I'm a happy man, sports-wise! My Montreal Canadiens are not only in the post-season, they are the #1 seed in the Eastern Conference (ie., cannon fodder for the Western Conference in the Stanley Cup Finals). Without further ado, here are my predictions on the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. The team's seed is noted in parentheses:
1) Boston Bruins (#8) at Montreal Canadiens (#1): Montreal swept Boston in all eight games this season, with many of those games not even of the competitive variety. I do not see that trend continuing in the post season. The Bruins will play the Canadiens tought, and the series will go six hard-fought games before Montreal (hopefully!) prevails.
2) Ottawa Senators (#7) at Pittsburgh Penguins (#2): This is a return engagement from last year's first-round playoff matchup, which Ottawa won last year in five games. This year, the Penguins will return the favour to the stumbling Senators. Pittsburgh in five.
3) Philadelphia Flyers (#6) at Washington Capitals (#3): Philadelphia comes into the playoffs on a decent roll, having lost just four times in regulation time in its last 17 games. However, NO team is hotter than Washington, which is led by Alexander Ovechkin, the most exciting and complete player in the game. The Caps win this clash, but it'll go seven games.
4) New York Rangers (#5) at New Jersey Devils (#4): The Devils have Martin Brodeur and not much else. New York is too deep and home ice advantage means nothing for these two teams. The Rangers will steamroll the Devils in five games.
1) Nashville Predators (#8) at Detroit Red Wings (#1): Perennially, the Red Wings enter the playoffs as the #1 overall seed, as is the case this year, but it seems as though all those great regular seasons are rarely followed by Stanley Cup titles. That said, Nashville did an amazing job just getting to the playoffs, given the turmoil that surrounded the franchise after last season. Detroit wins this series in five games, and it could very well be over in four.
2) Calgary Flames (#7) at San Jose Sharks (#2): I see the Sharks as the best team in the Western Conference, but that is nothing new for this team. Will the playoff performance finally meet up with the level of talent on the team? On the other hand, Calgary is just a few seasons removed from a Stanley Cup finals appearance, and many of the players from that team are still there. I say that the Sharks begin the process of exorcising those post-season demons. San Jose in six.
3) Colorado Avalanche (#6) at Minnesota Wild (#3): The Avs, like the Caps in the East, come into the playoffs on a major roll. This is obviously not the same team as the one which Stanley Cups in 1996 and 2001, but there are some constants (Joe Sakic, Peter Forsberg--when he's healthy). The Wild, on the other hand, are New Jersey west, trapping anyone and everyone. That won't be enough there. Colorado in six.
4) Dallas Stars (#5) at Anaheim Ducks (#4): This would be a legitimate conference final, but one of these two Cup contenders will be gone in the first round. Most likely it will be the Stars, who will have trouble generating scoring chances and scoring goals against the rock-solid Ducks defense. Anaheim in five.