Washington over Montreal in five
Let's give the Habs one win out of pity. Even though the Maple Leafs and Canadiens have a much longer and more storied rivalry, for some reason I have a bit of a soft spot for Montreal. Maybe it's because I could've just as easily been a Habs fan as a Leafs fan, whereas to become a Senators fan, I would've had to start kicking puppies. Anyway, the Capitals bury the Habs with so much of an offensive onslaught that it drives Carey Price to drink....wait a second...
New Jersey over Philadelphia in six
The Flyers had to win on the last day of the season just to squeak into the playoffs, whereas Jersey has been sitting pretty for a while now. Philly's big weakness all year has been in goal, whereas the Devils have Marty Brodeur....yeah, minor edge to NJ on that one. Overall it's hard to see a way that the Flyers can steal this one.
Buffalo over Boston in seven
Toughest series to call in the East. In spite of Boston's good record against Buffalo this year and the fact that the Sabres are banged up, I just feel that in the end, Ryan Miller will once again step up big and outduel the two-headed Thomas/Rask monster. It's also hard to see Miller losing to a team that finished (I kid you not) dead last in the NHL in goals scored this year. Seriously, Boston scored just 196 goals. Marco Sturm led the team with just 22. The Bruins can at least take solace in the fact that the player they draft with Toronto's 2010 first-round pick will go on to be a Hall of Famer. Is there any doubt that this is going to happen?
Pittsburgh over Ottawa in four
I dislike the Senators so much that if Sidney Crosby happens to score the goal that eliminates Ottawa from the playoffs, I will consider Sid's Olympics-winning goal to be his second-most noteworthy patriotic act of the year. No amount of motivational songs from 30 Rock's Danny Baker will save the Sens against the defending champions. This one might possibly be over in three, provided that the Sens just wuss out completely and throw in the towel, Bob Backlund-style after the third game.
San Jose over Colorado in six
As usual, the Sharks give their fans reason to sweat by letting the Avs make it to a Game Six, but this San Jose team really should be good enough to dispose of Colorado without too much trouble.
Chicago over Nashville in six
A lot of people have the Hawks as the trendy Cup pick, but boy, don't sleep on any team that has Pekka RInne. Chicago should still win this based on sheer firepower alone, but Nashville makes it at least interesting.
Los Angeles over Vancouver in six
Upset special! Am I picking this just because I haven't picked an underdog seed yet? Yep...wanted to pull the trigger on Nashville over Chicago, but didn't have the heart. I'm going to be a moron and make my prediction here based on nothing but exterior factors. Namely, it would be a bit too much for the city of Vancouver to have both an Olympic Games and a long-awaited Stanley Cup in the same year. C'mon Luongo, you have a gold medal, don't be a hog. It's for that reason I'm taking L.A. to win and for the Canucks to suffer yet another early playoff exit. Stay tuned for next time, when I rely on tea leaves and horoscopes to pick the NBA playoffs. Oooh, the Orlando Magic have a lot of Capricorns, watch out Lebron!
Detroit over Phoenix in seven
The Wings decided to take a page from the early 2000's Los Angeles Lakers and phone in virtually the entire regular season before getting serious around playoff-time. The Red Wings are 17-3-2 in their last 22 games and thus vaulted up to the #5 seed after piddling around the postseason cutoff line for most of the campaign. It's hard to pick against a team that's clearly peaking and has made the finals for the past two seasons, especially when their opponents are playoff newbies like Phoenix. Seriously, as much as the Tampa Bay/Carolina/Anaheim Cup trifecta angered Canadian hockey fans, would there possibly be a more galling result than to see the Stanley Cup go to friggin' Phoenix? I'll say the 'Yotes extend it to seven out of respect for their surprising season, but the Wings invite Jim Balsille to the Joe to throw the octopus on the ice before a game, and that just jinxes the Coyotes all to hell.
San Jose over Los Angeles in five
Battle of California! Will Arnold show up at a game? (Answer: maybe, it's not like his state is going bankrupt or anything.) The Sharks finally show off their top-ranked form by more or less squashing the upstart Kings like they're yesterday's news.
Chicago over Detroit in seven
Talk about an epic series. This could be one of those seminal series that is talked about for years --- two Original Six rivals, the classic up-and-comers against the wizened veterans, the team with the longest Cup drought in the league against the most successful U.S. team in history, etc. The Blackhawks put themselves on the map by beating their rivals and avenging their loss in last season's Western finals.
Washington over Pittsburgh in seven
Speaking of epic series, these two teams will get it on again in another brain-buster of a seven-gamer. It remains to be seen if the Varlamov/Theodore combo can hold up in the postseason (Varlamov acquitted himself fairly well last year), especially against the likes of Marc-Andre Fleury, but I dunno, I think I just favour the Caps winning this coin-flip of a series this year. Also, if Ovechkin comes up short in both a Cup quest and the Olympics, he may be horse-whipping by a shirtless Vladimir Putin. Why does Putin insist on not wearing a shirt for such activities? He claims that his pores are helped by the screams of the terrified. Huh.
Buffalo over New Jersey in six
Miller vs. Brodeur, the rematch! Will Marty play as poorly as he did in the Olympics? No (ye gods, how could he?), but the Devils will still come up short. Needless to say, this series and the Sharks/Kings tilt will both be vastly overshadowed by the other two quarterfinals. That's alright, it's not like Buffalo and New Jersey don't have experience being seen as second-rate.
Washington over Buffalo in six
After making it all this way, the Caps take that final step and reach the Stanley Cup final. I, er, have no follow-up points. A team coming off an epic series can either a) carry that momentum into the next round or....
San Jose over Chicago in six
....b) get knocked out because they ran out of gas in the previous round. Yes, that's right, I just made a big deal out of the fact that the two options facing a team are that they can win or lose. This is some grade-A hockey analysis here, folks. The young Blackhawks still need one more humbling loss before they can truly break through to be Cup contenders, and San Jose (who knows a thing about humbling losses) deals it to them. Also, in picking the Hawks, I'd also be dooming the Maple Leafs to take over as the team with the longest Cup drought in the NHL. That can't happen.
Washington over San Jose in six
They say that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. Well, my Stanley Cup finals pick last season was, you guessed it, Washington over San Jose. I was, uh, just slightly off. But surely I couldn't be wrong twice in a row, right? My pick of the Seahawks and Patriots for the 2008 Super Bowl paid off when both teams made the 2009 game, right? Right? My stubbornness aside, this will be the season and both of these underachievers manage to square off for hockey's greatest prize, and one of them will finally reach the mountaintop. The other will....well, still technically underachieve, but underachieving by losing a Cup final is still better than a first or second-round ouster. Partial credit! I'll even be nice to the Sharks and say that Joe Thornton makes it all the way to Game Three of the finals before doing his usual postseason disappearing act.