Tuesday, April 08, 2008

The bracket racket
Predictions with conviction (not really)


Eastern Conference

(1) Montreal v. (8) Boston
Series key: Kovalev v. Chara
It's pretty rare that a team wins eight regular-season games against another, but that's what the Habs managed to pull off against the Bruins this season. And, understandably, few are picking Boston to have a chance. But what the Bruins are going to do in this series is what they've done all year: Make it ugly. This is a classic trapping team versus a high-flying offence. Montreal relies heavily on its power play, one that will get its chances in this series, but at even strength, it'll be size and strength against speed and finesse — even if the Bruins have Patrice Bergeron and Marc Savard in the lineup. Zdeno Chara's going to try and make life miserable for Alex Kovalev, and the Canadiens need him to respond like he has all season.
Canadiens in 6

(2) Pittsburgh v. (7) Ottawa
Series key: Martin Gerber
Even with all of the turmoil, the Senators were the NHL's highest-scoring team this season. It's a good thing, too, given the number of goals this team allowed (2.92 per game, 7th worst). If Pittsburgh's young stars can get on Ottawa early, pot a few goals and run away with one of the first two games, this could be a very short series. Without Daniel Alfredsson, there's a huge leadership void and the Penguins have the talent to capitalize. Sid Crosby is going to be hungry — and it doesn't help that Gerber, 33, has just one career playoff win.
Penguins in 6

(3) Washington v. (6) Philadelphia
Series key: Can Caps win ugly?
This is the first-round series to watch, in my view, with the NHL's nastiest team matched up against its greatest individual talent. The Flyers and Mike Richards are going to throw everything they can at Alex Ovechkin, and it almost goes without saying that Washington's going to be doing everything it can to protect its superstar. Players like Donald Brashear and Matt Cooke suddenly become important for the Capitals, which really isn't the sort of game they've been winning lately. It'll be a long series (and keep in mind that the Flyers actually finished with more points than red-hot Washington this season). There's a reason the Penguins didn't want to play these guys.
Flyers in 7

(4) New Jersey v. (5) N.Y. Rangers
Series key: Brodeur v. Lundqvist
Marty Brodeur turns 36 next month and has yet another 77-game season under his belt, and a lot of what happens in the postseason for the Devils rests with him. Coach Brent Sutter may have introduced more of a forechecking style, but this is still a team that rarely scores, one that had only one player with more than 22 goals or 55 points. And New Jersey's defence is as anonymous as they come. This may be a 4-versus-5 series, but I think whoever comes out of this one is going to have a big impact in the conference going forward, as both the Devils and Rangers play playoff-style hockey and have terrific goaltending. And there's a lot of untapped firepower on Broadway that could finally come out.
Rangers in 7

Western Conference

(1) Detroit v. (8) Nashville
Series key: Goaltending
Let's face it, the Predators are in pretty tough here. No one expected them to make it this far, and it's really only been a terrific penalty kill that's stood out this season. My real worry with Nashville is in goal, as if Tomas Vokoun was there, this could be a great series. As it is, Dan Ellis and Chris Mason are both likely to see time in goal, and Barry Trotz and company will just have their fingers crossed. There are some pieces in Tennessee that I really like — Shea Weber, for one — and this team plays hard, but they just don't have the horses to compete with the Red Wings' depth. Detroit will find it tough going on the power play, however.
Red Wings in 6

(2) San Jose v. (7) Calgary
Series key: Shutting down Jumbo Joe
Consider this a bit of a contrarian take on this series, but where I see San Jose as vulnerable is in its offensive depth. If you can make Joe Thornton a non-factor, that eliminates the only player in the lineup that had more than 55 points this season (in a Sharks uniform). Patrick Marleau's been a disaster this year, and as terrific as Brian Campbell's been on the blueline, there's still a lot of inexperience being thrown out there. If Miikka Kiprusoff can get a bit of his game back, Jarome Iginla will carry this Calgary team to Round 2.
Flames in 7

(3) Minnesota v. (6) Colorado
Series key: Injuries
I really like the Wild's roster, and I picked them to be the real dark horse in last year's postseason, but I'm going to keep this brief. Minnesota's missing two of its top four (or five) defencemen in Kurtis Foster and Nick Schultz, Colorado's added three key reinforcements, and Peter Forsberg has 11 points in his last four games. As long as Jose Theodore is decent, the Avalanche shouldn't have a problem here.
Avalanche in 6

(4) Anaheim v. (5) Dallas
Series key: Brad Richards
The Stars need secondary scoring in this one. They'll lose in four without it, in fact, given what their top line's going to be up against in The Nothing Line. Dallas is a bit beat up already, too, without Sergei Zubov, and wasn't playing well down the stretch. Anaheim's been incredibly low-scoring this season, but since Scott Niedermayer and Teemu Selanne both rejoined the lineup, the Ducks have been 20-5-1. And Chris Pronger missed eight of those games with a suspension. Yikes.
Ducks in 5

The bracket

And this is the year the Red Wings reclaim the Cup.



At 8:02 p.m., April 08, 2008, Blogger Aaron said...

While a Red Wings Cup run wouldn't surprise me I just don't see how you can pick them as the favorites heading in. Yes they finished first but look at their goaltending situation. You can not win the Stanley Cup without consistently great performances from your goaltender and Hasek is 43 with a history of groin problems, so to say he will hold up and play well for a solid 6-8 weeks is pretty brave. For those who say that Osgood can step in I think that's a bit of revisionist history. The Wings have tried Osgood as a #1 and it didn't work, so why would it suddenly work now? I would buy Osgood as a backup to a young guy like Price but I just can't see the Hasek/Osgood combination staying healthy enough and playing well enough to get them through the finals.

At 8:14 p.m., April 08, 2008, Blogger Lowetide said...

Anaheim's D is very strong and might be enough to topple the Oakland Seals, but I think Joey Johnston will come up big northern California gets the W conference nod.

Out east I'll go Montreal because they seem to have more bullets and their goalie is quality (if unproven).

SJS takes the Stanley, and name Stan Gilbertson coach.

At 8:46 p.m., April 08, 2008, Anonymous OrderedChaos said...

"keep in mind that the Flyers actually finished with more points than red-hot Washington this season"

True, Philly has one more point than the Caps. Yet the Caps have one more win than the Flyers -- and in the playoffs, there's no such thing as a consolation prize for losing in OT.

But I agree, this will be a hard-fought and exciting series.

At 8:51 p.m., April 08, 2008, Blogger Nick said...

James, There's nothing I'd like more than a Detroit/Rangers final, you're the man.

You picked the wild last year, I hope you're a little closer this year ;)

At 9:23 p.m., April 08, 2008, Blogger JP said...

Yes, Rangers/Wings would be great.


L'il Gary

At 9:59 p.m., April 08, 2008, Blogger Nick said...

You're right. Maybe I'll root for Calgary-Boston or something instead. That would be much more exciting.

At 12:06 a.m., April 09, 2008, Blogger BDH said...

Gotta love it when people cite potential injuries as a reason to pick against your team.

I just "looked at their goaltending situation" and saw that Detroit's goaltenders combined for the fewest GA despite injuries and possibly the craziest man to ever come out of the czech republic.

Would I rather have a Brodeur, Luongo, JSG of another goalie who singlehandedly take a team on a long run? Sure would. But I'm looking at 3 top defensive forwards, the best D-man on the planet, and a goaltending situation good enough for the President's trophy, and staying positive.

Nice pick, James.

At 12:20 a.m., April 09, 2008, Anonymous -X- said...

Wow, the Rangers in the finals? Interesting. I've been predicting the Habs and Sharks, with the Habs winning in 7. I figure whatever team makes it from the West will have been through a dogfight to get there, whereas the East is a little more wide open.

Anyway, discuss this on www.myhockeyforum.com.

At 12:26 a.m., April 09, 2008, Blogger Adam C said...

The Wings have tried Osgood as a #1 and it didn't work

I'm no Osgood fan, but I do seem to recall that it worked out fine 10 years ago when he went 16-6.

You don't need "consistently great" goaltending to win the Cup; it just helps.

At 1:19 a.m., April 09, 2008, Blogger Daniel said...

Does this mean Jagr can stay in New York?

At 5:56 a.m., April 09, 2008, Blogger ddawwidd said...

The highest-scoring team in the NHL were the Habs, not the Sens. As a Montreal fan, I'm a bit afraid before the Habs-Bruins series. The B's are such an underdog in this one, that I think they could make a major upset.

At 6:11 a.m., April 09, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

["keep in mind that the Flyers actually finished with more points than red-hot Washington this season"

True, Philly has one more point than the Caps. Yet the Caps have one more win than the Flyers -- and in the playoffs, there's no such thing as a consolation prize for losing in OT.]

Thats true, but the Flyers won the season series, and I think that they are much deeper than the Caps.

At 6:43 a.m., April 09, 2008, Blogger James Mirtle said...

The highest-scoring team in the NHL were the Habs, not the Sens. As a Montreal fan, I'm a bit afraid before the Habs-Bruins series.

Shootout goals don't count.

At 11:57 a.m., April 09, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

they may not, but if you bothered to check nhl.com

Montreal - 262 goals for
Ottawa - 261 goals for

so yeah, ottawa had second most

At 1:09 p.m., April 09, 2008, Blogger Earl Sleek said...

Montreal - 262 goals for
Ottawa - 261 goals for

Right, and if you remove the shootouts from that total, then it's:

Ottawa - 258, Montreal - 257

Whatever, though. I don't know why it's worth getting worked up over a single goal over 82 games.

At 1:42 p.m., April 09, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Because Anonymous Habs fan needs to grab all he can before his team craps the bed in the playoffs.

That top-ranked powerplay will have to be perfect in the playoffs when the number of opportunities fall.

Go Bruins!

At 1:47 p.m., April 09, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow I also have Rangers vs. Red Wings in the Finals. Except my brackets pan out a bit differently.

At 7:54 p.m., April 10, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

how can anyone in their right minds pick the caps over flyers. think about. flyers are a top ten team in pk and pp while capitals ranked 25 on pk.

flyers play in a division that has THREE other teams in their division in the playoffs while capitals during their streak played 1 lousy playoff team.

plus this is the time of the year where scoring depth, defense and goaltender take over and capitals dont have any of it.

At 11:17 a.m., April 30, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You all are wrong it's going to be Dallas vs the Penguins for the finals and then the Penguins will win it in 5 or 6 games. Marc Andre Fluery is a BEAST!


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