Thursday, May 04, 2006

First round of the playoffs = over.

The first round is always unpredictable, but this is ridiculous: the top 4 seeds make it through in the East, while the top 4 seeds in the West are eliminated. No one could have drawn up that scenario.

The biggest shock for me was Calgary losing to Anaheim...nothing against the Ducks, but the Flames looked good even after stretching the series to 7 games. With the other top seeds out, the Flames had a golden opportunity and squandered it.

Here's a quick look at each series, complete with predictions from yours truly:

Ottawa vs. Buffalo - This will be far and away the most exciting second round matchup. Both teams can score in bunches and are fun to watch. I really, really want to pick the Sabres in this one, but the Senators are...oh what the hell, I'm picking the Sabres. In six. I must be nuts.

Carolina vs. New Jersey - In previous years, this matchup would have been a snoozer. But both the Canes and Devils have pretty good offenses. I like the Canes a lot, but Jersey is just too hot to go against, especially with Brodeur in net. Carolina can gain the advantage in this series by winning Game 1, just to break the Devils' ridiculous winning streak and to cast a shadow of doubt. If they drop the first two again like they did in Montreal, there won't be another comeback. So either the Canes in six, or the Devils in five. Everything hinges on the first two games.

Edmonton vs. San Jose - I must say, I am impressed with the Oilers. I didn't expect them to even challenge Detroit, who decided to revert to their usual we-absolutely-suck-in-the-playoffs form. I thought that schtick would be over with Babcock behind the bench, but evidently not. Of course I had three Red Wings in my office hockey pool, which pretty much ends my chances already. So I'm both bitter and grudgingly impressed at the same time. All this being said, the Sharks are my favourite team in the Western Conference, and I think they take this series. This team was scary even while they were floundering in 10th and 11th a few months back. I remember looking at the standings and at the team's recent record and thought: How are these guys not in the playoffs yet? What do they have to do? They kept up their torrid pace and finished 5th, to which I thought: That's better. San Jose has three huge performers in Thornton, Cheechoo and Marleau, and Edmonton won't be able to stop all three of them. Sharks in six.

Anaheim vs. Colorado - Two teams I didn't even think would make the playoffs are suddenly facing each other in the second round. Give credit to Anaheim for outdefending the best defensive team in the league in Calgary. The Avs meanwhile laid a whupping on Dallas, who looked listless and uninspired the whole series. I had no feelings for the Stars coming into the postseason, and I'm glad I don't have to waste time creating any. I'm gonna give this series to the Ducks, solely on the fact that they already beat a team vastly superior to Colorado in the first round. Six games oughta do it.

Early Stanley Cup matchup: San Jose vs. Buffalo. I would watch every minute of those finals.

One final playoff thought: take a look at the starting 8 goalies in the second round...there's one big name in the bunch, and that's Marty Brodeur. Theodore is a borderline big name, and then you've got Ray Emery, Ryan Miller, Cam Ward, Dwayne Roloson, Vesa Toskala, and Ilya Brzygalov. Every single one of these guys was an afterthought going into the season, except maybe Miller, who got hurt at the beginning anyway. In my fantasy hockey leagues I seriously devalued all but a handful of goalies, because nobody knew what the scoring was going to be like, or which goalies would adjust to the new rules and equipment. I figured a bunch of no-namers would come to the forefront, and unfortunately it took until the playoffs for that notion to be correct.

Oh well...second round, here we come.

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