Just like Christmas in April

By Lawrence Bailey

Ahoy all, it is the greatest time of the year yet again. We’ve survived the oh-so-painful two days after the end of the season and the chase for the Cup is on.

What follows are the opinions of two sad souls who care way too much about that game with the sticks and rubber thingy.

Toronto vs. Ottawa

To accommodate all the stupid Leafs fans, we’ll get this out of the way first. This series lies in the hands of Patrick Lalime–that is, if you believe everything you see on the Toronto Sports Network. If you have a brain of your own you would clearly see Ottawa’s talent level throughout their lineup greatly outclasses their geriatric foes from the center of the universe. This is the year the jinx will die.

IW: Ottawa in 5

LB: Ottawa in 6

Montreal vs. Boston

There is just slightly more than a little bias involved here, but Jose Theodore gives the Canadiens a huge advantage when compared with the unproven rookie Andrew Raycroft. The smaller, faster and arguably more skilled Habs forwards will expose the slow, vulnerable Bruins defense over the course of the series.

IW: Montreal in 6

LB: Montreal in 7

Philadelphia vs. New Jersey

New Jersey may be without perennial power pivot Scott Stevens but Philly’s poor puck moving defence just took another blow with the loss of Eric Desjardins.The opportunistic Devils offence and the all-world goaltending of Martin Brodeur will expose then eliminate the gimped Flyers. Did we mention Robert Esche? No? There’s a reason for that.

IW: New Jersey in 7

LB: New Jersey in 5

Tampa Bay vs. Islanders

At first glance this looks like a no-brainer, but if the streaky Islanders get hot this could be more interesting than it should be. That said, they won’t. The St.Louis and Lecavalier show will be too much for the undermanned Isles to contain and will more than make up for Tampa’s less-than-proven goaltending.

IW: Tampa Bay in 6

LB: Tampa Bay in 5

Calgary vs. Vancouver

This is the year both Dan Cloutier and the Canucks come of age. Sure Mikka Kiprusoff had an incredible season, but there is a reason he was third string in San Jose. Against ‘Nucks’ speedy, skilled forwards and big, veteran rearguards, the smaller Flames won’t be able to keep up–even with Oliwa leading the way.

IW: Vancouver in 6

LB: Vancouver in 7

Dallas vs. Colorado

The smart money is on a red-hot Stars team that, until the Marty Turco suspension, looked like world-beaters. However, with both teams carrying unproven playoff netminders, Adam Foote and Rob Blake give the already offensively outstanding Avs an advantage Dallas can’t match. That, and the Stars blueline isn’t what it once was.

IW: Colorado in 7

LB: Colorado in 66

Detroit vs. Nashville

There will not be a mighty repeat of last year. The skill and experience of the Wings, along with the unheralded backstopping of Manny Legace will dispose of the Preds quickly.

IW: Detroit in 5

LB: Detroit in 4

San Jose vs. St. Louis

This is definitely the sleeper series of the first round. Although the Sharks boast the better regular season record, the steadying influence of Chris Pronger on the Blues’ point, the playoff experience of Chris Osgood and one great forward line will make the difference.There isn’t enough bad ice at the HP Pavillion to save the Sharks in this series.

IW: St.Louis in 6

LB: St. Louis in 6


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