Well, let's see how I've done so far…
#1 Buffalo vs. #8 NY Islanders
Sabres in 6 if DiPietro plays, 4 if he doesn’t.
Sabres in 5
DiPietro missed Game 1, but came back for the rest. The Islanders made every game interesting, but the Sabres were almost always one notch better. Long Islanders will spend the summer complaining about video reviews and Sean Hill's 20-game PED suspension before Game 5.
#2 New Jersey vs. #7 Tampa Bay
Lightning in 7.
Devils in 6
Martin Brodeur looked a little shaky in Games 2 and 3, but he got himself right, and exposed Tampa's lack of scoring depth in the end. There was nobody behind LeCavalier, St. Louis, and Richards for the Lightning. Johan Holmqvist's inconsistency didn't help.
#3 Atlanta vs. #6 NY Rangers
Rangers in 6.
Rangers in 4.
This series was just devastating for the Thrashers. After Lehtonen had a bad Game One, coach Bob Hartley yanked him for Johan Hedberg in Game 2. Hedberg was victimized by a crazy bounce on a high dump-in, but was otherwise strong. So, of course, Hartley went back to Lehtonen in Game 3. Fat lot of good that did. Meanwhile, Keith Tkachuk was mostly invisible, Marian Hossa was entirely invisible, and Ilya Kovalchuk only showed up long enough to get in a fight(!) with Sean Avery. (At least he got that, um, chicken Avery to drop the gloves.) Oh, and only 8,800 televisions in Atlanta were tuned in for the games at Madison Square Garden.
#4 Ottawa vs. #5 Pittsburgh
Penguins in 7.
Senators in 5.
Maybe it was all those last-second, overtime, shoot-out wins. Maybe it was the third and fourth lines not learning as fast as the first two. Maybe it was Evgeni Malkin hitting the wall in the longest season of hockey he has ever played. Maybe it was Bob Grove's misplaced loyalty in Josef Melichar. (Look! Meli turned it over in his own zone again! Grove will call it a 50-50 puck in the postgame show.) Maybe Sidney Crosby, Marc-Andre Fleury, and Gary Roberts couldn't carry this entire team on their backs. It was a helluva run while it lasted.
Ottawa, meanwhile, looks determined to shake off the "choker" reputation, with excessive force if necessary. The Sens played with an edge that wasn't there for most of the regular season. And Ray Emery demonstrated what he learned in relief of Dominic Hasek last year.
#1 Detroit vs. #8 Calgary
Red Wings in 5.
Red Wings in 6.
Jim Playfair is toast. The Flames looked utterly incompetent on the road in Games 1 and 2. Then, in Game 5, he lost all control of his bench. Damond Langkow grabbed Brett Lebda behind the head, and sucker-punched him in the face while they were both getting up from a clean hit by Lebda. Lebda missed Game 6 with a concussion. Jarome Iginla spent a shift stick-fouling anyone with a winged wheel on his chest. And in the most egregious goon job I've seen in years, backup goalie Jamie McClennan was put in long after the game was out of hand, and lasted all of 18 seconds. Most of that time was spent trying to amputate Johan Franzen's legs with a goalie stick. The two-handed chop to the gut after the whistle (for the earlier slashes) earned him a match penalty and a five game "suspension", Playfair was fined $25,000, and the team $100,000. Game 6 went to double overtime solely by the sheer will power of Miikka Kiprusoff, who fought off an onslaught of Red Wings shots. The game winner in the second overtime? Johan Franzen. Ain't karma a bitch?
#2 Anaheim vs. #7 Minnesota
Ducks in 5.
Ducks in 5.
Nailed it. Minnesota was all defense, no offense. The most entertainment the series provided was a scuffle between George Parros and Derek Boogaard in the warm-up skate before Game 5.
#3 Vancouver vs. #6 Dallas
Heads. Canucks in 7.
Canucks in 7.
Damn, I already spent that quarter. One four-overtime game that ended 5-4 Vancouver, then neither Marty Turco nor Roberto Luongo gave up more than two goals in a game. (There were 2 empty-netters in Game 7.) Given Vancouver's struggles on offense, I think that "stolen series" I figure Luongo would get may have come right here. Turco, on the other hand, may have proven that he can deliver the goods in April, even in a losing effort. Before the Canucks scored in Game 7, Turco had gone over 165 minutes without giving up a goal.
#4 Nashville vs. # 5 San Jose
Sharks in 6.
Sharks in 5.
Discipline ruined the Predators' chances. Dumb penalty after dumb penalty against a strong Sharks power play. The final nail in the coffin was Scott Nichol's major/game misconduct for spearing in the second period of Game 5. Patrick Marleau tied the game on the ensuing power play, and San Jose never looked back.
6-for-8. One of my better years, even though I lost a conference semi-finalist in my beloved Penguins. (Homer!) I'll take a fresh look at the second round matchups, and maybe wrap up the Penguins season, tomorrow night.