That's right, get comfy we have less than 24-hours until the start of the Stanley Cup Playoffs and as we've all come accustomed to, this ain't no race, it's a marathon. One of my favourite quotes of all-time was made by Harry Neale from Hockey Night In Canada. Back in 1994 when the Canucks battled back from a 3-1 series deficit to force game seven versus the Rangers. Harry, made a comment during the latter portion of the series that the Stanley Cup is "a slippery trophy" and advised the Rangers and their faithful had best not get ahead of themselves.
With that being said, this years first round is setting up to be one of the most spectacular in recent history. With the young stars of the game out in full-force, Ovechkin and Crosby, Iginla and Thornton and many more battling for supremacy. Are the Ducks ready to repeat? Can the Habs rely on another rookie goaltender? Are the Washington Capitals for real? We will soon find out.
Predicting the out-come of a series is never easy and with such close match-ups across the board, this season should be extremely difficult, but here goes nothing..
Lets begin with the four match-ups that are set to begin on Wednesday evening:
Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Ottawa Senators
This series is going to be about the Senators willingness (or unwillingness) to play for one another. Goaltender Ray Emery is a complete flake and appears destined to ruin the Senators from the inside out. Can Martin Gerber carry the load? My guess is probably not. But for you Sens fans don't give up hope, the Penguins goaltending situation isn't much better. Marc-Andre Fluery has proven time and time again, throughout his career, that he cannot be trusted in pressure situations.
My prediction, the Senators self-implode, Crosby and Malkin are too much for a fragile team to handle and the Penguins take the series in 6 games.
New Jeresy Devils vs. New York Rangers
This has got to be the most difficult series to predict. The Devils have the greatest goaltender in the game to fall back on but the Rangers on the other hand boast a line-up that includes an up-and-coming star between the pipers as well as one of the most dynamic players of the past decade in Jaromir Jagr. I would have to say that I have not seen much of either one of these teams this season but a quick glance through the line-ups tells me that the Rangers are the deeper team. My prediction, Jagr and the Rangers struggle to score early on but push comes to shove and Sean Avery (that's right! I said it) scores the series clincher in game six.
Minnesota Wild vs. Colorado Avalanche
The Northwest Division is on of the most hotly contested divisions in all of hockey (professional sport for that matter), with the blood bath beginning in September and ending sometime in May teams from the Northwest are usually pretty spent by the second round. Lets face it, Calgary and Edmonton rode momentum all the way to the finals in 04 and 06 respectively.
With the likes of Sakic, Forsberg, Smyth and Foote, Colorado simply boasts a line-up that is set to win. Meanwhile the Wild wild attempt to suffocate the Avs with strong defensive play and get the puck to Gaborik and Demitra, not to forget Rolston as much as possible.
My prediction, a long grueling series with blood, stitches, fights galore. Good old time hockey, Jose Theodore continues his strong play in the Avs goal; Gaborik proves that he can play in April. This series goes seven with the Avs taking the one that matter most.
San Jose Sharks vs. Calgary Flames
Another tough first round match-up. The Sharks have been one of the hottest teams down the stretch towards the playoffs as the addition of Brian Campbell appears to be on of the best deadline deals in awhile. With that being said, the Sharks may have met their maker cause the Flames are one of the most pesky teams in the NHL. Joe Thornton is used to the attention but I have a feeling that these Flames really mean business and Joe (despite his size) really won't have room to breathe. Turn your focus to Patrick Marleau. Can casper the friendly ghost shake off the cobwebs and return to form. Best thing for the Flames is that they don't wake him.
My prediction, in a hugely dominate performance where Nabokov is good but Kipper is better, Thornton and Marleau take it to the bank Sharks put out the Flames in five games.
Penguins over Sens in 6
Rangers over Devils in 6
Avalanche over the Wild in 7
Sharks over the Flames in 5
check out my "Quest For Stanley 2008" blog at http://drivingforstanley.blogspot.com/
I hope to keep it updated as much as possible throughout the playoffs. Also I will return in a few weeks to do the return of my "Road To The Memorial Cup" blog as I did last year.