First round NHL postseason prognostications
by JON SWENSON
Tampa Bay vs  NY Islanders
There is always one series where it looks like the teams are so mismatched, the outcome is certain.
This year Nikolai Khabibulin, Martin St Louis and the Lightning look to be a lock. Tampa should ask Detroit or Dallas if the Mighty Ducks had a chance at advancing last year.
That being said, the Islanders have no shot. None. I will wear hammer pants for a month if they win.
Tampa in five. Hammer don't hurt em.
Boston vs Montreal
A lot of people will matchup Theodore vs Raycroft in this series, but do not count out Felix "el gato" Potvin. Montreal came out of the gates flying with rookie Michael Ryder and blueline offensive phenom Sheldon Souray. Unfortunately Souray is not completely recovered from a late season "upper-lower body" injury.
Boston is deep up front, but Joe Thornton is also coming off a late "upper body" injury. Why not just go with the Jerky Boys head/neck/face/back/chest injury description? The key for Boston is that Sergei Gonchar will be lethal on the PP.
Montreal struggled late in the regular season and Gonchar will make sure Raycroft has the goal cushion he needs to get a first round series win. Boston in six.
[Note: Boston last won a cup 5 months before I was born. Being a Bruin fan, I am obligated to pick them at every opportunity.]
Philadelphia vs New Jersey
Before this season the consensus for San Jose was, where will the goals come from without Nolan and Selanne? The consensus for NJ in the playoffs is how will Brodeur fare without Scott Stevens getting midevil on peeps camping in front of the crease?
Philadelphia gets Roenick back in time for the postseason. After 3 facial injuries, I think he will be wearing the submersible helmet from the last Deniro diving movie. Getting Zhamnov and Burke will push this to a hard-fought seven game affair.
New Jersey in seven.
FYI to all those gushing over Roy as the best ever, Brodeur is only 31. Four or five more seasons could give him the opportunity to double his current cup total .
Toronto vs Ottawa
This is yet another very entertaining matchup of two powerful Eastern Conference teams. Toronto is more of an experienced, punch-you-in-the-face-and-sit-on-your-goalie kind of team. Ottawa relies more on speed and puck possession.
Ottawa has too many offensive weapons to even mention. The problem with the Senators is that they are under probably more pressure to win than any other team in the league. The Senators are considered by many to be the most talented team several years running. The big question is if the goaltending and defense can hold it together while the offensive gets into a groove.
Toronto got the blueline answer it needed in Leetch. Nieuwendyk, Roberts, Antropov, and Francis will wreck havoc in front of the crease. Owen Nolan usually would play even if he lost a limb. If he has to miss the first two playoff rounds it must be serious. Sundin and Mogilny need to carry this team to the next round. As much as I want that to happen, it will not.
Ottawa in seven. NHL bashers may have another fit if they tune into this series. These two teams have a very bloody playoff history.
Detroit vs Nashville
I am tempted to say, see my description of the Tampa-Islanders series, but this one will be a little closer. I am rooting more for the number of home games for Nashville so they can maximize their playoff revenue. I am also rooting for each of their games to be close to sell the sport in a new market.
Jordin Tootoo is a little out of control, but it will be fun to see him run a few Detroit players and liven up the tempo of this series. Scott Walker and Steve Sullivan will have to play 4 of their best games all year in order for the Predators to advance. Thomas Vokoun will be busy.
Every matchup is dangerous, but last years first round exit will light a fire under Detroit. Working all the injured players back into the line up will help them gel before the next round. Manny Legace can fill the leg pads of Joseph and Hasek nicely.
Detroit in six.
San Jose vs St Louis
San Jose in six, Will post the specifics tomorrow. Same bat time, same bat channel.
Vancouver vs Calgary
This is an interesting matchup. Vancouver struggled a little down the stretch, and Calgary has let Kiprusoff carry them to a sixth seed.
Calgary has a solid defensive core, a hot goaltender, and a physical goal scoring power forward [sound familiar Sharks fans?]. Unfortunately for Calgary, losing Bertuzzi for Martin Rucinsky and Geoff Sanderson plays right into the Flames weakness. The vaunted Sutter dump and chase will not be effective against the Canucks. Sanderson and the Sedin twins will make this fact clear very early.
Vancouver in six. Although I would love more than anyone else for Kiprusoff to prove me wrong.
Props to Miikka for the best goals against average [1.69] in the modern era.
Colorado vs Dallas
Second to the Sharks series, this is probably the series where I have watched the two teams play in the regular season the most.
Colorado has a number of issues it needs to overcome, first and foremost is the loss of Patrick Roy in net. David Aebischer has played well, but he is untested in the postseason. Tommy Salo is an expensive reserve just in case.
The other problem the Avalanche face is that the complete roster overhaul has not exactly panned out. Teemu Selanne has under whelmed, and Kariya is out with an injury for an extended period. The Lanche lost a little speed on the blueline in Vaananen and Boughner, but were hoping to rely on rookie John-Michael Liles. Unfortunately he is injured as well.
For Colorado to advance, Sakic, Forsberg, and Tanguay will have to get hot.
What needs to be said about Dallas? After a very slow start to the season, Dallas has come on strong. Dallas has line after line of big, physical forwards who can score. Arnott has been unstoppable, and adding Bure at the deadline only makes them more dangerous.
Turco killed me in fantasy hockey even with his 4 game suspension. I have a feeling Colorado is going to feel a little of that pain after the first round.
Dallas in six.
Visit Sharkspage links for all the newspapers, fan and official sites for the above mentioned NHL teams.
Jon Swenson is the writer, photographer, and editorial-staff-of-one behind Sharkspage. He picked against the Devils every round on their road to a Stanley Cup in 2003, was published in the Sacramento Bee comparing the Sacramento Surge team name to a toilet bowl cleaner, and reacted bitterly with an article on FoxSports.com to rating comparisons between the NHL and Armadillo Racing.