Tonight on frozen pond, 16 teams will play for the right to hoist the greatest trophy to ever be played for, Lord Stanley's Cup. The French call it Coupe Stanley. There will be xx teams with Stanley Cup experience in this contest of wills. Versus, CBC, RDS, TSN and NBC will be televising the games, so check your local listings or head to your favorite rink or watering hole (BAR) to see the game. I present my picks for the first round of the Stanley Cup (or Coupe Stanley) Playoffs.
(1) Montreal vs. (8) Boston. Montreal outscored the Bruins 39-16, with the teams playing eight times during the regular season and the Canadiens won every game. The Habs have 23 Stanley Cups to their credit but have not won that hardware since the 1992-93 season. A 393-266-8 playoff record doesn’t hurt them, either. Losing 4-2 to Carolina in 2006 will make them a bit hungrier.
Boston has 63 playoff appearances, with their last Stanley Cup win in the 1971-72 season. Their last playoff appearance? Against the team they’re playing this time. They took their neighbors to the North to seven games before falling to Montreal and will be looking for revenge. Their record in the playoffs is 242-263-6, which is not bad. Boston’s the eight seed in the SCP and I don’t see an eight seed winning this thing. Canadiens win in 5.
(2) Pittsburgh vs. (7) Ottawa. The Penguins have won just two of their past nine games against Ottawa, outscored by the Senators 36-23 in those games. They need Sid Crosby to stay healthy and play his best hockey to win. Their last Stanley Cup was in 1992, have a 110-103 playoff record overall and will make their 23 rd appearance in post season.
Ottawa has yet to win a Stanley Cup and are still smarting from their 4-1 series loss to defending champ Anaheim last season. The Senators are one game below the .500 mark in their playoff record at 49-50, so their playoff pedigree isn‘t that great. For the Senators to win is to stop Crosby and that’s not going to be easy. Pittsburgh in six.
(3) Washington vs. (6) Philadelphia. The Flyers went 2-1-1 in four games against Washington, winning twice in Washington and losing twice in Philadelphia. So this could be an entertaining series. For Philly to win, they have to play smart hockey and not revert to the goon tactics of the “Broad Street Bullies” of the 1970s. Philly has not won the Stanley Cup since the 1974-75 team that had Bobby Clarke, Dave Schultz and Bernie Parent on it. Their last appearance in the playoffs saw them losing to Buffalo 4-2. Still, a 180-167 playoff record is nothing to sneeze at.
For Washington, Ovechkin IS the man. Enough said. If he doesn’t win the MVP this season, I will ask Congress to investigate. If they can push the tempo against the Flyers, it will be a long evening for them. The Caps have not been to the NHL’s biggest show since the 2000-01 season when Pittsburgh took them down 4-2. Gotta go with the Caps in 6.
(4) New Jersey vs. (5) New York Rangers. New Jersey comes in with a 117-94 Playoff record, last won Stanley Cup in 2003, lost to Tampa Bay 4-2 in East Semifinals. Playoff appearance number 18. New York has an 7-1 lead in the season series against the Devils. New York’s last Stanley Cup win was when Mark Messier was on the 1993-94 team that broke the curse. This will make 50 playoff appearances for the boys from Madison Square Garden, carrying a 189-198-8 playoff record. For both teams it’s simple. Play smart hockey, eliminate the bad penalties. New York will play New Jersey tough and it could go seven. Going with the Rangers in seven.
(1) Detroit vs. (8) Nashville. The Red Wings’ last Stanley Cup was 2002, beating Carolina (formerly the Hartford Whalers) 4-2. Detroit’s last playoff appearance in 2007 was not a good one, losing to eventual champ Anaheim 4-2. 10 Stanley Cups, 55 playoff appearances and a 262-248-1 playoff record is nothing to sneeze at. Nashville has 3 playoff appearances to their names with no Stanley Cup wins and a 4-12 playoff record. The Predators last appeared in 2007, losing to San Jose 4-1.
Five of the eight meetings between the two clubs have been decided by one goal with Detroit winning the series. At least the two teams will have a 75-minute plane ride between the two cities. In the end, I‘m going with Detroit in 5 and not just because I like to see squid fly on the ice at Joe Louis, it‘s also because the Pre-date-tors are Atlanta‘s chief Southeastern rival and I want to see them fall.
(2) San Jose vs. (7) Calgary. San Jose may know the way to the playoffs but their 51-55 playoff record doesn‘t show it. Their last appearance was last year when they lost to Detroit in 2007 Eastern semifinals. The Sharks may have bite but they have NO Stanley Cup title to their names. None. Zip. Zilch. Nada. Null. Nil. 10 playoff appearances. You get the picture.
Calgary. “Cowtown” as most people in western Canada call it. The Flames, who got their Genesis in Atlanta in the 70s, won the Stanley Cup in 1989, beating Montreal in 6 games. Their last try for Lord Stanley’s Cup came in 2004, losing to Tampa Bay in 7. An 87-102 playoff record, including six trips as the Atlanta Flames, is nothing to be proud of.
The Flames won the season series 3-1 and this could be an series worth watching. There is a revenge factor in this contest. San Jose was denied a chance to move to the next round of the 2004 playoffs by Calgary. Revenge is a dish best served cold. Unlike the shark in “Jaws,” they will not meet the same fate. San Jose takes it in 6.
(3) Minnesota vs. (6) Colorado. These two teams met Sunday, so if familiarity breeds contempt, then both teams are guilty as charged. Things got a bit chippy in the last meeting and this could be a physical series. The Wild (2 appearances, 9-14 record) have no Stanley Cups in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, while Colorado last won the Cup in 2001 over New Jersey in seven, their second cup in their history. The Avalanche carry an 126-107 record to their credit and it could be a short series for the Wild. This is the only sweep I’m picking and I’m going with Colorado in 4.
(4) Anaheim vs. (5) Dallas. Buffalo fans may actually be cheering for Anaheim. They have never gotten over their loss to the Stars in 1999. That was their last Stanley Cup title in the Lone Star State. They missed the playoffs in 2007 and will be looking to redeem themselves. Dallas (formerly the Minnesota North Stars) carry a 141-141 record in the playoffs to the first round with them.
The Ducks took Ottawa to task last season, winning 4-1 over the Senators for their first Cup since 2003, when they beat up New Jersey in 7. The Ducks, who were owned by Disney, will take a 43-29 mark into the playoffs.
Buffalo fans, get your Ducks in a row. Anaheim in 5.
So that’s it in on the frozen pond. Here’s hoping that the first round goes well.