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What good is a hockey blog without them?!?

April 21, 2006

Just in time, here are the playoff predictions from the EOB desk.

Eastern Conference

Round One

Ottawa (#1) vs. Tampa Bay (#8)
Dominik Hasek is still questionable for the Sens, though from the sounds of it Ray Emery may be the next goalie to come out of nowhere to lead his team to the Stanley Cup. The defending Cup champion Lightning have not impressed me in the little I’ve seen them this year, and I don’t think that their net-minders are ready for the offensive juggernaut coming at them from Ontario. EOB says Ottawa takes the series. (That’s right, I’m not predicting how many games it will take. It’s likely my predictions won’t be worth squat anyway, so why include more minutiae you really don’t care about?)

Carolina (#2) vs. Montreal (#7)
A true battle of untested goalies, this series will see Martin Gerber face Cristobal Huet for the right to move on. Carolina seems to be a fairly well rounded team that may have fallen under the radar in the last few weeks (all I’ve heard about in Columbus is Jagr, Thornton, and the Calder race which isn’t really a race). I really know nothing about Montreal, other than I really like their uniforms and how they look on ice. Yeah, I like watching the Canadiens skate around in their pretty little uniforms and wish I could watch them go all the way to the finals to squash Detroit. Unfortunately, it’s not going to happen. Carolina takes the series.

New Jersey (#3) vs. New York Rangers (#6) (*yeah, I had to qualify “Rangers” here. I know that the Islander contingent is pretty heavy in reading this blog, and I didn’t want any of you to forget that your season washed out with the plumbing in Nassau this winter. I know it’s the pot calling the kettle black, but I love picking on the Islanders)
One of the hottest teams in the NHL at this point, the Devils are looking very ready to make a run. Patrick Elias is back, Brian Gionta nearly netted 50 goals, and Marty Brodeur is looking as devilish as ever. Up the road, the Rangers have looked lost the last two weeks. I saw them play a few weeks ago on NBC against the Flyers, and they looked okay. Henrik Lundqvist has been out injured recently, and Jaromir Jagr has not been able to carry the team on his shoulders (though I suppose we have to give him credit for at least trying?). New Jersey takes the series.

Buffalo (#4) vs. Philadelphia (#5)
This is a series that us “small market” fans should enjoy watching, because Buffalo has a chance. A few months ago, I would have picked the Sabres without question simply based on the play of net-minders Ryan Miller and Martin Biron. I don’t know much about the skill players outside of Chris Drury, but I know what he’s worth in April and May (quite a bit). Philadelphia is another team I’d like to see squashed, but they might have the mettle to make it to round two. Any team with Peter Forsberg deserves a look. A punishing Flyer defensive corps can make the difference if they can keep up, and Robert Esche and Antero Niittymaki might be the best one-two punch in net in the entire field. EOB sees Philadelphia taking the series.

Round Two

Ottawa (#1) vs. Philadelphia (#5) – Ottawa utilizes speed up front to overtake the less-than-mobile Flyers D and takes the series.

Carolina (#2) vs. New Jersey (#3) – Peter Laviolette coerces his Hurricane team to return to mid-season form and the Devils can’t hold on. Carolina advances.

Conference Finals

Ottawa (#1) vs. Carolina (#2) – The Dany Heatley trade gets even better for the Ottawa faithful as he leads the Senators past the tired Canes to the Stanley Cup Finals.

Western Conference

Detroit (#1) vs. Edmonton (#8)
Mike Babcock gets to play on the cool side of the playground this year, coach the Wings as opposed to against the Wings. The biggest question (Pavel Datsyuk aside) the Wings have to answer is why they shouldn’t be in the Stanley Cup Finals automatically. Dwayne Roloson and the Oilers have the first opportunity to answer. If “Big” Pronger (my Dad’s nickname for him, get well soon!) can clear Tomas Holmstrom from the net and the Oilers can score on the formidable Wings defense and I can win the lottery this weekend without playing, the Wings will go home. As it stands, Detroit will see action in the second round.

Dallas (#2) vs. Colorado (#7)
What’s so great about this series? Yeah, seeing the Avalanche as the seventh seed. Sure, the only two teams I’d like to see there right now (in no particular order) are Detroit and Columbus, but it’s still pretty sweet. Dallas has a tough group of veterans (who really wants to play against Brendan Morrow?) and a goaltender in Marty Turco who is ready to have his “breakout” playoff year. Colorado has the always dangerous Joe Sakic, and… ummm… crap. Lost my notes. Peter Budaj and Jose Theodore will backstop the Avs. Budaj? I haven’t heard his name on TV enough to know how to pronounce it. And the last I heard Theodore slipped on the ice outside his house and hurt himself. Umm… you’re a professional ice hockey player? Nice. Dallas will crush the poor Avalanche.

Calgary (#3) vs. Anaheim (#6)
A team that can’t score (Flames) against a team with a vastly underrated defense (Ducks), this should be fun. This series is being touted by many experts as the one to watch in the first round (though EOB has already stated his preference to watch the Habs) as the toughest match-up. Jarome Iginla has not had the scoring touch that helped him to a share of the ‘Rocket’ Richard Trophy in 2003-04, but Miikka Kiprusoff has been stellar in net in this season of offensive rebirth and this has to be the largest reason the Flames won the Northwest. Jean-Sebastien Giguere is showing a bit of the flash he displayed four years ago in the playoffs, and Scott Niedermayer is garnering some Norris talk in Anaheim. Will Teemu and the boys crack the Miikka Code, or will Iginla and the gang solve JS? EOB picks Anaheim to come out on top.

Nashville (#4) vs. San Jose (#5)
The Predators picked up defenseman Brendan Witt at the trade deadline from Washington. I’m sure they had no idea that it could be this big of a deal in April, or for what reason. With regular Nashville goalie Tomas Vokoun out with a blood disorder, the Preds will have to rely on untested Chris Mason to keep the offensively-gifted Sharks from circling in on their net for the kill. With Joe Thornton in the mix, the Sharks might be the most dangerous offensive team in the West. The ‘Rocket’ Richard Trophy winner for the 2005-06 season, Jonathan Cheechoo (56 goals) will look to net a few against Mason and the Predators D. Can Witt, Kimmo Timmonen and company stop Mason from (pick bad goalie cliché from: a) getting sunburnt from the goal lamp; b) whiplash from looking back in the net for the puck; or c) looking like he’d be better served on a club sandwich), or will the Predators be golfing by next weekend? EOB suggests that the Sharks have it in them to take the series.

Round Two

Detroit (#1) vs. Anaheim (#6) – This rematch of the great 2002 Western Conference Finals series will be as hotly contested as the one we remember. This one will have a slightly different ending as the Ducks upend the aging and tired Red Wings (how many Olympians on the team? I know I made the same argument in 2002, but surely one of my predictions has to come true???).

Dallas (#2) vs. San Jose (#3) – The Cheechoo train derails against a very good Dallas team. Seriously, who wants to play against these guys?

Conference Finals

Dallas (#2) vs. Anaheim (#6) – Dallas rides its leaders and their grit, determination, and tenacity to a series win over the Ducks.

Stanley Cup Finals

Ottawa (#1 East) vs. Dallas (#2 West) – The offensive firepower of the East with questions in net faces off against the road tested Stars who are as balanced as anyone. Sergei Zubov and Willie Mitchell are able to slow down the Senators enough for Mike Modano and Bill Guerin to take one last run at the Cup before they decide to hang around “too long”. Ray Emery will make a great stand, and we’ll all believe in the power of the untested playoff goaltender. But in the end, Marty Turco brushes aside the tag of a non-playoff goalie to spur the Stars to a Stanley Cup.

Tomorrow, I’ll resume my look at the Blue Jackets roster. Until then, enjoy the first bit of playoff hockey in almost two years. Thanks for reading.

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