Just like article number one of Top Ten, it's time to look at the NHL playoffs. Instead of trying to figure out potential late round matchups and such, I am just going to rank the 16 playoff teams with some analysis. Oh, and by the way, I do not endorse my look on the "new" logo with the Obama shirt and over sized sole patch.
1. Detroit Red Wings - Pretty much the same team as last year plus Marion Hossa. They do have a tricky little first-round matchup with the up-and-coming Blue Jackets and stud rookie goaltender Steve Mason. He could steal a game or two, but I still see the Red Wings as too strong. San Jose has recently choked in the playoffs, and that's enough for me to put Detroit ahead of them. Will trying to repeat be too tough? Will Osgood play as good as last year? Maybe not, but the Red Wings are still the team to beat.
2. San Jose Sharks - I picked the Sharks last year, and they fell flat. They cruised through the regular season and won the President's Trophy. Thornton and Nabakov are studs, but does anybody feel like betting on these guys against Detroit in the 7 game series? That's if they get there, another tricky first-round match against the veteran Ducks who backed into the playoffs.
3. Boston Bruins - They should get by the Canadiens, but after that, the Eastern Conference is anyone's guess. They were the best team in the regular season, but the playoffs are such a crapshoot and the East is quite deep this year.
4. Pittsburgh Penguins - I would still rather have Hossa and Malone over Kunitz and Guerin, but the Pens are playing their best Hockey as we speak. I have them over Philly and Carolina, because they have home ice over the Flyers and over the Hurricanes in a potential later round matchup. The first round will be tough with a probable 6 or 7 game series. If they get through that, they can get to where they were last year.
5. Carolina Hurricanes - The Canes are pretty live in these playoffs. Cam Ward is back to his level of play when he won a Stanley Cup and Staal is playing at a very high level. I hate to go against Broduer, but I really like Carolina in the first round.
6. Philadelphia Flyers - If they can get past the Pens, big if, they can really make some noise in the East. Their special teams play may be the best in the entire NHL when you combine the Power Play and Penalty Killing. Their big question mark is their goaltender Biron.
7. Vancouver Canucks - If anyone can dethrone Detroit or San Jose in the West, it may be Vancouver, but it's really tough to see that happening. They come into the playoffs hot, but so do their first round opponent, the St. Louis Blues. Probably second round is the furthest they can go, and I wouldn't be surprised if they lost in the first round.
8. St. Louis Blues - Just like Vancouver, who they face, they come in hot but have a difficult first round series. They can easily win over the Canucks, but probably will not go past the second round.
9. Columbus Blue Jackets - Go with the hot goaltender in the playoffs. It's just a shame for Columbus' sake that the Blues got hot and the Jackets got stuck with Detroit in the first round.
10. Chicago Blackhawks - Be weary of young and up-and-coming teams that are making their first playoff appearance in a number of years, reminds me of the Pens a few years ago that got smoked by Ottawa in the first round. But, I'll give Chicago a slight edge in the first round for having home-ice and the fact that Calgary backed into the playoffs.
11. Calgary Flames - Gotta like Kiprusoff and Iginla, but the Flames are really playing bad hockey right now.
12. New York Rangers - If I can choose one goalie to play in a game seven, I will probably take Hendrik Lundqvist. Steve Avery has made the Rangers a tough and scrappy team once again. My one big first round upset, Rangers over the Capitals.
13. New Jersey Devils - It's really hard to go against Martin Brodeur and Zach Praise, but talk about really backing into the playoffs.
14. Washington Capitals - Bad goaltending and a weak defense is an absolute disaster for the playoffs. Czar Ovechkin and loser Semin are about to find that out in a few days.
15. Anaheim Ducks - They have a chance against San Jose. A very small chance. Ryan Whitney sucks in the playoffs too.
16. Montreal Canadiens - I was hoping Florida would have gotten in, and we would have gotten a chance to see Thomas Vokoun against Boston.
First Round Winners - Boston, Pittsburgh, Carolina, New York, San Jose, Detroit, Vancouver, Chicago
Second Round Winners - Boston, Pittsburgh, San Jose, Detroit
Stanley Cup Finals - Pittsburgh, Detroit (rematch) ?