For the Sharks to win:
Just keep playing the way they are. They have been virtually unstoppable since acquiring Brian Campbell at the trade deadline, losing only twice in regulation in the last 20 games or so. Campbell is the best answer any team has for Dion Phaneuf, and he has to be as good if not better than Phaneuf for the majority of the series. If Campbell can dominate a game or two, the Sharks have a great chance at winning given their goaltender Nabokov should be tough to beat after a potential Vezina winning season and Joe Thornton is always dangerous, scoring 94 points to lead their team in 2008. The Sharks need to play physical, as the Flames star players are easily goaded into combat, sometimes resulting in 5 minutes of Iginla or Phaneuf (or both) landing in the penalty box. Jeremy Roenick scored 14 goals this year, and 10 of the were game winners. That's a scary stat come playoff time. You can bet the Sharks want a guy like JR out on the ice if overtime hits. Play fast, play physical, and try not to tick off Jarome Iginla too much...and the Sharks should win hands down.
For the Flames to win:
A lot needs to go right. Firstly, They have to score some powerplay goals. Do whatever it takes, but get to the Sharks on special teams because in 5-on-5 play they are tough to beat. Nabokov and a great young defense should be able to stymie the Flames attack after the 1st line. The 3rd line needs to score goals. Sounds weird to say, but they almost need to become our secondary scoring line in this series. I don't see Conroy, Nolan, and whoever else they put on that line getting the job done. We know the goals will come from Iggy, but Lombardi, Yelle, and Primeau hopefully continue their late season play into the post-season. Lombardi's speed will be one of the team's best weapons against the fast skating Sharks. One thing the Flames have in their favour is Miikka Kiprusoff seems to turn into another creature during the playoffs, playing undoubtedly his best hockey of his career once the meaningful games start. He also has that old team factor, another chance to stick it to the Sharks who cast him away in favour of Evgeni Nabokov. Kiprusoff has to be better than Nabokov, Phaneuf has to better than Campbell, Iginla has to be better than Every Shark forward, and the Flames powerplay needs to score consistently. If all the above happen, they have a shot.
Prediction: Unfortunately San Jose is too good right now, and while Calgary could surprise, I say.. Sharks in 6.
Montreal Canadiens (1) vs. Boston Bruins (8):
To me this is the clearest cut of all the playoff series this year. The Montreal Canadiens should be able to win easily, the Bruins are too injured and Montreal is too good overall. This exciting original 6 showdown won't last long. Boston has a shot if Savard makes it back, but they are too lacking in offense without him.
Prediction: Habs in 5.
Pittsburgh Penguins (2) vs. Ottawa Senators (7):
If you were told at the start of the season that the Pens and Sens would meet in a 1st round tilt, you'd likely just assume it would be the sens with home ice advantage. But Ottawa's late season disaster almost forced them out of the playoffs, and the Penguins put together an incredible 2nd half and came just 2 points short of the Conference Championship. The Senators have a shot if they win all their home games and pull out a 7th game stunner, but Crosby and Malkin will be too much for Martin Gerber and Ray Emery to handle.
Prediction: Penguins in 6.
Washington Capitals (3) vs. Philadelphia Flyers (6):
The Caps surged to win their last 7 games of the season, and stole the southeast division away from the Hurricanes in game # 82. Alex Ovechkin will win the MVP with 65 goals, and should carry his momentum into the playoffs in what might be the most entertaining series to watch. Ovechkin is too much, the Caps are too hot. Philly has been up and down all season, this just isn't their year. Maybe in 2009.
Prediction: Capitals in 4.
New Jersey Devils (4) vs. New York Rangers (5)
This should be the lowest scoring of all the playoff series. The Devils and Rangers are ranked 14th and 13th in offense in their conference respectively. Both teams rely on goaltending and defense to backbone their team. Brodeur vs. Lundqvist will be fun too watch, and the crowds should be into it with the close vicinity of the 2 teams geographically. This one is tough to call. The Devils have Brodeur which is an automatic advantage, but I like the Ranger's forwards a lot better then New Jersey's.
Prediction: I flipped a coin, Rangers in 7.
Detroit Red Wings (1) vs. Nashville Predators (8):
The Red Wings took the president's trophy in yet another fantastic regular season. The Predators caught fire in the last couple weeks to edge out the Canucks for the last playoff spot, but now run up against a huge opponent. Detroit just has too many good players to lose in the 1st round this year, and I don't think Nashville is even close to the team they were last year.
Prediction: Red Wings in 5.
Minnesota Wild (3) vs. Colorado Avalanche (6):
The Avalanche won the lottery of teams that wanted to face the Wild, but Minnesota should be tougher this year than before. Adding Chris Simon just solidifies the physical side, and gives players like Gaborik and Demitra a little extra time and space. Colorado, if healthy, will have a great chance at an upset. They need all of Stastny, Sakic, Smyth, Forsberg, and Foote to be in the lineup for as many games as possible if they want to have a shot.
Prediction: Avalanche in 7.
Anaheim Ducks (4) vs. Dallas Stars (5):
I think a lot of people breathed a sigh of relief once it was clinched that these 2 teams would play each other, as both are considered capable of making a lot of noise in the 2008 playoffs. The defending Stanley Cup Champions will be getting Pronger back in time for the playoffs, as the Dallas Stars receive word that Sergei Zubov will be out indefinitely after having surgery on a sports hernia. This could make a huge difference as Dallas just isn't the same team without their under-rated D-man.