UPDATED: April 10th, 2003

 WRAP-AROUNDS

By Chuck Clark.

Playoff Predictions


The most exciting time of the year is upon us, no not March Madness, it's Playoff time baby! This is the time of the year that every hockey fan waits for. A time when anyone can come from nowhere to win, although now it's more like English Soccer, with pretty much every team seeded below 5 ( Excluding the Caps ) already haveing been written off. Well, on to the predictions.

East
1. Ottawa
vs.
8. New York
This series should be over quickly. Ottawa showed people last year that they are not the first-and-out team they were when Yashin donned the Sen's sweater. Patrick Lalime also showed that he can play come playoff time when he shut Philly out 3 games. They're high powered offense should torch the Isles D. Hamrlik, Aucoin and Ninnima are known more for they're play making abilities than they're defensive prowess. Also the Isles relied heavily on career third liners Jason Blake and Dave Scatcherd this season, and I doubt the keep up that pace in the playoffs, especially against a physical Sens D led by Chara, Redden and Phillips. I expect this one to be over in 5, with the Sens moving on to the next round.

2. New Jersey
vs.
7. Bawston, er I mean Boston
I think from the blueline out, Boston rivals any team in the East. Its when you get past that blueline, is when questions start to arise. As far as scoring goes, Boston can rotate three lines capapble of scoring at any time, and that is a luxury the Devils simply do not have. When Rolston, Lapointe and Axelsson play on your third line, you know you have some fire power. That being said, I think the Bruins are going to need 3 goals a game from their top three lines to bring the Devils down. Jeff Hackett is questionable at best as a starter. You have to wonder, which Hackett will show up? The one who replaced Ed Belfour with a Vezina type campaign in Chicago. The one who was mediocre at best for Boston this season, or the one that Canadiens were unlucky enough to have, the one who played in about 35% of their games. I know this, if Hackett is injured, Steve Shields won't lead this team to a victory, much less a series upset. My pick, Devils in 6

3. Tampa
vs.
6. Washington
This is gonna be one hell of series. One team built around a solid young nucleus, most of which still to reach their prime. The other, built around a poorly ageing superstar, and a lot more declining veterans. Neither team did much to imrove itself at the trade deadline, and one team will pay for it. Two South Least foes will go at it in what I think will be a seven game series. Two questions linger for both teams. Will the Bolts inexperience hurt or help? They had no pressure on them at the beginning of the season, so why burden themselves with it now. I think that if the Bolts enter this series with a "whatever we win is a bonus" mentality, the could make it to the second round. I think if the start putting pressure on themselves, they might crumble. the question for Washington, is How will Jagr play? If he plays like he can, The Caps should win this series. If he plays like he has played since the 2000-2001 playoffs, thye will defeinitely falter. He's too big a part of that team to disappear once the going gets tough. My prediction Tampa in 7

4. Philly
vs.
5. Toronto
This is why the league should do away with divisions. It should be Two Conferences in the league, East and West. Anywho. I can't wait for this series. In my humble opinion the two best teams in the East. The Flyers, on paper have the most potent offense in the league, hands down. Sami Kapanen, Michal Handzus and either Williams or Murray on their third line? Thats a phenomenal third line right there. Their defense is tight, one need only look at who gave up the least goals this season. There only question lies in net. Can Chechmanek play like he has in the regular season? I for one believe he will. But even if he doesnt, I think Robert Esche might be able to backstop the Flyers if need be. Toronto just cant match the Flyers, on offense, or defense. The only place they can is in net. I just dont think it will be enough. Flyers in 6

West
1. Dallas
vs
8. Edmonton
Does anyone really expect the Oilers to win this series? This is not the Oiler team led by Doug Weight and Bill Guerin. They don't even have Anson Carter anymore. The Stars third line outclasses the Oilers first line. This one will be over quick
Stars in 4

2. Detroit
vs.
7. Anaheim
Anaheim supirsed a lot of people with their succesthis year. I expected them to improve upon last years effort but not this much. Steve Thomas has has a revalation of sorts since coming to the pond, and Paul Kariya bounce back nicely from an off year, and even Rucchin had a healthy year. Throw in Sykora and Oates and youve got two solid lines. Sorry but the only teams this lineup can beat in the West are Minnesota and Edmonton. Too bad they wont get a chance to play them. Detroit will steam roll the Ducks on their way to the second round. Detroit has to much fire power. They could sit their whole first line, (for god's sake there is three first lines on this team) and still win. Wings in 5

3. Colorado
vs.
6. Minnesota
Again, another huge mismiatch. Minnesota does not have the fire pwer the Avs do. they dont have the Goaltending, they're defense can at least touch the Av's but that's more a reflection on how good their coach is. Coaching can only get a team with minimal talent so far, certainly not past the Avs. With the Forsberg line as hot as it is, i doubt any left wing lock/defense first system short of dressing 18 defenseman is gonna stop them. They are simply on fire. The Wild should have tried to lose one more game. Avs in 5

4 Vancouver
vs
5. St. Louis
The league second best line should carry the 'Nucks past the Blues. Prongs not being healthy against two bulls in Bertuzzi and Naslund is going to hurt. I don't believe Chris Osgood was the answer to the question in net. To me, this series rests on two things. Will Cloutier's knee hold up, and can the Canucks outlast the Blues depth. The longer this series goes, I think the Blues have a better chance of winning it because they are a much deeper team. This one is gonna be the most exciting of the west's first round tilts, but I give the edge to the Canucks, because i think they too like the Sens are ready to drop the one and done label. Nucks in 6

e-mail gripes and comments to chaz_311@yahoo.com

Click here for the Wraparounds Archives

 The opinions expressed on this page are of the author, and in no way reflect the views of the NHL, it teams or players. All material in Wraparounds copyrighted (C) 2003 Spector's Hockey. Reproduction of this material in whole, or in part, without consent by the author or Spector's Hockey is prohibited.