Let's go with the Blackhawks as my upset pick over the President's Trophy-winning Vancouver Canucks.
History favors the Hawks, who bounced the Canucks in the last two conference semifinals, outscoring them 24-8 in third periods, while going 5-1 in Rogers Arena.
Sure, the superstar Sedin siblings pace the NHL's top offense and power play, while goalie Roberto Luongo's 2.11 GAA spearheads the stingiest defense. But the Hawks scored six fewer goals and boast the fourth-ranked power play.
All the pressure is on the Canucks.
Wings on thin ice
Most likely NHL upset: Phoenix over Detroit
With leading scorer Henrik Zetterberg out for the start of the series and Hart Trophy candidate Ilya Bryzgalov in the net for the Coyotes , the Red Wings skate on thin ice to start the playoffs. They won just four of their final 11 games to end the regular season and barely escaped Chicago with a win in the season finale. They have but one power-play goal in their last five games when taking advantage of those opportunities is critical to advance.
The Coyotes have enough on the back end with defenseman Keith Yandle and Bryzgalov (2.48 goals against, .921 save percentage) to frustrate a team with ample firepower up front. It could be another seven-game march, and the Red Wings could have a long vacation at the end of it.
Phoenix over Detroit
Los Angeles Times
Although there's usually one huge upset in the first round — that would be you, top-seeded 2009 San Jose Sharks and 2010 Washington Capitals — the parity in the NHL this season makes an upset less likely than in the past.
The teams in the 4-5 series in each conference are generally too close to call a victory by the lower-seeded team an upset — three points separated Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay in the East, while Anaheim and Nashville each had 99 points in the West. I've seen some predictions that Nashville will beat the Ducks based on the Predators' defense and goaltending.
But the real upset possibility is the Detroit-Phoenix series in the West. It's tough to bet against the Red Wings, but they've been hit hard by injuries and Henrik Zetterberg won't be ready to start the series. If any upsets emerge, I'd expect it to come there.
Bye-bye Pens, Canucks
The Morning Call
But that won't be the only upset in the first round. The defending champ Blackhawks will beat this year's Stanley Cup favorite, the Canucks, in seven games. Though the Canucks have the first seed, most of their top nine forwards are about as physically imposing as Chihuahuas.
The eighth-seeded Blackhawks, who have eliminated the Canucks the past two seasons, will use their combination of grit and skill to win, despite again rolling with an unproven goalie. In the other crease, Vancouver's Roberto Luongo has never been a great playoff netminder and will be victimized by Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp, Jonathan Toews and company.