Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Stanley Cup Playoffs -- Predictions Part I

By Rick Morris

We will be updating Stanley Cup Playoff predictions on the blog subsequently as the different rounds ensue.

(1) Montreal over (8) Boston in 5
(2) Pittsburgh over (7) Ottawa in 5
(3) Washington over (6) Philadelphia in 7
(5) New York Rangers over (4) New Jersey in 7

(5) New York Rangers over (1) Montreal in 6
(2) Pittsburgh over (3) Washington over 6

(2) Pittsburgh over (5) New York Rangers in 6

(1) Detroit over (8) Nashville in 5
(2) San Jose over (7) Calgary in 7
(6) Colorado over (3) Minnesota in 6
(4) Anaheim over (5) Dallas in 5

(1) Detroit over (6) Colorado in 6
(4) Anaheim over (2) San Jose in 6

(4) Anaheim over (1) Detroit in 6

Anaheim over Pittsburgh in 6

Some of these first-round series really evoke memories of days gone by. Montreal and Boston have one of the most heated rivalries in any sport and if you don't believe me, check out the vicious smack between their fans on some message boards. Boston's way too banged-up to even make this a series, though. The Sens can't stand up to the Pens right now, either; I see Ottawa and Boston as being the only teams with NO chance of coming out of the East (with the Flyers just barely avoiding being placed on that level). Jersey and the Rangers will evoke memories of the mid-90s when they get it on and I think the winner of this series will be well-positioned going forward. Ultimately, the skill level of Pittsburgh makes them the favorite out East in my mind and I think that Montreal is as unimposing a #1 seed as we've seen in either conference in a long time. Parity is the watchword here.

As a diehard Red Wings fan, it pains me to say that my team is not the favorite notwithstanding the Presidents' Trophy, but I believe as I did at the trade deadline that this team is one big-scoring forward away from getting past Anaheim. Basically, the Ducks, Red Wings and Sharks are the top teams in that order, with everyone else save Nashville having at least a chance at some kind of run. The West may very well hinge on which of the "Big Three" teams will have to play each other in the second round (assuming they all advance that far, which I think they will), although I don't have it shaking out that way presently. With names such as McCarty, Foote and Forsberg migrating home, the Wings and Avs seem destined for one more battle for old time's sake this spring and it would be an awesome reinvigoration of what was sports' best rivalry back at the turn of the decade. The Ducks' hot play down the stretch with most of last year's core finally intact indicates that they are still the team to beat, although Detroit's ability to come close to matching blue-line-for-blue-line will make for a fascinating twist on what might become the game's next great rivalry.

If you are participating in a fantasy league for the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and you bloody well should be, we urge you to check out our draft board on our fantasy blog. In terms of combined quality and quantity, this two-month journey is the greatest event on the sports calendar each year and we advise you to check it out if you are in the fortunate 1% of Americans receiving the Versus channel!

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