I love Tampa, I’m rooting to see St. Louis in the finals. But I’m not convinced it’ll happen. the East is a conference of question marks. How badly hurt is Joe Thornton? What’s up with Lalime’s knee and Belfour’s back?
If everyone is healthy, I’d call this a four team race: New Jersey, Toronto, Ottawa and Boston, with Tampa as the dark horse. With Brodeur healthy and questions on the other teams, you have to see the Devils as the favorites here — if Philly doesn’t take them our or wear them out. But I don’t think it’ll happen.
Tampa/NY Islanders: we see if Tampa is for real, but the Islanders can’t go deep into these playoffs. Tampa in 5.
Boston/Montreal: this series I’m going to watch, it ought to be mucho fun. If Thornton can play and be close to 100%, it’ll be Boston in 5. If not, I’ll choose Boston in 7. But Montreal should make it interesting.
Philadelphia/New Jersey: I just don’t think Philly can do it. they keep finding ways to not win playoff series, and I still don’t really trust their goaltending (again/still). the devils have some issues (paging Scott Stevens…) — but they have Martin Brodeur. I’ll take Brodeur for 200, please: Devils in 6.
Toronto/Ottawa: the best series in the first round not involving the sharks and us having tickets. These teams are well-matched, playing for bragging rights in canada, and plain and simple, don’t like each other. Both have significant injuries to contend with — but unless Belfour’s back causes problems, I think the Leafs will prevail here. Toronto in 6.