Sports Outside the Beltway

Stanley Cup Playoffs, Round Two

Eastern Conference
(1) Buffalo Sabres v. (6) New York Rangers
The Rangers easily won their series as Atlanta put forth the most embarrassing performance by a playoff team this year. While the Rangers dominated every aspect of their series and Avery got into the heads of the Atlanta stars, that was Atlanta and we already noted they were embarrassing this year. The Rangers’ problems start with their captain Jaromir Jagr, who while talented lacks the skill set to be a captain. At a point where leadership becomes key, as evidenced by Mark Messier leading the Rangers in 1994, will only serve to hurt them. The Sabres are just flat out good and the clear favorite in the East. A fast, talented offense leads them up front and a solid defense benefiting for trade deadline upgrades has been solid. Throw in the goaltending of Ryan Miller and this team should be in the Stanley Cup.
Prediction: Sometimes favorites do preval even if it takes a fight, Sabres win in 7.

(2) New Jersey Devils v. (4) Ottawa Senators
Despite parting ways with the 6’-9” defensive beast Zdeno Chara, the Senators looked better in the playoffs than at any point over the past few years. In fact as a whole the team looks good with strong goaltending, a defense that tied up the explosive Penguins offense, and an offensive onslaught that just battered the Penguins around the ice. I couldn’t have been more wrong about the Devils as Martin Brodeur continues to amaze with his ability and I shouldn’t of doubted him as much as I did. The offense for the Devils came through against a weaker than predicted Tampa Bay defense, while they are good I don’t think they will fair as well against the Ottawa defense.
Prediction:It’s a good year for Ottawa to win in 6.

Western Conference
(1) Detroit Red Wings v. (5) San Jose Sharks
Detroit has earned from their failures of the past few playoffs. In the Calgary series they adapted their game to play against their opponent instead of sticking to a system that wasn’t working. They managed to beat the best home team in the league on their home ice and looked good doing it. They will rely heavily on a mix of skill and brute force, while depending on a talented, but old goaltender. The Sharks have the fortune of two excellent goalies to use in the series, which could pay dividends in a long series or even if one of the goalies goes cold. The Sharks absolutely stuck it to a talented Nashville team making them look like they didn’t even belong in the same building. Possessing two solid top lines, like Detroit, will put a greater importance on the ability of defensemen to join the offensive rush at key times and the ability of the third and forth lines to provide offensive input and solid play in the defensive zone.
Prediction: The combination of youth, speed, skill and size put the Sharks over the top in 6.

(2) Anaheim Ducks v. (3) Vancouver Canucks
Vancouver spent their series against Dallas flopping between looking like a contender and an over-matched minnow. Roberto Luongo’s stellar play was key to the previous serious and will be a key again in this series. However, the test of the team will be the play of the Sedin twins if they disappear for large parts of the series, it will be a quick exit for the Canucks. The Ducks easily handled the Wild in their first round match up and built up a good bit of confidence for the next round. The two defensive pillars of Scott Niedermayer and Chris Pronger will eat up huge minutes for the Ducks and for the most part will have their way with the top lines for the Cancuks as well as continued boosting of the Duck’s power play unit. While Vancouver has the better goaltender, the ducks have two solid goalies who won’t let in the easy goals and can stand on their heads when called upon.
Prediction: Talent and depth carries a team and the Ducks win in 6.

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