Its a shame Montreal crashed all the way to 8th place when it looked like they could have had a chance as a high as 6th seed. Their final game OT loss really crushed them because when Philadelphia won, they jumped them based on regular season wins.
I had planned a Washington vs. Flyers matchup with the series going seven games due to Philadelphia being hot entering the postseason.
As it is now, one has to figure the Canadiens have no chance. I really hope this series is more than just the Ovechkin show but rather a chance to showcase some of Washington's lesser players (Alexander Semin , Mike Green, Brooks Laich this means you) that shine so outside markets realize how Washington got here and earned the top seed by running away with the East by far.
Montreal could steal a home game in hockey-mad Montreal, and in a city whose sports teams are sub-par at best, the Capitals break this mold. How long they hold on to that is anyone's guess. In a city not used to professional sports success, the Caps have a lot of pressure on them. Will it be their undoing?
Prediction: Washington in five.
(2) New Jersey Devils vs. (7) Philadelphia Flyers
As long as you've got Marty Brodeur as the Devils have had for the past seventeen years, they always have a chance. Still (as mentioned above) the Flyers are hot right now—having just fought for their playoff lives.
Daniel Briere could be an X-factor in this series for Philadelphia but their inconsistent goaltending , not to mention when its compared to the Gold Standard that is Brodeur, will make it all the more obvious in what should be a short series.
Everyone knows of Chris Pronger but they better get used to hearing the name Mike Richards, you know the guy Philly signed to hockey-like 12 year contract last year? He led the team in scoring- (31G 31A). They've got the young Jeff Carter but not a lot of depth, and certainly not the scoring ability of that of a Washington.
Prediction: Devils in five.
(3) Buffalo Sabers vs. (6) Boston Bruins
Thomas Vanek is probably the one name everyone knows in Buffalo, but Buffalo draftee Jason Pominville , the veteran Tim Connolly, and perennial 20+ goal scorer Derek Roy all scored more than him and his 53 points.
Boston's hotter than any team in the East having won three straight games. They've also discovered their shorthand scoring ability which could come into play. No one scores more than Patrice Bergeron's 52 points but they've got guys like Milan Lucic just looking to make a name for themselves.
They've also got veterans like Marco Sturm, Mark Riecci , Marc Savard, and Miroslav Satan so you're never quite sure how good (or bad) they are and more importantly you're never quite sure where the scoring is going to come, thus the parity in their statistical numbers.
Still, the youthful Tuukka Rask mixed with the veteran Tim Thomas to spell relief is an intriguing combination. Hockey history says the original Six team moves on in a great, hard-fought series.
Prediction: Bruins in six.
Pittsburgh, obviously isn't you're typical four-seed. That alone is going to cause match-up problems if and when, they move on. (Hey, gotta give Ottawa at least a chance, right?) Pittsburgh is loaded with experience and we all know about the depth, the names, the accomplishments so let's not focus on that. Let's focus on lesser names who could step up.
Ottawa took a bit hit when veteran Alexi Kovalev went down for the playoffs. He was their forth leading scorer. No one surprises me in their mediocre goaltending situation. Brian Elliott looks good and his stats show he keeps getting better but does he have the defense to help him?
The playoffs are a time when people like Pascual Dupuis step up and he's coming off his 2nd best season. Is his career rejuvenated? I could envision a close game ending in double OT because of him or veteran Bill Guerin. X-factors here? Ruslan Fedotenko who won a Cup in Tampa or Alex Goligoski .
Prediction: Penguins in four.
Its just easier to show their failure this way:
Third Round: 03-04 Flames (7)
What does the list tell you? Of their 17 years in the league, making the playoffs hasn't been a problem, it has been figuring out what round they are going to blow it in.
The Stars aren't in this year to mess things up, but they sure do like that first round loss in six don't they? Or just plain, losing in six all together. Go with that in yet another loss opportunity, season. When it comes to April, this is exactly the team you want to play-for whatever reason they appear cursed.
Prediction: Avalanche in six.
Nashville's never been to the 2nd round , so they are going to have a lot of sentimental fans hoping to see history. How this prototypical eighth seed snuck into seventh is anyone's guess and its a shame they did (See above ). 100 points just doesn't go as far as it used to in the West.
Chicago and San Jose's seeds should really be flipped but San Jose is the hottest team in the West outside of Detroit having won three straight to steal the top seed which they had a one point in the season but really don't deserve as they won't defend it.
Nashville has Steve Sullivan whose 51 points leading the team are the lowest of any Stanley Cup contender (if you can call a token appearance that) and this year a new no-name goalie in Pekka Rinne who no one's heard of outside of Nashville. (My guess is many within the city if you follow my bit as their apathetic fan base).
The sooner their season ends, the sooner we can begin Canada relocation speculation for this surprisingly competitive team. Still being competitive only gets you so far, and Nashville is the prime example.
Get ready for the Toews /Kane/Sharp show in Chi-town.
Prediction: Chicago in four.
Gotta keep these previews short in order to keep reader interest. So in summary the Kings have Anze Kopatar whose a future sniper-star who really emerged this year. They've also got second year player, second overall pick, and second leading scorer (notice a theme?) in Drew Doughty who may be worth a watch for first time viewers.
When I watched them in November they played fast-paced hockey. Not sure if that's still the same. Really can't evaluate what I don't know since they are rarely on TV so I'll summarize the Canucks.
Many will say they go as Olympic goalie Roberto Luongo goes. He's either hit or miss but when he's on, as is the story of his career, he's really good. Could get pulled in game two only to win games three and four by shutout. He's a mystery to me but talent usually prevails and it should here. A good series for a casual fan just trying to figure out the basics in hockey: Goaltending and speed.
Vancouver=Sedin Twins who are finally living up to hype led by Art Ross Trophy winner (most points) Henrik Sedin. They've also got Olympic hero Ryan Kesler in case anyone cares.
Prediction: Vancouver in six (probably most intriguing first round series, certainly in the West if not the NHL).
(4) Phoenix Coyotes vs (5) Detroit Red Wings
I could say a lot of hateful things about the Winnip -, I mean, the Phoenix Coyotes who look like the NHL is going to get their wish and bail them out with a sale to Jerry Reinsdorf but that won't solve the long term problem that the NHL just can't understand or won't admit.
I could mention how its a mockery that their games are listed as sellouts when they only did the last four (wow, nice bandwagon, Arizona) or how they dared bring back a WINNIPEG tradition in the White Out during games but I won't.
I won't mention how much this team deserves to be somewhere in Canada-my preference Quebec or Winnipeg and how each day they remain is an embarrassment to the league and its traditional fans who actually understand the game unlike a bunch of Arizona transplants but I won't. Finally, I could mention how I hope every game ends with the Wings winning 6-1 but I won't do that either.
The sooner this series, and the impostor Coyotes season ends the better. How funny will it be for the NHL then? How many Desert Dogs (stupid name by the way) fans will show up next year? How many can name two players on the team?
How appropriate is it that the 'Yotes play their home games in Jobing .com Arena, the cite of all my ire, which is what hockey fans are getting with this team staying where it doesn't belong and never should have went?
Phoenix, get used to hearing a bunch of Russian names when the Soviet Bloc is unleashed among the playoff savy veteran Red Wings.
Prediction: Red Wings in three, I mean, four (then its off to Canada for the 'Yotes....
(2nd round predictions later)