IT'S PLAYOFF TIME!
Even though the Wild didn't make it to the playoffs yet again, I'm revved up for the playoffs to start! Can't wait to see what the Blackhawk's (my old 'hometown' team) will do this year. Got a big kick out of the local paper's write-up of the Wild's season basically saying what I said back when the season started - the Wild haven't got the talent to play an up-tempo, agressive game. And when they tried to do so at the start of the season, they got shellacked.
So, not that familiar with the Eastern conference, so I'll confine my quick predictions to the West.
San Jose vs. Colorado: Colorado seems to have lost the mojo they had that lead them to lead the NW division for a good bit of the season and are coming in to the playoffs as much due to Calgary's season ending loses as to their own shaky play. On the other hand SJ have been the biggest choker's in the playoffs for the last five or six years. Still, I like the Sharks here.
Chicago vs. Nashville: My only concern with Chicago is goaltending. Can Niemi/Huet step it up a notch to be the difference maker? These two teams know each other very well which I think will play in the Hawk's favor. My guess is a 6 game series with the Hawk's coming out on top.
Vacouver vs. L.A: Neither team looked especially sharp down the stretch, but they didn't need to as they had their respective positions locked up. As much as I hate to pick the Canuck's for anything, this series should be over quickly in Vancouver's favor.
Phoenix vs. Detroit: Phoenix draws the unpleasant task of playing the team no one wants to play right now. The Wing's are looking very much like the defending Western conf. Champ's (8-2 over their last 10) which is not good news for the Coyotes. Best hope for Phoenix - A) the Wing's spend more time believing their press clippings and less time playing hockey and B) the Coyotes have been a better road team this year than the Wing's and they take advantage of that to steal a game at Detroit. My bet is on Detroit's experience to end a very good season for the Coyotes.
SJ vs Detroit: This will be a great series to watch. Should go a full seven to settle this one. I'm thinking that SJ will finally shake their choker label and take out Detroit.
Chicago vs Vancouver: last year, if memory serves, Chicago pulled off the upset after getting down in the series. Vancouver would love to return the favor. Both teams have great offensive firepower, but, despite (or because of) Luongo's presence in the nets, I'd give a slight defensive edge to Chicago.
SJ vs. Chicago: Man, I'll be pulling for the Hawk's all the way on this one, should it come to pass. They played each other four times in the regular season with the Hawk's winning both games at the Shark Tank while splitting at home with two games settled in OT. Nabokov always seems to be wearing out by this time of the year. Then there is the Hossa jinx to consider. I'll take Chicago for no more reason than that's the team I'd like to see in the finals.
As for the east, the only team that seems hot at the moment is Ottawa which may or may not spell trouble for Pittsburgh. My dark horse pick out of the east is Buffalo, if Miller can channel his Olympic playing. The other spoiler team would be NJ. If there is a coach out there who know how to shut down an opposing team's offense, it's Lemaire. Whoever get's the Devil's in the second round had better watch out!
Now if we just had some decent TV coverage...... Let the games begin!
edit: corrected some stats.