Well, it was a wild weekend, but the match-ups for the Quarterfinals are set and it's time for my preview of the whole thing. Now, your results may vary, but this is how I roll.
(1) Buffalo Sabres vs. (8) New York Islanders: Now, on paper this looks like it'll be a blow-out. On the ice, it probably will be the same result. The Sabres are too powerful and have too much depth to bow out to an upset. The play of Daniel Briere and Thomas Vanek has been amazing and with Maxim Afinogenov and Tim Connolly back, who knows what they could really do with the added fire power.
However, give the Isles credit where credit is due. They did come a long way and did what they needed to get the eight seed, but I don't see Wade Dubielwicz putting on a Johan Hedberg circa 2001 performance in the playoffs. Anything is possible, but the odds are squarely against the Isles. Sabres in 5.
(2) New Jersey Devils vs. (7) Tampa Bay Lightning: Here's an interesting match-up; a team with all goaltending and little scoring against a team with all scoring and little goaltending. Martin Brodeur has been sensational again this season and really doesn't look like he's letting up. If Patrik Elias, Scott Gomez, and Brian Gionta can get in top form, the Devils could be hard to stop.
Vincent Lecavalier is living a dream season and Martin St. Louis is have a great bounce-back season. However, the one thing to crush their hopes is the inconsistency between the pipes. Seeing as how the goalies for the Bolts have no playoff experience in the NHL and the Devils have been together for years-- this one may be a no-brainer. Devils in 6.
(3) Atlanta Thrashers vs. (6) New York Rangers: The Thrashers' gamble paid off when they went on a mini-spree at the trade deadline. The question now becomes, did they use it all to get into the playoffs and have nothing left in the tank. Who knows what guys like Kari Lehtonen and Ilya Kovalchuk could do with this extra season, but it'll be the stepping stone for many more appearances to come; I'm sure.
The Rangers are back in the playoffs for the second straight season. Last year, they were ousted in four games, but now they're a year older and may have learned from the mistakes. The only question will be whether or not Jaromir Jagr can find his goal-scoring ability. Thrashers in 7.
(4) Ottawa Senators vs. (5) Pittsburgh Penguins: If you want offense, this is the match-up for you. The Senators have been down this road before and right now, it's time for a pay-off or send-off. They looked to have matured through the season, but now is the time for guys like Dany Heatley, Jason Spezza, and Wade Redden to step up to the plate. Ray Emery has been up and down, but you can bet he'll get the job done when called upon.
The Penguins have the best young team out there on the ice today. They have shown they can score at any time in any situation. However, will the inexperience be the death of them?? Some say the Pens don't understand the pressure so they'll be lethal-- I think the other way around. Marc-Andre Fleury will have to come up huge for the Pens to think about moving on beyond the first round. Senators in 7.
(1) Detroit Red Wings vs. (8) Calgary Flames: The Wings are in the same position they were in last year; top team in the West facing a bi-polar Alberta team. However, the Wings look like they could have learned from their mistakes and may be firing on all cylinders. This will be a match-up of two of the top goalies in the game with Dominik Hasek having his ring already.
The Calgary Flames as an eight seed. That's scary to me, especially considering that the Flames have been able to score like they haven't before. The one downfall is that their defense has suffered through the scoring and has given up almost too many goals this season. If they can right that ship, they could be a scary team to face. Flames in 7.
(2) Anaheim Ducks vs. (7) Minnesota Wild: A replay of the 2003 Western Conference finals, Anaheim is going into this in an odd situation. Though they have been fairly dominant, they have had some rough patches and injury issues that have kept them from really being an elite team. Though they have Scott Niedermayer and Chris Pronger; something about their defense doesn't really strike me as being one of the tops.
The Wild have gotten plenty of help from Niklas Backstrom. He has been rock solid and won the William Jennings Trophy for fewest total goals against. Also with Marian Gaborik and Pavol Demitra seemingly healthy again, the Wild have a good chance of being big time dark horse in this. Wild in 6.
(3) Vancouver Canucks vs. (6) Dallas Stars: If you like defensive hockey or need a cure for insomnia, this is your match-up. In the four match-ups this season, the games have all ended in a 2-1 score with each team have two wins, including one overtime win. Now, this is the first playoffs for Roberto Luongo, which should be interesting to see how he fares in all this. The Sedin Twins will be the offense for the Canucks.
Marty Turco has a lot to prove and this could be the place to do it. The Stars are an underdog and really need to pull themselves together as a team to get the job done. Interesting stat, only New Jersey had less goals in the regular season than the Stars and Canucks. Stars in 7.
(4) Nashville Predators vs. (5) San Jose Sharks: No, this is not deja vu from last season, it's another Sharks/Preds match-up. The Preds are relatively healthy this season, though. Tomas Vokoun is set for a big run, while Paul Kariya and Peter Forsberg look to be the top duo in the post-season.
The Sharks made a big charge thanks to Joe Thornton who had another outstanding season. If Jonathan Cheechoo can keep his momentum going and the Sharks get great goaltending from Evgeni Nabokov-- they could see some big thing in the city by the bay. Predators in 6.
So that's it for the Wazz playoff preview. Make sure you check out the Show this week to see Lyle/Orb IV; the best match-up of an expert and Magic Orb since Lyle/Orb III.