Vancouver defeats St.Louis in 4 games:
Contrary to the fact that it was a four game sweep, the St.Louis Blues came out and played hard in this series, they just got beat by a far more veteran team. The Canucks power play was effective when they needed it and the completely shut down a previously potent Blues power play. Roberto Luongo stole game one and came up large right when they needed him and while Chris Mason played well he didn't play well enough obviously. The Canucks are a team that was built to win this year with the Swedish core (the Sedins, Sundin and Ohlund) are all up for UFA status and All World goaltender Roberto Luongo will be a free agent after next season while the Blues are a team that is deep with young talent that is building towards possibly something special. Right now I'm looking for the Canucks to at the very least make it to the Western Final because I believe they'll beat the Chicago Blackhawks in round #2
Detorit defeats Columbus in 4 games:
Much like the Vancouver/St.Louis series this was men against boys. The Detroit Red Wings machine claimed another victim in the Blue Jackets in this round. Chris Osgood's stats went from below zero temperatures to boiling hot once the puck dropped for the playoffs after a brutal regular season and once again their high powered, all-star laden roster (Lidstrom, Rafalski, Kronwall, Hossa, Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Franzen, etc.) rolled through an inferior opponent. Naturally the Red Wings aren't leaving the spotlight any time soon even with Hossa probably leaving as a UFA . The Blue Jackets, much like the Blues, are a very young team that is building towards the future into a potential power team and now it appears that they finally have a goaltender in Steve Mason, although the Wings taught him a thing or two. One source of concern for the Jackets is that their star player and the face of the franchise/captain Rick Nash will be eligible to become a free agent after next season so you can bet they will be putting all their efforts into re-signing him.
Boston defeats Montreal in 4 games:
This series was a shitkicking and a half. For a Habs fan this was outragously painful to watch. The Bruins were better in every facet of the game. They were bigger, meaner, more skilled and far more determined. Zdeno Chara, Milan Lucic, Micheal Ryder, Phil Kessel and Marc Savard ran the Habs show in this series. They have a nice blend of veteran and youth players but much like a few teams they are going to be in cap trouble over the next couple of years with major RFA's (Kessel, Krejci, Lucic and Wideman) and UFA's (Chara, Axelsson, Ward, Fernandez) and the cap will be flatlining and then going down. The centenial version of the Montreal Canadiens are a disaster and I have a feeling that they aren't going to be good for a few years now. They have 10 UFA players and 5 RFA's and you can bet that a large number of them won't be back, including Mike Komisarek and Saku Koivu who I'm betting won't be back. The young players on the team have a reputation of loving a night out on the town rather then taking their jobs seriously and the man who was supposed to be the future of the franchise, Carey Price, has major maturity and work ethic issues. This is going to be a very important offseason for the direction of the Habs.
Pittsburgh defeats Philadelphia in 6 games:
Plain and simple, Malkin and Crosby showed up and the Flyers defense beyond Kimmo Timonen and Braydon Coburn on a good day is a big bunch of nothing. Matt Carle has regressed beyond belief since he entered the league with a bang in San Jose, Luca Sbisa and Ryan Parent are rookies who are a little ways away from becoming impact players and the rest of them are pluggers. The Flyers are set up front with young stars Mike Richards and Jeff Carter while Scottie Hartnell, Dany Briere when healthy, Claude Giroux, and at times Joffrey Lupul but with a porous defence, Mike Knuble as a UFA and no goaltenders signed the Flyers are in serious cap hell. The Penguins are good and will be for awhile for obvious reasons of Crosby, Malkin, Fleury and Gonchar.
Chicago defeats Calgary in 6 games:
Simply put the Flames top two defensemen (Regher and the overrated Phaneuf) were either injured or ineffective in this series and there's nothing on the backend beyond them and the forwards (even with Langkow, Iginla, Cammalleri, Bertuzzi, Jokinen, and Bourque) couldn't score if their lives depended on it most of the time. The Flames are in deep cap trouble and obviously have other problems as per the fact they haven't made it out of the first round since their 2004 cup run. The Hawks young stars came through in this series, Nik Khabibulin stood on his head and their defence was solid. The Blackhawks are going to be good for a very long time with young stars Toews, Kane, Sharp, Bolland, Versteeg, Keith, Barker and Seabrook.
Anaheim defeats San Jose in 6 games:
The Sharks are officially the Indianapolis Colts pre-super bowl, the biggest chokers maybe their respective sport has ever seen. The Sharks finished the season with a franchise record 117 points and a President’s trophy award. A loaded offense (Thornton, Marleau, Setoguchi, Michalek, Clowe), a Stanley Cup defence (Boyle, Blake, Lukowich, Vlasic) and an All-Star goaltender in Evgeni Nabakov were supposed to finally pull through in the playoffs this year and as usual they folded. Once again the Sharks big guns up front, especially Thornton, did nothing and when the going got tough they got to gliding but the biggest problem with the Sharks is Nabakov. Besides Roman Turek I’ve never seen a goalie who’s performance so drastically diminishes come playoff time. Whenever his team needs a save he never gives it to them. The Anaheim Ducks just keep rolling. They dump some unneeded veterans at the trade deadline and the young players step up. The Getzlaf/Perry/Ryan line is going to be dominant for years to come, they still have that All-Universe defence and a suddenly out of nowhere great goaltender Jonas Hiller.
Carolina defeats New Jersey in 7 games:
One half of my Stanley Cup prediction went up in smoke in this series including who I thought was going to win the whole shebang but I won’t be making that mistake for one reason: Martin Brodeur has proven to me once and fore all that he cannot carry a team by himself to a Stanley Cup championship. Without Stevens, Neidermayer and Rafalski he simply cannot get the job done. The ‘Canes did a nice job shutting down the Parise/Zajac/Elias line after the first couple of games and the secondary scoring for the Devils dried up as well. The Hurricanes are going to give the Bruins a nasty shock if they think that this series is going to be as easy as their last one. They have the hottest goaltender in the league right now in Cam Ward, a very effective puck moving defence and the best line in the playoffs with Whitney/Staal/Cole and the Brind’Amour/Ruutu line has been providing excellent secondary scoring. The Bruins/Hurricanes series is going to be a doozy.
Washington defeats NYR in 7 games
Their were two pivotal events in this series: 1) The Washington Capitals replace Jose Theodore with Simeon Varlamov and 2) John Tortorella benches Sean Avery in game 5 for a lack of discipline and then goes and get’s himself suspended for throwing a water bottle into the crowd in Washington. These two things helped the Washington Capitals come back from a 3-1 series deficit to score their first playoff round win in 11 years. Basically the only reason the Rangers were even in this series was Henrik Lundqvist. “The King” was dominant at the start of the series and stole the 3 games that the Rangers did win as once again Slats’s high price talent failed to produce as it’s looking more and more like I was right to think that Wade Redden, Scott Gomez, Chris Drury and Markus Naslund were going to be busts relative to the money they were going to make. With nothing coming up the pipe in the minors any time soon Ranger fans should get used to teams that win only when Lundqvist and of all people Sean Avery play well. Alex Ovechkin still looks like he’s trying to figure out the playoffs because he still plays like he would in the regular season which is why he hasn’t been as effective. It’s not that he’s not trying but he’s still trying to do everything himself and doesn’t use his teammates to great effect which is something he’ll have to learn to do. They have great secondary scoring with Nik Backstrom, Alex Semin and Mike Green, a solid defence and a hot goaltender. The NHL has it’s dream playoff matchup with Ovechkin vs. Crosby and it should be good.