Montreal vs. Boston: The Canadiens are fast, the Bruins are tenacious, but the Habs also have firepower and the Bruins do not. Habs in six.
Pittsburgh vs. Ottawa: Senators were in such disarray for so long that it's hard to believe they can get it all straightened out just because it's "a new season". They didn't fix their problems in the old season and the problems run from the goal out. Penguins have too much firepower. Penguins in five.
Washington vs. Philadelphia: Flyers have lots of balanced scoring up front, but not much on the blueline and those guys get little help from the forwards who do come back. Capitals are tough as well as good, and a little stronger on the backend. Caps in seven rugged games.
New Jersey vs. New York: The odds say New York, especially with the "name" talent and early wins vs. Devils. But then there's Martin Brodeur and some younger legs in Jersey and a team tradition of winning when it matters most. Close, but the Devils slip through. Devils in seven close ones.
Detroit vs. Nashville: The Predators played Detroit a whole lot tougher than most Western teams and the goal differential was only two (in Detroit's favor). Red Wings are a bit banged up as well, so there's the smell of first-round upset in the air. It's possible, but I can't put a pick to it. Red Wings in six.
San Jose vs. Calgary: The Sharks come to the playoffs every spring with questions about their mental and physical toughness. Those questions are still there. The Flames come with physical and mental toughness, but not nearly enough scoring or depth. San Jose's goaltending is every bit as good and this season may just be a tad better. Sharks in six.
Minnesota vs. Colorado: The Wild made a statement when it won the Northeast, but the Avs made one as well when they brought back Peter Forsberg, Adam Foote, and memories of Cup wins not that long ago. The Wild will limit Colorado's scorers, but won't quite have the firepower to avoid upset. Avalanche in six.
Anaheim vs. Dallas: If the Stars could just get into alignment and have a healthy backline and the right mental temperament, they have a chance here. Problem is they haven't been healthy or in the proper frame of mind down the stretch. This is a huge goaltender battle with Marty Turco deserving a win over J-S Giguere, but Giguere has arguably the best defense in the league in front of him and that will make a difference. Ducks in seven.
Montreal vs. New Jersey: New kid Carey Price faced down old master Brodeur. Nice story, but the Devils are out of gas after their seven-game tussle with the Rangers and Price, feeling the ghosts of Ken Dryden and Patrick Roy on his shoulders, beats the snot out of Brodeur with a pummeling for the ages. Just kidding, but the kid keeps it going and the league's best power play backs it up. Montreal in six.
Pittsburgh vs. Washington: Oh, the NHL has lusted for this moment and neither kid star --Sidney Crosby nor Alex Ovechkin -- dissapoints, but the Penguins are now amazing even themselves. Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury is the hero of the series, shutting down everyone but the Big O while Crosby's stablemates run over and through Cristobal Huet with Evgeni Malkin having the last hearty Russian laugh on Ovechkin. Pittsburgh in five.
Detroit vs. Colorado: Hey, it's old time hockey, eh? But not much violence as Claude Lemieux is just a memory and neither side can muster the muscle to ram heads into the dasherboards, so they play clean. The Wings collective of offshore talent has more left in the tank than Joe Sakic, Peter Forsberg, Adam Foote, et all. Dominik Hasek announces his retirement in mid-series due to an arthritic hip plus upcoming book and clothing deals. Chris Osgood takes over with a 1998 banner on his helmet land leads the way. Detroit in seven.
San Jose vs. Anaheim: The Ducks replace their sticks with clubs and Chris Pronger says the Sharks are baby seals and it's hunting season. The league office issues a warning, but blood and suspensions rule the day. When it's all over, the Sharks have blood on their sweaters and knobs on their noggins, but they prevail because of overall team speed and a Patrick Marleau awakening the likes of which has Robert DeNiro lobbying to play his life story in an HBO biodrama. San Jose in seven.
EASTERNPittsburgh vs. Montreal: NBC is licking its corporate lips and Versus adds 12 new subscribers as Sid the Kid and company can see the promised land. In the battle of French-Canadian wonder goalies, Price is good, even better than Fleury, but Gary Roberts paints his face like Mel Gibson in Braveheart and screams "follow me" in a unintelligible brougue. The Pens eventually figure it out, comply, and overrun a smaller Habs club. Pittsburgh in six.
WESTERNDetroit vs. San Jose: It's now late spring and even Red Wings fans feel the pull of breaking away from the TV and stepping out to smell the shuttered factories. Osgood is game, but Nabokov is sharper, and in a ragged series with both teams showing signs of exhaustion, Brian Campbell runs wild in a show of offense from the blueline that solidifies his bid for a $9 million free-agent contract. San Jose in six.
San Jose vs. Pittsburgh: Two number twos vie for the No.1 trophy in sports, but Crosby is down with a wonky ankle and Malkin is starting to look as tired as Roberts is old. The Sharks run wild behind Joe Thornton even though Nabokov has been the better player. San Jose in six.
Conn Smythe: Joe Thornton
MORE BRACKETS:Farber | Muir | Eliot | Kennedy
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