I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t post my thoughts on the playoffs, but I don’t want to keep you all day with in-depth analysis. There’s tons of sites out there that do it better than I can. So I’m keeping it as short as I can, which may be hard given my tendency to ramble endlessly.
Montreal Canadiens (8) vs Washington Capitals (1)
Like Spock in last year’s awesome Star Trek movie, I’m emotionally comprimised on this one. I risk imprisonment by saying this, but there is no reason to pick the Canadiens in this matchup. None. Either Ovechkin chokes like he did in the Olympics, or Habs goaltending steals the show. Caps were consistently good all year, Habs were consistently inconsistent, and show no sign of getting back on track. Don’t talk to me about Cinderella, or even about the fact that the Habs took 5 of 8 points vs the league leaders. Capitals in 6.
Philadelphia Flyers (7) vs New Jersey Devils (2)
The Flyers owned the Devils this year, winning 5 of 6. They won close games and they won by blowout. They won at home, they won on the road. Martin Brodeur has once again played a ton of hockey, appearing in 77 games, plus the Olympics. The Flyers forwards will get in his kitchen, and he’ll fade late in the series, as he has been known to do in recent years. Still, the Devils are the Devils and are a good hockey team. They’ll keep it closer than the season series indicates it should. Flyers in 6.
Boston Bruins (6) vs Buffalo Sabres (3)
Here’s my upset special. The Bruins could have folded after losing just about everyone this year, but especially when Marc Savard got his block knocked off for the umpteenth time. Instead, they went 10-6-2 down the stretch, including winning 4 of their last 5, and picking up a point in their loss. Tuukka Rask may not get any nominations this year, but he’s been as good as any goalie in the league this year. He’s just about made Tim Thomas redundant in Boston (good luck with that contract!). A strong playoff run for Rask will all but cement that. He’ll have to be great in order to best Ryan Miller. As good of a coach as Lindy Ruff is, I think the Bruins pull it out in 7.
Ottawa Senators (5) at Pittsburgh Penguins (4)
I don’t quite know how the Senators managed to keep it together, but they did and deserve credit. Spezza has been reborn, even without Dany Heatley. They’re just a well balanced bunch who play smart hockey. That’s a tough combo to beat in the playoffs. That said, the Penguins have been to the cup finals twice in the past 2 years and they are the defending champs. Crosby will want to make an gold medal sandwich using the Stanley Cup as the bread. He may or may not get there, but Senators won’t be the group to derail him. Penguins in 6.
Colorado Avalanche (8) vs San Jose Sharks (1)
If ever the Sharks were going to make a leap, now’s the time. The Avalanche are 1 of 2 things to me: a team that spent itself to make the playoffs or a team that now that they are in, are just glad to be there. The Sharks are acutely aware of the stigma attached to them and desperately want to shed that label. Is Heatley the guy to help them do it? Time will tell, but I think the Sharks overwhelm the Avalanche, who deserve tons of credit for having the season they have. Sharks in 5.
Nashville Predators (7) vs Chicago Blackhawks (2)
The Blackhawks do not want to be the 2010 version of the 2009 Sharks. They have been an projected Cup contender since the start of the year, and if not for some shaky goaltending, they may be the clear cut choice. But it seems that neither Cristobal Huet or Antti Niemi are in the mood to deliver Cup-calibre goaltending. The Predators are not to be overlooked, as they have solid goaltending with Pekka Rinne and some horses like Shea Weber and Ryan Suter. They are blue-collar up front, which may rub the Hawks the wrong way. In the end, the Hawks are too strong up front. Blackhawks in 6.
Los Angeles Kings (6) vs Vancouver Canucks (3)
They say that you have to learn to lose before you can win. If true, the Kings and their fans are going to be disappointed (yet should be doing cartwheels for their future is bright!). The Canucks are solid everywhere, and though their defense is not the best, you’ve got to beat one of the game’s best in Luongo. I’m not Roberto’s biggest fan, but the guy can stop pucks. If the Kings defense, led by youngsters Drew Doughty and Jack Johnson can shut down the Sedins (including Art Ross winner Henrik), it will be up to Rob Scuderi (who was terrific with the Penguins last year) and Sean O’Donnell to stop Ryan Kesler. Easier said than done. I don’t want to dismiss the Kings’ attack, nor the Ryan Smyth factor, but to me this series says heartbreak for the Kings. Canucks in 7.
Detroit Red Wings (5) vs Phoenix Coyotes (4)
Don’t let the standings fool you. Yes, the Coyotes were magical this year, and Dave Tippett will win the Jack Adams award, and if he doesn’t there ought to be an investigation. But it was not that long ago that the Red Wings were battling for their playoff lives. But these are the Red Wings. The guys that have forgotten what it’s like to not have a 100 point season. The Wings have shown who they are over the last month, winning 12 of their last 15 games and losing 2 of those 3 remaining games after regulation. As amazing a story as the Coyotes have been all year long, I’ll be stunned if they hang around too long in this series. Bryzgalov will have to be on top of his game, which, given his excellent season may not be crazy at all. Red Wings in 5.
Feel free to weigh in!