are a powerhouse poised for a big run. The one matchup the Islanders can expose will be on the power play. They have one of the best in the playoffs and Pittsburgh's penalty kill is beatable.

The pick: Penguins in 6

No. 2 Montreal Canadiens vs. No. 7 Ottawa Senators


To see the rest of Craig Custance's picks for the playoffs, plus Insider's complete NHL coverage, sign up for ESPN Insider.