Round 3 picks
I've got some family in town this week all the way from the 'loops — they refuse to listen when I tell them not to come during the playoffs — so this will have to be oh so brief:
(1) Detroit vs. (2) Anaheim
I still honestly believe the loss of Mathieu Schneider is really going to hold the Wings back — although I have to admit that it's going to be mighty interesting watching a 61-year-old Chris Chelios play 25+ minutes a night and get some time on the power play.
Who know? Maybe he's up to that challenge.
Speaking of challenges, though, there are a ton of them for Detroit (namely the pair of Norris nominees that will be hounding their top scorers), and it's going to take a world-class performance by Dominik Hasek for them to win this series.
Anaheim has two aces up its sleeve: unheralded secondary scoring from the likes of Ryan Getzlaf and an unbelievable penalty kill/shutdown game led by Sammy Pahlsson. Combine those and I think things are getting Ducky (again) for the Stanley Cup finals.
And given Anaheim has been to these conference finals three times in four years, I think we have our first quasi-dynasty in recent memory.
Prediction: Ducks in 6
(1) Buffalo vs. (4) Ottawa
Ah... I don't know.
Honestly, has there been a more pick'em series this year than this one? The Senators have played better through two rounds against obviously overmatched teams, while the Sabres have struggled to dominate what should have been overmatched opposition.
Does that mean Ottawa wins here?
Not necessarily — and especially considering that Buffalo has managed to advance despite not putting up its best game.
I have much respect for Chris Phillips and Anton Volchenkov, but there are a lot of top-notch skaters on that Sabres blue line as well. I expect the supporting cast, including newcomer Dainius Zubrus — who has been terrific — to really stand out, and it may simply fall to the second, third and fourth liners on either team to pot a few goals to decide this series.
If we can assume the top lines are effectively shutdown by the checking dynamos they're up against, I like Buffalo's chances.
(In this round, anyway.)
Besides, never bet against Chris Drury.
Prediction: Buffalo in 7