The Stanley Cup Playoffs begin tomorrow night, and I'm excited like a little kid on Christmas Eve! I used to do little capsule previews every year on my old forum, and it always sparked a good bit of debate and discussion among the few posters who were also hockey afficionados. I've moved it here to the blog in hopes of getting the same sort of discussion going, so chime in if you've got something to say!
Also, as usual, I feel like its my job to provide the non-interested with something of value as well, so enjoy the girls in hockey jerseys! And away we go!
(1) Buffalo Sabres vs. (8) New York Islanders
The Islanders managed to outlast the Maple Leafs and Canadiens and earn the final playoff spot in the East, despite almost blowing it by allowing the Devils to score a goal and tie their must-win final game last Sunday with under a second remaining on the regulation. The Isles managed to win it in an exciting shootout, but ultimately, it won't matter much, because they have zero chance against the playoff-tested Sabres, who look to be the class of an Eastern Conference full of powerful teams.
I actually think the Isles might be able to gain a split in the first two games in Buffalo, perhaps winning the opener, before reality sets in and they get swept out the rest of the way. Buffalo in five.
(2) New Jersey Devils vs. (7) Tampa Bay Lightning
This is likely the final go-round for what remains of the Lightning's Cup-winning team from 2004, as several of their highly-paid stars seem likely to depart in the offseason. Tampa scores a ton of goals, but I doubt it'll be enough against the Devils snoozy-ass style of defensive play and the rock-solid Martin Brodeur in goal. Like my pal Patrick, a Devils fan since '82, says, "It's boring, but it wins Cups!" Jersey in six.
(3) Atlanta Thrashers vs. (6) New York Rangers
This is the Thrashers' first-ever trip to the playoffs, while the Broadway Blueshirts haven't won a postseason game since before most Americans had heard the name Monica Lewinski. So, something's gotta give. And with as well as New York has been playing the last month or so, I kinda have to imagine that it's gonna be the Thrashers. As much as it pains me to do so, I'm picking New York in seven.
(4) Ottawa Senators vs. (5) Pittsburgh Penguins
Ah, the one I've been waiting for...the Pens haven't been to the Stanley Cup Playoffs since 2001. which, incidentally, was the last year I bothered to do a finals preview. I hate to be such a homer, but the truth is, if my team's not in it, it's just not the same!
So, I suppose it's no surprise that I'm picking the Penguins, but I have three good reasons why: A. I think the Penguins are in Ottawa goaltender Ray Emery's head. The Pens beat the Sens on a last-second goal just last week, and won the season series overall, including both games in Ottawa. B. The Senators choke every year in the playoffs. Every season they contend for the best regular-season record in the NHL, then bow out early. They seem nervous, scared, tentative, playing not to lose. C. By the same token, the it'll be the first playoffs for most of these Penguins, who have overachieved all year and don't panic when they get behind by a goal or two. They're not even supposed to be here yet, which makes them dangerous. Many of them have, however, experienced postseason pressure, coming within a couple games of winning the AHL's Calder Cup a few years back with the Pens' top minor league club in Wilkes-Barre...and that was without Sid, Geno, or Staalsie! Pittsburgh in six.
Western Conference previews coming soon!