I've been absent for a little while as the baseball games consumed me but I'm back now for a quick look at the final regular season NHL standings and how things will shake up in what should be an exciting Stanley Cup playoffs.
each conference and all everyone's chances of making the playoffs. In the Eastern Conference, I totally botched the Ottawa Senators and stated that they wouldn't be going anywhere but down for the remainder of the season. Instead, they went up a bit from 6th place to 5th. I also chose my ol' hometown team, the Rangers, to finish ahead of the Canadiens and get in the playoffs with the final spot. That didn't happen. In the West, I was wrong in picking the Predators to fade from the race but they'll surely be knocked out easily in the first round.
Here are my picks for each match-up in the first round:
#1 Capitals vs #8 Canadiens
Caps but it won't be as easy as people think.
#2 Devils vs #7 Flyers
Should be a gritty, closely-matched series. If the Flyers get some solid work in goal they have a strong chance for an upset. Then again, Ilya Kovalchuk has an actual chance to win a championship and might just take over the whole show. My bet is on the Flyers.
#3 Sabres vs #6 Bruins
Another great match-up between division rivals, I'll take Ryan Miller's team (the Sabres).
#4 Penguins vs #5 Senators
I showed the Sens no respect in my second-half season preview and I show them no respect here. Pens will dispose of them quickly.
#1 Sharks vs #8 Avalanche
The biggest question going into the playoffs is if the Sharks can finally succeed in the playoffs. Well, they'll certainly make it past the first round this time.
#2 Blackhawks vs #7 Predators
Nashville has a very tough defensive corps but this team doesn't stand a chance against the vaunted Blackhawks.
#3 Canucks vs #6 Kings
I saw the Canucks play in person the other night and really was not that impressed (they beat the Ducks in a shootout). I must note that superstar goaltender Roberto Luongo was on the bench, though. The Kings are the team I most often watch on TV and I've grown to really like them. I think this will be a tough series, very likely to be decided in 7 games. The Canucks are a popular pick to win the Cup and I even mentioned them as a Cup sleeper pick back in January, but I'm going to make a bold prediction and take the Kings.
#4 Coyotes vs #5 Red Wings
Another great looking series. The Wings are absolutely on fire and the Coyotes are out to show that they deserve respect as a contender. Goalie Ilya Bryzgalov is capable of taking over this series by himself and I think he'll be a major factor for the Coyotes before they bow to the charging Red Wings. I actually like the Red Wings to make it as far as the Conference Finals and maybe even the championship...
My Stanley Cup pick is a bit of a cop-out perhaps but:
Red Wings over the Penguins
Here's the TV schedule for the first round.
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