I think any of six teams can make it to the cup finals this year — the West is that strong and well-matched. Should be some great hockey.
As a san jose fan, the teams that worry me most are Dallas (which has had the sharks number all year) and Detroit (because they are, well, detroit). I think all of the playoff teams are capable — but also vulnerable. No team is a lock this year, which makes life interesting.
Detroit/Nashville: Detroit has looked old and tired to me. that makes them only moderately dangerous. They run the risks of injuries and long series. If they can’t knock off Nashville in 4 or 5 games, it’s possible Nashville could take them out, but more likely, they’ll leave enough on the ice in the first round to not survive late into the playoffs. What Detroit needs for success more than anything else is rest. Any teams that deny them that with long, tough games and long, tough series puts Detroit into trouble in later rounds. But Detroit is also capable of handling that and going all the way, too. Detroit in 5.
San Jose/St. Louis: Rather evenly matched. I much prefer Nabokov to Osgood, and I don’t think the blues are as strong a team as they have been (especially without MacInnis). I don’t think it’ll be easy; but I think the blues go out again in the first round, as tradition demands. Sharks in 6.
Vancouver/Calgary: Vancouver should win this series, but without Bertuzzi, it’s been an interesting run. I like Cloutier, but Kiprusoff can simply make the other team irrelevant. If he gets on a roll, watch out. Vancouver in 5, it Kiprusoff doesn’t take the series away from them.
Colorado/Dallas: I’m just not impressed with Colorado, the team chemistry is off. But like Detroit, that only makes them seriously dangerous. Aeberscher is for real, but Turco is a much better goalie, and has something to prove to his teammates to make up for the suspension. I’ll take turco over Sakic and Forsberg. Dallas in 6.
As to who goes out of the West to the finals: my heart say San jose, my head says Detroit, and my thoughts say Dallas will have some serious say in it somewhere.