Can you believe it? It's playoff time, which means it is time to make some predictions. This will be the fourth straight year for PHT's fearless predictions and it's the most exciting due to the Capitals ranked second in the East and they wrapped up a playoff position two weeks before the end of the season.
There are a few newbies to the Playoffs from a year ago which makes this an exciting playoff season. Two Southeast Division teams find their way to the post season, the Blue Jackets get to the playoffs for the first time in franchise history, the Blues not only sneak in but get get a good ranking on their last game and the Blackhawks look tough to beat. So much going on!
Let's start in the West where it was a wild finish. Eastern predictions to follow tomorrow morning.
#1 San Jose Sharks vs. #8 Anaheim Ducks - It is an interesting matchup to say the least. The Ducks and Sharks do not really like each other, and going into playoff series with one another is not going to help the situation much. The Sharks however might be a tad too powerful for the Ducks this year, considering goaltending has been the Ducks weak point this season. J.S. Giguere could be the back up. The Ducks will play some tough defense and it should be a good test for the number one team in the league. But the Shark's solid goaltending should win out the day in Evgeni Nabokov.
Sharks win in 7 games.
#2 Detroit Red Wings vs. #7 Columbus Blue Jackets - Central Division rivals meet up for the first time in the playoffs. Actually every thing the Blue Jackets do will be for the first time, since this is their first trip to the post season in franchise history. The BJ's have a tough hill to climb if they are thinking of surpassing the Red Wings who hold the season series over them. The Red Wings are at the top, if not the first, in every category in the league. The Jackets are just trying to do well and they will behind phenom rookie goaltender Steve Mason. If Chris Osgood can keep it together that is.
Red Wings win in 5 games.
#3 Vancouver Canucks vs. #6 St. Louis Blues - Look who just crashed the playoff party, the St. Louis Blues. Hard work and determination do pay off. But it is going to be a short playoff series if the Blues can't stop the offensive juggernaut of the Vancouver Canucks while at the same time solving the arguably the league's best goaltender in Roberto Luongo. No easy task. I am afraid that the Blues venture into the post season might be short lived, Vancouver is just on too much of a roll these days to be stopped by a Blues team that has to keep up their intensity and strong forecheck if they want to be successful.
Canucks take it in 6 games.
#4 Chicago Blackhawks vs. #5 Calgary Flames - Proven leadership. That is what this series is going to be about. Jerome Iginla is the poster boy for leadership and he has lead this team to a finals already. Calgary's first test however will start on the road against a young and budding team that is not short on talent. The Blackhawks will have to depend on their goaltending here, Nikolai Khabibulin gets the edge in that department. His experience and tenacious play of late will help the Blackhawks do well. But I just think Calgary's leadership will help them through. Experience over youth.
Flames win in 7 games.
Round 2 (probable matchups based on Round 1 predictions)
San Jose Sharks vs. Calagary Flames - The Sharks offense will be just too much for Calgary unless Miikka Kiprusoff can put together a consistent effort. The Flames will need much more than leadership if they want to continue on. But these two are not strangers in the post season. It should be a dirty, down out fight. But with solid goaltending and an offense that is confident in themselves, San Jose just has an edge.
Sharks win in 6 games.
Detroit Red Wings vs. Vancouver Canucks - This should be a good match up. I imagine Luongo will be at his best against the best. The Red Wings must rely heavily on Osgood in this one and I am just not sure if he is up for that challenge. The Canucks' offense has found a groove. If they keep it up, the Red Wings will have their hands full.
Canucks squeak by in 7 close games.
Western Conference Final
San Jose Sharks vs. Vancouver Canucks - Ooo, a Pacific Division final. Who would have thunk it? Two of the best offensive teams in the west gear up for a show down. Travel shouldn't be an issue with both teams in the Pacific time zone. Goaltending will be the big show down, Luongo and Nabokov will go head to head for their teams. What will be the factor is how fresh the Canucks will be after their tangle with the Red Wings. Both teams seem to be evenly matched in offense, defense and of course in net, but I don't think the Canucks have the experience to take it the distance. Should be one heck of a series.
Sharks win in 6 games.
I really like San Jose coming out of the west. I have predicted it now two years in a row. The Sharks seem to have things going for them as well as the Canucks, but every time I count out the Red Wings, they end up in the finals, again. I don't think the newcomers are in a position to overtake the top teams, but how I have been wrong before.
Eastern Conference predictions and my prediction of the Stanley Cup winner will come tomorrow morning. Then it is game on, bring on the playoffs and bring on the Stanley Cup. We are more than ready.