Here we are again, the unbridled bliss that is the Stanley Cup playoffs. For the next two months, Canadians and a minority of Americans will be glued to their televisions, taking in more of this nation's favourite sport than deemed healthy. As two "unhealthy" individuals, we feel it necessary to tell you what we think will transpire.
Dallas Stars (1) vs. Edmonton Oilers (8)
Rothbauer: Stars in six, Bailey: Oilers in seven
One of only two first-round match ups where we disagree.
Bailey is a lifelong Oilers fan, possibly clouding his vision, however he feels the speed and tempo of the Oilers forwards, coupled with key injuries to Guerin, Turgeon and Boucher will tip the scales in Edmonton's favour.
Rothbauer downplays the loss of Boucher, pointing out that the Stars' top four is still great. He also feels Turco is a superior goalie, and will continue his record-breaking regular season play into the postseason.
Detroit Red Wings (2) vs. Mighty Ducks of Anaheim (7)
Rothbauer: Wings in four, Bailey: Wings in four
We're both calling a sweep and there's a reason for that. It's the defending Stanley Cup champs against a team of primarily untested kids. The scoring punch of Kariya-Oates-Sykora is the Ducks' only threat and the Wings' roster reads like a Hall of Fame ballot. Forget about it!
Colorado Avalanche (3) vs. Minnesota Wild (6)
Rothbauer: Avs in four, Bailey: Avs in five
While Jacques Lemaire is a top-notch tactician, it doesn't matter if it's Tony Granato or George W. Bush behind the Avs bench; the talent differential is staggering. Even if both of the Wild's goaltenders played all game, every game, they'd be hard-pressed to take more than a game or two.
Vancouver Canucks (4) vs. St. Louis Blues (5)
Rothbauer: Blues in six, Bailey: Blues in six
Chris Osgood, though suspect of late, has won a Stanley Cup. Dan Cloutier has yet to win a series. Granted, Osgood had a damn good Red Wings team in front of him, but the Blues aren't too shabby themselves--and Chris Pronger's return doesn't hurt that at all. It's also quite rare for a team to ride one line to playoff success, something that doesn't bode well for 'Nucks fans.
Ottawa Senators (1) vs. New York Islanders (8)
Bailey: Sens in four, Rothbauer: Sens in four
This year, the Sens are the real deal. Key additions like Vaclav Varada and Bryan Smolinski add depth while the recent emergence of Jason Spezza gives Ottawa another weapon in their vaunted arsenal. The Isles on the other hand are short Roman Hamrlik and Adrian Aucoin to open the series and may be too busy fighting each other to put up a fight on the ice. And Garth Snow is their starting goalie. Bombs away.
New Jersey Devils (2) vs. Boston Bruins (7)
Bailey: Bruins in six, Rothbauer: Devils in six
Okay, for the record, Mr. Bailey can't really justify this one. It is, above all else, a gut instinct kind of thing. He hasn't been impressed with the Devils all year, especially their heavy reliance on Martin Brodeur. The Devils have an abysmal record when surrendering three or more goals, and the Bruins are built to score.
Rothbauer is chalking this one up to experience. Brodeur is one of the best goalies in the league, possibly NHL history. A two-time Stanley Cup champ, a gold-medalist in Salt Lake 2002, what's not to like? Factor in their veteran playoff warriors and it's a lineup not to be overlooked.
Tampa Bay Lighning (3) vs. Washington Capitals (6)
Bailey: Tampa in six, Rothbauer: Tampa in six
This will be the most offensive, and possibly most interesting, first round match up. In spite of the great goaltending match up, Khabibulin vs. Kolzig, these two have appalling defensive corps when compared to the opposing team's forwards. The Lightning are the only NHL team with four 70-point men, plus an unsung 53-point D-man in Dan Boyle. On the other end, names like Jagr, Bondra and Gonchar instill fear in any opposing 'tender.
Philadelphia Flyers (4) vs. Toronto Maple Leafs (5)
Bailey: Leafs in seven, Rothbauer: Leafs in six
This will be a war. It will be vicious, dirty and underhanded. And the Flyers won't be nice either. As much as we hate the dirty Leafs, they'll work well against a softer, injury-prone Flyer lineup. Not that players like Amonte, Roenick, LeClair and Gagne are to be taken lightly, but when you consider their injury history in this season alone, you have the Domis and Tuckers of the world licking their chops. Truth be told, almost any Leaf is ready to goon an opponent, as they've shown in the past. But hey, that's Pat Quinn hockey, and we have our money on it working this time out.
Bailey: Detroit over Edmonton in five, Colorado over Saint Louis in five, Ottawa over Boston in five, Toronto over Tampa Bay in six.
Rothbauer: Dallas over Saint Louis in seven, Colorado over Detroit in seven, Ottawa over Toronto in seven, New Jersey over Tampa Bay in five.
Check the May 15 issue of the Gauntlet for breakdowns of the Conference Finals. Enjoy!