Its that time of year again for hockey fans, when west coast games leave us with about 4 hours sleep per night and CBC reigns supreme on our televisions for two months. The playoffs are here!
The only thing almost as fun as watching the games is predicting who will win, so lets have at it. I hope to have better luck than last year, when I guessed Buffalo would face Calgary in the final. But then again I dont think anyone predicted Carolina and Edmonton as the final two.
In this blog I will prognosticate the winner of each first round series, and then take a general stab at the final outcome. I encourage readers to post their own predictions in the comments section, and well see who comes closest in the end. Winner gets a big box of bragging rights.
Buffalo Sabres vs New York Islanders: This one's easy. The Islanders are riding high on making the playoffs in dramatic fashion, but they will have to be happy with that. Buffalo is just too strong for them. Tons of talent, along with experience gained from last year will see the Sabres go far. Buffalo in 4.
New Jersey Devils vs Tampa Bay Lightning: This one's tough. I love the way Lecavalier and St. Louis have been playing this year, but New Jersey has the Brodeur factor in their favour. New Jersey in 7.
Atlanta Thrashers vs New York Rangers: This is another one that could go either way, but experience should win out. It's the first time Atlanta has ever made the playoffs, so that is a victory already for them. New York now has some heart and leadership from Brendan Shanahan, and that's good to at least get them to Round Two. Rangers in 6.
Ottawa Senators vs Pittsburgh Penguins: These are my two favourite teams, so it will be both an exciting and painful series for me. I like Pittsburgh's late-season acquisitions, and I don't like Ottawa's goaltending. Pittsburgh in 7.
Detroit Red Wings vs Calgary Flames: Detroit has plenty of skill to rack up the regular season points, but they have no leaders who will sweat blood and take them through a playoff run, especially now that Shanahan and Yzerman are gone. Calgary has it in spades. Flames in 6.
Anaheim Ducks vs Minnesota Wild: The Ducks have the best defensive one-two punch in the NHL, and as long as Pronger and Niedermayer can stay healthy, they will give their team a big advantage in any game they play. A good mix of veterans and young talent up front makes them a cup favourite this year in my opinion. Minnesota will have no answer for it. Ducks in 4.
Vancouver Canucks vs Dallas Stars: Vancouver has something this year they have always been missing steady goaltending. Roberto Luongo has not disappointed this year, and he doesn't look to be finished yet. He's so far unproven in the playoffs though, and Dallas is a pretty formidable team for his first test. Marty Turco also has plenty to prove. This will be a very good series. Canucks in 6.
Nashville Predators vs San Jose Sharks: Speaking of having something to prove, meet Joe Thornton. He's never been a playoff performer, and this will be his chance to do something. Forsberg doesn't really fit in with Nashville. Sharks in 5.
All that being said, I would bet on a Stanley Cup final between Buffalo and Anaheim, with the Ducks taking the cup home to California.