Yes, spring is finally here which means it's time for - what else? - playoff hockey. Finally, something to take my mind off the dismal start to the Tiger's season. I'm about to head out the door to find a sports bar that carries the CBC because there's no way I'm missing Coach's Corner, so you'll excuse me if this is a bit rushed, but here's what your first round looks like:
The West is going to come down to San Jose and Detroit. Obviously, I'm pulling for the Wings but, even so, I think they've got a fairly good road to the conference final and the Sharks are the only team that really scares me. Of course, this is the playoffs and everything goes out the window when a goalie gets hot. And what the Wings lack is that surefire goaltender - The Hasek/Osgood combo is good enough to win but not by themselves. Luckily, Detroit starts in Nashville which means a nice series against a division "rival" with little in the way of travel. That leaves them well-rested for the grueling trips they'll have to make out west as the playoffs advance. And having home ice means they'll always pull the lower seed which means, at worst, a match-up with a Ducks team on the decline after their Cup run last year. And, more probably, means going up against whichever underdog pulls the "upset" in the first round.
Elsewhere in the first round, I like the Sharks to continue to hit on all cylinders against the Flames. The Stars and their offensive firepower to win a tight series against the depleted Ducks (Who've lost a lot of offensive oomph from their Cup team). And for the Avalanche to turn in a shocker against the Wild.
The East, I'm not so sure about. Montreal's been looking very solid this year but I just can't trust them. Ditto Pittsburgh who just don't have the playoff experience they need yet. I say it's either going to be Washington - led by the league's top player Ovechkin - or the Rangers - who look like the sort of pesky team with a "could get hot" goaltender who can be a lot of trouble in the post-season. I'll go with New York because I'd like to see an original six cup.
In the first round, I'll take the deep Canadiens in a squeaker over the inexperienced Bruins. I'm going to buck the common wisdom and go with the Senators over the Penguins. The Sens have been in a long tailspin after opening the season so strong and they're missing a few key players but although it'll be dicey, I expect them to pull out of the nosedive once the playoffs start - I also fully expect I'm either going to feel really smart or really stupid about this pick by the time the first round is over. I'll take the Caps over the Flyers for no other reason than I don't trust Biron in goal - Ovechkin and the rest of the Washington players only make me feel more secure in that choice. And although they lost the home ice advantage I'll still go with the Rangers over the Devils - they've played a lot this year and New York has had New Jersey's number.
Anyhow, I've not time for anything more detailed than that, so here are my picks:
- #1DETROIT over #8Nashville in 5.
- #2SAN JOSE over #7Calgary in 4.
- #6Colorado over #3MINNESOTA in 6.
- #5Dallas over #4ANNAHEIM in 7.
- #1MONTREAL over Boston in 6.
- #7Ottawa over PITTSBURGH in 7.
- #3WASHINGTON over Philadelphia in 5.
- #5New York over #4NEW JERSEY in 5.
- #1DETROIT over #6Colorado
- #2SAN JOSE over #5Dallas
- #1MONTREAL over #7Ottawa
- #5New York over #3WASHINGTON
- #1DETROIT over #2San Jose
- #5New York over #1MONTREAL
- DETROIT over New York