1. vs 8.
I didn't even have to change the graphics this year, although the roles are reversed this time around. Nicole's crew is gearing up for another family grudge match. Last year I picked the Habs (and was right) -- this year I can't see Boston faltering. Bruins in 5.
2. vs 7.
Washington's apparently hot, and although I bet against them last year (and was right), I'm thinking they've got a good shot of beating the Rangers without too much trouble. Capitals in 5.
3. vs 6.
I know almost nothing about either team, but I like the occasional upset and this might be the one. Hurricanes in 7.
4. vs 5.
I like how Pittsburgh pulled it together late in the season, and I've got a soft spot for Malkin after watching him years ago in the World Juniors. Don't know much about the Flyers this year, but I haven't traditionally liked them much. Penguins in 6.
1. vs 8.
I think Anaheim might have gone deep this year again, but it took them forever to get rolling, and then drew San Jose in the first round. Little chance of an upset here, if any. Sharks in 5.
2. vs 7.
Cool to see the Blue Jackets in the playoffs for the first time, and I'd love to see an upset here...but even though the defending champs have struggled a little with goaltending, this should be a cakewalk. Wings in 4.
3. vs 6.
Two teams with incredible records since Feb.1, when they were both out of the playoff picture. The Blues have a good story and a hot goalie, but I think Vancouver overpowers them with good defense and timely goals. Canucks in 6.
4. vs 5.
Most Vancouver fans hate Calgary, and I feel no real warmth towards them either, aside from being in awe of Iginla. It seems like most people have written them off after their unimpressive stumble into the playoffs, and I'd rather see Chicago take this one...but I think Calgary is better than they've shown. Calgary in 7.
Even knowing that half of these are likely to be wrong, my pie-in-the-sky predictions for the rest of the playoffs would probably look this:
- Sharks vs Flames -- Sharks in 4
- Detroit vs Vancouver -- Vancouver in 7 (a huge upset, on goaltending alone if need be)
- Boston vs Carolina -- Boston in 6
- Pittsburgh vs Washington -- Pittsburgh in 7 (wouldn't that be a great series?)
- Sharks vs Vancouver -- Sharks in 5
- Boston vs Pittsburgh -- Pittsburgh in 7
Update After First Round: So, my potential cup winners, the Sharks, upset again in the first round. And Calgary lost, which was my preference, but I blew the prediction. Other than that, I did pretty good, calling six out of the eight series. I wasn't even too far off the games required to win those. It took the Capital two more games, and Boston one more than I thought. I thought the Blues might take a couple of games against Vancouver, but of course I was very pleased with that sweep.
So, on to Round Two...which I have to revise considering blown calls in the first round.
1) BOS vs. 6) CAR
In the bits I saw, the Bruins looked dominant. Was it just because the Habs were so bad? Carolina has to be tired after going seven games with the Devils. Boston in 6 (unchanged).
2) DET vs. 8) ANA
As a Canucks fan, seeing the Ducks upset the Sharks was a thing of beauty, not only because it removed San Jose (who Vancouver can never beat) from the picture, but because it meant Vancouver didn't either have to play Detroit in the second round. Assuming the Canucks can beat Chicago, I'd rather have them play the Ducks, so I'm hoping for another upset here. But I don't think it's going to happen. Detroit in 5.
2) WAS vs. 4) PIT
What a great matchup. Washington showed real guts coming back from 3-1 deficit, but the Penguins sound like the real deal and got some good experience in the playoffs last year. Pittsburgh in 7 (unchanged).
3) VAN vs. 4) CHI
This might have been the best possible draw for Vancouver, other than an injury-depleted Flames team that couldn't beat Chicago. That said, I think the Hawks are going to give the Canucks more trouble than the Blues did -- they're fast and young and gritty -- they'll win one in Vancouver (probably the first one) and at least one at home, but the Canucks will prevail with home ice advantage. Vancouver in 6 or 7.
For the conference finals, I had predicted Pittsburgh over Boston in seven games. Although I still think that will be the matchup, my hunch now is that a better-rested Boston would win that series (and probably the final too). But I'll keep my original prediction: Pittsburgh in 7.
In the West, it looks like I've revised it to have the Canucks meeting the Red Wings, and I honestly believe that's a tossup. If Vancouver has any injuries to key players, Detroit wins...if they stay healthy, Vancouver in 7. Hey, I can dream.
So that would leave Pittsburgh and Vancouver in the final, which would be fantastic. Vancouver Canucks, Stanley Cup Champions in 2009, for the first time ever. That has a real nice ring to it...but even as I typed it, it seemed like pure, hilarious folly. So many things could go wrong for them between now and then...but same for the other teams too.