Boston Bruins (1) vs. Montreal Canadiens (8)
Why Boston will win
In both the parts and in the whole, Boston is ranked higher (read: ”is better”) – goals/game (ranked 2nd versus Montreal’s 13th), goals allowed/game (1st versus 21st), five-on-five (1st/17th), power play (4th/13th), penalty kill (ok, they’re tied at 11th), and of course…standings (1st/8th). They have seven individual players with at least 50 points, Montreal has three. They have seven players with at least 20 goals, Montreal has…three. The Bruins’ backup goalie – Manny Fernandez – has a better GAA and save percentage than does the Canadiens' starter (Carey Price, for now). It’s not, “why Boston will win,” but “will Montreal win a game?”
Why Montreal will win
It’s all too easy. Besides, the Canadiens have won the last three playoff series contested between these teams. And there is that 100th anniversary thing, too. OK, we’re reaching.
Who will win? Boston in three. OK, four.
New Jersey Devils (3) vs. Carolina Hurricanes (6)
Why New Jersey will win
Martin Brodeur (well, the one to whom we have become accustomed, not the one who lost six in a row to close March and open April), an unrelenting devotion to a “system” of hockey, and the good sense not to employ a pig as a mascot.
Why Carolina will win
They’re hotter’n a barbecue in Joo-ly. They won their first four games in March and haven’t let up much since – 13-3-2 to close the year, and not a Gimmick win in the bunch (they did have two Gimmick losses). Six of the 13 wins were by at least three goals. They averaged 3.89 goals a game in the 18 games from March 1st onward.
Who will win? Carolina in six, even if “Old Marty” shows up.
Pittsburgh Penguins (4) vs. Philadelphia Flyers (5)
Why Pittsburgh will win.
The Evgeni Malkin who scored 113 points this year, the Dan Bylsma who coached ‘em up to a 18-3-4 record after he took over for Michel Therrien behind the Penguin bench, the Sergei Gonchar who had 19 points in 25 games (including five power play goals) after returning from a shoulder injury, the Chris Kunitz who was just the shot in the arm the Penguins needed.
Why Philadelphia will win
The Evgeni Malkin who finished last season’s playoffs so silently, the Dan Bylsma who has never coached so much as an AHL playoff game (let alone an NHL brand), the Sergei Gonchar who is prone to the inopportune turnover, the Chris Kunitz who is the third leading scorer for the Penguins with just 53 points for Anaheim and the Penguins. The Flyers are more of a known commodity – you know what you’ll get from night to night…balanced scoring, grit, a “won’t quit” attitude, and yes, even iffy goaltending. There are too many moving parts that are unknowns for Pittsburgh.
Who will win? Pittsburgh in seven, crushing the Flyers on the basis of the advantage the Flyers gave away in the regular season finale – home ice.
San Jose Sharks (1) vs. Anaheim Ducks (8)
Why San Jose will win
All that stuff we said about Boston? It applies here, too.
Why Anaheim will win
They’re better than Montreal, especially in that their young goalie (Jonas Hiller) played a lot better than Montreal’s young goalie (Carey Price) this year.
Who will win? San Jose in six…we give the Ducks one game on Hiller’s stealing it, another on pride, but the Sharks are too deep, too talented, and too good.
Detroit Red Wings (2) vs. Columbus Blue Jackets (7)
Why Detroit will win
It’s not the age, it’s the mileage. And the Red Wings have seen so much more over the miles than have the Blue Jackets, playing in the franchise’s first playoff series (nice way to start, eh boys?). Chris Osgood won’t steal a game as long as the Red Wings play this spring, but it’s even money that the Blue Jackets will get within a time zone of testing him with the defensive abilities the Red Wings can deploy against what is already an offense-challenged team.
Why Columbus will win
The Red Wings, last year notwithstanding, have a disturbing history of looking ahead and having it spank them. And, who’s to say Steve Mason can’t pitch four shutouts?
Who will win? Detroit in five…there are two shutouts in the season series between these teams, and Columbus doesn’t have either of them.
Vancouver Canucks (3) vs. St. Louis Blues (6)
Why Vancouver will win
Because maybe the Blues will just be happy to have made it, seeing as how they were seven games under .500 as late as January 13th. That, and the Canucks have Roberto Luongo, who somebody owes at least a series win to after he had a 1.77 GAA in last year’s playoffs and still only got to the second round.
Why St. Louis will win
Because Vancouver finished third only because Calgary didn’t win consecutive games after March 5th. The Canucks might be over-seeded relative to their abilities. The Blues also had the best finishing kick in the entire league (8-1-1 in their last ten games), and goalie Chris Mason finished with a rush (9-1-1, 2.09, .924).
Who will win? Vancouver in seven…it’ll be the battle of Luongo’s curious history of misfortune and Mason’s only having one unfortunate playoff series worth of experience (1-4, 3.45, .901 with Nashville in 2006).
Chicago Blackhawks (4) vs. Calgary Flames (5)
Why Chicago will win
They got their ship righted. After an 0-3-2 stretch in mid-March, they finished the year 9-2-1, including back-to-back wins over the Red Wings to close the season that might not have been the highest priority for the Wings (say, below “stay healthy”), but were probably a real confidence-booster for the young Blackhawks. And, they seem to have finally settled on a goalie – Nikolai Khabibulin. His career record against Calgary? 22-5-2, 2.06, .931.
Why Calgary will win
This will be the first playoff appearance for the Blackhawks since 2001-2002; the Flames have been in the last four years before this one. After a six game goal-less streak, Jarome Iginla finished up the regular season with four in his last seven games.
Who will win? Chicago in six…Calgary has been off for a while now – they were 9-12-3 from March 1st on, Miikka Kiprusoff lost six of his last nine decisions (and hasn’t had all that great a year anyway), and Iginla is minus-9 against the Blackhawks in four games this year…what’s up with that?
As always, don't use these picks for actual cash wagers, but do tip your wait staff...