It’s time to deliver my fearless predictions for the rest of the playoffs!! If my first round picks come to fruition, these would be the 2nd round matchups:
East: 1) Capitals vs. 4) Penguins, 2) Devils vs. 3) Sabres West: 1) Sharks vs. 5) Red Wings, 2) Blackhawks vs. 3) Canucks
EASTERN CONFERENCE SEMIFINALS 1) Capitals vs. 4) Penguins I think everyone who doesn’t hate the Caps or Pens would like to see these two square off again… whether it’s in the second or third round. Washington lost Game 7 at home to them last spring, and has used that loss as motivation. Ovechkin and company, in fact, swept the defending champs in the season series. I’ve admittedly been critical of the Caps on this blog, but I don’t necessarily like the way Pittsburgh’s playing. If they get past the Sens, they’ll struggle to beat the Caps again. Prediction: Capitals in 6 2) Devils vs. 3) Sabres The teams that Brodeur and Miller man the nets for will have to get past their respective first round matchups before they can think about this great duel. But if it gets to this point, it would be one helluva series between the goalie of this era, and the goalie of the next decade. Buffalo is good enough to get to the conference finals… or even the Cup finals if Washington slips. But I’d like the Devils in this series, as their offense is slightly better. Prediction: Devils in 6
WESTERN CONFERENCE SEMIFINALS 1) Sharks vs. 5) Red Wings Talk about ultimate test of intestinal fortitude for San Jose! This just may be the defining series of the Sharks’ franchise to date. After a predicted sweep of Colorado, how would the Sharks respond to having to play the red-hot Wings in round two?? If Nabokov gives up soft goals, and if Marleau and Thornton can’t handle the pressure, they are doomed. Detroit is hitting on all cylinders, and I don’t see them stopping here. Mike Babcock’s crew is bound to make more noise this postseason. Prediction: Red Wings in 7 2) Blackhawks vs. 3) Canucks The ‘Hawks and ‘Nucks met up in this round last spring, and everyone in Vancouver remembers what happened in Game 6; Roberto Luongo surrendered 8 goals in the Canucks’ exit. Will they seek revenge in this series?? By this time, Alain Vigneault’s club may have Willie Mitchell and/or Ryan Johnson back from injury. It won’t be enough, though. Chicago presents matchup problems for the Canucks, and they’ll take advantage of the shaky Luongo again. Prediction: Blackhawks in 5
EASTERN CONFERENCE FINALS 1) Capitals vs. 2) Devils For most of the Capitals, this would be the farthest in the playoffs they’ve advanced in their young careers. That’s where the veterans, specifically Mike Knuble, step in. In a series against the Devils, they’d need his size in front, causing havoc against Brodeur. New Jersey may be the toughest team for the Caps to beat, and vice versa. This would be a terrific series, and I think Parise and Brodeur carry the Devils to the finals. Prediction: Devils in 6
WESTERN CONFERENCE FINALS 2) Blackhawks vs. 5) Red Wings This was the conference final a year ago. It was a close five-game series, and Detroit taught Chicago some lessons along the way. The ‘Hawks are a year older and more built for a run to the Cup this time around. The additions of Hossa and Madden will play a big factor, and Brian Campbell presumably would be back by this series. If Babcock’s Wings survive a pair of six-to-seven game series, fatigue would be an issue for them in round three. In this potential conference final, I’d favor the Blackhawks… Prediction: Blackhawks in 5
STANLEY CUP FINALS BLACKHAWKS vs. DEVILS Chicago-New Jersey, though no Pens-Wings three-match, would still create a lot of buzz. From NBC’s point of view, you’d have the appeal of seeing the goaltender with almost every record in his name; while the ‘Hawks are an exciting team to watch, and haven’t won the Cup in, well, forever! The x-factors for both sides could be their new superstars for this postseason: Hossa and Kovalchuk. Both have a chip on their shoulder, looking to silence the critics. If the ‘Hawks get this far, I don’t see them losing. This is the last time this crew will be together, and they have great chemistry. As I stated last week, they are my favorite to claim Lord Stanley, doing so for the first time since 1961. Prediction: Blackhawks in 6 Conn Smythe: Jonathan Toews
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