My 2007 Stanley Cup Playoff Predictions

I fall back on the old Tuesday Morning Quarterback joke: All predictions wrong, or your money back.

Round 1: East

#1 Buffalo vs. #8 NY Islanders

Last 10

BUF: 7-3-0, NYI: 6-3-1

Head-to-head

Sabres, 3-1

Anaheim taught me never to underestimate an 8-seed. Having seen these two teams in action all season… the number of games Buffalo needs to dispatch the Isles will depend on the results of neurological tests Rick “15 Years?!” DiPietro will undergo. If DiPietro’s concussion symptoms are gone, and he is cleared to play, his goaltending will give the Islanders a chance at respectability. Otherwise, Mike Dunham Wade Dubielewicz will be victimized by Buffalo’s high-powered offensive barrage.

Prediction

Sabres in 6 if DiPietro plays, 4 if he doesn’t.

#2 New Jersey vs. #7 Tampa Bay

Last 10

NJD: 6-3-1, TBL: 5-4-1

Head-to-head

Lightning, 3-1

If you look at this series on paper, it looks like a walk-over for the Devils. They have just enough scoring to make the stifling defense and All-Universe goaltending of Martin Brodeur stand up. Yet Tampa Bay won the season series. In their last two wins over New Jersey, the Lightning held the Devils to one goal per game. This series may come down to who prevails: Brodeur, or the dynamic duo of Vincent LeCavalier and Martin St. Louis. Given what Tampa Bay did in the regular season, I’m going to give them a slight edge here.

Prediction

Lightning in 7.

#3 Atlanta vs. #6 NY Rangers

Last 10

ATL: 6-3-1, NYR: 7-2-1

Head-to-head

Thrashers, 3-1

This is a battle of underachievers. The Thrashers climbed out of the Southeast, the weakest division in the league this year. Atlanta got a late season boost from trades that brought Keith Tkachuk and Alexei Zhitnik. That gave them enough to hold off Tampa Bay down the stretch. Meanwhile, the Rangers were expected to be the class of the Atlantic, based on their stretch run last year. They didn’t live up. Henrik Lundqvist got off to a rough start this year, and the defense stagnated at best. Offense is never a problem when you have a healthy Jaromir Jagr, Michael Nylander, Brendan Shanahan, and Martin Straka. The Rangers have Shanahan back from a nasty face-first collision with the Flyers’ Mike Knuble, so they have the sort of veteran leadership Jagr has always been reluctant to provide. Ultimately, I think Kari Lehtonen will be the better goaltender, but the Rangers will be the better team.

Prediction

Rangers in 6.

#4 Ottawa vs. #5 Pittsburgh

Last 10

OTT: 6-2-2, PIT: 6-3-1

Head-to-head

Penguins, 3-1

These teams finished the regular season tied in points, with the Senators winning the tiebreaker with one more win. Both teams feature young, up-and-coming goalies, adequate blueliners, explosive offenses, and plenty of “team toughness.” (That means Georges Laraque and Brian McGrattan will throw down before it’s all over.) This will easily be the most hotly-contested matchup of the first round. The difference will be in the intangibles. Ottawa has high expectations every year, and have become notorious for early flame-outs in the playoffs. The scapegoats change, but the song remains the same. Pittsburgh, on the other hand, has been playing with fearless bravado since January. The “Cardiac Kids” nickname stopped being funny when one of those last-second game-tying goals actually gave a Leafs fan a heart attack a few weeks ago. But the name is still appropriate. In the last regular-season meeting between the Pens and Sens, Maxime Talbot scored the game-winning goal with 8.9 seconds remaining in the third period. The longer this series go on, the more pressure shifts to the Senators. I think it will break them.

Prediction

Penguins in 7. 

Round 1: West

#1 Detroit vs. #8 Calgary

Last 10

DET: 5-1-4, CGY: 6-4-0

Head-to-head

Tied 2-2

Red Wings hockey is like Kansas Jayhawk basketball. You know they did a convincing job in the regular season, and you know they’re going to hit the wall in the post-season. It’s only a matter of when. Calgary, on the other hand, had to hang on for dear life against a Colorado team that barely missed the playoffs. (This is the Avalanche’s first missed post-season since their last season in Quebec, by the way.) I just don’t think the Flames have anything left in the tank for the playoffs, so the inevitable Red Wings wasted #1 seed will have to wait for a round.

Prediction

Red Wings in 5.

#2 Anaheim vs. #7 Minnesota

Last 10

ANA: 5-3-2, MIN: 7-2-1

Head-to-head

Tied 2-2

Minnesota’s insistence on playing the neutral zone trap makes it painful for me to even consider the possibility that it can contain the Ducks. George Parros should pound the snot out of every Wild skater, just on principle.

Prediction

Ducks in 5.

#3 Vancouver vs. #6 Dallas

Last 10

VAN: 6-3-1, DAL: 7-1-2

Head-to-head

Tied 2-2

Until the last day of the season, these two teams had identical records. All four of their regular season meetings ended with 2-1 scores. The Stars won one in overtime, and the Canucks won a shootout. Excuse me while I fetch a quarter. Heads, Vancouver. Tails, Dallas.

Prediction

Heads. Canucks in 7.

#4 Nashville vs. # 5 San Jose

Last 10

NSH: 5-3-2, SJS: 7-1-2

Head-to-head

Predators, 3-1

On this one, I have to go against the regular season record. As much as I like what the Preds have done this season, I just don’t see how they can get past the Sharks. Joe Thornton is making a habit of going on late-season scoring binges, and he ought to carry it through to the playoffs this year. The addition of Bill Guerin at the trading deadline has added even more scoring punch to the San Jose attack. The high-profile trade for Peter Forsberg, on the other hand, has proven to be only OK for Nashville. Foppa scored 2 goals and 13 assists in 17 games. He’ll have to pick up the scoring pace a bit for the Predators to make the second round for the first time.

Prediction

Sharks in 6.

Round 2: East

#1 Buffalo vs. #7 Tampa Bay

These two teams are built on similar lines, but the Sabres are just a little bit better than the Lightning at pretty much anything you can name.

Prediction

Sabres in 5.

#5 Pittsburgh vs. #6 NY Rangers

Ooh, division rivalry! There are Pens fans who, to this day, curse the name Adam Graves. With one 2.8 second overtime exception (Straka!), the Pens had the upper hand in the regular season.

Prediction

Penguins in 6.

Round 2: West

#1 Detroit vs. #5 San Jose

Uh, oh. The ever-dreaded Red Wings vs. Sharks matchup. I think we all know how this ends.

Prediction

Sharks in 6.

#2 Anaheim vs. #3 Vancouver

Roberto Luongo has toiled in Floridian exile for years. This is his time, now.

Prediction

Vancouver in 5.

Eastern Conference Finals

#1 Buffalo vs. #5 Pittsburgh

The Penguins look an awful lot like last year’s Sabres: Too young to realize that they’re too young to make it this far. Buffalo isn’t too young anymore.

Prediction

Sabres in 5.

Western Conference Finals

#3 Vancouver vs. #5 San Jose

Luongo is going to have to steal a series one of these days. I think he’ll steal this one.

Prediction

Canucks in 7.

Stanley Cup Finals

Buffalo vs. Vancouver

Long-suffering Buffalo sports fans, suffer no longer. It is time to pass your curse on to long-suffering Canucks fans.

Prediction

Sabres in 6.

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One response

  1. Great post!
    Much better than what I can get in the P-G.
    (and PS – I'm one of your "3 readers" who missed your gameday posts…)

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