By Gary Harding
Well – with my Isles out – I guess I should be putting my piece of the prediction pie for the Playoffs, so here I go.
1. Caps vs Rangers. As an Islander fan – you can guess who I am rooting for… Duh, as Charlie S would say. However, this will not be easy. Having #30 for NYR in the net is a guarantee that you will have to EARN your wins. As seen last night – that was the case. The defense is underrated and young. The vets are the issue right now. With Semin ending his goal hex in the post season, he should start to flow. And Alex, well he is Alex. I say Washington in 5. Although the NYR dominated Washington – the Caps have been the best in the league for the last 2 months, and it shows.
2. Pitts vs Tampa – For 20 seconds last night – the Pens dominated the Bolts and got the goals that won them the game. Most of the game was evenly matched, and that is what you expect from a 4-5 matchup. The key will be the goaltender on the Tampa side. Roloson was acquired for his experience and his calm demeanor. Remember – goalies win cups. I say that Pittsburgh, however, will move on. Pittsburgh in 7.
3. Philly vs Buffalo – Buffalo played well down the stretch, while Philly limped (except when they play the Islanders, of course). Will be interesting to see where the wheel of goalies will end up with the Flyers. Buffalo is a scary bunch, and can take control of this series if they come out all gangbusters on the Flyers, who will be without Chris Pronger for at least game 1. Picking an upset here – Buffalo in 6.
4. Boston vs Montreal – The classic. I think the numbers are Montreal winning 27 out of the 34 playoff tests between these two bitter rivals. The intensity is so bad, that I have heard (Thanks John Edwards from UMSL Radio) that Boston will practice in Lake Placid instead of Montreal during that part of the series. Hmmm. Boston just does not thrill me. Montreal is an energy team, and if they can squeak one out of the TD Garden this week, then something special can happen. I am saying Montreal in 6.
1. Canucks vs BlackHawks. – Simply put – the Canucks are my pick for the Finals. Last night – they showed just why they will be tough. The Defense is solid, they score when they need to – and for the first time in a long time – Luongo is not only fresh, but severely focused. Vancouver in 5.
2. Detroit vs Phoenix/Winnipeg??? Despite the great season that Phoenix had – the lure of the possible relocation back to the Canadian plains is going to upset the psyche, and Detroit just has too much experience up and down the lineup. Detroit in 5.
3. San Jose vs Los Angeles – this is the one series that maybe a surprise can happen. Even without Kopitar, the Kings have a lot of weapons from lines 1 – 4, and Quick is a great goalie. However, the Sharks are playoff tested (just not successful) – and they have a goalie that won 16 playoff games last season. That is the ace in the hole. San Jose in 7. But I would not be surprised if LA can pull off an upset.
4. Anaheim vs Nashville – A similar scenario to the 4-5 battle in the East. Either team can do it – and would not be surprised. Nashville last night on 2 goals by Mike Fisher (what a lucky guy), manhandled the Ducks last night. The momentum swung big time, and can easily deflate Anaheim (much to the surprise and delight of Kings nation). Nashville in 6.
There you go – what do you think? Let me know. Thanks,