Calgarypuck.com Playoff Primer
Calgarypuck.com's crack staff boldly predicts the outcome of the second round of the playoffs, the conference finals, and the Stanley Cup Champions. Look for an updated prediction piece after each round of the playoffs, when Aaron McCracken (Saint John Flames beat), columnist Rick Charlton, and publisher D'Arcy McGrath will have to eat crow from past round failures or gloat because of their successes.
First Round Explanation:
didn't think much of Detroit, but I thought that they would last to the 2nd
round! Los Angeles was impressive, and I didn't give them enough credit.
Potvin hasn't looked that good in years, and I certainly overlooked that.
I also didn't give enough credit to Roman Turek, who overcame last year's
horrible performance. The Sharks are still a young team, and I see them
becoming one of the powers in the West over the next few years.
Unfortunately, they didn't perform to my expectations this year!
Charlton: We actually said in our prediction that the Wings/LA series would be closer than people thought. For those out there scoffing at the suggestion from Flames GM Craig Button that the addtion of one or two key players might be enough to push Calgary over the top look what the subtraction of two players - Shanahan and Yzerman - did to Detroit. Suddenly, LA was the more talented team. We said the San Jose/St. Louis series was a toss-up and that ended up being the truth. Strangely, reading the newspapers in northern California you would wonder if the Sharks lost the series at all. How they would pull a moral victory out of this is beyond me.
McGrath: A very average two of four on the west side as far as the first round went. The Avalanche were a given, so really my track record was poor. I did pick the Stars past the Oilers in exactly six, as well as the Canucks to be nixed in four. I really thought Roman Turek would blow a tire again sending St. Louis to the sidelines but he played quite well. I won't take any criticism for Yzerman and Shanahan's injuries, that's tough.
Kings & Avlanche:
McCracken: I expect the Kings to start strong against the well-rested (and possibly over-rested) Avalanche. The Kings are a very confident team and they will make this an interesting series. However, Colorado is just too deep and talented to be beaten four times. The Kings will split in Denver and then split at home before the Avs pull away with this one. I like Colorado in six.
Charlton: How close this series becomes will depend on goaltending. We won't call this a walkover for Colorado but this series shouldn't be close if Patrick Roy plays to his former illustrious status. In fairness, however, Roy has been good lately but not nearly approaching the greatness seen earlier in his illustrious career. In any event, Felix Potvin is going to have to be fabulous for LA and that remains a stretch. So really, a series for Roy not to lose or a series for Potvin to win would be the best description. Colorado in five.
McGrath: As well as the Los Angeles Kings played in the first round, their upset of the Wings was as much to do with key injuries as it was to their own play. After knocking off the NHL's second best team, only injuries to Peter Forsberg and Joe Sakic will get them past the league's number one seed. Colorado in 5.
Blues & Stars:
McCracken: The Stars seem to be just one notch better than the Blues in every aspect of the game. Turek is good, but Belfour is better. Turgeon and Tkachuk can score, but Hull and Modano score more clutch goals. The Blues have a good power play, but the Stars are a bit better. However, the real difference in this series could be the "Grumpy Old Men" line. If they can shut down the Blues' number one unit, this could be a short series. I predict a dominating Dallas victory in five games.
Charlton: You have to like how Pierre Turgeon has turned up the gears in the post-season but if its a battle between Eddie 'Billion Dollars' Belfour and Roman Turek we'll go with Belfour every time. Dallas has more depth on D while the teams are even on the forward lines. This should be a tough, punch 'em up series with Dallas prevailing in seven.
McGrath: The Dallas Stars, fresh off of their annual tune-up (couldn't resist the obvious Oiler pun) are in fine form to advance again over St. Louis. Tommy Salo made the first round a six game excursion for the Stars, but Roman Turek should make an easier foe. Stars in 6.
First Round Explanation:
McCracken: Frankly, I'm surprised that I was even invited back after my horrible first round selections! But I've learned an important lesson… the regular season means squat! Ottawa and Philadelphia may have dominated in the season series, but that certainly didn't help them! In the end, it came down to an immeasurable statistic… which team "wanted it more".
Charlton: We predicted the Leafs were "playoff lucky" in our opening round prognostications but who would have thought a one in 57 year event would actually go in their favour. It was the first time in 57 years a team sweeping the season series was in turn swept in the playoffs by their down-trodden opponent. Most telling perhaps was the fact Ottawa scored only three goals in four games and Curtis Joseph was NOT the deciding factor. The Senators simply failed to show up.
McGrath: I was better in the East, going three of four. I picked two upsets as the Sabres and Penguins advanced to the second round. I am one of the many hockey fans that honestly didn't see the Senator collapse coming, one of the worst top seed showings in recent memory. If I won't take abuse for the Wings injuries, I'd better not take credit for the Devils advancing.
Leafs & Devils:
is on a high after beating Ottawa and New Jersey might be a bit concerned after
losing two games to the 'Canes. However, this may be the reality check
that the Devils needed and I expect them to come out flying. The Leafs
have had a long layoff, and this could hurt them in the first two games.
CuJo might steal a couple of games, but the Devils are too talented and
experienced to lose more than twice. I'm taking New Jersey in six.
Charlton: Don't be fooled by the Devils faltering a bit against Carolina. In New Jersey's first loss after taking a 3-0 series lead the Devils were not a little full of themselves and were deservedly spanked. In the second loss they were all over the Canes and only Arters Irbe pulled it out. The Ottawa/Toronto series was more about the Senators not showing up than it was about Toronto dominating. It was the wimpiest four game swan dive you will ever see. Toronto still has Curtis Joseph, however, and we respect that factor a great deal - but our call is New Jersey in six.
McGrath: The Leafs jumped on the Sens early, and in doing so gained a lot of confidence. That confidence will give the Devils fits, but Jersey is just too strong to fall to the city of bandwagon hoppers. Leaf playoff magic will make it close, but the series will go to Jersey in 6.
Penguins & Sabres:
McCracken: The high scoring Sabres vs. the defensive Penguins. What's the world coming to?!? This should be a very good series, and I expect a few overtime games. My original thought was to go with Pittsburgh because of their impressive checking performance against the Caps. But I've changed my mind over the last few days, and I'm going with the red hot Sabres. If there's one difference in this series, it's the goaltending. I can't see the rookie Hedberg winning four games against the soon-to-be-retiring Hasek, especially if there are several overtime matches. My pick is Buffalo in seven.
Charlton: The better team is Buffalo. The team with the most talent is Pittsburgh. Without question this is the toughest series to call in the second round - Mario Lemeiux and Jaromir Jagr on one side and Dominic Hasek on the other. In the first round the key issue was whether or not Olaf Kolzig could hold off the Penguin offence long enough to get to the inexperienced Johann Hedberg in the Pittsburgh net. It says here the Sabres are better than Washington and the Penguins will lose this series in six. The better goaltender will win.
McGrath: The Sabres took the Flyers out in six games despite an average series from Dominic Hasek. That's a very good sign. The Sabres are riding the inconceivable "Steve Penney" of 2001 in Johan Hedberg, the IHL goaltender makes good playoff story. Their luck will run out, Sabres in 6.
Finalists - Picked in First Round
McCracken - New Jersey vs. Ottawa
Charlton - New Jersey vs. Buffalo
McGrath - New Jersey vs. Buffalo
McCracken - Dallas vs. Colorado
Charlton - Dallas vs. Colorado
McGrath - Dallas vs. Colorado
McCracken - New Jersey over Dallas
Charlton - New Jersey Over Dallas
McGrath - Colorado over Buffalo