NHL Playoffs Central, Brought to You by HTR.com

Yes, we’re all excited about this year’s playoffs. We’re getting a
lot
of playoff articles that have predictions in them. We can’t post all
of
them, though, so welcome to Playoffs Hockey Central. All your
predictions and opinions are welcomed here, so post them!

Playoffs hockey talk and my point of view on each series. More in depth on the Hudson Series.

Some Canucks and Leafs hockey talk.

HTR can confirm that HE WILL BE BACK, find out who.
I know this is my column presenting Playoffs Central, but we also need
an updated button. Please, post mature comments and no bashing
allowed.
I want to know your opinions and your predictions, but I don’t want
immature bashing involved in my column.

But, welcome to playoffs hockey, folks! I wish we had our own on-air
radio time to talk and discuss hockey, and get you guys to call in.
Hey, could be a future plan.

So, where do I begin? The Western Conference finished before the
East,
so I’ll begin with that.

Red Wings vs. Oilers

It comes down to Legace vs. Roloson. Hmmm, yeah I’ll pick Legace! The
Red Wings are the best team in the league and it’s mainly due to
their
key players; they make it happen. The Oilers also have experienced
players, but they just lack that ability to take full control of a
game. I’ve been rooting for this team throughout the whole season and
even called them this year’s Calgary Flames if they get a good
goalie.
Not to discredit Roloson, he’s been a good goalie, but not the kind
to
get your team to the Stanley Cup Finals. The Oilers are a fast team,
great skaters….they have to use their speed against an older Wings
roster. I think the Oilers will give the Wings a tough time, but will
fall short due to the Red Wings being a superior team. My bets state
a
4-2 series win by the Wings, but the Wings have been known to
screw things up in the first round of the playoffs, as they’ve done
before. So, a surprise upset is quite possible.

Stars vs. Avalache

Probably my favorite playoff series of the West. The Dallas Stars have
all the ingredients to win the Stanley Cup. I used to think they were
overrated, but I’ve thought otherwise since the Olympics. Goaltending?
Check. Defense? Check. Offense? Check. Leadership? Check. Experience?
Check. Coaching? Check. The Stars have a great shot to winning the
Stanley Cup and I am leaning towards them being the winners this year.
But, they face a tough competitor in the first round. The Avalanche are
definitely not as good as the Stars, but they have the talent and I’d
have to say that this team definitely looks different with Theodore in
net. The Avalanche are not an easy team to eliminate in the first round
of the playoffs, so…. I think it will be a 4-2 series win by the
Stars
, yet the possibility of a Game 7 is reasonably high.

Mighty Ducks vs. Flames

Okay, here is my wild pick. I love this Ducks team and I have high
expectations in the future. That’s why I say the Ducks will disappoint
Calgary and win in seven games. The Ducks have flair,
goaltending is legit, defense is reliable, and scoring is a strength.
The Flames are the best defensive team in my opinion. Kipper is a great
goalie. I called Phaneuf as the team’s number one defenseman very early
into the season, and he’s exactly that. The offense has been upsetting me
and I think that’s going to cost them in the end. Anaheim can defend
Calgary’s offense well enough, and use their offense to their
advantage. The Flames can stop the Ducks offense very well, but fall
short on scoring, and at some point, the Ducks will find a way to score
goals. Ducks in seven games.

Sharks vs. Predators

I feel bad for the Preds. All this way to enter the playoffs without
their goalie, Tomas Vokoun. The Predators are a good team, but they
need their key players to win games for them. Paul Kariya and Steve
Sullivan have to step up and play BIG. If not, the Sharks will make
them the Nashville Prey. Sharks come in hot, with the top scoring
leader and the top goal scorer of the year. Defense is solid and the
other lines play smart hockey at both ends of the ice. Watching the
Sharks play should make everyone believe they could beat any team in
the NHL, and who knows, maybe they’ll make it to the Finals. Toskala
has been a solid goalie, and Nabokov is quite questionable, but it
can’t be a negative to have Nabokov as your back-up either. Sharks
are too powerful right now, and I’d see a 4-0 sweep win.
.

So……………….. don’t ask, but that was fun, sort of,……but I highly recommend after a few beers you read that. Hmm, maybe I should have told you so before you read it. Anyway…..

In the East, we got a great battle going with high competition and no
one really outmatches the other, except for…

Senators vs. Lightning

The Lightning were lucky to make the playoffs. Somehow, the Thrashers
wasted such a big playoff push by losing to the lowly Capitals. With
that, the Bolts made the playoffs. Goaltending is weak. The defense is
mediocre. The offense is everything far from reliable. If the Lightning
manage to eliminate the Senators, or push a Game 7, then the Senators
will be a HUGE disappointment. Yes, the Ottawa Senators miss Dominik
Hasek, but Ron Emery has not been bad. An offensive powerhouse with
great defensemen, it should be a piece of cake for the Senators. Make it
a sweep Sens! But, most likely I can see the Bolts get a win and
lose 4-1 in the series.

Hurricanes vs. Canadiens

The Hurricanes have been a huge surprise this season, but they haven’t really convinced me ever since the Doug Weight trade. Plus, the addition of Recchi has not met my execrations. I think the Montreal Canadiens have been built as a playoff team. This is a series of character vs. character. Both teams have character and I may be biased here, but I follow one of my favorite leaders in the game, Saku Koivu. Goaltending? I’d feel comfortable with Aerbischer and Huet. Defense? It’s solid and Souray and Rivet have character. Offense? Well…I wish there was more offense and that’s where the Canes should take advantage. It is now up to Alex Kovalev to really step up his game in the playoffs and become an unstoppable force. He has the support from Ryder, but Troll is the key. The Canes have a top youngster in the league named Eric Staal. They have the best faceoff man in the league, Rod Brind’Amour. Stillman, Whitney, Recchi, Weight…., they have it all! But, can they put it all together? This is a new Canes team that made the playoffs. The Canadiens have the same core and already made the playoffs before. In the end, this may be an even match. I say the Canadiens will manage to pul it off in seven games.

The Hudson Series

I never wanted this to happen. The Rangers and the Flyers handed the division title to the Devils, and my hope was that the Rangers would either play against the Flyers or the Sabres, just not the New Jersey Devils. But, it’s exciting hockey nonetheless and this is exactly what the NHL needed. Two big rivalries face off and the New Jersey Devils are looking for revenge after losing to the Rangers three times in the playoffs in past years. After all, it was former Devils coach Jacques Lamaire who said he never wanted to play the Rangers ever in the playoffs, even if they were lousy and finished 8th. Will the curse continue on the Devils?

I have to say that I am a big hockey fan first, then a team’s fan. I know that Thornton or Jagr will most likely win the MVP of the year, and of course I’d vote in favor of Jagr. But, if I had a chance to vote twice, my vote would go to Patrick Elias. He has proved to be one of the best European Captains ever. Without him, the Devils would have never clinched the playoffs. They finally came together as a team, pulled through struggling times, and they stole the division title.

If I had to make a list of most surprising teams this season, well… it would go like this: Rangers, Hurricanes, Sharks, and Devils. They still prove to be a top NHL team.

The Rangers have been on a horrible slump as of late, but they’ve also had key injuries to deal with. Let’s face it, folks. When your top goalie has a hip flexor problem, your main checking center (Rucchin) has a broken bone in his foot, and the defense is far from healthy….winning the first round against the New Jersey Devils is a long shot. Still, the Rangers should be proud to have made the playoffs, and be looking towards next season’s playoffs as well. Rangers are young and they carry some inexperience with Lundqvist, Ortmeyer, Moore, Hollweg, Hossa, Rozsival, Prucha, Immonen, Pock, Tyutin, and Ward. Jaromir Jagr’s statement came true, that he will put the Rangers in the playoffs and he did. Hopefully, the Rangers will pull themselves together, feel rested, and be ready for Game 1 on Saturday. Unfortunately, it’s a lame 3-pm afternoon game. I think the battles will be close. Maybe the Rangers will revive themselves thanks to the rivalry with the Devils. But as far as I know, I think the Devils will beat the Rangers and win the series in five games. It will be a fun series, but I definitely don’t see this Rangers team, in the current state that they are in, winning against the Devils.

Sabres vs. Flyers

Everyone isn’t really betting on this one. It’s a wildcard. I can’t even bet on the winner of this series. But, I’ll gamble! Flyers are going with Robert Esche, two thumbs up!!! I never believed in Nity Gritty Finn. Esche is the go to guy for the Flyers. How do these two match up? I’d call it pretty even. Both teams have the goaltending. Their defenses are strong. The offense is in favor of the Flyers, but the Sabres have their key forwards. Flyers have an edge on playoff experience, but I have a feeling that the Sabres will take over and win in six games. And if I am wrong, then it’s vice versa, Flyers in six. The bottom line is, who will outwork who? I’d call on the Sabres to have the edge in hard work.

Vancouver Canucks Hockey

GM Dave Nonis, you’re the boss. Now it’s time to put YOUR team together. Todd Bertuzzi? Let the guy move on! It’s not just for the sake of the team, but also for his own sake! You know the Steve Moore story will continue into next season. The guy needs a change of scenery. So, trade him! Bring some new blood at GM Place. Had the Canadiens agreed to trade a top five prospect, then Bertuzzi would be wearing a Habs jersey by now. Just trade the guy! Teams will be interested in him. The Flyers will show interest, the Bruins will show interest. The Leafs, the Rangers, Hurricanes…. who wouldn’t? The Maple leafs got to fire Pat Quinn today, Nonis should fire coach Crawford. He didn’t hire him, it’s not his coach. Nonis has take control and do HIS own job this time. Brian Burke is gone, he has his own thing going in Anaheim. A lot of good coaches are out there, good players are out there. The free agency market will be rich. And by the way, let Ed Jovanovski walk. I am nearly 100% certain that Ed Jovanovski will sign with the Florida Panthers, and that will allow Dave Nonis to have a flashback of summer 2005. I heard him on MOJO Vancouver radio the day he re-signed Naslund and did not sign Rob Niedermeyer. Some morons got upset that he did not sign the best defenseman in the league, but he did not have the cap space. Well, he trades Bertuzzi, lets Jovo walk and he’s got space. And guess what, folks? The Senators will not be able to re-sign both Zdeno Chara and Wade Redden. Whichever of the two is available, Nonis should sign. Looking at this year’s free agency, you could build a decent team starting from scratch. GM Nonis should take action and make the changes. Who cares about the press. If Naslund complains about the changes, well… who is he to say such anyway? The guy is not even sure to be a captain himself as he said he’d hand it over to someone else better than him. Are you kidding me? I would have ripped off that C from his jersey after saying that. Nonis MUST make his moves this off-season and make them significant.

This applies for Maple Leafs Hockey as well. Two thumbs up for GM Ferguson Jr. after firing Pat Quinn. GOOD. That’s a good first change. If McCabe wants a ridiculous salary, let him go for the money. I love how players say “I’d want to stay in Toronto”, but then reject big contracts because they want the highest bidder. Like I said with the Canucks above, this year’s free agency is rich. And, there’s no need to chase after the top players of the game. Please, mentioning Patrick Elias as a possibility to sign with the Leafs is ridiculous, unless the Devils will be that stupid to not re-sign him. Build a core of hard working players. Go after the no names. Right now, though, the Leafs are starting the off-season well because JFJ will hire a coach before July. At least, I think he should because the coach also decides the kind of team he wants.

He WILL BE BACK!

I was not going to mention this a few weeks ago because I felt it was necessary to allow the season to finish and maybe save it for an off-season article, but I did manage to spread the news in a couple of hockey discussion forums. Anyway, the last game for the Florida Panthers was very emotional. When they won in OT against the Thrashers, the ending celebration was for the fans where the players gave their jerseys away to a line of fans standing on the red carpet in the middle of the ice. Steve Goldstein, the radio announcer, was on the ice with the mic, and when he mentioned Roberto Luongo’s name to hand the jersey to a fan, he said “And yes…. HE WILL BE BACK!”

That’s right folks. Roberto Luongo will re-sign with the Florida Panthers and from what I know, it will be a 4-year-deal. Disregard any rumors from the media about Luongo heading elsewhere. The guy is staying a Panther. And, most of this year’s players are staying with the Panthers, like Jon Sim, Josef Stumpel, and others. I have to say, GM Mike Keenan has regained my respect, after his bitter divorce with the Rangers, and I praise his performance as Panthers GM. I have a special feeling for this Panthers team, and I believe in them. They are good players and they showed me a lot of guts. They stuck together through hard times and for Keenan to reject the idea of selling players and changing the team for next season by piling up prospects and draft picks, it proved to be the future of this team. Good job Keenan, keep it up and congratulations on the team’s 4th best season in its history. Next season, this team is making the playoffs

Thank you all for reading and have fun!

Micki Peroni

Vice-Admin