This email exchange took place last week, but a number of issues on the home and work front kept me from posting it...it's a bit stale now and the Sharks may have sewn up their series before we even discussed it...
Buffalo v. Ottawa
Buffalo has given the world chicken wings and, um, the Goo Goo Dolls? There may be the nightly fires, the deserted core and the rust-belt ambience, but there's also the beautiful Darwin Martin house and the Pearl Street Brewery aint bad either. Their old ball park is where they filmed one of my favourite movies, the Natural. Oh, and they have a Target (which Torontonians long for, like a bad student longing for summer break).
Ottawa, hmm, what can you say about the City that fun forgot? There's the Manx and beautiful weather for 3 months of the year, but it's also the birthplace of Tom Green.
If we weren't talking hockey, I'd suggest the best thing that could happen to either of these cities is that they be paved over and converted to parkland.
But back to hockey. Here are two clubs built on speed, both with goalies who shook off their critics in the first round, with near identical records (Sabres: 52-24-6/ Sens 52-21-9) and a one game differential in the season series (won by Ottawa 5-3). There's not a lot to choose from here.
I think it will go seven and the Sens additional game breakers will be the difference. But I wouldn't be the least bit surprised to see the series go the other way.
Bonus prediction: the Sens will need to utilize their additional depth when Havlat is suspended for:
- kicking (5-3 odds)
- biting (8-1 odds)
- surprise chair-shot on Thomas Vanek during the pre-game skate (50-1 odds)
- distracting Mick McGeough while Jimmy "mouth of the south" Hart ties an unsuspecting Ryan Miller's skate laces together during OT (100-1 odds)
- careless use of his stick resulting in some poor sabre getting whittled like a cheap piece of kindling (even)
Ahhhhh, Mike. Never let a moment pass to take a poke at the Nation's Capital (it may be the land that fun forgot, my friend, but it's no Buffalo).
Hockeywise, I don't think these cities are that evenly matched either. The season series is tight, but the all but one of the games that Buffalo won came later in the year when the Sens didn't have a full lineup.
If you look at earlier in the year when Ottawa had everyone playing there's just one shootout win and some pretty ugly blowouts:
Oct. 8: at Senators 5, Sabres 0
Nov. 2: Senators 10, at Sabres 4
Nov. 12: at Senators 6, Sabres 1
Feb. 4: at Sabres 2, Senators 1 (SO)
Mar. 18: at Senators 4, Sabres 2
Mar. 24: Senators 3, at Sabres 1
Apr. 5: at Sabres 5, Senators 4 (OT)
Apr. 8: Sabres 6, at Senators 2
Of course, we throw all of that out now and have to focus on what's new.
In my opinion, this has the potential to be one of the most exciting, high-scoring, hard hitting and fast-skating series of the second round if not the whole playoffs. That said, I don't think ANYONE can gun with Ottawa (as you said Mike, there's just too much skill). I know my opinion counts less because I'm a fan, but I'm voting for Beaver Tails and Manx brunch over chicken wings and urban blight.
Sens in six.
Well, I can't say I've had the pleasure (?) of ever visiting Buffalo, and since Ottawa has been my home for nearly the past 17 years, you have to figure I like it here. So I'll skip the burg-bashing in which my friend from the Centre of the Universe indulged (OK, that might have been a slight diss right there) and stick to hockey.
After all that, Mike, I pretty much agree with you. The speedy Sabres proved to me with their domination of the slow-footed Flyers they have what it takes to be a force in these playoffs. Ryan Miller has been solid in goal and with the likes of Briere and Dumont up front, Buffalo can put the puck in the net too.
Still, Ray Emery demonstrated he's no slouch between the pipes either, and Martin Havlat might be the most explosive player in this little Stanley Cup tourney.
I think this will be a very tight, fast-paced, entertaining series that the Senators will ultimately win because they have just a bit more depth and a stronger blueline.
It could take seven, but I'm going with Ottawa.
Carolina vs. New Jersey
Could the Devils have had an easier time dispatching the rangers in the first round? After watching much of that series, thanks to OLN, I have a feeling the Albany River Rats could have beaten Jagr and his mates in four straight.
Even though the Devils are on a roll (what is it, 15 straight now?) I think their win over the rangers was more indicative of a crappy, injured, Rangers club than it was of an emerging, dominant team from the Meadowlands.
Carolina bounced back nicely against the Habs, winning four straight to bring a close to that series (and proving that my brain was smarter than my gut for a change).
So what's going to happen when these two teams collide? A lot of close 2-1 or 3-2 games.
You could flip on a coin on this one, but I'm going to go out on a limb and say Canes in six.
Bonus Prediction: All but one game in this series will go into overtime.
I see a re-run of the Eastern conference final of a few years back.
Sure the Rangers blew up, but the 'Canes were doing the same thing until they put Cam Ward in net. Read that sentence again. Does anyone think that Cam Ward is better than Marty Brodeur? (You in the back with your hand up, you're LYING!...Oh, sorry Mrs. Ward.)
The question then becomes: How long can he keep it going? Or, perhaps more importantly, is the team in front of him good enough to stay alive with a rookie backstop.My answers are, "Not long enough" and "No."
Jersey in seven.
Keith, I couldn't agree with you more.
Carolina rebounded to get past the Habs, thanks in no small part to Saku Koivu's injury and the suddenly white-hot Cam Ward. But no matter how much you argue the Rangers sucked (and boy, did they ever) against the Devils, that 15-game winning streak is no mirage. (It's not like they played the Rangers all 15 times.)
Cam Ward has been a great story, no question. But Marty Brodeur was winning Cups when the 22-year-old Ward was still probably playing with Power Rangers, not against New York Rangers.
Brodeur's experience makes all the difference in this series.
Devils in six.
Colorado – Anaheim
Out in the west, I wish the series were reversed. Maybe I'm underestimating or undervaluing the Ducks, maybe I'm getting ahead of myself, but it seems to me San Jose - Edmonton should be the conference finals.
I'm still stunned that Colorado beat Dallas. I watched a fair bit of that series and it seemed the outcome had far more to do with Dallas shooting themselves in the foot (repeatedly) and the bounces going Colorado's way than with Colorado running away with it. Afterall, three of Colorado's four wins came in overtime.
Meanwhile, Anaheim looked very solid against the Flames - even though that series went the full seven.
I think Anaheim may have a bit of rust/bruises on them in game 1 but they'll prevail over the course of the series.
I like the Ducks in 6.
I would have written this before I game 1 (really!) but now that the duck's mauling of the Avalanche has happened, I feel even more confident about it.
The Ducks are going to dismantle these guys.
Theodore's been average at best and Dallas played terrible, TERRIBLE hockey in the first round. Anaheim has been playing tight, disciplined smart hockey over the last couple of weeks. I made a mistake in underestimating the Ducks in the last round, I won't again.
Anaheim in five.
It seems my gut feeling about the Ducks in the last series was right on the money after all. They played Calgary's game better in Game 7 than Calgary, frustrating the offensively challenged Flames and generating scoring chances with their own strong forechecking.
Neidermayer and Selanne led the way, but got plenty of help from their friends, in particular that Russian goaltender whose name I can't pronounce.
Even before last night's opener, I figured there was no reason why they couldn't do it again against Colorado. The Avalanche looked great against a listless Dallas team, but Randy Carlyle has his Ducks playing with a take-no-prisoners attitude that was good enough to beat the ultimate playoff-style team and will be more than good enough to beat the Avs.
Sakic, Blake, etc. might have enough heart to cajole a couple of wins out of their team, but Anaheim will prevail.
Ducks in six.