Who will win the
April 2008 By James Mirtle
Conventional wisdom says the NHL playoffs these days are the home of
upsets and Cinderella stories, but the cold, hard facts state
Itís the favorites that win out in the end, more often than not.
Consider that, since the New Jersey Devilsí unlikely win in 1995, no
team has won the Stanley Cup after finishing lower than third in its
Getting home-ice advantage, if only in the first round, matters, and
not falling into the dead zone of a 4-5 matchup does, too. Itís a
long two months through four playoff rounds, and having an easy
series or two sets the stage for a big finish.
Long the class of the league, the Detroit Red Wings will win yet
another Presidentsí Trophy this year as the top regular-season team,
making them a solid bet to go deep into the postseason. Detroit
leads the league in goals for and against, has more secondary
scoring than last season and is getting healthy in time for April.
Also in line as one of this yearís top teams, the defending champion
Anaheim Ducks have put up a big-time season despite missing Scott
Niedermayer and Teemu Selanne for half the year. Theyíve gone
28-11-4 since getting Niedermayer back in the lineup in mid-December
and have essentially the same cast as last yearís group. The
additions of Mathieu Schneider, Todd Bertuzzi and Doug Weight also
Next in line are the San Jose Sharks, who have been second to only
Detroit in terms of goals against this season. Netminder Evgeni
Nabokov has had a Vezina Trophy-worthy season and the trade for
Brian Campbell filled a huge hole on the back end. San Jose hasnít
lost a game in regulation in over a month (14-0-1), and is the NHLís
hottest team heading into the playoffs.
Another hot team that has ridden a high-flying offence to the top of
the Eastern Conference is the Pittsburgh Penguins, a club with
incredible star power in Sidney Crosby and Hart Trophy candidate
Evgeni Malkin. If Crosbyís healthy and the team gets decent
netminding, the Penguins could easily be the class of the conference
and give a Western Conference finalist a run for their money.