It's time for my annual playoff picks. Sometimes, it works out well, like when I suggested Anaheim, Carolina and the Rangers (who took the Caps to Game Seven) were the three low seeds best-equipped for an upset in Round One last year.
Sometimes it goes less than ideally, like when I said Boston and San Jose would meet for the Stanley Cup last year; that didn't turn out nearly as good as touting rising star Johan Franzen for the Red Wings in 2008.
I offer the good and bad of recent seasons, with the understanding that this year's playoff picks will most likely include some of each.
For even more detailed breakdowns heading into the postseason, there's a whole list of goodies to check out:
NHL Power Rankings - You'll have some idea how good I think a team is based on their finish here.
NHL Player Rankings - Not geared to the NHL playoffs, but a position-by-position breakdown of the league's best.
The Playoff Payoff - A more detailed stats breakdown, with strategy, likely line combinations and deep sleepers for each team.
Fantasy Hockey Report - Western Conference Playoff Preview - Includes players to target and avoid.
Fantasy Hockey Report - Eastern Conference Playoff Preview - A lot like the Western Conference version, but for teams in the East.
You can also follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen
Without further ado, here are my picks for the 2009-2010 NHL Playoffs:
Round One Winners: Washington, New Jersey, Pittsburgh, Boston, San Jose, Chicago, Vancouver, Detroit.
Since no one considers the fifth-seeded Red Wings underdogs to fourth-seeded Phoenix, the only 'dog I'm going with in the first round is Boston, with the Sabres battling injuries up front and Bruins rookie Tuukka Rask helping to negate the advantage that Vezina favourite Ryan Miller often gives the Sabres in goal.
Aside from Boston, best-equipped to pull off an upset (among 6, 7, 8 seeds): Los Angeles, Nashville.
Final Four: Washington, Pittsburgh, Detroit, Vancouver
Final: Detroit over Washington
The Capitals have been the league's best team for a good portion of the season and I'm inclined to pick them but, strangely enough, I'm less confident in their goaltending than I am in Detroit's with rookie Jimmy Howard. Of course, going into the playoffs last year, I didn't feel great about Marc-Andre Fleury or Chris Osgood and we saw how that turned out.
Given those picks, this is my quick cheatsheet for a playoff pool, with 150 skaters and 17 goaltenders ranked. You'll note that players aren't necessarily ranked in an order that exactly corresponds with their point projection, as potential sometimes moves players up further.
For example, I have the Blackhawks losing in the second round this year, but I still find Patrick Kane more valuable than a secondary scorer like Ryan Kesler or Tomas Fleischmann -- players on teams that I expect to advance further in the postseason.
I'll be chatting Tuesday afternoon on TSN.ca so jump on and I'll get to as many questions as I can as we get ready for this year's Cup run.
With the disclaimers out of the way, here are my NHL playoff pool picks for 2010:
Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@ctv.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen.