The Canadiens falling short definitely hurts, being that close and not getting in is a tough pill to swallow.
The only comforting thought now is that the good hockey teams and the bad hockey teams have been separated. Now the good teams are ready to pound each other into submission on the quest for the Cup. That makes for great hockey.
There’s no better time for hockey than right now. In the first round of the playoffs there are at least two quality playoff hockey games every single night. With the Leafs not included. What more could you ask for?
Habs Blog Eastern Predictions:
Probably the most intriguing series of the first round is Pittsburgh and Ottawa. The Senators who are perennial favorites but never seem to do anything in the playoffs – go in with a little less pressure on them, but still enough that no success
might will cost the Head Coach and General Manager their jobs.
Add the whole Gary Roberts situation. The Sens criticized for never being gritty or tough enough in the playoffs not only let the Roberts ship sail, but now they have to face him in the first round. Can you imagine a Gary Roberts OT winner in game 1 – in Ottawa?
Don’t forget that Crosby kid either. Do you think there will be any other guy on the ice who wants it more than he does?
Most importantly, goaltending is what wins playoff series. Two unproven, untested goalies will be the deciding factor in this one.
Pittsburgh  Ottawa  – Pittsburgh advance.
Buffalo  New York Islanders  – Buffalo advance.
The Sabres are far too strong for the Islanders. Face it, the Islanders fluked their way into the playoffs. Giving up a goal with less than a second left to clinch your post season? Medicority defined. The Isles defense can’t handle the Sabres. Are Brendan Witt and Sean Hill capable of playing 30+ minutes a game – every game? With no Rick DiPietro (or a concussed one) and the firepower that Buffalo posseses – this shouldn’t last long.
New Jersey  Tampa Bay  – New Jersey advance.
Goaltending wins Championships. It’s been proven year after year. Tampa has a potent offense -or a potent ‘trio’ to be more precise. But their goaltending is not even in the same ball park as Martin Brodeur. In fact their defense cost the Lightning their Division and nearly a post season chance.
New York Rangers  Atlanta  – New York Rangers advance.
This one could go either way. The Thrashers have made the playoffs for the first time in their history. They also win their Division and get home ice. Both teams have very similar road records but you have to think MSG will be the harder building to play in than Atlanta’s. There has never been a playoff game in Atlanta – ever.
A goaltending battle between Kari Lehtonen and Henrik Lundqvist will be great to watch and the one who gets hot early should lead their team to the next round. Jaromir Jagr can still take control of games when he wants too. Neutralizing Jagr will be a tall order for the Thrashers.
The other great thing about the playoffs is that anything can happen. Anything. One goalie, one player, one team can get hot and surprise a lot of people. Get ready.
Eastern Conference Winner: Buffalo Sabres
Sleeper Pick: Pittsburgh Penguins