NHL Playoff Predictions

Though baseball is distinctly my favorite sport, second place is a toss-up.  I like basketball, generally preferring the pros over college, yet outside of the NCAA tournament and the NBA playoffs I rarely sit down and watch a bunch of games in a short period of time.  Instead, basketball trails football and hockey by a wide margin.  Which of those two goes second?  Coin flip.  Let me give two particular things I love about hockey:

1. Pulling the goalie. Hockey coaches recognize that some nights goalies just don’t have their best stuff. The goalie gives up a couple of early goals, and then the backup comes in. Imagine this happening to a QB in football. When Donovan McNabb was benched for part of one game two seasons ago, it was a topic of conversations for the rest of the year. If Martin Brodeur, possibly the greatest goalie ever, gets benched after a poor first period, the benching is forgotten the next day. This recognition that your best player at a position can have off nights strikes me as much more realistic than the NFL approach to player management.

2. Pulling the goalie. I am a Buffalo Sabres fan, going back to the days when Dominik Hasek was dueling the Dallas Stars for the Stanley Cup basically by himself. Going into the last game of the season, the Sabres needed to beat the New Jersey Devils in regulation in order to secure the 2-seed in the playoffs. If they lost or the game went into overtime, the Sabres would get the 3-seed. The game is tied at one with 10 seconds left in regulation. What would an NFL coach do? Play it safe, do what you always do, and know that you will not be criticized the next day for doing the normal thing. What does a baseball manager do when the game hangs in the balance in the seventh inning? Bring in his closer? Of course not (look at the piece on the Tigers-Royals game). What do the Sabres do, given that the only thing that matters is a regulation win. They pull the goalie to go all out to score a goal in the last 10 seconds. Instead, the Devils score an empty net goal to win. I love watching a team go all out, even if it goes against the normal flow of things.

Given all of that, I figured it was appropriate to throw up some first round predictions for the playoffs of one of my favorite sports.

Eastern Conference:
Washington Capitals over Montreal Canadiens
New Jersey Devils over Philadelphia Flyers
Buffalo Sabres over Boston Bruins
Ottawa Senators over Pittsburgh Penguins

Western Conference:
San Jose Sharks over Colorado Avalanche
Chicago Blackhawks over Nashville Predators
Los Angeles Kings over Vancouver Canucks
Detroit Red Wings over Phoenix Coyotes

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