Cup Crystal Ball Points to Canadian Capital
Okay, it’s playoff time. I’ll probably be incredibly off-base with these predictions, so exercise (or exorcise) judgment when placing any wagers.
#1 Buffalo over #8 NY Islanders in five games
If netminder Rick DiPietro was healthy, the Isles might be able to extend this to six or seven. That’s not the case. The Sabres are reaching the pinnacle of good health at exactly the right time, and they should cruise to victory here. Dubie, Dubie don’t.
#7 Tampa Bay over #2 New Jersey in seven games
The Lightning has serious goaltending issues. The Devils have serious goal scoring issues. Special teams don’t figure to be much of a factor because neither team takes many penalties. Martin Brodeur is the best in the business in goal, and the Lightning’s netminding duo is as porous as SpongeBob’s torso. So why pick the Lightning? I think it’s called a hunch.
#6 NY Rangers over #3 Atlanta in six games
The Rangers staggered into the playoffs on a long losing streak a year ago. And they got whacked in four straight by New Jersey. This season finds the Rangers on a roll going in, and the presence of Brendan Shanahan and Sean Avery combined with Henrik Lundqvist’s goaltending will be enough to overcome Jaromir Jagr’s terminal indifference (no shootouts in the playoffs, woo-hoo!) and get them past the Thrash. At least I think so.
#4 Ottawa over #5 Pittsburgh in six games
A lot of people aren’t sold on Marc-Andre Fleury as a big-game goaltender, and you can count me among them. The Pens are brimming with talent, but the Sens are better in the back, in goal and behind the bench. It will be enough to propel them past the Pens.
After that, I’ve got Buffalo blasting the Bolts in four straight, and Ottawa taking out the Rangers in six. The Sens will prevail over the Sabres in seven, and will make it to the Cup finals for the first time in franchise history.
#8 Calgary over #1 Detroit in seven games
The eight playoff teams in the West are so tightly bunched, and there are bound to be upsets. Might as well start right here. Calgary is built for the postseason with a franchise goaltender in Miikka Kiprusoff and one of the best groups of defensemen anywhere in the tournament. Throw in a few 30-goal scorers and I smell a first-round exit for the Wings, who will miss injured defenseman Niklas Kronwall.
#2 Anaheim over #7 Minnesota in five games
The Ducks’ physicality and depth will be too much for Minny to overcome. The Wild won a lot of games in the shootout this season, but they won’t win any in that fashion in the next few weeks. This might be the most likely first-round series to conclude in a sweep, though I don’t actually see any club getting swept in round one.
#3 Vancouver over #6 Dallas in six games
Two low-scoring defensive minded teams go at it in this series. In the four regular season games between these two clubs in 2006-07, a total of 11 goals was scored. By both teams. Combined. I give the nod to the ‘Nucks based on Roberto Luongo’s dominance, and a bit more offensive oomph.
#4 Nashville over #5 San Jose in seven games
This one is a rematch of last season’s first-round series, which the Sharks took. This time, the Preds will get it done. Their attack is deep and diverse, and they have the better of two excellent young blueline corps in this series.
In round two, I’ve got Nashville taking out Vancouver in seven games and Anaheim dousing the Flames in seven. Then the Predators slip past the Ducks in a seven-game war.
Finally, I have Ottawa downing Nashville (a matchup made in TV ratings heaven, no?) in a six-game finals series. The Cup comes back to Canada’s capital city after an 80-year absence.