Yes, sure, the Islanders aren’t in the playoffs this year, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be some great hockey and intriguing story lines to follow.
To whit, will the Blue Jackets get their first ever playoff game victory? Will the Pens self destruct again? Are the Blues the team that flirted with the first seed in the West, or the one that lost their last 6 games? Can anyone on the Avs actually grow a beard?
In the East, I think it’s clearly a two team race. The Bruins and Penguins have been far and away the two teams to beat in the East and I don’t see that changing, especially in the first round. Obviously, you never know if Bobrovsky or Howard will catch fire and steal an entire series, but I just don’t see it happening. I do think the Jackets get over the “never won a playoff game” hump, because somewhere in there the Pens will mail in a bomb, like they always do, but if the Pens don’t, it might be another 4 and out for the Jackets. (I’d increase their odds of stealing a couple of games if Nathan Horton were playing, but alas…)
The Rangers-Philly and Montreal-TB series are absolute toss ups to me, but if anything could stop the Pens-Bruins conference final, it would be the Pens having to face the team that is most in their heads, the Flyers, in round two.
Prediction- Boston wins the East. They are just too deep and too steady.
In the West, it’s like the inverse of the East. I think there are at least 5 teams who could win the Cup. In fact, a couple of the first round match ups will eliminate a couple of teams who probably could win it all.
Anaheim should take care of business, as should Colorado. The Kings-Sharks and Blackhawks-Blues series will be ridiculously good. They will be the kind of series that make you wonder if the winner has anything left for round two. They will, so don’t get comfy Ducks and Avs fans.
At the end of the day though, I like the Ducks and the relative ease of their first round will matter in comparison to the bloodbaths the other teams will face.Like Boston, they’ve just been too steady all year long to not pick them, but I could also see the Kings, Blackhawks or Blues as well. They just have one or two more question marks than the Ducks do. The Avs, as young as they are, I suspect they are due for a playoff flame out. One to learn and grow from, like many of the great teams.
Besides, who doesn’t want Teemu playing in the Cup finals this year, and winning the whole thing?
So, who you got?