SI.com's writers gaze into the postseason crystal ball
Posted: Friday April 21, 2006 8:29AM; Updated: Friday April 21, 2006 5:16PM
SI.com's staff of NHL writers -- Darren Eliot, Michael Farber, Tom Layberger, Allan Muir and Scott Wraight -- offer up their predictions for this year's Stanley Cup playoffs.
The Stanley Cup finals result will be ...
STARS over Senators in 6 games
RED WINGS over Sabres in 6 games
DEVILS over Stars in 6 games
SHARKS over Hurricanes in 6 games
STARS over Sabres in 7 games
The Stars have quietly and efficiently gone about their business all season long. That workmanlike approach also serves them well in the postseason, with Marty Turco backstopping the Stars' effort with a fine display of acrobatic and athletic goaltending.
The Red Wings fattened up on a weak division, but they remain the deepest -- and most predictable -- of the elite teams, assuming goalie Manny Legace is all set. Buffalo is a perfect post-lockout team, blessed with speed, balanced scoring and terrific goaltending.
In a rematch of the 2000 Cup Finals -- and with a similar outcome -- the Devils carry their momentum through the postseason derby. A drastically different team since Lou Lamoriello took over, N.J. is jelling at the perfect time.
I picked the Sharks at the beginning of the season, and the addition of the NHL's top scorer hasn't dissuaded me. We've seen over the past month what a relentless opponent San Jose can be, going 8-1 in the clutch. They have the depth, the experience, the hot netminder and two devastating game-breakers. Looks like a winning combo to me.
In a rematch of the 1998-99 "No Goal" series, the Stars -- behind Marty Turco -- take this one, sans controversy. Buffalo has no glaring weaknesses, but the Stars will prove to be stronger between the pipes, with Mike Modano coming up huge on the power play.
The most surprising team(s) will be ...
Rangers The Rangers will put their late-season disappointment behind them and follow up an overall outstanding regular season with a run to the conference finals.
Sabres and Sharks The Sabres will shock at least one team along the way in reaching the finals -- white-hot New Jersey, perhaps -- while San Jose, a late bloomer behind Jumbo Joe Thornton, should make it to the Western finals.
Mighty Ducks Strong goaltending, Scott Niedermayer and team speed make playing
the Mighty Ducks no trip to Disney.
Sabres A ruthlessly efficient machine, the Sabres are powered by speed, balance, tireless effort and attention to detail. If the games are called as tightly as they were during the regular season, Buffalo's third-ranked power play and second-rated penalty kill will be the trump cards.
Sharks While the red-hot Devils have gotten most of the attention, don't overlook the Sharks, who have come into their own over the last five weeks. Don't be stunned if San Jose gets into the conference finals.
The most disappointing team will be ...
Red Wings They made it look easy during the regular season but will find disappointment once the playoffs begin, bowing out in the second round to the Sharks.
Senators A juggernaut all season, the Sens suddenly look fragile. They should ease into the second round, but unless goalie Dominik Hasek is healthy, a team designed to win this year is going to fall short.
Senators Failure to live up to the billing has plagued the Sens and coach
Bryan Murray (Caps, Wings) when this time of year rolls around. Furthermore, with Dominik Hasek in limbo and health concerns on the blue line, the first round could be dicey.
Senators The thought of going into the playoffs with Ray Emery rather than Dominik Hasek in net surely has sucked some of their confidence. They still should get to the conference finals. Anything short of the Cup, however, and this season is another in a long line of playoff heartbreaks.
Hurricanes They have the firepower, with four players notching 70 or more points this season, but Martin Gerber between the pipes makes me nervous. He's never faced the crunch of postseason pressure.