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NHL playoff preview


NHL playoff preview

Eastern Conference

First round

No. 1 Ottawa

vs. No. 8 N.Y. Islanders

Key matchup: Senators vs. themselves. Aside from Alexei Yashin, the Isles don't scare anyone. The Sens need to guard against overconfidence to avoid their history of following flashy seasons with early-round flameouts.

The buzz: The Sens have been smart this season, adding tough-guy role players to complement an extremely talented team. Senators in 6.

No. 2 New Jersey

vs. No. 7 Boston

Key matchup: Boston's forwards vs. Devils G Martin Brodeur. With a revolving door in net (Jeff Hackett or Steve Shields? Sounds like having to take a slash to either the neck or the knee), the Bruins' high-powered forwards need to find a way past Brodeur - often. Good luck.

The buzz: Devils' style may bore people to tears, but it's effective, especially in the playoffs. Unless Martin Brodeur decides to nap during games, this looks like a succession of 2-1 Devils wins. Devils in 5.

No. 3 Tampa Bay

vs. No. 6 Washington

Key matchup: Caps' power play vs. Lightning's penalty kill. The Lightning needs to keep the Capitals' top-notch power play off the ice to move on.

The buzz: The Lightning has little playoff experience, but thanks to home ice, Nikolai Khabibulin and Jaromir Jagr's sore wrist - if that's really his injury - they should win. Lightning in 7.

No. 4 Philadelphia

vs. No. 5 Toronto

Key matchup: Leafs G Ed Belfour vs. Flyers G Roman Cechmanek. Both are certifiably crazy, even by goalie standards.

The buzz: This series will contain hard hits, speedy forwards ground to a halt by holding and hooking, and more whining from each team than should be legal. Doug Gilmour's knee injury has not healed enough for him to be in lineup. Leafs in 6.


Toronto over Ottawa in 7

The buzz: Sens tougher, but have problems with Leafs.

New Jersey over Tampa Bay in 6

The buzz: Brodeur, Devils a little too much for Bolts' inexperience.


New Jersey over Toronto in 7

The buzz: Devils may only have 14 guys able to skate at the end, but they'll win.

Western Conference

First round

No. 1 Dallas

vs. No. 8 Edmonton

Key matchup: Stars' defense vs. Oilers' speed. The Oilers' best chance at an upset remains to skate circles around the Stars and avoid big checks.

The buzz: These teams have a long playoff history, but the Oilers haven't looked the same since the trading deadline. Stars in 5.

No. 2 Detroit

vs. No. 7 Anaheim

Key matchup: Red Wings vs. injury bug. The Ducks are better than most realize, but the Wings' bigger concern is staying healthy for later rounds.

The buzz: The defending champs are deep, healthy and downright scary. Red Wings in 6.

No. 3 Colorado

vs. No. 6 Minnesota

Key matchup: Wild RW Marian Gaborik vs. Avs' top line. The Wild plays stellar defense based on positioning and speed.

The buzz: Minnesota won't go down easily, but Colorado has been insanely good the past three months and has much more talent. Avalanche in 5.

No. 4 Vancouver

vs. No. 5 St. Louis

Key matchup: Canucks' depth vs. Blues' depth. Neither team will be able to slow its opponent's top line.

The buzz: St. Louis at long last appears fully healthy, and with blue-liners Chris Pronger and Al MacInnis together, things will be tough for Vancouver. Blues in 6.


Dallas over St. Louis in 5

The buzz: Series will be closer than this looks, but lack of a quality No. 1 goalie will sink Blues.

Colorado over Detroit in 6

The buzz: Another in a long line of classic series from these teams, but Curtis Joseph is no Dominik Hasek.


Dallas over Colorado in 6

The buzz: Simply put, Patrick Roy will make one too many misplays handling the puck.

Stanley Cup Finals

Dallas over New Jersey in 6

The buzz: Brodeur will steal a couple of wins, but Devils won't be healthy enough to contend with deep Stars.

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