Each week, The Reporters put their thumbs out to the good and the bad in the world of sports. This week, they give a special NHL playoff edition of Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down, where the panel gives their Stanley Cup winner prediction.
Bruce Arthur, National Post
My thumb is up to the Boston Bruins who I think are going to be the 2014 Stanley Cup champions. Remember last season, there was a thought that Claude Julien would get fired if they lost to the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round and jeopardy could extend all the way up to the general managers chair and they did what they did. I think they're in better shape heading into the playoffs then they were last season, when they had a compressed schedule following the Boston Marathon bombings, they were a tired team in the first round and really, more than anything, they have the easiest road to the Stanley Cup Final of any Stanley Cup contender. I think Boston's ready.
Steve Simmons, SUN Media
It hurts me to say this just because of the history but I'm going thumbs up to the San Jose Sharks, who year in and year out disappoint at this time of year, but I look at this team and all that size up front. The move of Joe Pavelski to left wing has really completed this forward group nicely and I think Marc-Edouard Vlasic's play at the Olympics taught him that he's a big-time guy now. He can elevate his game and I think that team, with Todd McLellan coaching, can come out of the west and can beat the Boston Bruins. They're too big and they're too fast.
Michael Farber, Sports Illustrated
My thumb is up to the Chicago Blackhawks because consistency is the hob gobble in little minds and nobody has a littler mind than I do. I picked them at the start of the year, I picked them at the deadline, and I'm picking them now because Patrick Kane's going to be back, Jonathan Toews is going to be back, and because the Blackhawks have the best defenceman in the Stanley Cup tournament in Duncan Keith.
Dave Hodge, TSN
I'm going to go through the apparently easy route in the east and say thumbs up to the Presidents' Trophy winning Boston Bruins. Sure, they don't win as often as they lose but in this case, this is the best home team in the NHL, lots of playoff experience, they're obviously good defensively, good goaltending, good special teams and they are reasonably healthy. Then there's that Eastern Conference path to the Stanley Cup Final again, and I think that ends up being the bottom line for my reason to pick Boston.