Montreal vs. Boston: The speed and guile of the Canadiens goads the Bruins into penalty trouble, allowing the league's top-ranked power play to toy with the 28th ranked PK. Tim Thomas will keep things interesting, but this should be the first series to conclude. Canadiens in five.
Pittsburgh vs. Ottawa: As if shaky goaltending in the presence of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Marian Hossa weren't enough of a concern, the dysfunctional Sens enter the series absent the services of captain Daniel Alfredsson and gritty forwards Mike Fisher and Chris Kelly. Ottawa doesn't have the scoring or character to keep pace. Penguins in five.
Washington vs. Philadelphia: The Flyers are a confident bunch, coming into the playoffs with seven 20-goal scorers and a hot goalie in Martin Biron. But the Cinderella Caps believe they're a team of destiny, and their speed makes them a mismatch for Philly's lead-footed defense. Alexander Ovechkin, making his playoff debut, will feed off the physical assault and guide the Caps to victory. Capitals in seven.
New Jersey vs. New York: Mix Henrik Lundqvist and Martin Brodeur with two of the league's most inept offenses, and you've got a series that should redefine the term ugly. The Rangers owned the Devils (7-0-1) during the regular season, and seem to have a clear advantage in experience, if not finish, up front. Watch Scott Gomez stick it to his old teammates. Rangers in six.
Detroit vs. Nashville: The Red Wings have fallen to inferior first round opponents three times in the last six seasons, so they can't afford to take this series lightly. The Preds are a loose, confident bunch backed by the hot hand of Dan Ellis between the pipes, and they come into the playoffs on a high. They'll put up a fight, but can't match up to Detroit's scoring depth. Red Wings in six.
San Jose vs. Calgary: The Sharks were almost unbeatable (16-2-2) after acquiring Brian Campbell at the deadline, and seem like a mismatch for the inconsistent Flames. But Calgary's physical game, led by Jarome Iginla up front and Dion Phaneuf on the blueline, should make this a demanding affair. Look for Patrick Marleau to dissipate lingering memories of last season's playoff drought with a monster series. Sharks in six.
Minnesota vs. Colorado: The Wild have a healthy Marian Gaborik, reliable secondary scoring, and a trio of physical terrors up front. But the Avalanche boast a deep corps of experienced playoff vets, including Joe Sakic, Peter Forsberg and Adam Foote, and an untested superstar in Paul Stastny. That's too much even for the wily Jacques Lemaire to overcome. Avalanche in six.
Anaheim vs. Dallas: Without the sublime Sergei Zubov, the shine came off the Stars, a team that finished the season with just four wins in their final 14 games. More important, they've yet to reformulate their chemistry since the arrival of Brad Richards. That will force Marty Turco, who proved himself playoff capable with three shutouts last spring, to keep this thing close. But with the Ducks punishing Dallas' inexperienced blueline, and Anaheim's defense stifling the Stars, it'll be another one-and-done for Dallas. Ducks in five.
Montreal vs. New York: The stifling defense of the Blueshirts will strip the swagger from Montreal's high-flying attack, but New York's popgun assault will be hard-pressed the dent the armor of Carey Price. This should come down to a special teams duel, with Andrei Markov and Mark Streit providing the edge. I hate to abandon my preseason pick so early, but give me Montreal. Canadiens in six.
Pittsburgh vs. Washington: The NHL's marketing dream comes true, but it will be the battle between Marc-Andre Fleury and Cristobal Huet, not the estimable Crosby and Ovechkin, that determines the fate of this series. Fleury is playing the best hockey of his life, entering the postseason having allowed just 18 goals in his last 13 games. He'll keep the Pens rolling. Penguins in six.
Detroit vs. Colorado: Avs netminder Jose Theodore rediscovers his Hart Trophy-era panache, and Forsberg proves he still has enough high octane left in the tank to force the Presidents' Trophy-winners to the brink. But the Wings, led by secondary scorers Johan Franzen and Valterri Filppula, and the vastly underappreciated coaching of Mike Babcock, won't be denied. Red Wings in seven.
San Jose vs. Anaheim: This will be the most brutally thrilling series of the postseason, highlighted by the titanic struggle between Joe Thornton and Chris Pronger. The rejuvenated Sharks offense will force the Ducks' D to bend, but they won't break. With an emphasis on physical play, the champs are back in their comfort zone. Anaheim in six.
Pittsburgh vs. Montreal: The Habs' quest to earn Canada's first Cup since Montreal in 1993. Their power play has its way with Pittsburgh's 23rd- ranked penalty kill, but the Pens turn the tide with their five-on-five play. Look for Hossa to validate the cost of his acquisition in this series. Pittsburgh in seven.
Detroit vs. Anaheim: Same teams, same result. In a rematch of last year's WCF, Anaheim pounds Detroit's skilled defenders, cutting off their vaunted transition game at its knees and wreaking havoc in the crease to throw the Dominator off his game. The checking line of Sami Pahlsson, Travis Moen and Scott Niedermayer will outscore Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Tomas Holmstrom. Anaheim in six.
Anaheim vs. Pittsburgh: Even the dynastic Edmonton Oilers -- a team to which these Pens have drawn comparisons -- were taught a hard lesson on how to win when they were young. The Ducks are the only team with a back end capable of negating Pittsburgh's assault, and their offense has just enough punch left to finish off the challengers. Ducks in six.
Chris Pronger skates off with the Conn Smythe.
MORE BRACKETS:Farber | Kennedy | Eliot | Kelley
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