In the history of recorded time, only five things have been proven to be better than the first round of the NHL playoffs:
1. The minute you leave your in-laws’ home (because that will be the longest you’re away from them until the next time you have to visit).
2. PVR/Tivo technology.
3. The Wire.
4. Air conditioning.
5. Elle MacPherson.
Other than those godsends, absolutely nothing – especially pundit predictions for the first post-season round – can top the NHL’s first post-season round.
Keep that in mind as you peruse Screen Shots’ guarantee-free picks for the opening eight series of the 2010 playoffs.
Washington (1) vs. Montreal (8)
What Should Happen: The Capitals’ high-octane offense sweeps over the Canadiens like The Smoke Monster from Lost and makes short work of Montreal.
What Could (But Probably Won’t) Happen: Habs goalie Jaroslav Halak pulls a Brian Boucher circa 2003-04 and adds to Alex Ovechkin’s most tumultuous pro season with a stunning upset of Washington.
What Will Happen: Montreal won’t completely fold, but after the Caps drop the equivalent of 1,000 thunderous right hooks on them, they’ll be begging for a left.
My Pick: Capitals in five.
New Jersey (2) vs. Philadelphia (7)
What Should Happen: The goalie-challenged Flyers surrender between six and eight goals per game and lose by a margin of between five and seven goals per game.
What Could (But Probably Won’t) Happen: Flyers goalie Brian Boucher pulls a Brian Boucher circa 2003-04 and completely outshines New Jersey’s Martin Brodeur.
What Will Happen: The Flyers continue their regular season domination (5-1 against the Devils this year) and, in a hard-fought series, eke out a narrow decision over New Jersey.
My Pick: Flyers in seven.
Buffalo (3) vs. Boston (6)
What Should Happen: Sabres netminder extraordinaire Ryan Miller demonstrates the form that made me vote for him as the league’s most valuable player this year.
What Could (But Probably Won’t) Happen: Boston’s Tuukka Rask outplays Miller in goal, Buffalo’s forwards top their Bruins counterparts in the underachieving department and Daniel Paille makes former boss Darcy Regier regret consummating the first ever Sabres-Bruins trade.
What Will Happen: The Bruins continue to experience power outages on offense, the Sabres continue to rely on Miller’s brilliance more than they ought to and the Sabres continue on in their playoff quest.
My Pick: Sabres in six.
Pittsburgh (4) vs. Ottawa (5)
What Should Happen: In their third consecutive opening round matchup against the defending-champion Penguins, the Senators get their second straight arse-whoopin’ at the hands of sublime talents Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
What Could (But Probably Won’t) Happen: Malkin’s health issues bubble up early in the series, limiting his effectiveness and allowing Ottawa to focus solely on limiting Crosby’s effectiveness.
What Will Happen: The absences of veterans Filip Kuba and Alex Kovalev are too much for the Sens to bear – and although they’ll get admirable contributions from Daniel Alfredsson and playoff newbie Brian Elliott, they won’t have the ponies to run with Pittsburgh’s award-winning thoroughbreds.
My Pick: Penguins in six.
San Jose (1) vs. Colorado (8)
What Should Happen: Knowing GM Doug Wilson could make major roster renovations if San Jose doesn’t at least reach the Western Conference final, the Sharks acknowledge it’s business time and take full advantage of an Avalanche team that blew through most of their artillery just to get to the post-season.
What Could (But Probably Won’t) Happen: Evgeni Nabokov soils every bed sheet placed before him, Joe Thornton uses the non-soiled bed sheets to make himself invisible and Colorado adds another improbable achievement to its long list of unexpected wins this year.
What Will Happen: Sharks sniper Dany Heatley treats the Avalanche net like his personal frozen rubber depository and Nabokov redeems himself – for this round, anyway – by blanking Colorado at least once.
My Pick: Sharks in five.
Chicago (2) vs. Nashville (7)
What Should Happen: Fueled by three star forwards – who have no equal on the budget-conscious Predators – the Blackhawks depend on their offense to break through Nashville’s claustrophobic defense.
What Could (But Probably Won’t) Happen: The Preds get a far better showing from Pekka Rinne than the Hawks get from either of their goalies and Nashville wins four games by a combined score of 8-3.
What Will Happen: Despite the best efforts of Shea Weber, Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa give Chicago the wafer-thin edge needed to advance to the second round.
My Pick: Blackhawks in seven.
Vancouver (3) vs. Los Angeles (6)
What Should Happen: The deeper, more experienced Canucks teach the thinner, just-happy-not-to-be-golfing-this-time-of-year Kings how far they have yet to go.
What Could (But Probably Won’t) Happen: Kings players become a group of under-agers visiting a strip club for the first time – i.e. the enthusiasm is there, but there’s not enough capital to stay in the building for very long – and get swept.
What Will Happen: The pressure gets to the increasingly erratic Roberto Luongo and the gallant Sedin Bros., while the Kings put the remaining post-season teams on notice with a gutsy upset.
My Pick: Kings in seven.
Phoenix (4) vs. Detroit (5)
What Should Happen: The white-hot Red Wings show the rosy-cheeked Coyotes what playoff hockey is all about.
What Could (But Probably Won’t) Happen: After Jimmy Howard is possessed by the spirit of Moe Howard, the Yotes deliver a torrent of finger-pokes to the eye en route to a seven-game defeat of Detroit.
What Will Happen: The Wings’ three-headed Hall of Fame hydra (comprised of Nicklas Lidstrom, Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg) uses its remarkably high panic threshold to scorch Phoenix’s impressive-but-still-developing squad.
My Pick: Red Wings in six.
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Adam Proteau, co-author of the book The Top 60 Since 1967, is writer and columnist for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog will appear regularly in the off-season, his Ask Adam feature appears Fridays and his column, Screen Shots, appears Thursdays.
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