My apology: Evidently, I did not hit “Publish” yesterday, after concluding my draft on the predictions…my bad…
#1 Washington vs. #5 Tampa Bay: Washington in 6. Tampa Bay is heating up in scoring goals and playing defense. Goaltending got hot at the end: see last night’s shutout of Pittsburgh. But, I doubt they can get past the Caps: too much more firepower and defense.
#2 Philadelphia vs. #3 Boston: Boston in 7. Seems like the goaltender situation in Boston is so much more stable and consistent than Philadelphia. That in itself should tilt the slight advantage in this series to the Bruins.
#1 Vancouver vs. #5 Nashville: Vancouver in 5. Unless Rinne stays hot: then, it’s Nashville in 7. (I know: lame prediction.) The Canucks know how to get people in front of the net- not that Anaheim didn’t- but the Canucks are much deeper on shooters than Anaheim. The Vancouver D-men were really “shoot first, ask questions later” in the series against Chicago: expect Rinne to have to deal with his rebounds in a more conservative way, or else second chances for Vancouver could mean the score gets run up.
#2 Sharks vs. #3 Detroit: Sharks in 6. Although the Red Wings are no slouches, there is this experience of having to play a longer series and not take too much time off until the next series begins (i.e., the Sharks) versus the more-than-one-week wait that comes with a sweep of your opponent (i.e., the Red Wings): the former usually comes into the next series with more jump and physicality than the latter team. Detroit may steal a couple of games from the Sharks, but this season, the roles are reversed: San Jose has way too much defense and way too much offense for the Red Wings to overcome. Put another way: I would have thought Phoenix would be a much harder opponent than the LA Kings for the Sharks or the Red Wings: and I suspect that LA is a harder opponent than Detroit. Look for Ryan Clowe to continue to score goals in this series and drive the Red Wings D-men to exhaustion.
Last-last thought: everyone is focusing upon Vancouver and the Eastern Conference series. That takes a ton of pressure off of the Sharks. They are playing loose: more loose than any other team. That in itself may be the biggest factor in winning the Cup.