On the eve of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, it’s time to gaze into the crystal ball and make predictions beyond the opening round. In case you didn’t see them here are my first round picks: Washington in 6; Buffalo in 6; Boston in 6; Pittsburgh in 7; Vancouver in 5; San Jose in 5; Phoenix in 7; Nashville in 6. (If you missed it yesterday, the RLD staff made their first round picks).
Without further ado, here are my fearless predictions for how the rest of the ‘second season’ will play out… Eastern Conference Semifinals 1) Capitals over 7) Sabres in 6
Ryan Miller’s Sabres are my candidate to be this year’s Cinderella team (if I have to pick one). They have the necessary offensive firepower and goaltending to take down a team like Philadelphia. But I don’t see them advancing past the Caps. Bruce Boudreau’s gang is determined to go deep, and beating the Flyers could take a lot out of Buffalo. 3) Bruins over 4) Penguins in 7
Pittsburgh’s Matt Cooke would be returning just in the nick of time, huh? I like Boston in this series. Despite the Pens’ solid defense, Boston’s unit can match it (unlike Tampa Bay). The goaltending is pretty even, too. The B’s have the edge up front (again, if Crosby doesn’t return), and I think they would have just enough in what would be a dynamite seven-game series.
Eastern Conference Finals 3) Bruins over 1) Capitals in 6
This series could work one of two ways for Boston: A) they could get worn out after defeating Montreal and Pittsburgh, or B) it could prepare them for a rugged series against a team that took down the 7 and 8 seeds. I’m leaning towards the latter. It’s taking nothing away from Washington, who could easily emerge from this series; but in a conference finals, I’d side with Tim Thomas over Michael Neuvirth and/or Semyon Varlamov.
Western Conference Semifinals 1) Canucks over 6) Coyotes in 5
Now that Vancouver’s biggest (mental) hill to climb is past them in beating Chicago, they could really carry over the momentum. Vancouver and Phoenix played each other tough this year; the ‘Yotes were actually the only team to beat the Canucks twice in regulation at Rogers Arena. I feel the postseason is different, though. Vancouver’s offensive attack will be too much for the Desert Dogs. 2) Sharks over 5) Predators in 6
I feel a matchup between San Jose and Nashville would be a lot closer than previous meetings, but the result remains the same. The Sharks’ forward depth may be more of an issue for Barry Trotz and company than Anaheim’s red-hot top line. They are built to go to at least the third round, while the Preds will have just gotten the monkey off their backs in the series before.
Western Conference Finals 1) Canucks over 2) Sharks in 7
If their last regular season meeting is any indication, is there any doubt that this would be the best series in the entire playoffs? Both teams have numerous weapons up front, play solid team defense and had great goaltending this season. It’s a hard matchup to pick because they are so similar. I think Vancouver’s back end is a tad better and that makes the difference in the end.
Stanley Cup Finals Canucks over Bruins in 5
Alluding to my point earlier, this may be where Boston runs out of gas. These Canucks just have a special feeling to them, and if they get to the final, I can’t see them losing. Claude Julien’s Bruins wouldn’t go down without a fight; but if the Canucks were to win the Cup, they’ll do it on home-ice. I can’t see it going seven games, so Vancouver wins a close and intense five-game series.
Additionally, Roberto Luongo officially rids the demons this spring and captures the Conn Smythe.
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