The NHL Playoffs, which have less to do with the regular season than the postseason of any other major sport, are upon us.
The four-round march to the Stanley Cup boasts several compelling teams, but only one will drink from the valued silver chalice.
Here's what I think will happen the spring:
Boston (No. 1 seed) over Montreal (No.8) in seven.
Washington (No. 2) over N.Y. Rangers (No. 7) in seven
New Jersey (No. 3) over Carolina (No. 6) in five
Pittsburgh (No. 4) over Philadelphia (No. 5) in four
The Bruins and Habs—bitter rivals for 90 years or so—will take it to the limit before Montreal bows.
Pittsburgh, with offensive machines Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, won't let the Flyers catch their breath, let alone win a game.
Anaheim (No.8) over San Jose (No. 1) in six
Detroit (No. 2) over Columbus (No. 7) in four
Vancouver (No. 3) over St. Louis (No. 6) in five
Chicago (No. 4) over Calgary No. 5) in six
The Sharks could turn into the 1995 Quebec Nordiques—a top seed that lays an egg in the first round. The Ducks are disappointed in their performance this season, and advancing will make them feel a lot better.
The defending champion Red Wings are always primed for a deep run and inexperienced
Columbus is overmatched.
The Blackhawks are back in the postseason after a drought dating back to 2002. It'll take more than the faltering Flames to eliminate them.
Boston over Pittsburgh in seven
Washington over New Jersey in seven
Veteran Goalie Tim Thomas will eventually figure out the Penguins' potent attack. Leading scorer Marc Savard will do enough to support Thomas.
Detroit over Anaheim in six
Chicago over Vancouver in seven
The scrappy Ducks will make a series or it, but the Red Wings have just too much firepower. Truth be told, the Canucks are barely better than the flames, and not as good as the Blackhawks.
Detroit over Chicago in five
Boston over Washington in five
Detroit's 47-year-old Chris Chelios will be cheered in both arenas, but otherwise, Chicagoans will have very little to cheer about. The Blackhawks can contend if Chris Osgood plays poorly, but even under that scenario, their season likely ends here.
After an emotional series and a steer-roping session, the Bruins may look at a series against Washington as a breather. Alex Ovechkin, who led the league with 56 goals, may have something to say about that. I'm betting that Thomas will be honed, rather than worn out, from battling Pittsburgh.
The Stanley Cup Finals
The highest-scoring team vs. the stingiest goalie. It's a tough call, especially considering my rooting interest. It'll come down to who's hungrier. The Bruins haven't won the Cup in 37 years. The Red Wings hold it now.
I'm not saying they'll be complacent, but ... Bruins in seven. Thomas will win the Conn Smythe Trophy.