Puck Daddy - NHL

(Ed. Note: To those waiting for the Coyotes/Red Wings preview, it'll be up before faceoff. Busy, busy day.)

No one tell Michael Buble about Draper's kid. Let's see where this thing goes ...

Prediction time. The Puck Daddy staff has been crunching numbers, comparing notes, pounding beers, considering all the options, holding Blades of Steel tournaments, using complicated algorithms, watching Leahy play with his Mario dolls, and using our incomparable analytical skills to develop prognostications for the first round and the final round of the 2010 Stanley Cup playoffs.

Please note that no less that two PD staffers picked the Canucks for the Cup and one believes the San Jose Sharks will finally break through and take it all. Also note that one staffer is picking a titanic upset in a 2-vs.-7 series that isn't Jersey and the Flyers.

And here ... we ... go.

Greg Wyshynski, editor, Puck Daddy

Washington Capitals in 5
New Jersey Devils in 6
Buffalo Sabres in 7
Pittsburgh Penguins in 6

San Jose Sharks in 5
Chicago Blackhawks in 6
Vancouver Canucks in 7
Detroit Red Wings in 6

Stanley Cup Final: Capitals vs. Canucks
Stanley Cup Champion: Canucks
Conn Smythe: Alex Burrows(notes)

Please recall last fall when I traveled to Vegas for Blogs With Balls 2.0. I had already selected the Vancouver Canucks as my Stanley Cup winner in our preseason prognostications. So I put my money where my mouth is and dropped a whopping 10 dollars on Vancouver to win the Cup at 15-to-1 odds.

That's my wager, and I'm sticking to it. Even if I'm fairly convinced that the Los Angeles Kings are going to upset them in the first round, I can't go against what might just end up being The Greatest Prediction in The History of Puck Daddy Prognostications.

So assuming the Canucks make it through the West, they'll face the Caps out of the East. Yes, this means they'll defeat the Penguins in the semifinals and yes, it means they'll vanquish the Sabres in the conference finals. And yes, that means Ovechkin and Luongo back on the scene of their respective greatest defeat and victory, for the Cup.

Which will be belong to Vancouver. I'd say plan the parade but ... well.

Sean Leahy, associate editor, Puck Daddy

Capitals in 6
Devils in 4
Sabres in 4
Penguins in 5

Sharks in 5
Blackhawks in 7
Canucks in 6
Red Wings in 7

Stanley Cup Finals: New Jersey v. Vancouver Canucks
Stanley Cup champion: Canucks
Conn Smythe: Henrik Sedin(notes)

This will be Ilya Kovalchuk's(notes) postseason. Jacques Lemaire will find the right fit for him in the Devils' lineup and behind his production and Martin Brodeur(notes) erasing last year's disappointment from his memory, New Jersey will return to the Stanley Cup Finals.

As for Vancouver, they'll get all the right match-ups en route to the Cup. The Sedins will go point crazy and Roberto Luongo(notes) will end his hockey season by adding the Cup to his mantle next to the Olympic gold medal.

Dmitry Chesnokov, featured writer, Puck Daddy 

Capitals in 5
Devils in 7
Buffalo in 6
Penguins in 6

Sharks in 5
Blackhawks in 4
Kings in 7
Red Wings in 6

Stanley Cup Final:
Detroit vs. Washington
Stanley Cup Winner: Detroit
Conn Smythe: Pavel Datsyuk(notes)

Washington has been playing consistent, winning hockey throughout the season. What they learned from last season is that you cannot take your foot off the pedal even when you know you have made the playoffs a month before the end of the regular season. And that's exactly what the Capitals did. The team has the experience now to go all the way to the Cup Finals, that is if they beat their bogey team - the Penguins - on the way there.

A few months ago most people were writing the Red Wings off. Long postseasons in the last two years sure took its toll on the Wings and fatigue, as much as anything, caused all those injury problems. But it has been a different team in the post-Olympics NHL. Goaltending was questioned in the last two years as the Red Wings' weak point. But the

Red Wings don't need great goaltending to win. They also have the experience of winning cups. That's what is going to carry them to the promised land. And Pavel Datsyuk, the player who grinded for the team when they needed him most this season, will come through in the finals.

Ryan Lambert, columnist, Puck Daddy

Capitals in 5
Devils in 6
Bruins in 5
Penguins in 4

Sharks in 7
Blackhawks in 5
Canucks in 5
Red Wings in 7

Stanley Cup Finals: Devils vs. Blackhawks
Stanley Cup champion: Blackhawks
Conn Smythe: Jonathan Toews(notes)

Put a goaltender like Roberto Luongo or Miikka Kiprusoff(notes) on the Blackhawks and they are pretty easy Cup picks, right? All season long, there was one question mark for the team, and that goaltending. For good reason. Cristobal Huet(notes) played 48 games for them this year and posted a .250/.895 line. Terrible. But Antti Niemi is a very good goalie (2.25/.912) and he's playing out of his mind right now.  In his last seven games of the season, he posted a 1.97 GAA, a .927 save percentage and won all but once (his only loss was 3-2 in overtime to Detroit). 

And call them inexperienced if you want, but six of them played in the Olympics, and four in the gold medal game. They know big-pressure situations.

Darryl "Dobber" Dobbs, Fantasy Hockey Columnist

Capitals in 5
Devils in 7
Sabres in 4
Penguins in 5

Sharks in 4
Predators in 7
Canucks in 6
Red Wings in 7

Stanley Cup Finals: Penguins vs. Canucks
Stanley Cup champion: Pittsburgh Penguins
Conn Smythe: Sidney Crosby(notes)

The real Stanley Cup Final will happen with Pittsburgh meets the Caps. The winner will end up "the" Winner. I like Pittsburgh in that one due to experience and their two-way ability, although the Caps have absolutely owned them all season long.

Still, in hockey pools you have to hitch your wagon to one or the other -- you can half-ass it by picking from both. So I'll hitch my wagon to the Pens (according to my coin flip). My favorite Cinderella team is Nashville due to four lines of players who could score 40-60 points, blueliners who are the envy of the league, and a Top 10 goaltender. I also like Phoenix and that series against Detroit was the toughest one to call.

Matt Romig, Yahoo! Sports NHL Fantasy Writer

Capitals in 6
Devils in 6
Bruins in 7
Penguins in 7

Sharks in 5
Blackhawks in 6
Canucks in 5
Red Wings in 6

Stanley Cup Finals: San Jose Sharks vs. Pittsburgh Penguins
Stanley Cup Champions: San Jose Sharks

Conn Smythe: Patrick Marleau(notes)

OK, you've got a defending conference champion coming off a disappointing playoff finish. You've got a model franchise that can't seem to get over the hump in the postseason. You've got leadership issues, as people begin to question whether a long-time captain is really equipped for the role. The San Jose Sharks? Sure, those statements apply to present-day Northern California, but back in 2006-07 this was the state of the Ottawa Senators, still stinging after a second-round loss to Buffalo the previous season.

When I think of San Jose's travails, I can't help but draw parallels with that Ottawa team that reached the finals. Both are perennial playoff teams (Ottawa's 2006-07 playoff run was its 10th straight; San Jose is making its sixth consecutive trip to the postseason). Both continually underachieved, with years of postseason hype resulting in a lone failed trip to the conference finals for each. In Ottawa, Daniel Alfredsson(notes) was under fire as late as November of 2006 when the team was in a funk. San Jose did strip Patrick Marleau of his captaincy, yes, but after some awkward moments in the offseason, he remained a fan favorite and led the team in goals with 44.

My point, if you're still with me, is that there is a way out of this postseason-choker abyss (a debatable label to begin with, and yes I am aware that Ottawa ultimately lost in the finals), and it doesn't have to involve a complete regime change or a top-to-bottom roster overhaul.

The Sharks didn't coast at the end of the regular season this year (8-1-1 in last 10). They're not facing a red-hot, veteran team in the conference quarterfinals (that could come in the semis -- Detroit, yikes). Dany Heatley(notes) is a bona-fide sniper the team has lacked in the past and these 2009-10 Sharks are getting an energy boost down the stretch from young guys like Logan Couture(notes) and Jamie McGinn(notes), not leaning on well-past-prime veterans like Jeremy Roenick(notes) for an adrenaline shot. Santa Clara St. in mid-June? Lovely place for a parade.

Scott Pianowski, Yahoo! Sports NHL Fantasy Writer

Capitals in 4
Devils in 7
Bruins in 7
Penguins in 6

Sharks in 5
Blackhawks in 6
Kings in 6
Red Wings in 7

Stanley Cup Finals: Washington Capitals vs. Chicago Blackhawks
Stanley Cup Champion: Washington Capitals
Conn Smythe: Alex Ovechkin(notes), like everyone else. But keep an eye on Alexander Semin(notes).

Everything points Washington's way - they've got the best power play in the League (by far), a massive home-ice advantage, a hot goalie, and oh yeah, the best player in the world. Last spring was the grow-up season; this year they're the obvious favorite and they know it. 

Chicago's probably a year behind Washington on the learning curve but this is a roster that should win 1-2 Cups over the next decade, assuming the Hawks can keep the core together. You can make a case for several champions in the Western Conference, but I still like Chicago's skater depth 1 to 18, even if Brian Campbell(notes) isn't 100 percent.

San Jose? Evgeni Nabokov(notes) doesn't have a "steal you a series" resume. Vancouver? Roberto Luongo has been a mess since the Olympic break. Detroit? Ticklish pick, but is Jimmy Howard(notes) ready for his close-up? 

Time to throw the razor away. The best time of the year is upon us.

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