HabsWorld.net -- 

The start of the 2008-09 playoffs are upon us,
and HabsWorld pundits Matt Gauthier & Norm Szcyrek have put their $0.02 forward
to boldly predict the winners and losers of hockey’s first round of the second

Eastern Conference

* No. 1 Boston vs. No. 8 Montreal
* No. 2 Washington vs. No. 7 N.Y. Rangers
* No. 3 New Jersey vs. No. 6 Carolina
* No. 4 Pittsburgh vs. No. 5 Philadelphia

Western Conference

* No. 1 San Jose vs. No. 8 Anaheim
* No. 2 Detroit vs. No. 7 Columbus
* No. 3 Vancouver vs. No. 6 St. Louis
* No. 4 Chicago vs. No. 5 Calgary

Montreal vs. Boston — Matt
Predicts: Habs in 7; Norm Predicts: Habs in 7

Series Analysis: Matt –
The Canadiens have dominated the Bruins since the playoffs of 2002, when the
Habs rallied around Zednik and Koivu for a huge upset against Boston. This
streak should logically end this year, as the Bruins form an incredibly strong
all-around team. However, in the last game of the regular season between the two
teams, the Habs sent a strong message : even if they trail by 3, they won’t
surrender. Expect a long and exhaustive matchup. Key factor for the Bruins:
Discipline. Unexpected contributor for the Habs: Tom Kostopoulos.

Norm – Another chapter will be filled for this playoff classic. Last
season, the two teams met with the Habs in the #1 slot, and the Bruins at the
#8. It was a fantastic series, with the Canadiens prevailing in 7 games. This
year it’s a role reversal, with the Bruins as the favourites, but the plucky
Habs have tradition (24-7 playoff series vs Boston) and speed on their side. It
will be an extremely close series with the better goaltender leading their team
to the next round.

Washington vs. NY Rangers —
Matt Predicts: Rangers in 6; Norm Predicts: Washington in 7

Series Analysis: Matt –
Forget their not impressive
regular season, the Rangers have a team built for the playoffs. The Rangers own
the Capitals in several aspects that are crucial when comes high-pressure 3rd
period playoffs games: Goaltending, leadership & experience. Expect Avery to
continue his strong NHL return and get Ovie out of his game early on.

Norm – Washington’s
youngsters gained some valuable experience in last year’s playoffs. The Rangers
are much improved since Tortorella took over the reigns and their trade deadline
pickups have all been very helpful. Washington should have an edge with three
former league MVP’s (Fedorov, Theodore, Ovechkin). Look for the Capitals to make
some strides in the post season this time around in this close match.

New Jersey vs. Carolina —
Matt Predicts: Devils in 5; Norm Predicts: Devils in 4

Series Analysis: Norm –
The Devils have a well
rested Martin Brodeur, and a well-oiled machine of a team this season. They are
more than a match for the Hurricanes.

Pittsburgh vs. Philadelphia
— Matt Predicts: Penguins in 7; Norm Predicts: Penguins in 7

Series Analysis: Matt –
This should be a long and
high-scoring series between the 2 Keystone State teams. If you’re playing in a
Fantasy Playoff pool, make sure to take players from either teams. This series
could go either way, but the Malkin-Crosby duo should get the Pens ahead.

Norm – Pittsburgh has
revenge on the mind, for the way they were treated by the Flyers in last year’s
playoffs. The Flyers won’t go down without a fight. Look for a lot of offence in
this series.

San Jose vs Anaheim: Matt
Predicts: Sharks in 6; Norm Predicts: Sharks in 4

Series Analysis: Norm –
The Sharks overall balance
will prevail over the Ducks, despite the nod to Anaheim’s playoff experience.

Detroit vs Columbus — Matt Predicts: Red Wings in 6; Norm
Predicts: Red Wings in 5

Series Analysis: Norm –
The Blue Jackets surprised
many this season to reach the post season for their first time. They have ample
playoff experience in their head coach, but little else in their players. Their
reward will be a single defeat of the Red Wings, who should be highly motivated
to defeat Columbus after they struggled against them in the regular season.

Vancouver vs St. Louis: Canucks in 5; Norm
Predicts: Blues in 7

Series Analysis: Norm –
Look for the Blues to
surprise the higher rated Canucks in this year’s biggest playoff upset. While
Vancouver has the edge in goal, Luongo has little playoff experience and a bad
playoff record in his career.

Chicago vs Calgary: Norm
Predicts: Flames in 6; Blackhawks in 5

Series Analysis: Norm –
The Flames are limping into
the playoffs with several injured and questionably ready players. Chicago has
relatively few handicaps, and match the Flames up well in goal, defence and up
front. Calgary’s playoff experience will not be enough to lift them past the