I'm going to get my entire bracket set down instead of going round-by-round. Last year, I was 15 for 15 in predicting the Ducks over Sens; but I actually felt last year was easy to pick... this year, I'll be lucky if I get half right.
Nonetheless, I surge forward... unlike last year, I feel EVERY team, 1-8, in both conferences could beat/upset and move to the second round. Certain matchups aren't favorable (see Bruins, Boston), but any team could potentially make another run like the Flames and Oilers have done recently.
Montreal vs. Boston... well let's see, Montreal swept the season series... a divisional series! 8-0. The Habs have more consistent goaltending out of Price and their defense is playing great. Koivu is a big loss, but they haven't exactly been leaning on him to carry them lately. Bergeron's return is probably too early and probably rushed to try and give a team that struggles against the Habs some sort of breath of fresh air.
Montreal in 5... Boston probably manages to squeeze one out in OT.
Pittsburgh vs. Ottawa... I had already made up my mind that I wasn't taking the Ottawa Senators at all in the playoffs and why would anyone? ... minus Sens fans anyway... what have they shown in the last 2 months that is worthy of a playoff round win? Nothing. Bad goaltending, horrible defense and one forward line. Even with MA Fleury (who's no brick wall himself), the pens get it done.
Pittsburgh in 6... I'm feeling generous.
Washington vs. Philly... Having seen Philly line combos, they look like they can be pretty dangerous. Washington has been riding a high for a month just to slip into the playoffs. My bracket that I filled out before my hockey draft had me picking the Caps and even led to me to snag Huet late... but Philly is the better team. They can roll their 3 top lines and if they choose to outwork and outhit Washington, they'll win this series. Again, two goalies I'd never want to have to make a cup run with, but you never know when one can get hot.
Philly in 7... they outlast the Caps and beat them down in game 7.
New York vs New Jersey... not the first-round matchup I wanted to see. I figured they'd likely meet in the conference finals and I feel they are the East's strongest chance to win the cup. But since they play each other... I'll just look at the season series which I believe was 7-1 Rangers. Don't know why I'd bet against Brent Sutter (coach of the year, hands down) or Martin Brodeur, but I guess I will... the Devils D is weak and so is the PP.
New York in 6... as with Philly, the Blue-shirt's depth outlasts the Devils.
Detroit vs. Nashville... Detroit's big question mark to me is goaltending. Who do you ride? Cleary I think you have to take a shot with Hasek. Although Nashville played them well at the end of the regular season, they're still far too inconsistent. Detroit should roll through this series... and they better hope they do so they can save some energy to try and make it past the 2nd/3rd round.
Detroit in 5...
San Jose vs.Calgary... okay, we'll start it off with every Flames fan's favorite stat, we won the season series 3-1. Sharks fan's will counter that we're lucky to have won those games and that Brian Campbell wasn't there yet. The latter being a vaild point. I sat at the dome and watched the Flames absolutely man-handle this team, save for a late rally by the Sharks. I watched them win a tight-checking 3-2 OT game very similar to a playoff game. The 3rd win was the Flames being out shot 36-20 and scoring a late goal to tie then Iggy winning it in OT. They can beat this team and when has San Jose shown us they can get it done in the playoffs? Well, unfortunately for us, they're always just fine in the first round. The key to beating this team is to do just that... beat them... physically. Campbell may be skilled, but tough he is not. Michalek crumbles when tightly checked, (see Raffi Torres' hit in game 3 of the 05-06 series that completely changed the series and turned the momentum over to the Oilers). Check them and check them hard and you will beat this team... unfortunately, I've only seen about a half-dozen games since the break that we actually do that. so...
Sharks in 6...
Minnesota vs. Colorado... I pick against Minnesota in my online gambling every night and pick against them at the beginning of the season and predict they WON'T win the division and the the Flames will beat them to stay in the division race and every time I pick against Minnesota, I'm wrong. I don't know why I take them so lightly, but I always do. Which is precisely why I'm picking them to win this series. No other reason then that.
Minnesota in 7... Andrew Brunette streaking goal in overtime of game 7 (oh wait... that already happened)
Anaheim vs. Dallas... Dallas is my Ottawa of the West, in that I refuse to pick them. They won't go out of the first round... unless they were matched up against the Sens... then they'd be okay! The trick to beating Giguere is making him move laterally... but try and do that with Niedermayer and Pronger in front of him.
Anaheim in 5
REST OF THE PLAYOFFS...
Detroit vs. Anaheim... Payback's a b*tch... Wings in 6
San Jose vs. Minny... going against the Wild, as usual... Sharks in 5
Detroit vs. San Jose... had the Sharks going to the finals previously... but I hate Ron Wilson and think he should have been fired after last season, there's no reason the Sharks don't collapse again. If there is, someone tell me... is it red-head Campbell? Don't bet on it.
Wings in 6.
Montreal vs. Philly... Habs in 7
Pittsburgh vs. New York... Fleury costs them huge... Rangers in 5
Montreal vs. New York... Rangers in 7
STANLEY CUP FINAL
Detroit vs. New York... wow I can't believe I'm picking the Rangers... in 7.