NHL Playoffs: Hunt for Cup Starts Tonight

HOT WINGS | President’s Cup winners favorites to win Lord Stanley

The NHL post-season starts tonight, and I’m still so bummed over the Hurricanes not making the 16-team field that I can’t even tell you who plays tonight. I was going to post an entry with my playoff predictions, but I’ll share what Eklund from hockeybuzz.com has written instead, with a few comments of mine thrown in…

The Detroit Red Wings, the league’s best team this year, has the star goaltending tandem of Dominik Hasek (above, left) and Chris Osgood to backstop them into another spring of post-season hockey…

Here’s the rundown:

WESTERN CONFERENCE
Detroit vs. Nashville
The Preds and fans of Nashville are going to enjoy EVERY minute of this series. Fun will be had by all. I expect the Preds to make this a really good battle. The Wings would have much rather played someone out of the division…As good as the Wings are, the Central likes to play them. Still when all is said and done the Wings are too tough I feel. The Preds need to get enormous goaltending, and they will to take it the distance.
Prediction: Wings in 7
Bill’s pick: Nashville played Detroit tough this season and played better down the stretch, but Detroit’s experience and the inexperience of Pred goalie Dan Ellis gives the edge to the Wings. I’m pulling hard for Nashville here, even though my buddy Martin Gelinas is on the sidelines recovery from knee surgery, but I think the Wings win in 6.

San Jose vs. Calgary
All are saying the Sharks in this one, but whenever Iginla and Kipper are involved ANYTHING can happen. I have been calling for the Sharks to get out of the conference for months now, even prior to Campbell, but for some reason today I am not so certain they can get past the Flames. I just think this may be one of the toughest matchups for the Sharks..I am still going with San Jose, but again, I think this is a LOOONG series and I could see the Flames winning 1 or 2 of the first two games. Alot of pressure on San Jose. This is the toughest series to predict for me.
Prediction: Flames or Sharks in 7…but I must pick one…SJ.
Bill’s pick: Calgary has just been too inconsistent this year. If Miikka Kiprusoff turns red hot, Calgary can win, but I have to also go with the Sharks, in 7.

Minnesota vs. Colorado
As happy as the Preds were to avoid the Sharks, The Wild were happy to avoid Calgary…that we know. The Avs are still a bit of a chemistry experiment due to injuries and changes. I always love Forsberg and Sakic in the playoffs, but I don’t love this matchup for the Avs. The Wild are too solid and too deep….
Prediction: Wild in 6
Bill’s pick: Wild in 7.

Ducks vs. Stars
The Stars really have struggled since the “trade.” A group of players who got used to NO changes really has unravelled a bit from one trade. Maybe Armstrong knew what he was doing with this group by not making any moves. I do think the Stars will be tougher than anyone really is imagining they will be here. The Ducks are so prepared to play in the off-season that they are going to be incredibly tough to knock off. The playoffs are about players who can find another level. The Ducks have those players. The story for the Stars is always their goaltending in the playoffs….however, I wouldn’t be shocked if the Ducks goaltending becomes a story in this series. Just a hunch.
Prediction: Ducks in 6
Bill’s pick: Ducks in 5…Dallas is playing without Sergei Zubov and Anaheim, the defending champs, are just too strong.

EASTERN CONFERENCE
Montreal vs. Boston
This series is the one that I don’t believe I have seen a single person pick Boston. I won’t either, BUT all I can say is Tim Thomas is at hist best when EVERYONE is against him. He will be the story if Boston is to win here…However, I love how Montreal is playing right now. They are such a great sum of the parts team. And someone needs to shake Price to tell him that he is playing in the playoffs for the Montreal Canadiens. He is so composed!
Prediction: Montreal in 6
Bill’s pick: Ole! Montreal in 6.

Pittsburgh vs. Ottawa
The Sens vs the Pens….Bryan Murray is a genius for using the distraction of the Penguins trying to lose in Philly. Because that way no one has to ask him the real question which is…Will Emery play? I think Emery will make an appearance before all is said and done. I also am hearing from sources that Alfie and Fischer are coming back MUCH sooner than is being let on. Mind Games. The Penguins are just too good. and Fleury will be fine. However, I feel the Sens will win game 1. Don’t know why.
Prediction: Penguins 7
Bill’s pick:  Pens in 6…and if Sid the Kid is at 100 percent, make it Pens in 5.

Washington vs. Philly
This will either be a four game series or a seven game series. And on all fronts it could go either way. The Caps had to put together a great roll to make it here and has to guard against a let down in Game 1. I am not sure who it benefits that this series doesn’t start until Friday. I think it benefits the Flyers. I like Huet alot to be the difference, but as much as Biron has been questioned over the last little bit here I feel that the season ended perfectly for Marty. I believe that Marty will be the story in this series, and the Hartnell will be ALL over Ovechkin trying to shift his focus. I am very curious if all the emotion of getting to the playoffs will work against the Caps.
Prediction: Philadelphia in 6
Bill’s pick: Caps in 7. Washington will be slow out of the gate after their incredible run to end the season (winning 11 of 12), but they’ll regain their footing and win the series.

New York Rangers vs New Jersey Devils
Tough draw for the Devils to say the least. I think the Rangers are the best team in the East so of course I am picking them to win this series, but NJ has Brodeur. And that MATTERS. This will not be a cakewalk, but I see the Rangers winning it…
Prediction: Rangers in 6
Bill’s pick: I sure would love to see the Rangers win, but Martin Brodeur is the best goalie in the universe…Rangers in 7.

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