NHL Playoffs; Yes, You Heard Me

Yeah, I know. Most of you don’t like hockey. But I do. And since this site is 1/3 mine, I’ll do what I please.

So today, because I do this every year but usually just in my head or on my personal blog, I’m giving a quick preview of the NHL playoffs. Yeah, yeah, I know… pick your joke here:

A) “The NHL what now?”
B) “I didn’t realize there was still an NHL.”
C) “I went to a fight and a hockey game broke out!”
D) “zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz….”

All done now? Good.

The NHL playoffs are similar to the NBA playoffs in that the top eight in each conference make it and the seedings go 1 versus 8, 2 versus 7 and so on. Only the NHL doesn’t suck like the NBA because of many reasons, such as re-seeding after each round, the early-round matchups actually being good, exciting play, and no sub-.500 teams making the playoffs like the Eastern Conference of the NBA.

Anyway, here we go.

Western Conference

(1) Detroit Red Wings vs. (8) Nashville Predators – The Wings find ways to choke badly as the top seed every few years and while Nashville is spunky, it won’t happen here. Detroit is healthy, has excellent scorers, top-notch defense and world-class goaltending. They’re just too much for the Preds. Red Wings in 5.

(2) San Jose Sharks vs. (7) Calgary Flames – Should be a very good series. Two Western teams that both have high expectations this year. However, I think the Sharks are just too good and too potent an offense with Thornton, Cheechoo and Marleau for the Flames to beat four out of seven times. Jarome Iginla is good, and I won money a few years ago by betting on the 7-seeded Flames to reach the Finals and they did, but I just think San Jose is too good. Sharks in 7.

(3) Minnesota Wild vs. (6) Colorado Avalanche – The Wild had a nice season and won their first division title ever. The Avalanche, however, have a very proven core group of playoff guys and the duo of Sakic and Forsberg should be plenty to move them to at least the second round. Avalanche in 6.

(4) Anaheim Ducks vs. (5) Dallas Stars – The Ducks are the defending champs and the Stars, with goalie Marty Turco, are perennial playoff disappointments. Despite winning a Cup in ’99, the Stars always seem tight (especially Turco) in the playoffs and the Ducks have the pedigree and the players. Ducks in 6.

Eastern Conference

(1) Montreal Canadiens vs (8) Boston Bruins – About the only complete gimme on the board (maybe Detroit-Nashville, too). The Canadiens have had a great season and, though I don’t think they’re as dominant as a #1 seed should be, they should have absolutely no trouble at all stomping the Bruins. They owned the B’s this season and it should be a quick exit for Boston. Good for them for getting back to the playoffs, though. Canadiens in 5, eh.

(2) Pittsburgh Penguins vs. (7) Ottawa Senators – These two met in the 4-5 matchup last season and the Sens took out the Pens with surprising ease. This year, more is expected of the Pens while Ottawa struggled down the stretch, going 14-21-4 after a 29-10-4 start. Probably the hardest series for me to handicap because the Pens still are young and inexperienced but the Senators and their coach sound like they’re losing it, accusing the Pens of tanking to make sure these two met in the playoffs, etc. Still, I think I’ll go with experience. Senators in 7.

(3) Washington Capitals vs. (6) Philadelphia Flyers – The Caps were on the outside looking in until the last weekend of the season and because they play in a terrible division – and in the NHL, like the NFL, the division winners automatically get the top 3 seeds) – they were able to leap from out of the playoffs to #3. They get the resurgent Flyers, who had the worst record in the league last year and rebounded to be pretty competitive this season. Offense isn’t a problem for Philly, but quick defense and any semblance of goaltending is. The Caps aren’t very good, except for 65-goal-scorer Alex Ovechikin, but I still think they’ll prevail. Caps in 7.

(4) NJ Devils vs. (5) NY Rangers – Yes, I still have season tickets to the Rangers, including full playoffs. And yes, I’ll be there if they get a little further along… but their first-round matchup is with the hated Devils. Goaltending is strong on both sides, there will be plenty of defense and hitting, but the Rangers simply have more offense (and went 7-1 against NJ this season) and so, even without my bias, it would seem the Rangers have to win. But they’ll make it interesting to give me a heart attack. Rangers in 7.

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