Even though I'm historically horrible at predicting these things, I'm going to use the down day in between the final day of the regular season and the tomorrow's draft lottery for my playoff preview. Back in my home country (Minnesota), it's opening day for the Twins against the Sox which is a pretty big deal with the new outdoor stadium and all, but I haven't transitioned to baseball yet. It's all hockey all the time for me still so here's how I see the playoffs shaping up...
Go here for the complete TV schedule of the first round.
For us Bruins fans - here's the quick reference of the first round sched - first home game on Marathon Monday - can you say shitshow? How many people are going to make a long drunken day of Patriot's Day this year before showing up at the Garden?
Thursday, April 15 at Buffalo, 7:00 p.m.
Saturday, April 17 at Buffalo, 1:00 p.m.
Monday, April 19 at Boston, 7:00 p.m.
Wednesday, April 21 at Boston, 7:00 p.m.
*Friday, April 23 at Buffalo, 7:00 p.m.
*Monday, April 26 at Boston, 7:00 p.m.
*Wednesday, April 28 at Buffalo, 7:00 p.m.
#1 Washington vs. #8 Montreal
The Habs really blew it down the stretch and now have to face the Caps. After playing incredibly since the Olympics, Halak has really slowed down in his last few starts and if he continues to falter, this one will be over in 4 games.
#2 New Jersey vs. #7 Philadelphia
Martin Brodeur versus Brian Boucher. New Jersey advances.
#3 Buffalo vs. #6 Boston
I'm going with the homer pick because I'm biased - simple as that. If I looked at this one objectively, I'd say it's a toss-up. Buffalo kind of coasted to the finish line this year while the Bruins have really upped their intensity down the stretch. The Bruins weakness will be the injuries on defense and leaning on guys a little too heavily. If there end up being some overtime games, which is highly possible with how these teams play, the Bruins run the risk of getting worn down on the back end.
The good news is, according to the Globe, Ference is likely back for Game 1. The bad news is Ference's papier mache groin could land him right back in the press after Game 1 and Mark Stuart may miss the entire series and at least the first two games.
Still, this series will be so close that a couple bounces either way could decide it. In a season that the Bruins seemingly haven't received any bounces, maybe they will start receiving them in the postseason. They should be rested too as half the guys were coasting through much of the season (burn).
#4 Pittsburgh vs. #5 Ottawa
Pittsburgh doesn't have the D corps they did last year so I'm trying to figure out if they get ousted in the 1st round or the 2nd. I'm going to give them the edge in this series because of the goaltending and home ice advantage.
#1 San Jose vs. #8 Colorado
Colorado is just happy to be there so the Sharks will actually win a round this year before flaming out in round 2. Jumbo Joe will once again prove that the Bruins were better off without him. He just hasn't proved that he has the intensity to make it happen when it counts in April and May.
#2 Chicago vs. #7 Nashville
I have to pick at least a couple upsets because there always are a couple. I'm going with one here. I think the injuries to Brian Campbell and Kim Johnsson have really hurt this team on the blueline and Nashville counters with one of the best 1-2 punches in the league in Shea Weber and Ryan Suter. Pekka Rinne versus Niemi/Huet - advantage Rinne. Maybe this will be this year's big surprise just like last year's Anaheim over San Jose (which didn't surprise me - see above).
#3 Vancouver vs. #6 Los Angeles
This may be my most anticipated matchup outside of the B's for the first round. I enjoy watching both of these teams. Drew Doughty may be my favorite young player in the league and the Sedin twins have taken their game to a whole new level this year. Vancouver is my pick to hoist Lord Stanley's cup in June so I am obviously taking them in this matchup.
#4 Phoenix vs. #5 Detroit
Poor Phoenix. They did not catch a break with this draw in the first round. I have to pick Detroit. They have generally the same group, many of whom are rested due to injury AND they have better goaltending than they've had the past two seasons. They're also the best team in the NHL since the Olympics.
#1 Washington defeats #6 Boston
Those Caps just have too many weapons on offense and overwhelm Tuukka. Two, maybe three goals per night just doesn't get it done against this team and the Bruins bow out, but give us some great playoff entertainment along the way.
#2 New Jersey defeats #4 Pittsburgh
The Devils and Jamie Langenbrunner owned Pittsburgh during the regular season and it continues in the playoffs as they knock them out.
#7 Nashville defeats #1 San Jose
Until they prove otherwise, I give the Sharks zero respect. This makes Nashville this year's version of Carolina.
#3 Vancouver defeats #5 Detroit
With their depth on defense and two solid scoring lines, the Canucks manage to knock off the red-hot Wings. It also helps to have Roberto Luongo over the 26-year-old "rookie" Jimmy Howard.
#1 Washington over #2 New Jersey
Washington guns their way through the Devils with big contributions from some of the role players.
#3 Vancouver over #7 Nashville
Much like Carolina last year, Nashville is just wiped out by the time they get here and get smoked by the Canucks.
Vancouver defeats Washington
Goaltending finally catches up with the Caps in this series and they fall just short in an incredibly entertaining finals.