#1 Buffalo Sabres vs. #8 New York Islanders
I wouldn’t be shocked to death if the Isles win a game… one.
Sabres sweep in 4.
#2 New Jersey Devils vs. #7 Tampa Bay Lightning
This is the darkhorse best matchup in the East, as far as I’m concerned. Goaltenders don’t score goals, they try to stop them. As long as the Lightning can keep the pressure on Broduer as well as taking care of their own defensive zone (read: don’t let the Devils have their way with Holmqvist), I think they’ll edge out the Devils.
Lightning in 7.
#3 Atlanta Thrashers vs. #6 New York Rangers
The Thrash and Rags have both played the role of juggernaut coming into the post-season. Even with the SE division title tucked nicely under their arms, when the Thrashers lose, they lose bigtime. Who would you rather have in net, Lehtonen or Lundqvist? If you said Lehtonen, then you must be: 1. from Atlanta, and 2. delusional.
Rangers in 6.
#4 Ottawa Senators vs. #5 Pittsburgh Penguins
This is a tough one. The Penguins score all over the place. The problem is, they also get scored on more than your sister at a Saturday night kegger. Nobody can deny the offensive talents of the young guys in Pittsburgh, but Ottawa has more than a few playoff-proven offensive weapons. Goaltending’s basically a wash in this one, although Ray Emery has a slight edge.
Senators in 6.
#1 Detroit Red Wings vs. #8 Calgary Flames
Given Detroit’s recent history of being at or near the top in the West after the regular season, you have to go back 5 years (or 4 seasons) to avoid disappointment. Hasek is great, but he’s geriatric. Kiprusoff is better.
Flames in 6.
#2 Anaheim Ducks vs. #7 Minnesota Wild
Forget all the talk of the Vezina trophy race between Brodeur and Luongo for the time being. J.S. Giguere is no slouch, but Niklas Backstrom is the best goalie in the league.
Wild upset the Ducks in 6.
#3 Vancouver Canucks vs. #6 Dallas Stars
Hrm. Other than fans in Dallas and Vancouver… who really cares? Will Luongo win the Vezina? Probably not. Will he win big games against the Stars, all of which are sure to be low-scoring matches? You bet.
Canucks in 5.
#4 Nashville Predators vs. #5 San Jose Sharks
I really really want to root for the Predators in this series, and I will. But, I’ll probably be disappointed in having done so. These games will probably be the most fun to watch out of all the first round matchups. The goalies are pretty evenly matched, but I have a feeling Thornton is sick of all the slag, and Cheechoo is a helluva lot better than most people outside San Jose realize.
Sharks in 6.