The time has come to go out on a limb and expose myself to the world and show how much I don't know by throwing out some mad guesses as to what will happen in the first round of this years NHL playoffs.
Taking a quick look back to preseason predictions, I picked seven out of eight playoff teams in the Western Conference, missing only the Phoenix Coyotes. I had the Anaheim Ducks returning to the playoffs, thinking that Dave Tippett had run out of rabbits in his hat and that the tumultuous situation in the desert would finally wear down the Coyotes.
My picks in the East were a disaster. I did have the top five finishers, but in the wrong order, and like most others, I had Florida and Ottawa relegated to the bottom of the Conference. I also had the Devils just missing in ninth place. My choices that did not make the playoffs were Tampa, Buffalo, and Montreal.
With all that being said, it is time to move on to the first round picks.
(1) New York Rangers vs (8) Ottawa Senators - The Sens were one of two big surprises in the East this year while the Rangers exceeded expectations and barely missed the President's Cup. Ottawa did not have a great finish to the season as the fell to eighth in the seedings while the Rangers were able to hold off the late season surge by Pittsburgh to claim the Atlantic title. The Rangers should cruise through the opening round and clinch at home. - Rangers in five
(2) Boston Bruins vs (7) Washington Capitals - This is a series that has the potential to surprise many folks as I think it will go seven games with plenty of offense along the way. After starting quickly out of the box, changing coaches, and struggling for much of the season, the Caps appeared to be hitting their stride at the end. Boston also had plenty of ups and downs with a slow start and then a hot streak in November. I think that the difference will be Boston's home ice in the final game. - Bruins in seven
(3) Florida Panthers vs (6) New Jersey Devils - This could be a quick series with the Devils extensive playoff experience pitted against a Panthers team that amassed 18 points in overtime losses which is not an option in the postseason. The Panthers have not been in the postseason since they were swept by the Devils in 2000. Marty Brodeur has played well in the seasons second half and I expect that will continue. - Devils in five
(4) Pittsburgh Penguins vs (5) Philadelphia Flyers - This is the one match in the East that everyone wants to see. After a wild contest with plenty of bad blood in the next to the last weekend of the season, the most recent game was relatively docile. The teams should be ready to play a tough series once the puck is dropped with elimination for a good team on the line. I see the Pens going deep in the playoffs this year and the Flyers will be the first notch on their gun. - Pens in six
(1) Vancouver Canucks vs (8) Los Angeles Kings - For two seasons I've predicted the Kings to go to the finals in the West and I'm still waiting for them to match my expectation. I don't think they will make it this year but they were playing their best hockey of the year in the at the end of the season. The Canucks won the President's Trophy on the heels of playing in the only division with one playoff team, but could be ripe for the picking without Daniel Sedin. Kings in seven
(2) St. Louis Blues vs (7) San Jose Sharks - The Blues were a surprise team in the west as were the Sharks for a totally different reason. With the lack of recent playoff experience the Blues almost could be considered somewhat of an underdog, but Ken Hitchcock has done a masterful job with his team since taking over and it should continue into the first round. - St. Louis in six
(3) Phoenix Coyotes vs (6) Chicago Blackhawks - Phoenix continues to surprise folks by making the playoffs for the third year in a row while being owned by the league with healthy contributions from the city of Glendale. Chicago is bitter after backsliding last season in their post Stanley Cup season. The Hawks will show the strength of the Central Division by taking the first round to move on and play another Central Division opponent. - Hawks in six
(4) Nashville Predators vs (5) Detroit Red Wings - This is a series that plenty of folks nationwide are looking forward to seeing. The Predators have built the best team in franchise history with several pickups near the trade deadline and the grand prize coming with the return of Alexander Radulov. The Wings have not played well on the road this year and could have used home ice advantage. I may be one of the few folks expecting a short series but the Predators are ready to roll. Predators in five
Buddy Oakes for PredsOntheGlass