Yet another of NHL playoffs without the beloved Maple Leafs. As sad as that is to say, it's getting easier and easier each year. I'll spare the "we finished strong", "we have a good young nucleus", "this year's draft should bring us a good pic....uh nevermind", speech although any and all of those statements could be true.
This post is all about the NHL playoffs and my picks. With the Flyers and Canadians backing into this year's dance it should be an interesting few weeks. Here are my predictions for this year's first round:
Washington Capitals vs. Montreal Canadians
Les Habitants have NO chance to defeat the high powered Caps. The MIGHT have a chance to win one game. While it would be nice to see the Red & Blue suffer a sweep...I think they can take one to overtime and win on a lucky bounce.
Prediction: Caps in Five
New Jersey Devils vs. Philadelphia Flyers
This could end up being the best matchup in the first round. The Flyers have absolutely OWNED the Devils this year. I'm not sure that I see Brodeur stumbling enough to lose the first round...but stranger this have happened over the years.
Prediction: Devils in Seven
Buffalo Sabres vs. Boston Bruins
At the start of the year I thought the big bad Bruins had a chance to win it all. They've struggled at times this year and just don't seem to have their mojo on full power right now. With those two goalies you can never count them out...but we've all seen what Ryan Miller can do in big games (see 2010 Olympic results) - this kid if unreal! While I don't like the Buffalo firepower compared to Boston, I think that it's Miller time in Buffalo!
Prediction: Sabres in Six
Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Ottawa Senators
The pride of Canada gets a chance to eliminate this year's Battle of Ontario champs. Nothing would make me happier than to see BOTH the Habs and Sens eliminated from postseason play in the first round. I have NO idea how the Sens managed to qualify for a playoff spot this year. They seemed to struggle all year. They have NO team chemistry, NO heart, and NO chance of getting past the defending Stanley Cup Champions. Life is good.
Prediction: Pens in Five
San Jose Sharks vs. Colorado Avalanche
I might actually stay awake for these games. What a matchup! If not for Phoenix this would be the ultimate underdogs (Colorado) versus the ultimate hype! The Sharks have been predicted to win a Cup for a few years now. They have all the firepower that the Caps have and plenty of good D and Goaltending; so what gives?! I have no idea. I've counted on the Sharks before and been burned...but I have a feeling that the feel-good story Avalanche have run out of luck this time.
Prediction: Sharks in Six
Chicago Blackhawks vs. Nashville Predators
Another great matchup. I compare the Blackhawks to the Bruins a bit. This was a team that I picked early to be very successful. And while they are the #2 seed, they seem to have struggled a bit. Can their goaltending handle the pressures of playoff hockey? Can their big guns capitalize when the pressure is on? Is the Hossa curse still going strong? As much as I love what they've done in Nashville on a consistent basis (is there a better coach out there?) I don't see them being good enough to beat the Hawks.
Prediction: Hawks in Five
Vancouver Canucks vs. Los Angeles Kings
I see the Kings as the Blackhawks from last year or the year before. You can see where this team is going and you have to like their skill. I'm just not sure they have the mental toughness to last a playoff round yet. In two years I think we'll see the Kings make the conference finals (or more) but this year...Luongo and the twins are too strong.
Prediction: Canucks in Five
Phoenix Coyotes vs. Detroit Red Wings
Ugh, what a nasty matchup for the Coyotes. They are THE feelgood story of the year. Nobody gave these guys a chance to do anything this year. The team was in turmoil, the players didn't know where they were headed, and the fans didn't know if they were even going to HAVE a team this year. Now here they are with home ice advantage against the team with the most playoff experience in the last ten years. While I'd love to say that this story continues into the second round, I just don't see how a team led by Lidstrom, Datsyuk, and Zetterberg can lose in the first round to a team with little to no playoff experience.
Prediction: Red Wings in Seven
Best of luck to all playoff teams! You better enjoy it this year...because my Maple Leafs will be knocking on the door next year!