Not wishing to just jump into the deep end of this year's Playoff Pool, we cautiously reviewed some of the opening night developments, though as things turn out, none of those results, really have changed our mind very much.
So, without any more rumination, trepidation or solicitation, here's Our
Minnesota at Chicago
The Hawks for most of the season were rocketing up the standings, a team that seems more in tune with the one that won a Stanley Cup a few years back, than the ones that took the exit before the Stanley Cup final in recent ones. The Wild on the other hand, barely made the playoffs, in the final week of the regular season denying the Blue Jackets from a glimpse of success for this year. The Hawks are far too dominant a team to falter in this first round. We imagine they will make quick work of the Wild.
Chicago in 4
Los Angeles at St. Louis
The defending Stanley Cup champs ran the table last year climbing from an eighth place finish to grasp hold of Lord Stanley's mug. A team that surprised more than a few hockey fans with their tenacity through the playoffs, the hallmark of a Sutter led team is toughness and an ability to make the opponents earn each and every goal. Something that served them well last year, though the element of surprise was helpful then also.
This year, the first round opponent is a St. Louis team that had a pretty amazing, all be it, shortened regular season. Ken Hitchcock got the most out of his squad for the first four months, now that the tension is ratcheted up a bit more in the playoffs, he'll find that extra gear.
St. Louis in 5
Detroit and Anaheim
It's the old guard against the dis-respected, as the Red Wings launch yet another Stanley Cup campaign this time on the road in the shadow of Disneyland. The Wings are in that stage of every hockey team's flow, the old reliable lineup of years past has started to fade, some retired others probably on their way. The lineup regeneration has begun in the Motor City and yet, here they are back in the playoffs, always dangerous.
The Ducks on the other hand have any number of key players that somehow stay under the radar for most NHL fans, perhaps owing to their exile in Southern California, where even with their own Stanley Cup bragging rights of the last decade, they still seem to get overshadowed by the Kings.
That may change this year, the Wings will put up a fight, but the Ducks not only are younger and probably a little faster but they have a bit of a chip on their shoulder.
Anaheim in 6
New York Islanders and Pittsburgh
This will be quick, maybe not painless, but certainly quick. The Penguins were built at the trading deadline for a long, long run in this years playoff round and even with Sidney Crosby sitting out the first round (or at least a portion of it) they'll make quick work of the Islanders.
The soon to be Brooklynites are a team with much potential for the future, though the history of the Islanders in recent years suggests a good portion of that could yet be squandered, but in the moment, there is probably no larger challenge for a team than to topple the Pens.
It won't happen...
Pittsburgh in 4
Ottawa and Montreal
The CBC most likely sacrificed small animals in the quest for a Montreal/Toronto matchup, the visits to the gypsies, the prayer cards all went for naught. The Leafs are off to Boston, the Habs will play the Senators. Still, that's a pretty nice consolation prize for Peter Mansbridge's retirement fund to cash in on. The two teams match up well, have a bit of a healthy dislike for each other (and as we've seen in game one, now can factor in outright anger over the Gryba hit) something that could play a factor before all is done.
On pure hockey the series offers up the potential of much to enjoy, the two teams separated by but a few points in the regular season. The momentum by season's end seemed to turn to the Senators, who with the added urgency of having to hold off threats to a playoff spot, seem to hit a stride through the final week of the season, add on some key lineup returns and the edge goes to the guys in the Red, White and Black
Ottawa in 7
New York Rangers and Washington
This will be a series that is well worth watching, can Ovechkin recapture his once dominating form, exorcising any number of past playoff ghosts for the Capitals. In a season where the Caps drifted from the start only to catch fire in the final month or so, the momentum of that burst of energy may carry them further into the playoff chase.
Then again, they play a team from the NHL's home turf, the hopes and wishes of the boss in the Big Tower no doubt that of a Stanley Cup parade and the residual buzz in the league's largest market. And of course, there's Tortorella, a Stanley Cup playoff just isn't as much fun when he's out of the spotlight, his feuds with the NY media, his quotes (short as some of them may be) provide for a banquet of content and keeps the game in the New York spotlight.
Why would anyone not want to keep Torts around for a round or two?
New York Rangers in 6
Toronto and Boston
They no doubt popped champagne at CBC HQ when the Leafs made the playoffs this year, their exile from post season play the thing of legend in Toronto and among the wandering Bedouins across the land that make up the LeafNation.
The bad news for all those dreamers in Toronto is that they are facing the Bruins, a team that while not quite the Big and the Bad of even the Vancouver series of a few years ago, still will punish the Leafs on every shift. It's always nice to get invited to a party, however for Toronto the stay won't be very long.
Bruins in 4
San Jose and Vancouver
Two teams that to their fans (and one or two NHL observers) are a conundrum, wrapped up in an enigma. The Sharks the best team (on paper) that has yet to play in a Stanley Cup Final, the Canucks a squad that came close, squandered a chance or two and then watched the Bruins take the Stanley Cup home to Boston. (Leaving the Vancouver Police, Fire and Ambulance Services, as well as the Provincial Courts to handle the fall out.)
Neither team, had a particularly impressive regular season, the cracks in the line up never more apparent than they are now heading into the playoff season.
Add in the strange drama still playing out in the Vancouver nets and it's best just to sit back and see which team survives that uneasy feeling that one mistake may be the fatal one. While we're not sure that Vancouver will be around for the long term planning of a Stanley Cup parade, we have even less confidence that San Jose will suddenly find that one thing to put them into a final, more than likely, disappoint will find a way to San Jose.
Vancouver in 6
Our Advancing teams into Round Number Two
New York Rangers
The long skate to Stanley will bring us to a Pittsburgh/Chicago Stanley Cup final
Though we do offer up one caveat to that brave forecast, that being that should the Senators advance to a second round and then defeat the Penguins, then as improbable as it may have seen at the start of the year, we may see the Sens make another appearance in the Stanley Cup Final.
Should they make it that far, they'll be full value to provide a surprise for this years playoff season.