Pickin' The Winners: Burnside
Wednesday, 04.7.2004 / 5:11 PM ET / News
Toronto Maple Leafs
Scott Burnside couldn't let the Duffer have all the fun so he decided to make his prediction for the first round too.
|Series: Leafs vs. Senators
Crystal Ball: Leafs in 6
X-Factor: any Ottawa fans actually be in attendance for games at the Corel Centre?
Leafs Top Scorer: Gary Roberts
Senators Top Scorer: Daniel Alfredsson
Series MVP: Ed Belfour
Snapshot: Gee, I think goaltending will be critical in this series? Patrick Lalime saw his win totals plummet from 39 to 25 this season and his .905 save percentage is only just ordinary. With a bad knee and Ottawa fans already doing the angst dance, Lalime will have to be strong mentally to keep the Sens in this. I say here that Belfour plays him into the ground.
|Series: Lightning vs. Islanders
Crystal Ball: Lightning in 5
X-Factor: How do the Lightning handle being big-time favourites for the first time?
Lightning Top Scorer: Vincent Lecavalier
Islanders Top Scorer: Alexei Yashin
Series MVP: Lecavalier
Snapshot: Coach John Tortorella may be the most underrated coach in the NHL and has kept just enough pressure on his young, talented team to ensure there's no letdown come playoffs. The Islanders don't have the horses to keep up and unless Rick DiPietro borrows J.S. Giguere's jersey this spring, this one will be over quickly.
|Series: Bruins vs. Canadiens
Crystal Ball: Canadiens in 7
X-Factor: Andrew Raycroft wakes up and suddenly realizes he's in the NHL playoffs.
Canadiens Top Scorer: Michael Ryder
Bruins Top Scorer: Glen Murray
Series MVP: Jose Theodore
Snapshot: Bruins captain Joe Thornton enters the post-season on the limp and with an unimpressive string of playoff performances behind him. The Canadiens seemed to run out of gas down the stretch but Theodore has a way of topping up the tank when the Habs need it most. As for Raycroft, this will be lesson 1 on the playoff learning curve. Look for Alexei Kovalev to finally emerge from his season-long coma.
|Series: Flyers versus Devils
Crystal Ball: Flyers in 6
X-Factor: When do the Flyers' goaltending heebie-jeebies kick in?
Flyers Top Scorer: Alexei Zhamnov
Devils Top Scorer: Scott Niedermayer
Series MVP: Robert Esche
Snapshot: Esche will need to be good early on to keep the fans and media waiting for another Flyers goaltending meltdown at bay. The Flyers have too much up front for the Devils to handle without Scott Stevens' help. The Devils are asking an awful lot of rookies Paul Martin and David Hale and Brian Rafalski just back from a broken leg. Too much. Sorry champs, the Cup defense ends early.
|Series: Red Wings versus Predators
Crystal Ball: Wings in 6
X-Factor: When do the Predators realize it's midnight and their playoff dreams abruptly turn into pumpkins?
Red Wings Top Scorer: Steve Yzerman
Predators Top Scorer: Steve Sullivan
Series MVP: Nik Lidstrom
Snapshot: Oh, we wanted to pick the Predators. Really we did. But they aren't the Anaheim Mighty Ducks and that first-round crumble couldn't happen twice in a row to the Red Wings. Could it? Even with a circus-like atmosphere surrounding the Wings goaltending they will be too much for a dedicated if undersized Predators team that has played the Wings tough all year. It won't be easy but it will be.
|Series: Sharks versus Blues
Crystal Ball: Sharks in 6
X-Factor: When does Chris Pronger lose his mind and start doing his Jack Nicholson in The Shining impersonation, spending big chunks of crucial playoff time in the penalty box?
Sharks Top Scorer: Patrick Marleau
Blues Top Scorer: Keith Tkachuk
Series MVP: Evgeni Nabokov
Snapshot: Why does no one believe that the Sharks and their 104 points are for real? They play better defense than the Blues, they have better goaltending and they work hard every night. The Blues get paid way more and have a longer history of playoff choking (check the combined playoff records of Pronger, Tkachuk and Doug Weight, how many Stanley Cup rings? How many berths in the final? Zero.) Plus any team with Alyn McCauley aboard deserves some good fortune. Enough said.
|Series: Canucks versus Flames
Crystal Ball: Canucks in 7
X-Factor: The Canucks finally exorcise the Bertuzzi demon from their locker room.
Canucks Top Scorer: Markus Naslund
Flames Top Scorer: Jarome Iginla
Series MVP: Ed Jovanovski
Snapshot: Many are leaning towards a Flame upset in this one but the Canucks showed great spunk down the stretch, ending Colorado's division championship run at nine years. Bertuzzi wasn't the force he was last season so his absence won't be as crucial as many expect. Jovanovski, just back from a shoulder injury, is the key to the Canucks playoff run, especially against a physical, gritty Flames team. He should help a slumbering power play unit.
|Series: Avalanche versus Stars
Crystal Ball: Stars in 7
X-Factor: Tony Granato gets out-coached and for the second straight year a more talented Avalanche team is sidelined in the first round.
Stars Top Scorer: Mike Modano
Avalanshe Top Scorer: Joe Sakic
Series MVP: Marty Turco
Snapshot: The Stars are slowly returning to health which makes them a huge threat in the west. They'll need Jason Arnott to return to his stellar form of the regular season and Teppo Numminen to bounce back from heart concerns but they have put behind them a miserable start to resemble the Stars of 1999 and 2000. The Avalanche remain a gifted, speedy team up front but may have done too much tinkering on the back end. Still, this series will begin and end in the respective nets. Turco's got the goods. David Aebischer? Not yet.