The first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs is in the books, and as usual, there was no shortage of excitement. From the Pens four game demolition of the Ottawa Senators, to the three thrilling game seven series finales. This round showed why hockey is the best sport on earth (save a rather lengthy myriad of horrible calls by referees).
The east has glory match ups all over the place. In one series you got the Flyers facing off against the Montreal Canadiens. These two teams have a ton of history between them. Les Habitants won all four meetings this year, and they appear to be on one of those magical runs with a rookie goaltender like they have a couple of times before. In the seventies you had rookie Ken Dryden come on and not only win the cup, but also take home the Conn Smythe. A year before he won the rookie of the year award no less. In 1986 you had the coming of St. Patrick. Roy led his Habs to the cup over the Calgary Flames. This year you got the should-have-been rookie of the year nominee Carey Price. With that defencive corp and the five 50 point producers up front, I will not bet against them.
The other series has the NHL head office doing back flips. It showcases Sid the Kid and the Pittsburgh Penguins going against the New York Rangers. This was a pretty even match up in the regular season. But with plenty of rest, the Pens will be healthy going into this series. The x factor for the Rangers is the uber pest Sean Avery. Fortunately for the Pens, they have a couple of guys who can nullify his effectiveness in George Laroque and Jaarko Ruttuu. This series should go 6 games.
In the west, you got the revival of one of the bloodiest rivalries in the past 15 years, and two teams that don't have an awful lot of second round experience. The best series might be the latter.
One series has Detroit versus Colorado. The Wings took all four meetings this year, allowing only 2 goals in the process. That pretty much sums up this one. I don't think it will last long.
Finally you have the Stars against the Sharks. This series is tough to read. Both teams boast elite goaltending. Both teams have excellent defence. And both teams are very deep at forward. Like I said, tough to read. I have to give the Sharks a slight advantage in the series however, due to the absence of Stars defenceman Sergei Zubov.
Except for the officiating, the first round displayed some of the best hockey played in the last few years. Let's just hope round two exhibits more of the same. As for my picks:
Penguins over Rangers (6)
Canadiens over Flyers (6)
Red Wings over Avalanche (5)
Sharks over Stars (7)