Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Stanley Cup Playoffs: Conference Semis

Sabres vs. Rangers

The Sabres got by the Islanders while the Rangers had little trouble sweeping the Thrashers. There will be no shortage of offensive talent in this series as Buffalo pits their up tempo style against Jaromir Jagr and company. Sean Avery enjoyed a breakout series against Atlanta as he got inside Ilya Kovalchuk's head and provided some big time scoring. It will be interesting to see who his main target on the Sabres turns out to be. This series is probably more even than a lot of people want to admit and I think it is going to come down to goaltending. Ryan Miller has shown a knack for making the key save and that cannot be valued enough, but Henrik Lundqvist has been carrying the Rangers since the All-Star break and I don't see that changing now. I give the Rangers a slight edge in the series.

Prediction: Rangers in 6!

Devils vs. Senators

Ottawa looked dominant in their series against the Penguins. They played tough defense when they needed to and got goals from everywhere in their lineup. It was truly an impressive display. Having said that, the Penguin defense is nothing to write home about and the team as a whole played pretty lousy (with a few notable exceptions). The Senators won't be as lucky going up against a playoff tested Devils team. New Jersey played well for most of their series against the Lightening. Zach Parise was lights out and Martin Brodeur was himself. I think this series will be close, but I just can't see Ottawa getting by a team this tough and defensively sound.

Prediction: Devils in 7!

Red Wings vs. Sharks

The Sharks won a nasty, hard-fought series against Nashville while Detroit basically got to stand around and watch Calgary self destruct. If not for Mikka Kiprusoff that series gets way out of hand in Detroit's favor. If the young Sharks can play with discipline and get good performances from their top players I think they can handle Detroit relatively easily. I think the Sharks will be able to push the Red Wings around. I would look for them to try to crowd Dominik Hasek early as well and get in his head the way Jerome Iginla did for the Flames.

Prediction: Sharks in 6!

Ducks vs. Canucks

Vancouver played about 17 games worth of hockey against Dallas and gets rewarded with having to face the Ducks just two days after their game 7 victory. I'll be interested to see how much the Canucks have left in the tank after finishing off the Stars. The Ducks have huge edge going into this series being rested, deeper as a team, and at home. Throw Scott Niedermeyer into the mix for good measure and you have a recipe for a convincing Ducks victory. Roberto Luongo will keep the Canucks in it for the most part, and should be able to steal a game in Vancouver, but I think the Ducks will just be too much for the Canucks to handle.

Prediction: Ducks in 5!

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