Postseason punditry

Now the fun really begins ...


(1) BUFFALO (53-22-7) VS. (8) N.Y. ISLANDERS (40-30-12)

How the N.Y. Islanders could win -- If Rick DiPietro -- 32-19-9 with a 2.58 goals-against average this season -- can somehow, someway comeback from a concussion that limited him to four games down the stretch ... if new goaltender Wade Dubielewicz can channel Terry Sawchuk, Ken Dryden and Grant Fuhr ... if first-time 40-goal scorer Jason Blake heats up again -- he had only five goals in his last 14 games.

Why Buffalo will win -- Too many weapons on offense and defense ... Sabres were 26-6-2 when Thomas Vanek scored at least one of his team-high 43 goals ... they had an Eastern Conference-leading 28 wins and HSBC Arena and have home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs. SABRES IN FIVE.

(2) NEW JERSEY (49-24-9) VS. (7) TAMPA BAY (44-33-5)

How Tampa Bay could win -- Brad Richards gets more involved. He had only 45 assists in '06-'07 compared with career-high 68 last season ... league goal-scoring leader Vincent Lecavalier rebounds last postseason in which he a goal and three assists in a first-round loss ... Coach John Tortorella lets his goaltenders play, though neither Johan Holmqvist or Marc Denis is an answer here.

Why New Jersey will win -- Martin Brodeur. Coming off the best season of his career -- 48-23-7 with 12 shutouts -- he gets my vote for the Hart and Vezina trophies He's also 4-1-0 with a 1.36 GAA in the playoffs versus the Bolts ... Interim bossman Lou Lamoriello will have these guys ready to play, but three trained monkeys could do the same ... When Zach Parise (31 goals in 82 game) scored at least two points this season, New Jersey was 8-3-0. DEVILS IN FOUR.

(3) ATLANTA (43-28-11) VS. (6) N.Y. RANGERS (42-30-10)

How Atlanta could win -- No playoff jitters from goaltender Kari Lehtonen (2-3-1, 2.63 GAA in final six games) or sniper Ilya Kovalchuk, on a four-game goal scoring streak heading into postseason ... Trading-deadline pickups Keith Tkachuk and Alexei Zhitnik and coach Bob Hartley all have extensive playoff experience ... 100-point scorer Marian Hossa had three goals in three wins over New York this season.

Why the N.Y. Rangers will win -- Last season's first-round sweep by New Jersey still fresh in the minds of the Blueshirts ... Henrik Lundqvist was 16-4-5 with a 1.72 GAA and four shutouts since Feb. 9 -- he allowed 13 goals in three playoff losses last season ... a healthy Jaromir Jagr should have more than the one assist he posted last season. RANGERS IN SIX.

(4) OTTAWA (48-25-9) VS. (5) PITTSBURGH (47-24-11)

How Ottawa could win -- Dany Heatley, Daniel Alfredsson and Jason Spezza continue to carry this team ... one of every five goals scored by Heatley was a game-winner ... Ray Emery (33-16-6, 2.47 GAA, five shutouts) could set up a run as this postseason's version of Jean-Sebastien Giguere or Cam Ward if he can get past this series.

Why Pittsburgh will win -- Yes, this is Sidney Crosby's first go-round in the postseason, but does anyone out there think he cannot handle the pressure? He's got Gretzky-ish skills and can pick owner Mario Lemieux's brain ... nuts-and-bolts experience from veterans Gary Roberts and Mark Recchi will be invaluable ... Evgeni Malkin scored 33 goals as a rookie, 16 on the power play, six game-winners. Tough to stop that filthiness. PENGUINS IN SEVEN.


(1) DETROIT (50-19-13) VS. (8) CALGARY (43-29-10)

How Detroit could win -- Forget their recent postseason history. In two of their last three playoff appearances, the Red Wings were first-round losers ... six-time Vezina Trophy winner Dominik Hasek doesn't remember he turns 42 later this month ... Henrik Zetterberg (33 goals) and his balky back are friends once again.

Why Calgary will win -- Win or lose, does reigning Vezina winner Miikka Kiprusoff (40-24-9, 2.46 GAA, seven shutouts) ever get rattled? This is just another series of games for him ... Key on offense won't be Jarome Iginla or Alex Tanguay -- watch for Kristian Huselius (career-high 34 goals) ... Jim Playfair outcoaches Mike Babcock -- yes, it can happen. FLAMES IN SIX.

(2) ANAHEIM (48-20-14) VS. (7) MINNESOTA (48-26-8)

How Anaheim could win -- Chris Pronger and Scott Niedermayer score early and often from the blue line. Teemu Selanne scores early and often from anywhere ... Jean-Sebastien Giguere (36-10-8, 2.26 GAA, four shutouts) keeps his mind on the game instead of family issues surrounding the birth of his son ... Dustin Penner (29 goals) builds off the three he had last postseason.

Why Minnesota will win -- Meet Nicklas Backstrom. Was 10-0-1 with a 1.24 GAA and three shutouts over the final month of the season, and has gone from backup to a league-low 1.97 GAA heading into postseason ... Marian Gaborik stays healthy. Had a point in 13 of his final 14 games of '06-'07 ... Five players with at least 50 points mean balance in Jacques Lemaire's system. WILD IN SEVEN.

(3) VANCOUVER (49-26-7) VS. (6) DALLAS (49-25-7)

How Dallas could win --Marty Turco improves overnight on his 8-14 record and 3.35 GAA in the playoffs. If he struggles again, coach Dave Tippett could put rookie Mike Smith (12-5-2, 2.23 GAA, three shutouts) in net... Scoring comes primarily from the forwards Mike Modano, Mike Ribeiro and others despite having two of the higher scoring defensemen in Sergei Zubov (54 points) and Philippe Boucher (51 points) ... trying to avoid third straight opening-round elimination for the first time.

Why Vancouver will win -- Roberto Luongo (47-22-6, 2.29 GAA, five shutouts) won't fall flat on his face ... After emerging this season as the faces of the franchise, the Sedin twins (36 goals for Daniel, 71 assists for Henrik) show the world their playmaking skills ... another team that has to forget their history. The Canucks have gone past the first round just twice since 1994. CANUCKS IN SIX.

(4) NASHVILLE (51-23-8) VS. (5) SAN JOSE (51-26-5)

How Nashville could win -- Peter Forsberg starts playing like he did, say, five years ago ... Tomas Vokoun bounces back after missing al of last season with a blood clotting condition ... try not to let losing four straight to the Sharks in last season's playoff get to them ... get past a late season stumble that saw Predators lose seven of 10.

Why San Jose will win -- Joe Thornton. Evegni Nabokov. Jonathan Cheechoo. Bill Guerin. Patrick Marleau. Sharks can match veteran for veteran with Preds' Kariya, Sullivan, Forsberg and so on ... young defensemen Matt Carle, Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Christian Ehrhoff will be keys. SHARKS IN SIX.

No comments: