RossCode Picks - NHL First Round

posted on 04/21/06 at 12:56:25 pm by Joel Ross

Finally! The NHL playoffs are here. The preseason is over, and the "real" season is about to begin! And if you've been around here long enough, you know I like to throw up meaningless predictions! I'll show the money line in parens, so you know who's favored (hint: a negative number means they're favored).

Let's start in the East, where I don't have quite as much knowledge.

  • (1) Ottawa (+395) vs. (8) Tampa Bay (-435): Early in the season, Ottawa looked like they were going to run away with the East (and the President's Cup), but that didn't exactly happen. The rigors of everyday play kept them back, as well as the injury to Dominic Hasek, who was having a great season. They are still a solid team and definitely one to contend with. They should be able to take this series, but it won't be easy - they'll win it 4-2.
  • (2) Carolina (-210) vs. (7) Montreal (+190): The Hurricanes have a lot going for them, although I haven't seen much of them this season. Montreal should have trouble with them - Carolina should take this easily. 4-1.
  • (3) New Jersey (-246) vs. (6) New York (+226): The Devils are a scary team. They are a good team, but for some reason, they always seem to play better in the playoffs. The Rangers are just happy to still be playing - remember, this is the same team that had a top payroll in '03-'04 and missed the playoffs.
  • (4) Buffalo (-134) vs. (5) Philadelphia (+124): Philly is a big team, and has a lot of good players. Anyone who has Forsberg on their roster is going to do OK in the playoffs. This could be the surprise team coming out of the East. 4-3

Now let's look West, where I follow a little more closely:

  • (1) Detroit (-460) vs. (8) Edmonton (+420): Detroit has dominated the West, and a lot blame it on the miserable Central Division, but that's just being naive. Take away games against St. Louis, Chicago and Columbus from all Western teams, and Detroit's still the best on a points per game basis. Detroit (along with Ottawa) put up more than 300 goals - a tribute to the NHL's commitment to call penalties the way they are written - and do it all season. While Edmonton has played well against Detroit this season (going 2-1-0-1 this season), they never could defeat Detroit in regulation - and their last meeting was a 2-0 loss. Detroit should handle Edmonton easily. 4-1
  • (2) Dallas (-194) vs. (7) Colorado (+184): As much as I'd like to see a Wings-Avs match up again, I don't see that happening. Colorado just isn't that good this year - they barely escaped meeting Detroit in the first round this year, and they were happy about that. As much success as Colorado has enjoyed in recent years, this won't be quite as good for them. Dallas is just too good. 4-2.
  • (3) Calgary (-182) vs. (6) Anaheim (+172): Despite Ahaheim being one of the hotest teams in hockey right now, Calgary is big, physical, and can put up good numbers. They are solid both short handed and on the power play. This should be a great series, but Calgary advances. 4-3
  • (4) Nashville (+160) vs. (5) San Jose (-170): San Jose has both the point leader and goal leader for the season, which, come playoff time, doesn't mean anything, but is an indication of how thier post-season play could look. For the Sharks' sake, they hope it is. And in the first round, it probably will be. Nashville will be playing with a goalie that has no playoff experience and barely any in-game experience in the NHL, let alone big game experience. While I contend that the Wings are still the best team in the division despite the weak Central, Nashville, on the other hand, definitely did benefit. Their point total is higher than it should be, and when you combine that with Vokoun being out for the playoffs, that spells early tee times for the Preds. Oddsmakers think so too - they are the only team with home ice advantage to not be favored in the first round. 4-1

So there you have it. Games start tonight at 7:00 PM EST, with the Wings / Oilers being the first game on OLN, followed by a 10:00 PM game between Calgary and Anaheim.

Speaking of OLN, it sounds like they are really going to take this whole NHL thing seriously - despite the NHL being disappointed (and many fans) with the OLN coverage, their viewership is up, and overall they are happy with the contract. To that point, they plan to have a hockey game on every night for the playoffs (obviously, the schedule will ultimately dictate that) and they're ramping up their coverage as the Cup approaches. I guess we'll have to see how they do over the next two months.

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Categories: Hockey