Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Gazing into our crystal puck

By Steven Lienert
The Phanatic Magazine

With the start of the Stanley Cup playoffs just a few scant hours away, Phanatic staffers have compiled an interesting view of the future. Will the Sabres cap their President’s Trophy season by adding another piece of hardware, the Stanley Cup, to their trophy case? Will San Jose be this year’s dark horse? Are the Red Wings and Devils really that good again? Here’s what the, ahem, experts say before they drop the puck:

Bob Herpen sees the sixth-seeded Rangers upsetting Atlanta in the first round, thus allowing Buffalo to avoid a bloodfest of a series with Ottawa in round two. That opens the door for a Buffalo-New Jersey Eastern Conference final, with Buffalo emerging as the Conference champion. In the West, Herpen likes another six-seed, the Dallas Stars, to knock off the Vancouver Canucks. In the second round, he likes Detroit to end the Stars’ playoff run, while fourth-seeded Nashville topples second-seeded Anaheim before beating the Red Wings for the Western Conference crown. In the end, like McManus, he sees the Buffalo Sabres skating with Lord Stanley’s Cup.

Mike Rushton also sees the Rangers emerging from their first-round series with Atlanta. But he has what I think every hockey fan this side of the Mississippi wants to see: an Ottawa vs. Buffalo series. Rushton has Ottawa knocking off everybody’s Stanley Cup favorite before losing to the San Jose Sharks in the Stanley Cup finals. How does he figure the Sharks get there? Rushton sees the Sharks upsetting Nashville in the first round before defeating Anaheim in round two. As if that weren’t enough, Ruston gives San Jose more love after he has the Sharks beating Detroit for the Conference title before hoisting the Cup in a win over the Senators. Wow.

Tim McManus is a man of few words when it comes to hockey, so he broke it down elementary style for everybody. He likes the Sabres to win the East and the Predators to win the West. Then going out on a Rushton-like limb, he likes the Sabres to finally get that Stanley Cup that has haunted them like Brett Hull’s big toe. He likes Buffalo over Nashville in six games.

Eric Redner wrote extensively on his picks and he clearly likes the Rangers and Penguins to pull first-round upsets (see ya Atlanta and Ottawa). In the West, he has Minnesota and San Jose advancing to the second round, meaning Nashville and Anaheim will be setting up early tee times. His predictions for the rest of the tournament will be laid out in full as it progresses.

Me? I like the top-four seeds to advance in the East, meaning Ottawa and Buffalo would square off in round two, while New Jersey and Atlanta play in the junior-varsity side of the bracket. I like New Jersey and Ottawa to play for the Eastern Conference crown, with the stinkin’ Devils emerging to play for yet another Stanley Cup. In the West, I like seventh-seeded Minnesota to upset Anaheim and Dallas to knock off Vancouver. In the end, Detroit will hold off Nashville in seven hard-fought games to win the West. And I forsee many octopi being tossed onto the ice at Joe Louis Arena when the Red Wings skate away with the Stanley Cup.

To recap, our Cup champions:
McManus: Buffalo
Herpen: Buffalo
Rushton: San Jose
Lienert: Detroit

Steve Lienert can be told he's clueless about hockey at slienert@phanaticmag.com
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