Washington-New York: The high-energy Rangers have outscored the Capitals 15-1 since their first meeting in early November. Bruce Boudreau on the hot seat. New York in 7.
Philadelphia-Buffalo: The Flyers have been known to play possum for weeks at a time, so don’t count them out–they’re a very hard team to figure. Still, the Sabres have been one of the hottest teams of the second half, and Bobrovsky’s already seen a lot of shots against for a rookie. Buffalo in 7.
Boston-Montreal: The Bruins are one of the most complete teams in the playoffs, and Tim Thomas has had an All-World season. The Habs struggled down the stretch, Carey Price hasn’t shown himself to be even an average playoff netminder and Montreal doesn’t have some of the positive signs–I saw them–of last regular season. Boston in 5.
Pittsburgh-Tampa Bay: Give a ton of credit to Dan Bylsma and company for finishing strong without Crosby and Malkin. Still–understatement–this team isn’t a contender without Sid. Tampa Bay in 7.
Vancouver-Chicago: The Blackhawks have paid all year long for the cap mess that Stan Bowman inherited, barely sneaking into the playoffs. They’ve got some top-six firepower and a couple of fine defensemen, but their depth is in tatters. This is the wrong incarnation of the Canucks facing the wrong incarnation of the Blackhawks. Maybe next year, again. Vancouver in 6.
San Jose-Los Angeles: Despite a strong Goal Difference, the Kings are a sham. They were, even before their MVP Anze Kopitar’s injury. They’re injured, and Jonathan Quick isn’t good enough to steal the series from one of the best teams of the second half. San Jose in 5.
Detroit-Phoenix: The Red Wings struggled to the finish line, losing a chance to face a weaker Kings squad. While the well-coached and deep but starless Coyotes should make Nick Lidstrom and company sweat it out again, ultimately look for a repeat of last season’s result. Detroit in 7.
Anaheim-Nashville: Two intriguing teams, top-heavy vs. spread-out talent. I’m not so worried about the Ducks goaltending–whoever plays should perform fairly well. The series will depend a lot on the Preds’ discipline, as the Ducks are deadly on the power play. Tie? All right, Anaheim in 7 on some kind of supernatural effort at just the right time from my man Selanne. That might be my heart talking.
Looking ahead…Boston over San Jose?