So, as per usual, it's about time for me to make my predictions about the 2K8 version of the NHL playoffs. Will I be able to repeat my 14 correct predictions out of 15 performance from a year ago? Let's find out:
Detroit Red Wings vs Nashville Predators - for me, this is the only series in this years playoffs where there is a clear, definite favourite. If Nashville wins this, pigs will fly, hell will get frosty and I'll give up my Xbox (okay, maybe not....). My prediction: Detroit in 5.
San Jose Sharks vs Calgary Flames - SJ is my pick to win it all this year (although I've been saying that for the last 2 or 3 years....). They are a rock solid team, with lots of post-season experience, and should be desperate for some success. It's a shame Calgary ends up meeting these guys in the first round as I think if they had ended up playing Minnesota in the first round they would've done quite well. This one should be fairly hard faught, and I don't think an upset here would be all that surprising (Kipper, Iginla and Phaneuf could easily cause some real headaches for the Sharks) but my prediction: San Jose in 7.
Minnesota Wild vs Colorado Avalanche - The Wild are the only team in the west with home ice advantage who I think are also favoured to lose. The Avs really stacked up at the deadline, played very well down the stretch, have a tradition of post season success, and Theodore is actually starting to look like the MVP from Montreal again. This one shouldn't be too much of a battle. My prediction: Colorado in 6.
Anaheim Ducks vs Dallas Stars - Funny how if these two teams would've met 4 months ago people would've picked the Stars hands down, but now the tables have turned somewhat. Dallas more-or-less limped into the post season, whereas Anaheim really started to pick things up and look like defending champs as the season wore on. The Ducks are largely the same team that one it all last year with the punishing defense and tenacious forwards, so my money's on them for this series. My prediction: Anaheim in 4.
Montreal Canadiens vs Boston Bruins - ahhh yes, the classic Habs/B's rivalry renewed. The Habs were this years Cinderella story, achieving far higher than anyone expected. Having said that, I still don't think they have what it takes to go deep, and they're still a very young and relatively inexperienced team (particularly in goal). However, I do think they'll have a lot of enthusiasm for the first round, and the Montreal fans will most definitely be a boost (it's been a long time since fans in Hab-land could feel as though their team is a favourite). Should be a good series either way, but my prediction: Montreal in 6.
Pittsburgh Penguins vs Ottawa Senators - Wow, how about these Pens? A lot of people thought they'd improve over last year as all those young stars matured, but I don't think too many people thought they'd be the #2 seed in the east (narrowly missing the #1 spot). And that was with their biggest star player in Crosby injured for much of the stretch. This is a fun team to watch with an insane amount of depth up-front. Goaltending is still a question mark, as is the defence and leadership. Ottawa went all the way to the final round last season, and at times this season had some of that form, but this still doesn't look like they are a cohesive unit right now, and the injury to Alfredsson is huge. I hate to say it as if it's true heads will roll in the nation's capital during the off-season, but my prediction: Pittsburgh in 5.
Washington Captials vs Philadelphia Flyers - As surprising as the Pens were this season, I don't think anyone would disagree that the Caps were an even greater surprise. Just a few weeks ago it didn't look like they'd make the playoffs and now they're the #3 seed. Ovechkin is coming off of a possibly Hart-like season (in addition to Rocket Richard and Art Ross trophies) and this will be his first taste of post-season play. Philly on the other hand just doesn't look like a team to me, but rather a collection of off-season free-agents that at times looked great and at other times looked completely mediocre. I don't think they'll go far after this round, but my money's on the Caps for this one. My prediction: Washington in 6.
New Jersey Devils vs New York Rangers - This should be a great battle, as these two teams are great rivals. Brodeur is coming off of yet another Vezina like season, and for much of the year the Devils looked like the team to beat in the east. New York should make this one interesting, but I don't see them getting past the Devils. My prediction: New Jersey in 7.
And there you have it. Usually what happens as well is my wife makes her predictions and we have a friendly little competition to see who ends up doing a better job of predicting the playoffs so I'll post her predictions once she gives them to me.
At any rate, even though my boys (the Canucks) aren't there this year, I'm really looking forward to the playoffs this year. As mentioned earlier San Jose is my pick for the west and to win it all. The east is much tougher to call, so much parity in the Eastern Conference and moreover a lot of the high seeds are teams that are new to being high seeds. If push came to shove at this point I'd pick the Devils in the East, but I could just as easily see Crosby going on a tear and taking the Pens to the finals. Stay tuned....