Even though the Stanley Cup Playoffs have already begun, here were my predictions as the Playoffs got underway. As I said in my online radio show on BlogTalkRadio.com, In the East, Carolina would give the Devils a tough time because the Canes have played well against New Jersey in recent years. The Western Conference has great first-round matchups with San Jose-Anaheim, which is the first time two California teams faced off in the Stanley Cup Playoffs since 1969, when the California Golden Seals played the Los Angeles Kings.
#1 Boston vs. #8 Montreal >>> BRUINS in SIX
Boston is very deep at forward and they are hungry, especially against its biggest rival in Montreal. The Habs have always dominated in their playoff history against the Bruins, so even though Boston has the better team, one team almost never dominates the other.
#2 Washington vs. #7 N.Y. Rangers >>> CAPITALS in SEVEN
The best pure goal-scorer in the world, Alexander Ovechkin, will be the best player on the ice just about every game. Meanwhile, the best player on the Rangers, goalie Henrik Lundqvist, has to be better than Ovechkin just about every game. This will come down to Washington's PP against the Rangers PK.
#3 New Jersey vs. #6 Carolina >>> HURRICANES in SEVEN
Carolina has had the Devils number in the last few seasons, but the Devils have had so much playoff success over the years with Martin Brodeur in net, how can you count the Devils out? The Hurricanes are on the better run and Carolina has done this in a 3-6 matchup before against New Jersey.
#4 Pittsburgh vs. #5 Philadelphia >>> PENGUINS in FIVE
Philadelphia had more 25-goal scorers than anyone (six, Carter, Gagne, Richards, Hartnell, Knuble, and Lupul), but they have had a rough go of it in the last month-and-a-half, going 11-10-1 to close the season. Pittsburgh made the best deadline deal for former Islanders captain Bill Guerin and has playoff-proven firepower in Crosby and Malkin.
#1 San Jose vs. #8 Anaheim >>> SHARKS in SEVEN
The Sharks have been the class of the league for most of the season. Their defense has been the story with Dan Boyle joining an already-impressive crew on the blueline this season. Evgeni Nabokov is an Ironman between the pipes. Anaheim has the playoff pedigree, and they still have Chris Pronger and Scott Niedermayer, but the wild card is the Ducks netminding.
#2 Detroit vs. #7 Columbus >>> RED WINGS in FIVE
The Red Wings are the defending champions and they got better in the offseason when Marian Hossa signed with the winners after losing to them as a Penguin in the Stanley Cup Finals. The Wings eat rookies for breakfast. Enter Columbus. The franchise is a playoff rookie and their star goaltender, Steve Mason, is also a rookie.
#3 Vancouver vs. #6 St. Louis >>> CANUCKS in FIVE
Roberto Luongo is becoming a top playoff performer and could be the hot goalie that carries a team deep into the postseason. St. Louis tries to be the unstoppable force to Luongo's immovable object. The Blues had the best second-half record in the league, but a hot goalie can stop a surging team, especially a young team that was not expected to make the playoffs.
#4 Chicago vs. #5 Calgary >>> FLAMES in SIX
Will the Blackhawks be a team too young to be scared or were they just happy to break their six-year playoff drought? They have young leadership in Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, and Kris Versteeg, but the goaltending is much better in Calgary. The Flames have the second-best deadline deal in acquiring Olli Jokinen from the Coyotes. Their leadership is older and playoff tested (Jarome Iginla, Dion Phaneuf, Miikka Kiprusoff).