The 2008 National Hockey League playoffs will kick off Wednesday night with 8 teams taking to the ice.
This is the time of year that the players play for the love of the game. There are no more pay cheques coming, only a gruelling two-month test of attrition, commitment and ability.
A few of us Bleacher Report regular hockey contributors are engaging in a friendly competition. In each of the four rounds we will write a story revealing our picks, including the amount of games it will take our picks to win the series in. The winner will be announced at the conclusion of the playoffs.
The playoff match-ups breakdown like so:
Montreal vs. Boston
A match-up of two original six teams and one of the oldest rivalries in sport will be renewed.
In goal, the two teams are even, with Carey Price, the rookie, in net for the Habs and Tim Thomas in goal for the Bruins. The defensive edge has to be given to Boston as Zdeno Chara is a beast and will see 30+ minutes a night.
Up front the edge easily goes to the Habs as Kovalev, Koivu and Higgins will carry the offensive load. The Bruins will get Patrice Bergeron back, but his condition and effectiveness is questionable at best. He has been out for too long to come back and be productive.
Season Series: 8-0 Montreal
Prediction: Montreal wins in 5 games.
Pittsburgh vs. Ottawa
This series will feature a pair of teams with scoring to burn, but big question marks in goal. The Senators will be without offensive juggernaut, Daniel Alfredsson and defensive specialist, Mike Fischer.
Pittsburgh will have more than enough offensive fire power in Marian Hossa, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin to take down the Sens in the first round. Marc-Andre Fleury will be between the Penguin's pipes and if his play down the stretch is any indication, he will be fine. If Fleury were to falter, Ty Conklin has had an impressive season and is ready to step in.
Season Series: 3-1 Senators.
Prediction: Pittsburgh in 6 games
Washington vs. Philadelphia
Alexander Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals rode an impressive streak from the hiring of head coach Bruce Boudreau up until the playoffs seizing home ice advantage and a playoff spot from the Carolina Hurricanes.
The Caps have the edge in goal-tending, offence and defence over the Philadelphia Flyers and with the roll they are on, this will be a very tough team to stop. Mike Richards will have his hands full with Ovechkin, Backstrom, Semin and the rest of a fiery Capitals team. Cristobal Huet is a great addition to this team and the tandem of Huet and Kolzig will be very good.
Season Series: 2-2.
Prediction: Capitals in 6 games.
New Jersey vs. New York Rangers
The New Jersey Devils have a rookie head coach, play the most boring hockey in the NHL and have a very one-dimensional offense, but, they also have the best goalie to ever play the game in Martin Brodeur.
The Rangers are getting hot at the right time and Jaromir Jagr decided to start trying with 6 weeks to go. These are both great signs heading into the playoffs. The Rangers also boast one of the top goaltenders in the Eastern conference in Henrik Lundqvist.
In the end, the Rangers just have too much firepower and will overcome the Devils and Brodeur in a long series.
Season Series: 7-1 Rangers.
Prediction: Rangers in 6 games.
Detroit Vs. Nashville
This, on paper, is the easiest series to call. Nashville does not have the goal-tending, offense or defense that Detroit has; but don't tell them that.
Nashville have been the team on the outside looking in on most of predictions for this year's playoffs but managed to sneak in on the heels of superb goal-tending by Chris Mason and Dan Ellis and play by Jason Arnott, JP Dumont and Alex Radulov.
Detroit should still easily handle Nashville, but Datsyuk and Zetterberg have to be better than they have been in past playoffs.
Season Series: 5-3 Red Wings.
Prediction: Detroit in 4 games.
San Jose vs. Calgary
This series has all the makings of being as good, or better than the previous ones between these two teams in the past. San Jose have been on fire since the trade deadline acquisition on Brian Campbell and Calgary has been far from it down the stretch, going 5-5 in their last 10 games.
Mikka Kiprusoff has been average this year, but we all remember the run he put together when the Flames went to the finals in 2004. He is still a great goalie and will look to regain that form.
Jarome Iginla will be his usual amazing self and Dion Phaneuf should be the modern-day Scott Stevens. The 7 vs. 2 series lends itself well to upsets and with the usual folding of Pat Marleau and Jon Cheechoo, the Flames should come out on top.
Season Series: 3-1 Flames.
Prediction: Flames in 7 games.
Minnesota vs. Colorado
The Wild find themselves in a peculiar place this year; ahead of the Colorado Avalanche in the standings. The Avs at one point were almost out of the race altogether, but played great down the stretch to get in.
The Wild play a suffocating defensive style of play and it takes speed to break that. The Avs have that speed in the young guys and captain Joe Sakic is still capable of turning the jets on.
The Wild may have home ice, but look for the same result, an Avalanche win--4 of them to be exact.
Season Series: 5-3 Wild.
Prediction: Avalanche in 6 games.
Anaheim vs. Dallas
Last year's Stanley Cup champions, the Anaheim Ducks boast the best defense corps in the NHL and a great, young offensive corps. Goal-tending in this series is interesting. J.S. Giguere is always a playoff juggernaut, but Dallas net-minder, Marty Turco is known as a choker in the post season.
Look for Scott Niedermayer, Chris Pronger, Mathieu Schneider and Francois Beauchemin to take control of the series. Todd Bertuzzi will crash the net at will and Teemu Selanne, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry will provide the offense. The Ducks should easily move on.
Season Series: 5-3 Stars.
Prediction: Ducks in 5 games.
There are great match-ups in both conferences this year, even making this Toronto Maple Leaf fan interested.
I look forward to beating my fellow scribes in the inaugural Bleacher Report NHL playoff showdown.
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