We’re down to eight teams, as round two – the Conference semi-finals – begin tonight, and before taking a look forward we should look back at the first round to see what happened. I previewed the Eastern Conference in Wales Watching two weeks ago and from my point of view things turned out as expected….
I had this one right on but in truth, the Sabres could easily have swept this series. The Sabres took an early lead in every game – they dominated the games they won but games three and four in
It was domination by the Senators, and their one loss was in my eyes more a case of them letting up their pressure in the Lightning zone. Martin Havlat was the star, scoring goals in every game en route to a 10 point opening round. 14 different Senators scored in the five games and Ray Emery rarely faltered as the East’s top team made short work of the defending champs. By the way: nice job by coach John Tortorella throwing soon-to-be-ex-Lightning goalie John Grahame under the bus.
Two big stories in this one: Cam Ward and Saku Koivu. After two rough games the shaky Martin Gerber sat the rest of the way, giving the young Ward a chance to shine, which he did, helping the Canes win the final four games. The series may also have turned on the stick of Justin Williams; to be more precise, when Williams inadvertantly jammed his stick into
While some risky (and perhaps illegal substance-ridden) prognosticators were taking the Rangers in seven games, most figured this one to be an easy one for the scorching Devils – winners of 11 straight coming in. Make it 15 now – we pegged Jaromir Jagr and Henrik Lundqvist as the keys for any chance of the Rangers winning. As you now know, Jagr left game one with an arm injury and either didn’t play again or was ineffective. Lundqvist was benched after a bad game one, perhaps a panic decision by coach Tom Renney, but it may not have mattered. The Devils’ big guns took care of business, led by Patrick Elias and his 11 points. Scott Gomez and Brian Gionta both contributed six points while Jamie Langenbrunner was huge with eight points. The Rangers’ lack of depth destroyed them.
I’ll just consider myself lucky that my Western predictions weren’t published...and without further ado, let’s look ahead to the second round:
Ottawa Senators (1) vs. Buffalo Sabres (4)
This should be a highly entertaining affair – to me, the two best teams remaining in the playoffs. We should see two teams with similar mentalities: run and gun. Both teams will feature multiple lines swarming through all three zones, reminding me of a quote a friend of mine once said: "forecheck, backcheck: paycheck" – this definitely applies to both Ottawa and Buffalo. After
The series will suffer from an odd schedule, thanks to hockey legend Dora the Explorer who will be starring in
RANDOM USELESS BUT FUN PLAYOFF FACTS - The Sabres have won both previous playoff matchups vs.
OUR PICK - While the Senators fans will be jazzed, there will be a sense of nervousness behind them. The Buffalo fans on the other hand will be wild - the trials (literally) and tribulations of the past five years that have led up to this breakout season have re-energized Western New York and the Niagara Peninsula and they feel that they have nothing to lose at this point. Home ice could be a factor in this series - I can see the Sabres taking two of the three at home but can they win two in
Carolina Hurricanes (2) vs. New Jersey Devils (3)
Finally, we have a test for the Devils. No disrespect meant to the Rangers but they put up nothing against New Jersey, who hasn’t lost since – get this – March 26th.
RANDOM USELESS BUT FUN PLAYOFF FACTS - The
OUR PICK - The easy pick would be to stick with the team that never loses anymore. The clever and trendy pick would be to go with the young upstart team with the rookie goalie. While