I thought it was a great season overall. Highlights for me:
-the emergence of three impact rookies: Ovechkin, Crosby, Phaneuf -Jonathan Cheechoo winning the Rocket Richard trophy! -The Detroit Red Wings being the only team not to be shut out during the regular season The surprisingly strong seasons of the Carolina Hurricanes, Buffalo Sabres, Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, and Nashville Predators
First round thoughts:
Ottawa over Tampa Bay in 5: I was really hoping for an Ottawa-Montreal series. I can't imagine the Sens having much difficulty with the Bolts. There's going to be a LOT of goals in this series.
Carolina over Montreal in 6: Montreal's a special team in the playoffs but there's too much firepower with the 'Canes.
Devils over Rangers in 7: This is the series I'm looking forward to most. A nice local battle with Brodeur being the difference.
Buffalo over Philly in 6: No clue why I'm picking the Sabres.
Red Wings over Oilers in 6: Edmonton will step it up but are just overmatched.
Dallas sweeps Colorado in 4 straight: This is gonna be ugly for the Avalanche.
Calgary over Anaheim in 6: I admit I am picking the Flames because I am a homer, and Flames victories equal parties and naked broads, very good things for my morale. I want lots of fights and at least one Emilio Estevez appearance in a private box.
San Jose over Nashville in 7: This will be another talent-filled series, which could go either way.
I think a series with Carolina and Tampa Bay would have been exciting as hell given their home and home last weekend. But we deserve to play Ottawa with the way we performed in the regular season...But, I may be the only one, but I think we can beat them.
This happens only if Grahame is the starting goalie. He can make amazing saves and if he gets hot, he can carry us through. His problem is that he gives up big rebounds and the occasional fluke goal. Our players need to block shots like they did in our cup winning year. Torts needs to use our underdog status to rile up the team. I think the fact that we haven't beaten these guys in five years will serve as a major factor to get the team going, to prove that we can beat these guys. After we beat Ottawa, we will be on our way to the finals.
Carolina over Montreal in 6 New York over New Jersey in 7 Buffalo over Philly in 7
Detroit over Edmonton in 4 Colorado over Dallas in 6 Calgary over Anaheim in 7 Nashville over San Jose in 6
I'll start with the West since I have followed this conference the least this year -
Detroit over Edmonton in 4 - you want to see the Oilers win at least 1 but I just don't think so
Dallas over Colorado in 6 - the Avs will be lucky to get to 6 games - 2 words, Jose Theodore - nuff said
Calgary over Anaheim in 7 - Kiprusoff is the better goalie and the Flames will outlast to be the better team
San Jose over Nashville in 5 - Vokuon would have taken the preds to a Game 7 - Thornton & Cheechoo will just be too much
Ottawa over Tampa in 5 - The Sens impressed me this year and Tampa did not - no CUP for you this year
Carolina over Montreal in 7 - would have been 5 with Eric Cole in the lineup - Canes are going to outlast an overachieving Montreal team
Buffalo over Philly in 5 - Robert Esche is starting for the flyboyz - sorry
and now for the only series that really matters...
Rangers over the devils in 7 - a lot is being made of the experience difference between Lundqvist & brodeur - what many people seem to overlook is that Henrik has played in various World Championship series each year going back to 2000 - he won the Swedish Elite League Championship last year and he backstopped Sweden to the GOLD on the world's biggest stage in Torino - it's not like he is your typical rookie......Gionta & Gomez pose a problem for the Rangers and the Rangers D needs to tighten up and quit giving up the odd man rushes that plagued them over the last 5 games....the devils do have the home ice but when it comes to these 2 teams- does it really matter ? The Contintental Airlines Arena will be half red, white & blue by the time that the puck drops on Saturday afternoon.....Pandolfo will be somewhat effective shadowing Jagr but you really can't expect to shut Jagr down for all 7 games - it doesn't help that the devils defense is a little banged up with Colin White nursing an injury and Matvichuk playing with a bad back - one Jed Ortmeyer or Ryan Hollweg hit in the corner could be the deciding factor there....and finally, sure the devils had an impressive 11 game streak to end the season and the Rangers had a very unimpressive 5 game streak but when the puck drops on Saturday none of that will matter - the benches are even, the goalies are hot, both teams work hard - it will really come down to how the refs call the games - by the book like the regular season or do they relax and let them play like in the days of old ???
The Rangers play better as an underdog and the dismissals at the beginning and end of the season will be a motivating factor - again - Rangers over the devils in 7
The US team has some of the same personnel problems - they named too many players early on and just barely had room for Mike York - if Richter stands on his head again then the Gold will stay within our borders.