Montreal vs. Boston: These teams had the same number of goals-against (222), but the Canadiens scored 40 more on the season and the B's are the only playoff team that surrendered more than they scored. Rookie netminder Carey Price was 5-0 against the Bruins this season and that confidence boost will be enough to make Montreal's roughly half-a-goal per game production advantage hold up. Canadiens in six.
Pittsburgh vs. Ottawa: The Penguins overcame injury and flourished. The Senators fired coach John Paddock, endured a divisive goaltending situation with Ray Emery, and imploded. They now have major injuries of their own and their once promising season looks like it can't conclude soon enough. Penguins in five.
Washington vs. Philadelphia: The Alex Ovechkin-led Capitals captured the imagination of the hockey world and, in the process, earned the top spot in the Southeast Division. They went 11-1 down the stretch, needing all of that just to get in. The Flyers rode the roller coaster during the second half of the season, righting themselves at the right time. Maybe it's wishful thinking, but does anyone want the DC dream to end? More pertinent, I don't think Ovechkin will let it. Capitals in six.
New Jersey vs. New York: The Devils lost to the Rangers seven times this season, winning the eighth and final meeting on the last day of the season. Meaningless? Not if you believe in home ice advantage and karma. That victory secured home ice for the Devils and broke a mental barrier as well. This series features two of the game's best goaltenders in Martin Brodeur and Henrik Lundqvist, and is destined to come down to Game Seven. The Rangers will wish it would have taken place at MSG. Devils in seven.
Detroit vs. Nashville: The Wings won the Presidents' Trophy with 115 regular season points. The Predators surprised everyone with a gritty effort down the stretch to place eighth in this ultra-tough conference. Predictably, the Preds will work hard and make it tough on the Wings, but Detroit can play that game, too. The Wings yielded the fewest goals-against in the NHL, the key point being that Detroit has success because they don't give up much. They work hard defensively and have the puck an awful lot of the elapsed time on offense. Red Wings in five.
San Jose vs. Calgary: This has the making of the best opening round series in the league. Calgary will initiate contact and try to roughhouse the big, strong and talented Sharks out of their rhythm. But these fish have been through this a few seasons in a row. They stormed down the stretch with captain Patrick Marleau showing signs of life offensively and Jonathan Cheechoo returning to health and goal-scoring form. It won't be friendly, but the Sharks are deeper than the Flames overall -- deep enough when it comes to handling the physical challenge. Sharks in seven.
Minnesota vs. Colorado: In the battle of the Northwest Division -- and singular names -- would it really be an upset if the Avalanche prevails? I don't think so. The Avs had the same number of wins as the Wild and trailed them by a mere three points in the regular season standings. It promises to be an even, low scoring series, with the difference being a motivated Jose Theodore in goal for Colorado. Avalanche in six.
Anaheim vs. Dallas: In a mismatch greater than the seeding would have you believe, the Ducks pointed to this since training camp while the Stars sort of stumbled to it down the stretch. Does any of that matter once the puck drops? I think it males all the difference in the series, with the Ducks poised and positioned for a title defense. The Stars simply happen to fall first. Ducks in four.
Montreal vs. New Jersey: In a match-up that pits the conference's highest scoring team against the stingiest, something has to give. The one aspect that won't change is Brodeur's brilliance in his hometown. Young Carey Price's anointment as the Next One in goal will have to wait just a little longer. Devils in six.
Pittsburgh vs. Washington: In their head-to-head battles, Sidney Crosby's Penguins have prevailed over Ovechkin's Capitals. Crosby's running mate, Evgeni Malkin, ascended to superstar status while Crosby missed half the season with an ankle injury. Add in the balance of the others up front for the Pens and the Caps' wild ride comes to an end. Penguins in six.
Detroit vs. Colorado: The old rivalry renewed, except the Wings have continued at the top of the league while the Avs are reshuffling and rebounding. Nothing currently points to an upset. Red Wings in five.
San Jose vs. Anaheim: The Sharks run out of energy against another physical foe and the first round games-played differential (an easy sweep for the Ducks vs. a grueling distance for the Sharks) makes all the difference here. Ducks in six.
Pittsburgh vs. Devils: In a series featuring the Devils' playoff guile trying to mute the Penguins' youthful exuberance, one player who fits on either roster will come to the fore: Marian Hossa. A trade deadline deal that pays dividends here, Hossa's penchant for performing on both sides of the puck finally earns him postseason accolades. His performance also is the difference in the Pens advancing to the Stanley Cup Final. Penguins in six.
Detroit vs. Anaheim: In a rematch of last year's conference final, the same reasons the Ducks prevailed -- size, forechecking presence and nastiness -- are the defining differences again. Ducks in six.
Pittsburgh vs. Anaheim: The Ducks win consecutive titles, but not before the world witnesses plenty of reasons why the Penguins will return to the final several times over the next decade. Ducks in six.
Conn Smythe winner: Ryan Getzlaf
MORE BRACKETS:Farber | Muir | Kennedy | Kelley