(1) Washington v. (8) Montréal
I really want to say that Montréal will win. Being a Habs fan, I am biased like that. It won’t happen. But, I do feel that if Halak plays like he did most of the season, this series will take six or seven games. Overall, Washington has too much firepower to be denied.
Washington in 6
(2) New Jersey v. (7) Philadelphia
This could be an interesting one. On the one side you have Martin Brodeur, who has not played all that well since the Olympics. But he’s still Martin Brodeur. On the other side you have the rotating goalies in Philly, led by Brian Boucher. From that it should be a no-brainer. And that’s what I’m calling it.
New Jersey in 6
(3) Buffalo v. (6) Boston
Let’s see. Ryan Miller, the goalie who led his team to a near upset of Canada at the Olympics. Or Tuukka Rask, who has managed to get the second-lowest scoring team in the NHL (or lowest, depending on the metric used or where you look) into the playoffs. I would say goaltending is a wash. And since Boston can’t score to save its life, I’m going with Buffalo.
Buffalo in 5
(4) Pittsburgh v. (5) Ottawa
Pittsburgh is the reigning Stanley Cup champion. Despite an 11-game winning streak, Ottawa has been fairly middling all year. Pittsburgh has the league’s leading goal scorer and second leading scorer. Ottawa lost Alex Kovalev (ask Montréal, it’s not that big a loss) for the playoffs.
Pittsburgh in 5
(1) San José v. (8) Colorado
San José is known to flop in the playoffs with astonishing regularity. Colorado isn’t supposed to be in the playoffs this year. In fact, it almost fell out of them, only to be saved by Calgary’s inability to win down the stretch.
San José in 6
(2) Chicago v. (7) Nashville
Chicago hasn’t gone into the playoffs this highly ranked in years. Nashville has yet to win a playoff series in its history. Nashville has solid goaltending, while Chicago’s net situation is less than stable, with either Christobal Huet or Annti Niemi able to hold down the fort. But on offence Chicago has to be favoured.
Chicago in 6
(3) Vancouver v. (6) Los Angeles
Normally having Roberto Luongo in net would tilt this completely to Vancouver. But he hasn’t been on his game for a long while. But Los Angeles’ situation is also far from being settled. Plus, Vancouver has the league’s leading scorer on its side. And Luongo does have the experience.
Vancouver in 7
(4) Phoenix v. (5) Detroit
A few weeks ago, Detroit was on the verge of missing the playoffs for the first time since 1989-1990. Phoenix is in the playoffs for the first time since 2001-2002. Detroit has the experience, having been in the last two Stanley Cup finals. This is also a drawback, as Detroit has played more games in the past two seasons than any team not from Pittsburgh (in fact, Detroit may have played more games than Pittsburgh, I don’t know, but it’s close I suspect). I think the freshness of Phoenix will win out over the experience of Detroit.
Phoenix in 7