Broken Tackle's Blog
The 2007 NHL playoffs kick off Wednesday night, and for the first time in league history, don't include last year's Stanley Cup Finals participants, as the Oilers and Hurricanes both came up short of post-season berths.

Over the next two days, we'll be ranking the 16 playoff teams in the order by which they'll be eliminated from this year's playoffs. Today we start with the 8 teams getting eliminated in Round 1, tomorrow will be the final 8 teams up to the Stanley Cup champions.

So break out your dead octopi and start growing your playoff beard, it's Stanley Cup time!

16. New York Islanders (eliminated by Sabres in 4): Congratulations to the Islanders on scratching and clawing your way into the playoffs, now enjoy getting decimated by the Sabres. It is hard not to cheer for the Islanders in this series. They're coached by former spurned Sabres coach Ted Nolan, they had to run the table in their final four games to reach the playoffs, they're lead by Oilers cast-off Ryan Smyth and due to injury, their starting goalie is Wade Dubielewicz, a minor league call up who answers to the nickname "Doobie" and has Yoda painted on his mask. The Islanders physicality might allow them to steal a game at home, but beyond that, the Sabres' speed and depth is way too much to overcome.

15. Minnesota Wild (eliminated by Ducks in 5): Coach Jacques Lemaire knows how to slow down speedy opponents and the Ducks could play right into his hands with their wide-open offense. Unfortunately Lemaire's Wild team just doesn't have the talent to hang with Anaheim for too long. The Minnesota offense is too dependent on Martin Gaborik, and he can most likely be neutralized by the Ducks' physical defensemen. Replacement goalie Niklas Backstrom will keep most games close, but the Wild will not be able to generate enough offense to fulfill Lemaire's strategy.

14. Tampa Bay Lightning (eliminated by Devils in 6): The Lightning boast one of the league's top lines, with NHL leading-scorer Vincent LaCavalier, Martin St. Louis and Brad Richards; the three stars of Tampa Bay's '04 Stanley Cup victory. Unfortunately, it's quite a drop-off in talent after those three, most of the rest of the team struggled to really score or defend all season. Goalie Johan Holmqvist showed some flashes this year, but he's inconsistent and has no previous playoff experience. Meanwhile, you get the sense that Marty Brodeur knows he has limited chances left to win his fourth Stanley Cup title. The Devils trademark pressure defense will limit any chances for Tampa Bay beyond their first line, and Brodeur should shut them down effectively enough for New Jersey to lose no more than a game or two.

13. San Jose Sharks (eliminated by Predators in 6): The Sharks have a little bit of history against them this year. This is the third time in the past decade that they enter a playoff re-match in back-to-back years. The last two times, they won the first series and then fell in the ensuing series. Nashville reminds us an awful lot of last year's Hurricanes squad, led by veteran free agent veterans Paul Kariya and Peter Forsberg mixed with young stars Alexander Radulov and David Legwand. They even have an unheralded backup goalie, Chris Mason, set to fill in for the hobbled starter, Tomas Vokoun. The Sharks will need big scoring days from Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton to compete.

12. Pittsburgh Penguins (eliminated by Senators in 6): Don't get it twisted, if David Stern was running the NHL, Sidney Crosby and the Penguins would be making a run to at least the Eastern Conference Finals. But with Gary Bettman in charge, the young megastar and his talented prodigy teammates (Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal) are likely to fall in the first round to the deeper and more experienced team from Ottawa. If the Penguins are to make a run, they'll need some major production from their playoff neophyte goalie, Marc-Andre Fleury.

11. Vancouver Canucks (eliminated by Stars in 6): This will likely be the lowest scoring series in the entire playoffs, as both teams have struggled to put the puck in the net late in the year. Dallas has been beset by injuries, and is trying to shake the "choker" label of veteran goalie Marty Turco and forward Eric Lindros. Luckily for Lindros, he isn't asked to carry this team, but Turco will be the focal point night-in-and-night-out. The Stars have a favorable draw here, even as the lower seed, as the Canucks feature a green goalie in Robert Luongo. Even though Luongo played lights-out much of the season, this is his first playoff appearance and the Canucks don't have enough scoring options to cover his ass.

10. Calgary Flames (eliminated by Red Wings in 7): It could be deja vu for Detroit, once again entering the playoffs as the #1 seed in the West only to face a tough, physical, well-coached #8 seed in the first round. Last year the Wings were eliminated by the eventual Western Conference champion Oilers. It's tempting to say they fall again to the Flames, but Detroit bulked up and hardened in the off-season to prepare for just such a series. Dominik Hasek vs. Mikka Kiprusoff is probably the best goalie match-up of the first round. Unfortunately for Calgary, it's hard to imagine where their scoring will come from outside of Jarome Iginla.

9. Atlanta Thrashers (eliminated by Rangers in 7): The Thrashers and Rangers are two very similar teams: solid, veteran forwards; unheralded defenders; inexperienced goalies. Give the edge to the Rangers in the defensive department in this series, and that will likely be the difference. We also like the fact that Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist has at least one season of playoff experience under his belt. Look for big games from Rangers forwards Sean Avery and Martin Straka to overcome the Thrashers explosiveness of Ilya Kovalchuk and Keith Tkachuk. By the way, even though we expect the Rangers to win, we are cheering for the Thrashers in these playoffs simply on the basis that not only is Lil' Jon a fan, he actually has a blog dedicated to the team.

2nd round, Conference Finals and Stanley Cup Finals coming tomorrow!


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