Sabres in 4
The Sabres are the team to beat in the East this year, and the Islanders even if they were 100% healthy would not have a shot to do so even with Goalie Rick DiPietro in the net. However, in the net will be Wade Dubielewicz, who spent most of the season in the AHL. The Islanders are lucky just to be in the playoffs any way as the chips fell right at the end of the season. In the playoffs that type of luck does not exist and the Islanders will have a tough time winning just one game.
Red Wings in 5
The Red Wings are once again the top team in the East, and playing a team from Alberta. Before and after the lock out that did not work out the last two times for the Wings, as they were stunned by the Flames in 2004 and the Oilers last year. Both those teams would go on to the Finals, after stunning the Red Wings. That won’t happen this time as Dominik Hasek is healthy and in the net for the Wings, and that will be the difference this time as the Wings win this series with relative ease in five games.
Devils in 6
The Devils have the experience and the goalie to go a long way in the playoffs, all they need is to get some scoring and the Devils could be going into the Prudential Center with a 4th Stanley Cup Banner. However, they must be careful in their first round match up as the Lightning have given the Devils problems in the regular season winning 3 of 4 meetings. In the end goalies will make a difference and Johan Holmqvist will never beat Martin Brodeur in a head to head match up as the Devils advance in six close games.
Ducks in 5
After entering the playoffs as a low seed twice and making long runs the Ducks are now at the top of the playoff tree and playing the role of favorites. So expected now the Ducks success anything less then the Finals will be a disappointment. Weather or not the Ducks can go on that run remains to be seen, but led by two of the premiere defenseman Scott Niedermayer and Chris Pronger it would be hard to bet against them and in the first round they won’t have too tough of test as they will be the Wild in five.
Rangers in 6
Congratulations to the Thrashers and Atlanta hockey, you have reached the Promised Land known as playoff hockey, and with the talent the Thrashers have this should become an annual visit in Atlanta. However, most of those players like Ilya Kovalchuk are tasting the postseason for the first time ever. While the Rangers led by Brendan Shannahan and Jaromir Jagr have battle tested Cup winners, who know how to win in April and May. Often that experience is the biggest factor and it will be here as the Rangers score a minor upset and win their first playoff series in a decade.
Canucks in 7
Great regular seasons and playoff failure have become an unfortunate pattern in Dallas, over the last few years, as goalie Marty Turco has struggled in the playoffs. This time the Stars are not entering the series as favorites as they face the Canucks led by Roberto Luongo who is coming off a great year. This may be just what Turco needs to turn things around as the Stars and Canucks are pretty evenly matched, as the Stars are only the sixth seed because of the tough division they played in. Look for this one to go seven and perhaps into overtime, where the Canucks will barely survive.
Senators in 6
The Penguins are young and hungry and have a team led by Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal that in a few years could be a dynasty. However, Crosby, Malkin and Staal are too young to legal drink a problem if they have a Stanley Cup Champaign toast. However, that won’t be an issue as the Senators have a talented team themselves and have been here before, look for this one to be the most exciting series in the East in the first round, but in the end it will be the Senators winning in six games.
Sharks in 6
It’s Deja Vu all over again for the Sharks and Predators as they face off for the second straight year as the fourth and fifth seed in the West. Not much has changed from last year except the fact that this year the Predators have a healthy Tomas Vokun in the net. However, even with Vokun the Sharks still have the goalie edge with Evgeni Nabokov. Look for this to be a high scoring series, and that plays in the hands of the Sharks with Joe Thornton and Jonathan Cheechoo as they take the series in six games.