Well the NHL playoffs start tomorrow and even though the Sabres decided to really suck it up the past couple of months it won’t keep me from watching some playoff action. I figured as such it was time to once again post my predictions.
#1 Montreal Canadians v. #8 Boston Bruins – The only team hotter coming down the home stretch than the Candians was the Washington Capitals. The Bruins almost fell apart completely and dropped out of the 8th spot (less than a month ago they were the sixth seed). Montreal is a fast team that capitalizes on every mistake made by the other team. They are dangerous in the neutral zone and generate a bevy of odd-man rushes. If Boston hopes to survive the onslaught they’ll have to tighten up their lax defense. They’ll also need someone to step up and be a big offensive weapon for them. It’s cliche but the first game will dictate the tempo of this series. Look for Boston to come out giving it all they got, playing up the scrappy underdog role, but I feel they will fall sadly short. I say Montreal takes this one in 5 games.
#2 Pittsburgh Penguins v. #7 Ottawa Senators – Even if this is a two seed facing a seventh seed this is going to be the Eastern Conference series to watch. The Senators have been struggling as of late, but if they can shake off the regular season blues, and get their head in the game they have all the talent they need to take on team Crosby. Even with Daniel Alferdson, the Senators big gun, likely out for the series, upcoming talent such as Jason Spezza have the capacity to step up and fill the scoring gap. Ottawa is a dangerous team that combines a quick transition game with big hitting defensemen who could slow down the Penguins young talent. Certainly, despite my feelings towards him, Crosby is a big time play maker and its impossible to discount him. Their goaltender, Fluery, has been brillant as of late, playing well beyond his early season showings. The Penguins are a team on a mission, and through sheer force of will I think they will win this series in 7.
#3 Washington Capitals v. #6 Philadelphia Flyers. The Capitals went from being considered out of contention at one point to charging their way up the ladder, taking the Southeast Division by storm. In a late season rally, winning 9 of their last 10 games, the Capitals made a lot of sports writers and critics eat their words. Alexander Ovechkin, Washington’s amazing young star, only got better in every single game he played and now, with everything riding on the line, it’s time to find out if he has the mental edge. There is going to be a lot of young talent on the ice for both teams – plenty of inexperience to go around. This means there’s going to be a lot of offense, a lot of chances taken, and a lot of scoring both ways. This series will come down to which goalie can rise to the top. People should know how I feel about Biron, and I’m going to let that color my feelings here and say that the Caps take this series in 6.
#4 New Jersey Devils v. #5 New York Rangers – I dub this series the battle of who gives a flying f*ck. Both of these teams have been streaky all season long, and despite having some considerable talent, neither has managed to get that talent to gel in to a cohesive unit that’s ready to go out and play night after night. I think this series is going to be an odd one with one team dominating one game, and then the next night the other team hitting back. In the end I have to give the edge to the New York Rangers, in large part due to former New Jersey Devil Scott Gomez. Add to the Chris Drury, and a Jaromir Jagr who is starting to play back at his former levels of scoring prowess and you have a team that is poised to go deep in the playoffs. The Rangers will own this series in 6.
#1 Detroit Redwings v. #8 Nashville Predators – Detroit finished the season with the best record in hockey. Nashville almost folded during the off season and relocated the greener pastures. It’s almost too easy to say nothing about this one, point at Nashville, laugh, and then move on, except for the fact that since the mid-90’s Detroit has been an amazing regular season team that fails spectacularly come the post-season. Nashville has a crop of young talent who have taken turns leading their team to wins. Each night leaves their opponents unsure just who to watch as they have so many players capable of stepping up and dictating the flow of the game. Still, the Redwings have depth, depth, and more depth. There isn’t a soft line on their team. Even their checking line has soft hands to deflect blue line shots in to the net. The Predators will need to come out of the gates on all cylinders. If they slip early the Redwings will devour them. I think the Predators will make this series look closer than it probably should be – yeah, I’m going with the safe bet and saying Detroit in 5 (though 4 of these 5 games are going to go to OT).
#2 San Jose Sharks v. #7 Calgary Flames – Hitting. Hitting. Hitting, and oh, some more hitting. That’s what this series will be about. Both teams play a very physical game that relys heavily on big hits to force turn overs and disrupt the offensive flow of their opponents. This should be a fun one to watch for all you boxing fans out there. This series will come down to one thing, and that’s which team has the better power play unit. Even strength is going to be a low scoring affair, so both teams will have to capitlize on power play opportunities (because there’s going to be a lot of penalties in this series). I’m going to be a Sabres fanboy here – Brian Campell (now playing for San Jose)has a great power shot from the blue line, and on the power play he is going to open a lot of opportunities up for them. The Sharks will win this one in 6.
#3 Minnesota Wild v. #6 Colorado Avalanche – The Wild.. number 3.. really? Seriously? This isn’t some bizzare joke is it? The Avalance might have finished six, but the depth of their playoff experience carries a lot of weight now that the regular season has ended. They’re going to break out the brooms in Denver as they sweep the Wild – Colorado excites the home crowd and seals the deal in 4.
#4 Anaheim Ducks v. #5 Dallas Stars – The Ducks come in to this series riding a tidal wave of winning. Dallas comes in to this series, limping, broken, and struggling to find the back of their opponents net. While the Stars have a talented roster, the Ducks picked up some superior talent of their own. Scott Niedermayer and Teeemu Selanne add creativity and offensive sniping capability to an already dynamic offensive line. Marty Turco is going to be hard pressed to hold off the shooting gallery that the Ducks will let lose upon them. With JS Giguire playing at levels he hasn’t seen in the past couple of seasons Dallas will be hard pressed to match the offensive output of their opponents. The Ducks are going to walk away with this one in 5.
So there you have it, we’ll see if I need to take my crystal ball back to the shop for repairs at the end of this season or not.