With the playoffs starting tonight, Jackson and I will make public our first round picks. We each picked eleven of 16 eventual playoff teams in the preseason. Hopefully we will do better in the post-season.
Here are my picks in a tight little 500 word piece that went to The Columbia Daily Herald.
Washington Capitals (1) - Montreal Canadians (8) After running away with the President's Trophy (best regular season record), the Caps are unlikely to stub their toe against the Habs but I don’t see then going all the way to the finals. I do think that Montreal's goaltending will take the series deeper than many expect. Washington in six.
New Jersey Devils (2) – Philadelphia Flyers (7) These two teams do not like each other and this series will produce plenty of bumps and bruises. Brian Boucher will be over-matched in goal while the Devils have a future hall-of-famer in Marty Brodeur. It will be interesting to see how Ilya Kovulchuk plays in his first playoff games with a decent team. New Jersey in five.
Buffalo Sabres (3) – Boston Bruins (6) This will be a long series that will be dominated by defense and goaltending that will help Boston go deep. Ryan Miller will ultimately be the difference maker. I see several overtime games that will not produce much offense by either team. Buffalo in seven.
Pittsburgh Penguins (4) – Ottawa Senators (5) Coach Dan Bylsma is determined to return the Pens to the finals. Even with a ring on his finger, I still am not a huge Marc-Andre Fleury fan but he should be able to handle the Sens. I don’t see this as a long series as Ottawa will not match the Pen’s firepower. Pittsburgh in five.
San Jose Sharks (1) – Colorado Avalanche (8) For the first time in several years the Sharks will not have a chance to stub their toes in the first round. The Avs have not played well down the stretch and there is no reason to believe that they will rebound now. San Jose in five.
Chicago Blackhawks (2) – Nashville Predators (7) The Predators have been playing playoff-style hockey all season and are built for low scoring defensive contests. In spite of Chicago’s superior firepower, Pekka Rinne will be the star of the series as he will keep the Hawks in check and give the Preds a chance in every game. Nashville in six.
Vancouver Canucks (3) – Los Angeles Kings (6) Had this series been played before the Olympic break, I would have picked the Kings to win. However, Jonathan Quick has not won a game since March 22. Luongo has not been at his best in the Nuck’s goal but I think that Vancouver’s firepower will reign. Vancouver in six.
Phoenix Coyotes (4) – Detroit Red Wings (5) Detroit has been almost unbeatable since the Olympic going 16-3-2 but the Coyotes have not been far behind at 13-4-2. This will be a long series with the potential of several overtime games. Detroit has made the finals the last two years and their age and fatigue will show. Phoenix in seven.
Here's Jackson's picks. We still need to work out a small wager to keep it interesting.
Washington Capitals (1) - Montreal Canadians (8) After mustering up 121 points this regular season, I don't see Washington having any sort of falling out in the first round. I think the Habs will take at least one game at the Bell Center. Capitals in five.
New Jersey Devils (2) – Philadelphia Flyers (7) I just cannot see Philly getting past the Devils in the first round with their goal tending the way it is. Boucher would need to stand on his head to push the Flyers into the next round and I don't see that happening. Devils in six.
Buffalo Sabres (3) – Boston Bruins (6) It's hard to say who will take the taco in this one. Out of every match up in the first round, this series has the biggest chance of going to seven games. And I'm feeling an upset coming out of Boston. Bruins in seven.
Pittsburgh Penguins (4) – Ottawa Senators (5) Ottawa is coming in hot, but their offense won't stand a chance against the defending Stanley Cup Champions. Pittsburgh arrives in playoffs again with enough depth for another run at the cup. Penguins in five.
San Jose Sharks (1) – Colorado Avalanche (8) Nabokov hasn't been so hot in net as of late for the Sharks, but then again, the Avs as a team haven't been so hot here down the stretch. The Sharks will overwhelm the Avalanche and come out of the first round soaring. Sharks in four.
Chicago Blackhawks (2) – Nashville Predators (7) Call me a homer, call me biased, but this is the year the Preds win on the road and move on to the next round. I have never this confident before with a Predators team heading into the playoffs. And yes, that includes the 06-07 Predators "dream team". Predators in six.
Vancouver Canucks (3) – Los Angeles Kings (6) I'm going to agree with the Big Papi here on this one...Had we been talking about this Los Angeles team before the Olympics, I would've taken the Kings over Vancouver. But we aren't. Jonathan Quick has been anything but stellar recently. Unless something changes before the puck drops on Thursday, I don't see the Kings making it out alive. Canucks in six.
Phoenix Coyotes (4) – Detroit Red Wings (5) This will be the series to watch in the first round this year. Phoenix and Detroit are two of the hottest teams coming into the post season this year and it's only appropriate they meet right here, in the first round. Bryzgalov is going to be the key in this series and in a positive way. Coyotes in six.
Buddy and Jackson Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass