Tuesday, April 14, 2009

My NHL Playoff Picks! (part 1)

I've been thinking about making my playoff predictions for the past few days and I better do it now before the playoffs begin on Wednesday. Like everybody else that makes predictions on sports, I'm pretty much resigned to the fact I'll be lucky if I can get 50% of my picks correct. The first round of the NHL playoffs is guaranteed to offer at least one upset and I guess that's what's so fascinating about the first round, anyone can beat anyone on any given night despite the regular season standings, team's regular season's series, winning streaks and injuries to key players. Just because a team like St. Louis had a great run during the last month or the fact Chicago swept Calgary during the regular season, doesn't always translate to success in the playoffs.


1. Boston Bruins -116 pts.
8. Montreal Canadians- 93 pts.

(reg. season series: Bruins 5-0-1)
Whenever these long time original six rivals meet in the playoffs it always promises to be an intense, bitter battle. This time the Bruins are the heavy favourite, possibly the biggest mismatch of all the series. I think the Bruins have too much depth at all the positions and if goaltending is the key, Corey Price better step it up for the playoffs, he's been inconsistent and shaky through the second half of the season. The Bruins have marque players in Savard, Chara and Thomas who have achieved to expectations, the Canadians; Kovalev, Koivu and Price have not.
Stats aside, this could be a very watchable series if the Canadians gain some momentum early and can steal at least one of the first two games in Boston, then we'll have a great series. Otherwise this could get ugly.
Boston in 6
2. Washington Capitals- 108 pts.
7. New York Rangers- 95 p
(reg. season series: Capital 3-0-1)
This is a tough series to call, the Caps are loaded on offense with Ovechkin, Semin, Backstrom and Green, while the Rangers are the lowest scoring team in the playoffs. The Rangers have the edge on defence and Lundqvist is more solid than Theodore in goal. I've never liked the Rangers that much, maybe it's because they keep employing Avery or maybe it's the underachievers that make the Rangers look like they can throw money at their problems.
The Caps are exciting and I'd like to see how far they can go. Wouldn't a Caps/Pens match up be grand next round?
Washington in 6

3. New Jersey Devils- 106 pts.
6. Caroline Hurricanes- 97 pts.
(reg. season series: Hurricanes 3-1)
These are two teams I haven't don't see much of on HNIC or TSN, so it's hard to make an educated prediction, but any team that has Martin Brodeur can't be counted out. The Devils have the seasoned vets and they always seem to crank it up a notch in the playoffs. They traditionally haven't played much of an offensive game in the past, but this season saw the emergance of Zach Parise as a bona-fide scorer (94 pts.) along with 8 players with 15 or more goals, a non-typical NJ team.
The Hurricanes are riding momentum with a late season push that has seen Cam Ward play like the Conn Smythe winner he was when they won the cup, but will that be enough?
New Jersey in 7

4. Pittsburgh Penguins- 99 pts.
5. Philadelphia Flyers- 99 pts.

(reg. season series: Penguins 4-2)
Both these Pennsylvania teams finished with 99 points, but the Flyers failed to gain home ice with a loss on the last day of the season. The Pens are the hottest team going into the playoffs finishing with a 15-2-3 record in their last twenty and who can deny the one-two punch of Crosby and Malken, the first and third top scoring leaders. They also added some offensive depth with the acquisitions of Chris Kunitz and Bill Guerin on the Crosby line. The problem with the Penguins is they sometimes rely too heavily on Crosby and Malkin, as after their top two lines the rest of the forwards are as interchangable as minor-leaguers.
The defence is suspect and if wasn't for the return on Gonchar from a major injury, there would be little offence contribution from the back end. The Flyers have a much more balanced attack with six players scoring 25 or more goals. The return of Daniel Briere only gives the Flyers more options and a solid top 3 lines.
The key could be goaltending. The Penguin's Fleury has found his game after dealing with inconsistancy early in the season and has been confident and solid when the team needed him most. For the Flyer's to reach the next round, Biron has to be their best player or at least be the difference in the series.
Pittsburgh in 7

Tomorrow: The Western Conference

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