Playoff Predictions and Teams Analyzed
1) Detroit- When Hatcher gets back they will have one of the best if not the best, top 6 defensemen in the league. You add to that they have the second best offense, and a pretty good goaltending dual of Cujo and Legace, I think this team is the favorite to come out of the West. Lots of depth, experience and role players.
2) Colorado- Strong goaltending by Aebisher all year, but it’s a different story in the playoffs. Has the top two lines in the league, as long as they can stay healthy. As long as Aebisher plays like he can, I see the Avs making it into the Conference finals.
3) Vancouver- They don’t seem as strong as last year and Cloutier still hasn’t proved himself yet in the playoffs. The Sedin twins are going to have to show up in the playoffs if the Nucks want to go anywhere. Should win at least one round, after that its up to Cloutier how far they make it.
4) San Jose- Great job to get back into the playoffs, but this team is too thin upfront. Nabokov is having a great year, but hasn’t really shown in the past that he can be a top playoff goaltender. Their big defense might give a few teams trouble, but not enough experience or leadership on the backend. Most likely out in the first or second round.
5) Dallas- Modano and Lehtinen have been invisible this year. This team is nowhere near as strong as they were last year. Their defense has lost Hatcher who was their most important defensemen in the playoffs. At times they have also struggled to score goals this year. They will go only as far as Turco will take them. Early first round exit or second at the most.
6) Calgary- Another team that is doing a great job of getting into the playoffs, but lack of playoff experience in almost every position should mean a quick exit for this team. Their work ethic has taken them pretty far this year, but in the playoffs it’s a different story. If they play Vancouver in the first round they might give them some problems.
7) Nashville- This might end up being this years Cinderella team. They have a good young team and are very hard to play in their own arena. Lack of experience might hurt this team though and since its their first time in the playoffs a lot of players will be learning the experience for the first time. Possible first round upset but should be gone by the second round.
8) LA- I think enough has been said about what a great job Murray has done with this team. Too many injuries and Cechmanek in the net should make them a easy first round opponent. Out in the first round, but to make the playoffs with all their injuries is an accomplishment itself.
9) St.Louis- Not sure if this team will make the playoffs, but if they do the Wings or Avs should make quick work of them. This team is falling apart and isn’t showing any signs of turning their year around.
Philly- They need to get healthy. Other then that they will have the same question mark as last year, goaltending. Do they go with a veteran who isn’t playing that well (Burke) or do they go with a goalie with little playoff experience but is having a great year (Esche)? They should make it past the first round easy after that their fate will be in the hands of whoever is in net.
Ottawa- Strong in every position, except maybe goaltending. They had enough grit to take them to game seven of the conference finals last year, and they have even more this year. Everything will depend on Lalime this year. Shouldn’t have a problem getting out of the first round if they win their division but the second and third rounds will be tough.
Tampa Bay- They have one of the best offenses in the league and their defense is way underrated. Pretty good one two punch in net and have they have been the strongest team in the last part of this season. This is my pick for the Eastern Conference champs. One team I think that can give them problems is NJ.
Toronto- After a disappointing first round loss last year, they are in danger of the same thing happening again if they don’t win their division. A back problem is a bad sign for a goaltender, and Belfour doesn’t seem as strong this year as he was last year. I wanted to see a Wings vs. Leafs final but I have a feeling this team might be gone in the first round if they play the Devils or Bruins.
Boston- Raycroft is having a great year, but his lack of playoff experience is a question mark. If this team goes anywhere it will have to be Raycroft leading them not Potvin. This team might be the hottest team in the second half of the season this year. I think they will make it past the first round, but the second and third rounds will be a big battle for them.
NJ- Its so hard to repeat these days, but NJ has a decent shot at doing it. Whenever you have the best goaltender in the world anything is possible. They need Stevens for the playoffs and they need Gomez to have a strong playoff for them to win. Should make it past the first round, but I think this team will get knocked off in the second round.
Montreal- A young team with small forwards. Good job to make it to the playoffs but I can’t see this team going anywhere this year. Theodore might be able to steal them one series at the best.
NY Islanders- Easy first round opponent. Not good enough goaltending. They are one of the most exciting teams to watch in the playoffs but don’t count of them going anywhere.
Buffalo- This team is making a run to try and sneak in, but I think they might just end up falling short. I really can’t see this team doing too much in the playoffs.