The temperature is getting warmer…the pollen count is off the chart…we are having to mow the lawns again…the kids have finished their spring break…the Braves are playing games for real once more…the Hawks are gearing up for their third straight playoff appearance…and Don Waddell is once again making statements that express his belief he’ll be back for another stint as Thrashers GM, dispite yet another season that ended after 82 games.
Yes folks…it’s that time of year again. We’ve finally come to the part of the season that is normally reserved for teams other than the Atlanta Thrashers…the Stanley Cup Playoffs. As such, here is your chance to show us what you think will play out over the course of the first round by showing us your personal playoff prognosticalorial proficiency.
And as I told you last spring…yes, that is perfectly legal to do in the state of Georgia.
Let everyone know who you like and who you’ll be following in the coming weeks. Also, I would also like to know at this time which team you believe will eventually skate away with the Cup in June.
Caps vs. Habs - Your pick?
Total Voters: 134
Me…I’m going with the Caps over Chicago, probably in six games. Washington has never let its foot off the throttle, even after wrapping up the Southeast Division, then the Eastern Conference top seed…and most recently, the President’s Cup. They have seven 20+ goal scorers…and then Mike Green with 19…so they’re not just Ovechkin & Co. coming into the post-season.
They are as balanced as the come up front…thus their league-high 3.82 G/G… and I think that will overcome whatever shortcomings they might elsewhere.
The Caps boast the leagues best power play, (25.2%)…so if anyone does have any hopes of knocking off the Caps, I would suggest staying out of the sin-bin.
Oh, and don’t you just know Jose Theodore is looking forward to being able to knock the Habs out the playoffs…which he and the Caps will do in five games seeing that they’ve drawn the short end of the stick and have to face Washington in round-one.
Devils vs. Flyers - Your pick?
Total Voters: 132
Elsewhere in the east, given the fact that there is really such a gap between the top seeds and the bottom, I’m not calling for any upsets here.
Philadelphia will enter into their series with New Jersey having won their way in by way of a 2-1 shootout victory over the Rangers Sunday afternoon. They are led on offense by Brian Richard’s team-high 62 points, (31goals & 31 assists), Jeff Carter’s team high 33 goals and Chris Pronger’s 45 assists. Philly will be looking to Brian Boucher, (9-18-3, .899 SV% & 2.76 GAA), to keep them in this series.
But the Devils are the better team here, led by Zach Parise’s 38 goals and 44 assists. Ilya Kovalchuk scored 10 goals and 17 assists in the 27 games since the trade for New Jersey and was a +9.
Pens vs. Sens - Your pick?
Total Voters: 131
Besides, I will never bet against any team that has in it’s arsenal a goalie like Martin Brodeur, (45-25-6, 2.24 GAA, .916 SV% & 9 SO)…so I’ll take them in six over Philly.
The Thrashers played a part in Pittsburgh finishing second in the Atlantic Division thanks to the 1-0 season finale for Atlanta. Thus, the Pens take the fourth seed in the east and face the Ottawa Senators, who are led by Daniel Alfredsson, (20 goals, 51 assists & +8). Mike Fisher’s 25 goals were tops for the Sens who finished the season 7-2-1.
Sidney Crosby, as I’m sure you heard, tied Tampa Bay’s Steve Stamkos for the NHL goal title at 51…Sid also chipped in with 58 assists as well and was a +15. Evgeni Malkin netted 28 goals and 49 assists.
MAF enters into the first round with a regular season record of 37-21-6, 2.65 GAA & .905 SV%.
I think Pittsburgh gets by Ottawa in…oh, let’s go with six as well.
Sabres vs. Bruins - Your pick?
Total Voters: 130
If there is a chance for an upset in the east, you might find it in the 3-6 matchup between Buffalo and Boston. The Sabres… led by Derek Roy’s 26 goals and Tim Connolly’s 48 assists… have been banged up a bit and Boston had to fight-claw-scratch their way in and might be riding a high.
But in the end I’ll side with the Sabres in seven games if for no other reason than goaltending. Ryan Miller… who finished the year 41-18-8, 2.22 GAA & .929 SV%… I think will pull them through.
Out west… now this is where we could see some fun.
Like I said, I think Chicago comes out of the Western Conference and will begin by slipping past Nashville in six games. This will be the first time Nashville will play someone other than Detroit or San Jose in the post-season and I think they’ll put up a fight but Chicago should take this in a low-scoring affair…if their regular season series means anything. Look for lots of 2-1 or 3-2 kinda games.
Hawks vs. Preds - Your pick?
Total Voters: 125
And let’s not forget, if indeed the Hawks do come out of the west and lose to the Caps…or anyone else for that matter…in the SCF, then that will make Marian Hossa a bride’s maid for the third straight year for three different teams. Not sure if that’s happened to anyone before or not.
The Avs are a great story this season…out of the playoffs last year, made some changes, benefited from drafting Matt Duchene, then the pickup of Craig Anderson, (38-25-7 with a 2.63 GAA, .917 SV% and 7 shutouts) in goal helped as well.
San Jose won the top seed in the conference and as such will take on the Colorado Avalanche. This should go the Sharks way as they enter into the playoffs fairly healthy.
Sharks vs. Avs - Your pick?
Total Voters: 124
Colorado’s 2.89 G/G is the forth best out west, so they can gun with the Sharks. Could be a high scoring, fun series.
I’ll be rooting for the Avs…but I take San Jose in five.
Detroit and Phoenix looks to be an interesting matchup…and I am like most people are looking for a 5-4 upset. The Wings were fighting for their playoff lives not too long ago but started looking again like the Big Red Borg when it counts most, going an remarkable 17-3-2 down the stretch…
ahem…Now that is what’s known as a March to the Playoffs.
The Coyotes are making their first post-season appearance since 2002 and are another great story this season…especially given their trials and tribulations last summer. Very balanced on the attack, they have eight players with 30 or more points and another with 29…led by Shane Doan’s 55 overall points and Radim Vrbata’s 24 goals.
Coyotes vs. Wings - Your pick?
Total Voters: 125
Ilya Bryzgalov was an impressive 42-20-6 with a 2.29 GAA, .920 SV% and 8 shutouts. He could keep Phoenix in this series.
This is another one of those series in which I will be pulling for the team I predict will eventually lose in six games.
And then there is Vancouver and Los Angeles…two teams separated by just three points. The Kings have a great chance to pull a 3-6 upset here…especially if they get more outstanding work from Jonathan Quick in the nets. He finished the year 39-24-7 with a 2.54 GAA and .907 SV% with 4 shutouts.
The Kings are led by Anze Kopitar’s 34 goals and 81 points while Drew Doughty …the player picked just before Zach Bogosian in the 2008 draft…will be getting his first taste of the playoff life, so it will be interesting to watch the kid perform on the big stage.
Henrik Sedin led the NHL in points with 112 and his brother Daniel is currently on a 10-game points streak…in fact in his last 22 games he has failed to notch a point only once. Alex Burrows had 35 goals to lead the Canucks in that department.
Canucks vs. Kings - Your pick?
Total Voters: 126
Roberto Luongo went 40-22-4 with a 2.57 GAA and .913 SV% as well as 4 SO.
This series could be decided on the road. The Kings were 22-13-6 in L.A. while the Canucks were 30-8-3 in Vancouver. However, L.A. was a very impressive road team, going 24-14-3 while away from Los Angeles while Vancouver had a losing mark on the road…19-20-2.
So I think we’ll look for the Kings to steal one of the first two in British Columbia… and then go on to win in seven fun-packed games.
So to recap…I see the Caps, Devils, Penguins and Sabres advancing in the east. If so, we’ll have a round two that will see Washington and Pittsburgh squaring off in Sid vs. Ovie II and the Sabres and Devils providing a matchup that pits two of my favorite keepers against one another.
Out west, I like the Sharks to have to deal with the Kings in round two as well as the Red Wings facing off against Chicago in what should be one hum-dinger of a series.