Each year, I look at the playoff teams and see which are cup contenders, and which have little or no chance to sip from the cup. The bottom line is that goaltending and depth win cups. One line teams that have suspect goaltending make early playoff exits.
Let’s look at the conferences starting with the East.
The Capitals are the #1 seed from the East. They have played better defensively this year, but I do not expect their goaltending to hold up. I don’t see them winning the cup.
The Flyers will go as far as their goaltending and Chris Pronger will take them. They are stumbling in to the playoffs. I don’t see them winning the cup.
The Bruins are as complete a team as there is in the East. Tim Thomas has had a remarkable regular season, and I expect him to keep it up in the playoffs. The Bruins could make a long playoff run.
The Penguins have played better than anyone expected them to. I know that Gary Bettman would love to see the Penguins make a long playoff run, but this team is not deep enough and does not have the goaltending to play for the cup.
The Lightning have played better than any of us expected. Roloson has proven playoff experience. The Lightning could make a long playoff run.
The Canadians are not a deep team. They will go as far as Cary Price carries them, but I don’t expect that to be very far.
The Sabres will not last long. Ryan Miller could stand on his head, but I don’t expect him to carry them very far.
The Rangers could win one round, if Lundquist stands on his head, but I also do not expect him to be able to take this team to the cup finals.
So, I think that either the Bruins or the Lightning will come out of the East. At this point, I think that the Bruins are more likely to do so.
Let’s look at the Western Conference.
The Canucks still have not proven that they can win in the playoffs. They have had a wonderful regular season, but, that is no guarantee of playoff success. I do not expect the Canucks to play for the cup.
The San Jose Sharks are in the same boat as the Canucks. They have better goaltending than they have had in previous years, but I do not see it being good enough to carry them to the cup.
The Red Wings have not played well enough defensively to play for the cup. They are stumbling their way into the playoffs. There is some feeling that they will magically “turn it on” for the playoffs, but I don’t see how they can end all of the bad habits that they have shown over the last month. I don’t see them making it out of the first round. That will depend on the matchup. I do not expect them to play for the cup.
The Ducks will go as far as Hiller can carry them. They might go a round or two, but I do not expect them to play for the cup.
The Predators are a team that could make a long playoff run. They have great goaltending and are a balanced team.
The Coyotes may make it out of the first round. They took the Red Wings to a seventh game in their series last year, and this Red Wings team is not as good as last year. I don’t see the Coyotes being deep enough and having the goaltending to play for the cup.
The Kings might win the first round, but I don’t expect them to play for the cup.
The Blackhawks could upset the Canucks in their first round matchup, but I don’t see the Hawks going much farther.
I’m not sold on any team from the west this year. The Predators could be the sleeper team from the west to play for the cup. The Canucks and the Sharks have yet to prove that they can win in the playoffs.