This year's standings have probably seen a lot of activity in terms of teams moving up and down in their conferences and divisions. Despite the active movement, there are also enormous barriers between certain seedings that give certain teams very comfortable cushions. I think this year's playoffs will be just as unique as the season has been so far. One could say these aren't the "usual group" of teams competing for a post season appearance, and with several teams in the play off race in each conference, I think we could see some interesting and entertaining match ups throughout the post season. These are a couple I would love to see.
Montreal Vs Philadelphia
A possible first round match up as it stands, and a rematch of last year's Eastern Conference Semi-Finals. Here, we have two big time franchises that are both stacked with talent. Both teams have improved since last year, and both have dynamic offenses. Viewers should be entertained to a series that may last for six or seven competitive and exciting games. Montreal has won two out of the three contests these two teams have played against each other this year. Although Montreal has played well against Phillie, and kept their only loss against them a very close game, the Habs are relatively young and may lack playoff experience unlike the Flyers, which could give them the edge once again against the Habs should they play each other. Considering the market rank and value of these two teams, this would also be a highly rated and watched match up as well, very good for the league.
Washington Vs New Jersey
As a Devils fan, I would love to see this series occur in the Eastern Conference Finals, but that's just me. The way things are going now, these two teams could either meet then, or meet in the Conference Semi-Finals. Although the Capitals have been able to handle the Devils during the times these teams played each other this season, one could argue for the Devils that the factor of playoff experience and goaltending should go in their favor. Washington does have a great mix of young players and established veterans, most of which are a part of their tremendous offensive arsenal. A series like this would have to go at least six games to decide a winner. I'm sure goal differentials and totals would differ each game, and each game would be just as unpredictable as the previous one.
Boston Vs Buffalo
Although the season series is split, with one game to determine the winner at the end of the season, Buffalo has found a way to defeat the number one Boston Bruins twice, something that should turn heads, considering how dominant the Bruins have been. It's possible the Bruins and Sabres can meet in the first or second round of the playoffs, and this is a series I would like to see, because you have two divisional opponents that may look to have completely unfair teams on paper, but ultimately, it looks like this series can go either way. Unlike the Sabres, Boston's core of offensive stars have minimal playoff experience, and it should be a fact that the regular season and the playoffs are two completely different things. Nevertheless, Boston is still a good team, and no matter who the winner of this potential series would be, they would have to battle hard for their wins, because their opponent will not go down without a fight.
Chicago Vs Calgary
The Flames and Hawks have met four times this season, and save maybe one Overtime victory, none of these victories were won by the Flames or closely lost for that matter. Nevertheless, the playoffs are a different story, like I mentioned, and like Boston Vs Buffalo a matter of playoff experience would come into play. Although the Blackhawks have mastered the Flames this season, most of Chicago's main players have had little or no playoff experience, compared to Calgary's veteran, but very much experienced squad. Both teams have had much success offensively, have solid assets on defense, and stellar goaltending. I think if these two met in the playoffs, which could be in the second or third round, judging by how things are panning in the Western Conference, the outcome of victories would be totally different from those of this season.
Detroit Vs Dallas
If the season ended today (2/20/2009), this match up would be a reality. I have said all year that Dallas has the potential to secure themselves a play off seed before the other group of teams in the west that seem to be in a state of limbo, going in and out of the top eight on a daily basis. They have the assets on offense, maybe need a boost on defense, and have a solid netminder. Detroit and Dallas playing each other could bring us back into the late 90s and early 00s when both teams were divisional and conference powerhouses, always playing each other in the Western Conference Semi-Finals or Western Conference Finals in a grueling, physical, high scoring six or seven game series. While Detroit will be the obvious favorite, on paper, both teams have a great veteran and youth mix and are stacked with players that have plenty of playoff experience. One thing to consider is that out of the four times both teams have met this season, Dallas has beaten Detroit three times. The play offs are of course, a different story however.
Edmonton Vs Vancouver
The way things look, this series can happen any time in the playoffs. The season series remains close between the Canucks and the Oilers, with one final game left for Edmonton to even the series at 3 or for the Canucks to double their victories over Edmonton's. Both teams have popped in and out of the playoffs for the past couple of seasons, and this spring could be the first time both teams are in the playoffs together in some time. There would likely be a nice display of offensive and defensive talent that would win games for both teams in this battle of Western Canada. This series may only go to five or six games at most. Vancouver would likely advance, but Edmonton is a hungry and energetic team that should not be discounted and not overlooked in the post season.