The 2007 Stanley Cup playoffs are almost underway--and it's about time. This season seemed longer than most for some reason, and I still think they should cut down the season to 70 games or so. But that's just me.
For the first time since the last time it happened, the conference champs from the previous season are not in the playoffs. This time around its Edmonton and Carolina, the latter being the first Stanley Cup champion to miss the postseason since the Devils did it in 1996. Welcome to that auspicious club, Rod Bit O'Love!In the end, all three New York City area teams made it in, which makes me happy but pisses off the rest of the hockey world. Add Buffalo to the mix, and this area is well represented. This also means that all the locals will be fighting for TV coverage, and from what I've read, it looks like this: Isles/Sabres will be on Versus (except Games 1 and 7), the Devils and Doc Emrick's play-by-play on FoxSports Net, and the Rangers will alternate between MSG and NBC (first one is Game 2 @ 3 PM , Sat 4/14). Who knows which games will be on HD (I haven't seen an away game in HD from Tampa), and I don't know anyone who gets VS-HD.
Let's get into the blognostications, because I'm the only one who reads this anyway.
Clarence Campbell [Western] Conference
This conference is pretty loaded, and the Stanley Cup winner is probably going to emerge from here, although not necessarily from the top seeds.
(1) Detroit vs (8) Calgary. Ahh, the mighty Red Wings, who led the West and tied Buffalo for the most points in the NHL. Like last year, they feasted on St. Louis and Columbus, two of the bottom feeders in the West. And do you really think Hasek, who was used sparingly this season has another tough playoff run in him? Yeah, I don't think so either. Calgary will upset the Red Wings: you heard it here first. Flames in 6.
(2) Anaheim vs (7) Minnesota. The Wild had a good run, but they're a dull, old school pretender who are about to get trounced by a very talented, though no longer mighty, Ducks team. Ducks in 5.
(3) Vancouver vs (6) Dallas. This is probably the least watchable series in the whole postseason: Dallas can't score, and Vancouver plays a plodding game just hoping to not make mistakes in front of Luongo. Turco has never proved himself in the playoffs. Canucks in 6.
(4) Nashville vs (5) San Jose. Sharks are scary, in and out of the water. On paper this looks like the best matchup in the West, and it's a shame one of these teams will have to lose in the first round. In the end, the Predators will become prey to the San Jose. Sharks in 7.
Prince of Wales [Eastern] Conference
(1) Buffalo vs (8) NY Islanders. Let me just say that it's ridiculous that the Isles are in the playoffs. They had to win 3 games to close out the season (done), Montreal had to lose their final 2, including a come-from-behind win by Toronto (done), and they had to win a shootout on the final day with a backup goalie (done). All of that was for the privilege of being unceremoniously kicked out in the first round. Sabres in 4.
(2) New Jersey vs (7) Tampa Bay. New Jersey has had some serious ups and downs this year but as always it's about Brodeur, who had an amazing season this year. But I'd rather have tuberculosis than have TB in the playoffs for another round. I just hope they figure out some way to stop that one killer line (St. Louis, Lecavilier). Devils in 6.
(3) Atlanta vs (6) NY Rangers. The Rangers got the matchup they wanted (i.e. anyone but the Devils), but they're such a Heckyl and Jagr team that it's hard to believe in them. Atlanta had a great first half and benefited from the demise of Carolina to win the division. If the Rangers can't get up for this series, they've got serious motivational issues. Rangers in 7.
(4) Ottawa vs (5) Pittsburgh. Yes, the Penguins are the feel-good story of the decade and all that, with Sid the Kid leading the way to a huge turnaround season. Although they've got plenty of talent, I still don't believe Fleury is a good enough goalie to carry this team all the way. Despite that, I always pick Ottawa to crap out in the first round, so why should I stop now? Penguins in 7.
That's it. Let's drop the puck!SPORTSLINE POSTSEASON SCHEDULEHDSPORTSGUIDE.COM NHL SCHEDULE
NHL.COM TV SCHEDULE