Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The Playoff Push

It's the toughest prize to win. Bring yourself to a level of play that almost exceeds human possibilities, and you have a 1 in 16 chance at the cup. It's the quest for the Stanley Cup. 82 games that 16 teams have played have all led to these next few 7-game series. It starts now.

There are 8 series I have to cover now, and I will preview all of them.

In the 1 seed vs 8 seed series in the Western Conference, the Detroit Red Wings (1) will face the Calgary Flames (8).

The Flames in this series will be a little bit fatigued as they had to fight off the Colorado Avalanche to grab the 8th spot in the West. The Red Wings however will be well rested as they had a very high spot in the standings locked up early. It will be interesting to see how the Wings will fare without leaders Brendan Shanahan and Steve Yzerman, as they have been the best playoff performers for the Wings in past years. The key to this series is the Wings' defence and the Flames' offence. Detroit has one of the best offensive defences in the league with Nik Lidstrom, Mathieu Schneider and Chris Chelios. The Flames offence will also be a question mark as players like Alex Taungay and Tony Amonte have not lived up to expectations, reminiscent of last years Flames. I will pick the Red Wings to win this series, but Detroit has surprised many people in the past 3 playoffs losing early to Anaheim in 2003, Calgary in 2004 and Edmonton in 2006.

In the West the Anaheim Ducks (1) will face the Minnesota Wild (7).

This will be a very close series, even though the Wild is 7th, they have only 6 less points than Anaheim. The Ducks have Teemu Selanne, Chris Pronger and Scott Niedermayer, players who are all very experienced and came within 3 games of the finals last year. The Wild got 104 points quietly this year and also have great players with Brian Rolston and Marian Gaborik. It will be close, but the Ducks will win in 7.

In the East the New Jersey Devils (2) will face the Tampa Bay Lightning (7).

The Devils shocked the NHL last week firing Claude Julien, and might be shaken up by that. But the Devils do have Martin Brodeur, who has experienced that before and will again be awesome. Tampa will probably not matchup to the Devils talent and will lose in 4 or 5.

In the 3 vs 6 series in the West, the Vancouver Canucks (3) will face the Dallas Stars (6).

The Canucks have always been a team to be looked at ever since their birth in the final in '94. But never have they had such goaltending for the team to use during the playoffs. Roberto Luongo has carried this team and will play a big part in this series. Dallas' leading scorer this year was Mike Ribeiro with 59 points. This series will turn into a goalie battle. And if it ends up like that, than the Canucks will come out with this series. But it is still close as these teams were tied in points for the regular season, each with 105 points.

In the East, the Atlanta Thrashers (3) face off against the New York Islanders (6).

This one is also very tough to call. These teams were only separated by 3 points in the regular season. Atlanta's franchise has never been in the post-season, but does have some experience in Keith Tkachuk, Marion Hossa and Greg De Vries. The Rangers also have experience with Jagr and Shanahan. The offence of both teams is pretty even, so it will come down to goaltending. I think that the Rangers have the advantage there with Lundqvist in goal. So I choose the Rangers to down the Thrashers his round.

In what should be a great series, the Nashville Predators (4) will face the San Jose Sharks (5)

The Preds and Sharks faced off against each other last year in the playoffs and the Sharks won 4-1. But Nashville has gotten better than last year. They picked up Jason Arnott and Peter Forsberg. The Sharks did not pick up any significant players, so they will have to be led by Joe Thorton and Patrick Marleau. I believe because of the key players that the Sharks have, they will win the series.

In the final series of the 1st round, the Ottawa Senators (4) will face the Pittsburgh Penguins (5).

This should be a very exciting series as both teams are very fast and are great scorers. I would like to see Pittsburgh win the series, but I think the Sens will come out with it for these reasons. They have more experience, and they have something to prove. The Pens are some young guys who don't really have experience in the playoffs.

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