The 2011 Stanley Cup playoffs get under way tonight when 5 series drop the puck for the first round.
Here’s what we have to look forward to with each matchup:
7 pm ET: Tampa Bay @ Pittsburgh
Starting off the night is a Sidney Crosby-less Pittsburgh team hosting Tampa Bay. With or without Crosby, the Penguins will continue to rely on the goaltending brawn of Marc-Andre Fleury, who was named the Penguins’ team MVP while the Lightening will rely on Steve Stamkos to rekindle the goal streak he brought early in the season.
7 pm ET: Phoenix @ Detroit
Last year’s first round rematch promises to be quite entertaining. Plagued with a knee injury that will keep Henrik Zetterberg out of the game, Detroit still enters with power in Datsyuk and Lidstrom. And with Modano healthy, the Red Wings are ready for battle. The Coyotes will likely take advantage of Zetterberg’s absense to try to put a few wins under their belt.
7:30 pm ET: NY Rangers @ Washington
The Capitals will have their hands full with a strong Rangers goalie playing the net. The Caps will need to combine the forces of Alexander Ovechkin, goaltender Michal Neuvirth and a strong defense to stop the Rangers. The Rangers are starting Mats Zuccarello over Sean Avery as well as Matt Gilroy over Steve Eminger.
10 pm ET: Chicago @ Vancouver
Vancouver is the top team in the playoffs while Chicago barely made it into the post-season. While the Canucks are favored, at least in some circles, to win the Stanley Cup this year, they absolutely cannot let Chicago dominate tonight. The Blackhawks will likely try to get into their heads to stop the Canucks from going all the way.
10:30 pm ET: Nashville @ Anaheim
This matchup is projected to be one of the nastiest of the first round. With the likes of Teemu Selanne and Corey Perry giving the Ducks the offensive advantage, the Predators answer it with Pekka Rinne between the pipes. Anaheim offers Cam Fowler and Lubomir Visnovsky and Nashville answers with Ryan Suter and Shea Weber. With star power like this, we don’t suspect true fans will mind staying up so late to catch the action.