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April 12 - The Canadian Corner: NHL Playoffs, First Round Preview

Boy, what an insane first day of the NHL Playoffs. A quadruple overtime game?! Every game in the
west was hard hitting and close right to the end, and in the east, you had a high scoring blowout in
Pittsburgh and Ottawa. But how will these series finish? Here's my best guesses, starting with the
West.

Western Conference

#1 Detroit Red Wings vs #8 Calgary Flames

Detroit is the #1 Seed in the West, and tied Buffalo points-wise for the league lead. They get a pesky
first round opponent in the Calgary Flames. The last time these two teams played in the playoffs, the
Flames pulled off the upset. Can it happen again this time around? The only way I see it happening is
if Miika Kiprusoff pulls every trick in the book out of his hat to beat the Wings. He really will have to
steal the series for the Flames to have any chance of stopping highly powered Detroit. Calgary has
lost 4 straight games heading into this series, but I can see them stealing a game or two to make
Detroit sweat a little.

Prediction: Red Wings in 6

#2 Anaheim Ducks vs #7 Minnesota Wild

I've already seen many people say Anaheim should be able to easily handle the Wild. Having seen
much of the Wild all season, I would be willing to refute that statement. Anaheim got perhaps the
toughest draw of the first round. They just narrowly won Game 1. Minnesota is a team that can match
up with anyone in the west, and take them to the limit. They kept pace with Vancouver, at a time when
the Canucks were beating almost everyone they played. This is another series that I find hard to pick,
because Anaheim has it all. Great scoring, Two of the top defenders in the world in Chris Pronger
and Scott Neidermayer, and great goaltending with Ilya Bryzgalov and Jean Sebastian Giguere. I liken
the Minnesota Wild to a Pitbull. They will keep at you until you can't take it anymore, which is what I
see happening here, as the Wild pull off the "upset".

Prediction: Wild in 7

#3 Vancouver Canucks vs #6 Dallas Stars

ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ...............

Huh? What? Game 1 is FINALLY over?

If game 1 is any indication, this one will be a long, hard hitting, entertaining series. Roberto Luongo
stopped 72 shots for the Canucks in their Game 1 win. I question whether or not he can continue to
keep up that kind of production, but if he can, the Canucks will be right in there until the end in this
series, and I believe they will escape by the skin of their teeth in this one. Dallas will definitely not
make it easy for them, as they constantly pressured and pressured and pressured some more,
ultimately falling short. This will be an amazing series to watch.

Prediction: Canucks in 7

#4 Nashville Predators vs #5 San Jose Sharks

It's a crime being in the Western Conference, because there are eight legitimate Stanley Cup
Contenders. This right here is what I feel is the best matchup of any of the first round. Both teams are
incredibly deep, and evenly matched everywhere. Game 1 was an incredible matchup, going into
double overtime, and every minute was hard hitting and exciting. I would not be surprised one bit to
see the winner of this series take the Cup. That's how good both of these teams are. If Peter
Forsberg can play like the Forsberg of old, Nashville could be unstoppable. However, I see San Jose
just barely edging out the Predators and making it to round 2.

Prediction: Sharks in 7


Eastern Conference

#1 Buffalo Sabres vs #8 New York Islanders

Buffalo is the President's Trophy Winner this season, and have looked like world beaters from Day 1
of the season. In the first round, they draw the New York Islanders, who got into the playoffs after
defeating New Jersey in a shootout in their last game of the season. They will be on an emotional
high, and should make it tough on Buffalo, but I see the Sabres easily handling the Islanders en route
to the second round. This is one situation where Buffalo's big edge in talent and skill should give
them the edge and make for an easy advancement.

Prediction: Sabres in 5

#2 New Jersey Devils vs #7 Tampa Bay Lightning

New Jersey is a team that I consider to be the hardest out of all of the teams in the playoffs. They have
the best Goaltender in the world in Martin Brodeur and play a suffocating defensive style that has won
them 3 Stanley Cups. Any team that beats them is a legitimate contender. I don't see Tampa Bay
being able to overcome the Devils.

Prediction: Devils in 5

#3 Atlanta Thrashers vs #6 New York Rangers

I hate the New York Rangers. Go Thrashers. That is all.

Prediction: Thrashers in 6.

#4 Ottawa Senators vs #5 Pittsburgh Penguins

I was originally going to pick Ottawa in seven for this series, but if Pittsburgh keeps playing scared
like they did in Game 1, this won't even go to 6. Ottawa has the key ingredients that the young
Penguins lack: age and experience. Many of the Penguins young stars haven't had the chance to even
play internationally, to gain a real inkling of what the NHL Playoffs are like. Unless they can gain that
knowledge quickly, this could be a massacre.

Prediction: Senators in 5

Well, I'll be readying my crow here for when I get every one of these picks wrong, So I'll see you all
next week!