It's weird not being able to watch the Canes play or look forward to their next game. I miss it already! Several people have emailed me and asked me who I am cheering for during these playoffs, but I really don't have a 2nd favorite team to root for at this point. I'll be watching the playoff games though and I'm sure that I will be leaning toward one team or another while watching. Usually I prefer the underdogs. Sometimes as the playoffs progress I will latch onto a team and begin to cheer for them throughout, like I did for Calgary back in 2004 and Anaheim in 2003. (they both lost in the finals). One great thing about the post season is that there are almost always surprises and this year will be no different. Remember last year's President's Trophy winner? They went down in flames in the very first round to lowly Edmonton who just barely qualified for the post season. Will history repeat itself, or is Buffalo unbeatable? Let me just say that if I was a Sabres fan, I would not be taking the Islanders lightly. Here are my choices for the first round and the reasons why:
Buffalo/NY Islanders: I think that the Islanders will give the Sabres all they can handle and more. Everyone thought that NY would be finished when Rick DiPietro went out, but they have won 4 games in a row when they needed it the most and have played pretty solid hockey much of the year. Coach Ted Nolan will be facing his old team and that of course adds a bit more incentive for him in this match up. While Ricky D's replacement Wade Dubielewicz has zero playoff experience, the Sabres don't have much of a scouting report on him either. That could make him dangerous. "DUBE" has been playing well and is making the most out of his chance in the big time so far. This series will be a good one, but eventually the Sabres' speed and depth will prevail as they use their home ice advantage to win game 7 at home. Buffalo in 7
New Jersey Devils/Tampa Bay Lightning: The Devils have been one of the best teams in hockey all year. Tampa Bay has been up and down and relies primarily on one line for scoring. While Lecavalier and St. Louis are both having awesome years, the Lightning don't have a decent goalie and the Devils have Martin Brodeur. 'Nuff said. New Jersey in 5
Atlanta Thrashers/NY Rangers: This is an interesting match up that could go either way. Both teams have young, talented goalies, but the Rangers should have the edge there. There is plenty of firepower on both of these teams, but I have to give the overall advantage to the Thrashers. They got too much help at the trade deadline with Tkachuk, Belanger, and Zhitnik. Home ice will also be an advantage for the Thrash. Atlanta in 7
Ottawa Senators/Pittsburgh Penguins: Even though this is a 4 seed versus 5 seed, I think the winner of this series could very well win the Cup. Both teams started out the season very slowly. Both teams had tremendous winning streaks at times during the past 3 months. You could almost flip a coin here. I'll take Ottawa though because I think Emery/Gerber are more experienced than Fleury/Thibault. Also, I think the experience of Heatley, Spezza, and Alfredsson will finally shine through. Although the Sens could very well choke again just like they have done so many other times in playoffs past. Ottawa in 7
I'm not as familiar with teams in the West as I am in the East, but I'll give this the old college try anyway!
Detroit Red Wings/Calgary Flames: Odds are one in a million that the Wings will bomb out in the first round again this year, but hot goaltending wins games in the playoffs and one can never count out Kiprusoff. Can Hasek stay healthy? I'd bet he will in this series. Detroit in 5
Anaheim Ducks/Minnesota Wild: Remember to expect the unexpected in the playoffs! The once "mighty" Ducks will be thumped here by a hungry Wild team. Backstrom has been a pleasant surprise in goal while Giguere has been inconsistent the past month or so. Wild in 6
Vancouver Canucks/Dallas Stars: I just can't see how Dallas wins this series. Vancouver in 6
San Jose Sharks/Nashville Predators: What a match up this is between two power houses! I picked Nashville to win it all early in the season, but I have to retract that prediction now. While Forsberg was a nice pickup for the Preds, Bill Guerin is an acquisition who is actually paying huge dividends for the Sharks. He was playing better than "Foppa" before the trade deadline, played better than him afterwards, and will continue to outplay him in these playoffs. Goaltending as always is a huge question and Vokoun has not been sharp as late. There's no way Nashville plays Mason though, even if the backup has been the better goalie recently. If Vokoun plays like the Vokoun of old, than this is a great series that could go either way. Otherwise it's the Sharks in 6.
These playoffs are going to be exciting, even if the Canes aren't in them this time around. So, what do you think? Give me some feedback, tell me where I went wrong, or give me your predictions. Do you have a favorite?
Huey Lewis and the News