Thursday, April 24, 2008

Ingram on Recruits

Nothing new to report today. I'm sure we'll have news all summer long, but this was a bit of a run on stuff here. I still have unaired player interviews to run for next week as a result of how much stuff has come out at once. I suspect there will be more slow times like the month here where I essentially wrote nothing.

Move down a couple of posts and there's a comment from a UAA blogger who will be a good source for anyone looking to follow August Aiken's career there starting next season. He sounds enthusiastic to hear about Aiken's speed. Just wait until he sees the kind of dangles August can pull too.

Today we had Coach Ingram on to talk about the other four players he hadn't discussed with us yet. Here's the audio:

Quickly, after a brutal 4 for 8 in the first round here are my playoff predictions.

  • Montreal over Philadelphia in 6 (Habs have too much speed for the Flyers)
  • Pittsburgh over NYR in 6 (I liked the Rangers until I saw how much of a changed team the Pens are in that first round series with Ottawa. They can play playoff style and win)
  • San Jose over Dallas in 7 (I always underestimate Dallas so I'm saying it'll go seven when I really feel like it'll be 5)
  • Colorado over Detroit (I'm not confident in the Red Wings goaltending and I think Colorado has more money guys)

I'd love to be wrong about Detroit and the Rangers so that the two local connections to the playoffs can carry on. Good luck to Tom Renney of the Rangers and Dallas Drake of the Wings. I'm also disappointed to hear that Trail's Steve Tambellini didn't get the General Manager's job in Vancouver. He deserves to run his own team sooner rather than later.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Riley Loyst Interview

Here are the two segments I did today on Mountain FM's Overtime with Riley Loyst. He played with Merritt two seasons ago before returning this season to Nelson in the KIJHL. Loyst topped the talented Leafs in scoring and hopes to make a big impact by rejoining the BCHL with Trail.

Tomorrow night on Overtime we'll talk to another of the new Smokies. Tune in between 6pm and Midnight on Mountain FM. You can feel free to call the show at 1-877-560-1010 or e-mail your thoughts on anything to

Dustin's Camp Story

This photo by Randy Emery is Dustin Scafe. Dustin has been creating some positive buzz at the BCHL message board recently with his posts on attending different junior hockey spring camps. He's got a great attitude. That place could use more of that sometimes. A lot of times you'll think that the only people happy after a camp are the ones who get jobs or invites. Dustin's story proves that there's more to it than that. If every player had an attitude like this the team would be in great shape. I hope he catches on somewhere in Alberta and makes great strides so we can see him in Trail in 09/10. This is the e-mail he wrote me for the blog. Thanks Dustin, and good luck!

"What a camp! I had alot of fun in Priceton and it was really nice to get
out and meet all the nice people I met and I even had the chance to play some
even better Hockey. Going into this camp I knew i wasn't going to make an
immediate impact onto the Smokies team, but I knew if I could go out and play my
hardest I could gather some interest and maybe have a place to play in 09/10.

Day 1 was the latest starting day for me, registration at 11 AM and then we
had a quick player meeting, I got picked for team yellow, and we didn't have to
play until 3:30 I believe. First icetime was just a practise, which, for me,
started a little slow as I hadn't been on the ice in over a month. After about a
half hour my legs started to come back and my game was picking up. Later on that
night we played our first game, we were down 2 nothing about 20 minutes in when
surprisingly I notched my first goal. Felt really good to get one for my team and
even better to know that my performance thus far was pretty good. We ended up
losing 5-2 but it was a ton of fun playing against and with some of the best
players in and around BC.

Day 2 was an early 7:30 start for us, as our second game came. We played
poor in the morning but managed to tie 4-4. Later on, we played another game
against team blue, pretty sure we lost track of the score. 6-2 is my guess. Blue
was really the dominant team at camp but hey no complaints all the better for
Trails scouts.

Day 3 was a 7 AM start for us, it was a scheduled practise but Jim Ingram
came down to talk and told us we'll play a game since were a bunch of softies.
that brought upon alot of laughs, good to see a coach with an awesome sense of
humour. I believe we won this one 5-4 i got 2 assists in this one. Actually made
me sad having to get off the ice as the team actually was starting to come
together. The ice in Princeton would rank among the 3 worst surfaces i have ever
played on! the other two in that top 3 would probably be my road and my
driveway, so that tells alot! There was a good 5 or 6 guys who really stood out
in my eyes and I see them having a great chance at making this team come Main

So, upon leaving we had our individual meetings, they were surprisingly
short i wasn't sure if they would be evaluations or just the staff saying whats
happening with me as a player. The second one of those 2 was how it went, and I
was informed I would not be attending main camp, and that I'm a year back of the
imports minimum age. Jim also expressed some interest in where I will be playing
next year which really brought me some confidence.

Even though i never got my invite to Main Camp, I still left with LOTS more
confidence then what I came in with. I had a ton of fun this weekend and look
forward to hopefully spending another weekend with the Smoke Eaters organization
in one years time. Who knows, my birthdays in January, maybe it could come
earlier! I would like to express my thanks to Jim Ingram and his coaching staff
on an excellent camp and that I have gained a ton of respect for not only him,
but the entire organization. This team showed great amounts of class to me, and
I'm sure to everyone. players from last years team made the drive to Princeton
to ref and fill in some games, and I must say, they are some pretty cool guys
with great attitudes so they deserve a huge thanks.

Looking forward to stepping on the Cominco Arena's ice,

Dustin Scafe."

Aiken Interview

August Aiken told us about his scholarship opportunity today on Overtime.

I'll have a post soon on the spring camp experience of one of the guys who attended it. I'll also be interviewing another new Smoke Eater on Overtime tomorrow. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Boisvert to Trail, Aiken to Anchorage

Great news today for August Aiken. The speedy forward is heading off to the University of Alaska Anchorage to play Division 1 NCAA hockey next season. I know from talking to both August and his father that this has long been a goal of his. Aiken was known for his speed, flashy moved and offensive skills in the BCHL. However, I also found him to be a guy who was sharp in his own zone and had very good anticipation. If he brings his game consistently in Alaska I can see him making an impact. They have Olympic sized ice and that will really benefit a guy with that kind of speed. August was a strong addition to the Smokies last season and I'm really glad to hear he'll have this opportunity. We'll talk to Aiken on Overtime tomorrow night.

The other big news is that the Smokies have landed a guy that Coach Ingram has been after for a while now. Forward Jean-Francois (or J.F.) Boisvert has verbally committed to play for the Smoke Eaters next season. Stefan Decosse co-hosted Overtime tonight and we had a great chat with JF. He seems like a young man who really has his head on his shoulders and his priorities straight. While he was drafted out of midget by the Drummondville of the QMJHL, Boisvert decided to go to St. Andrews College prep school in Aurora, Ontario instead. In less than two years, he went from not knowing a word of English to being able to conduct himself almost perfectly in a radio interview. Boisvert says his goal has been to get to a Division 1 school in the NCAA, and he knew he'd have to learn English to do that. They had a great year winning two league titles (MPHL and CISAA) and Boisvert was a big part of that. The 5'10 forward was second on the team in goals (27) and points (74) while leading in penalty minutes. He told us that if his offence isn't working in a game he's still confident he can make a difference by playing physical, grinding in the corners and playing good defence. That is music to a coach's ears.

Boisvert is a 1989 born forward who seems to have the maturity needed to step into the league as a older rookie. It was a funny co-incidence that Stefan Decosse was with me doing the interview, because he's another player who made a strong impact while playing his first BCHL season as a 19 year old. It's interesting how almost every player we've talked to so far has made it clear they like to get their hands dirty. We see big point totals for guys like Boisvert, but they make it clear in the interviews that they aren't just one dimensional offensive guys. Scrappy, gritty players with heart... who can score... are going to win you playoff games if you get yourselves into that situation. It's good to know he's bringing some skill too, though. Would love to see a few 5-6 goal outbursts from the Smokies next season.

You can see the state page for St. Andrews by clicking here and JF's profile by clicking here.

  • Former Nelson Leaf and new Smoke Eater Riley Loyst
  • 3 on 3 basketball for Silver City Days
  • What sports or leisure activities do you really love during Kootenay summers
  • Updates on the two big seventh games in the NHL playoffs


Word is Stef is thinking of getting into communications at school. There was nobody with a better gift for gab on the team. I bet a lot of you wouldn't mind seeing him come back here and taking my job when he's done school!

Friday, April 18, 2008

Captain Bulach

Congratulations to Ryan Bulach. Today the Smoke Eaters made it official, he's the next captain in the storied history of Trail hockey. Bulach will have big shoes to fill. Kevin Limbert's work ethic and dedication was known throughout hockey circles. Those are the exact characteristics that Coach Jim Ingram says make Bulach an ideal captain. Ingram says Ryan's passion for the game is obvious from the gym to the rink. With Bulach as the captain the bar will be set high. His work ethic, his enthusiasm and his passion will set the tone for the rest of the team.

I've never seen Bulach be particularly vocal. However, it's something that Ingram says he does more behind closed doors. It's also something he'll have to do more of now that he's been given the torch of leadership for the Smokies. This is a player, not unlike Limbert, who has had to work hard for everything he's achieved in hockey. No one handed him anything, he earned it. He's also a hell of a card player and I owe him a loss or two. Congratulations to Captain Ryan Bulach, I know he'll do the team proud.

  • We're live from the weight in for AM Ford Fight Night. We'll be on location at the Rock Cut in Rossland. I don't think I can ever hear about the Rock Cut without thinking about how one of the younger guys on the team could never remember where it was. Braden Kinnebrew really let him have it the last time he asked about it. Do I actually miss long bus rides yet? They have great steak there by the way. Try them with ketchup like I always do... and get ripped for!
  • The live on location means we'll be talking to all the fighters and previewing the big night on Saturday. By the way, I won't be actually ring announcing at the event. That was a misunderstanding, instead I'll be doing some announcing in between fights. You can still feel free to show up and throw things at me.


Have a good one, hope to see you at the Rock Cut or AM Ford Fight Night this weekend!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

More New Smokies

Here's a shot Randy Emery took of new Smoke Eater Jayson Reardon at the spring camp. How dedicated is that guy? He's even attending the camp to take photos. Nice going, Randy. Congrats on your Pens whipping my hometown Sens. That was ugly.

I only have so much time to track down all these guys! Coach Ingram announced three more verbal commitments today. I've been able to track down and interview each guy so far, but we're going to have to spread the interviews out a little. Today I aired interviews with two of the newest Smokies and I'll post a link to that audio here.

  • We'll have an interview with Jayson Reardon, the 6'1 Lumby native who had more goals than any other defenceman in the KIJHL last year.
  • Coach Jim Ingram will name the new Captain of the Smoke Eaters. Big shoes to fill with Kevin Limbert leaving. Who will be the new leader of the team?
  • More profiles and previews for AM Ford Fight Night this Saturday night at the Cominco Arena in Trail. Events like this one help go a long way towards helping raise some money for the hockey team. Come out and enjoy it! I'll post some of the fighter profiles I've done for Mountain FM with the other interview audio I'm adding.



The Smokies invited 54 players from the spring camp they held in Princeton to their main training camp this August. However, some of those guys are going to end up finding somewhere else to play before it comes to that. The final number probably won't be that high.

Coach Ingram announced three more verbal commitments today. They've added two forwards and another KIJHL defenceman. The Smokies are really targeting KIJHL talent so far this off season. With the three top scoring rookie defencemen committing this weekend, they've also brought in a championship winning all-around blue liner and a BCHL experienced veteran scorer from the local Junior B league.


Loyst is a 1989 born forward who topped the powerhouse Nelson Leafs in scoring last season in the KIJHL. He put up 24 goals and 58 points after leaving Merritt to rejoin the Leafs. Loyst also scored 7 on the power play and had 78 penalty minutes. At 6'1 and 195lbs he's got some size and likes to play a gritty game. Loyst told me he gets a lot of his goals by playing hard, digging pucks out of corners and going to the net looking for rebounds. Loyst scored 39 points as a KIJHL rookie in 05-06. You can see his numbers for that year by clicking here.

Loyst played a full BCHL season in Merritt, but says he felt like he was used exclusively as a physical player and didn't get opportunities to display his offensive talents. He scored 5 goals and had a single assist in 44 games that year. Loyst told me he has regained his confidence after a strong year in Nelson and wants to prove he can be a complete player in Junior A. As a 19 year old he will also likely be asked to bring some leadership into the room. Some fans will automatically question why a guy would leave a Junior A situation to go to Junior B, but anyone who was welcomed back to the Nelson Leafs with open arms is going to be a character guy. From talking extensively to Coach Wheeldon in Nelson I know how important that is to his program, and I also know how important it is to Coach Ingram as he builds the Smoke Eaters roster.

Now as a 19 year old Loyst has another shot in the BCHL. Lets hope he has the kind of success a guy like Stefan Decosse did when he made the jump at a similar age.


Zmurchyk's offensive numbers don't stick out the same way Reardon, Smutek and Koshey's do. He scored 2 goals and had 7 points for the KIJHL champion Fernie Ghostriders last season. Listed at 5'11 and 160lbs he's not a particularly large defenceman either. In Jeff's case, the numbers don't tell the story. He's rock solid in his own zone and on the transition game. Zmurchyk has good speed and makes quick, smart decisions. His offensive numbers were also lower than they could have been because as a rookie he played on a championship team with a lot of veterans.

As the season went on the 1990 born Fernie native was given more ice time and more opportunities. His hard work and some injuries in the playoffs thrust him into a very important role. Zmurchyk was dynamite in the Beaver Valley series. More than one scout and coach raved about his play in the games I saw. His coach, former BCHL bench boss Will Verner often complimented Zmurchyk's strong play when I interviewed him during the series. As a rookie thrown into a high pressure situation he thrived and help lead his team to the KIJHL crown. How much did Jeff elevate his game in the playoffs? He scored 7 points all season, but he scored 6 points in the playoffs. In more than half the games he scored just as many points while finding another gear. That's a recipe for a winner.

Zmurchyk also took a road trip with the Smokies as an AP player. He played a smart, simple game and didn't look out of place. The coaching staff was instantly impressed and have had their eyes on him ever since. He was a target of theirs and I know they're very happy to have Jeff in the fold.


CJ had a connection to the Smoke Eaters through his former coach that played with Jim Ingram and a Smokies scout that used to coach with his Ridge Meadows Flames in the PIJHL. Those connections made first contact, and Legassic did the rest with his work at spring camp. The Smoke Eaters were very impressed by what he brought to the table and committed to him right away. CJ told me that Coach Ingram called him a "greasy" player. Only in hockey is that a compliment. I know I won't be telling my boss he's a "greasy" morning show host.

I loved this guy's attitude when I got the chance to talk to him today. Look forward to that interview Tuesday on Overtime. To sum it up, he's a player who will do absolutely everything he can do to get that puck in the net. CJ told me he volunteers and loves to go stand in front of the net. That from a guy who is 5'10 and 170lbs. He played with two 20 year old veterans this year with the assigned task of being first in the zone on the forecheck and digging the puck out of the corners for them. Legassic credits his linemates for his 20 goal, 52 point rookie season in the PIJHL. However, how many of their goals would they have scored without his work in the high traffic areas? The impression I get is that he was more important to that line than he lets on.

Legassic was the third leading scoring rookie in the PIJHL this season. He was also 16th overall in league scoring. While he describes himself as a guy who can be a gritty two-way player, he also has real potential to contribute on the scoreboard. He also really wants to be in Trail. CJ told me that living in Maple Ridge he has always wanted to play in a smaller city where local hockey is king. The impression I get from talking to CJ is that he's exactly the kind of player Ingram wants in the orange and black this year. He's got the attitude, the enthusiasm and the willingness to pay the price. Lets hope he can take those qualities to a high level of play in the BCHL.


...What happened to the Ottawa Senators? Is Stanley Cup hangover becoming a serious issue in the NHL these days? Carolina and Edmonton were both brutal last season. Anaheim had a slow start this year and may not survive against Dallas. Tampa and Calgary were both early round busts the year after their trips to the finals. Conditioning is such a big factor in the game these days. The impression I got in talking with Shawn Horcoff last year was that it wasn't so much the extra games that was the problem, but that he missed those two months of off season training. Could this be a factor for every winner? How do you combat Stanley Cup hangover? Any ideas?

...Really looking forward to AM Ford Fight Night this Saturday. It was one of my favourite nights of the year last April. There's nothing quite like seeing two guys or gals go into the ring and just fight it out. It's the oldest form of entertainment and it hasn't lost its' luster. Hope to see you there on Saturday night.

...Also on Saturday there's a great fundraising event happening in Nelson. The Courtney Cup is a fundraising event for Nelson paramedic Courtney Allen who is battling Scleroderma, a debilitating disease that leads to hardening and tightening of the skin and connective tissues, damages blood vessels, and in more severe cases affects internal organs such as the pancreas, kidneys, heart and lungs. The paramedics and the Nelson Blueliners women's hockey team are getting together to play the Nelson Police and the Nelson RCMP in a charity hockey game. It's Saturday night at the Nelson Community Complex. There's a silent auction, 50/50 and a beer gardens. It's a great cause and if you're in the Nelson area it'd be great if you went out to support it.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Smoke Eaters Add Three KIJHL D

The Trail Smoke Eaters received verbal commitments from three young defencemen at their spring camp over the weekend. They were all top point getters in the KIJHL last year. With the possible returns of Cam Brodie, Jimmy Geerin, Braden Kinnebrew, Ryan Hill and Patrick Raley these moves could bring us close to rounding out how the main core of the Trail blue line will look this season.

Ingram talked to me about the additions on Mountain FM's Overtime today. I'll be airing interviews with the new Smokies on Wednesday night.

The first addition is probably no big secret to anyone who followed the team last year. 1991 born Trail native Steven Koshey played 5 games with the Smokies last year as an AP player. He went pointless with two penalty minutes, but I thought he fit in very well. He didn't seem to have a huge problem making an adjustment to the quicker, more physical game. Koshey played confidently and made the smart, simple plays. He didn't really get a chance to show his offensive creativity at the BCHL level, but more will be expected of him in that regard now that he's a full time Smoke Eater.

Koshey was a huge part of the Beaver Valley Nitehawks in the KIJHL last year. He had 10 goals, 30 points and 25 penalty minutes in the regular season. Koshey manned their power play as the Nitehawks won two playoff series against the very tough Castlegar Rebels and Nelson Leafs. The 5'8, 175lbs defenceman is property of Medicine Hat in the WHL, but says he hasn't decided if he wants to pursue that direction in the future. At the very least he'll be an important player for the Smokies next season.

Trail also added import puck moving defenceman and the second leading scorer on D in the KIJHL, Skyler Smutek. The 6'0, 170lbs 1990 born Washington native brings a lot of enthusiasm to the team. I think he might have been the best "first time" interview I've ever done. He seems to have a terrific attitude and is very much looking forward to coming to a city where hockey is the top sports priority. Skyler tells me he's been on skates since he was a toddler and used to walk around the house with duck tape on the blades. Sounds like a hockey player. He put up 11 goals (7 on the power play), 36 points and had 140 penalty minutes. Ingram says that while Smutek is still filling out, he plays a gritty game and can get physical. Smutek was also able to put up that many points on a Spokane team that was last in the Neil Murdoch Conference in goal scoring.

Ingram says he initially saw Smutek play in a game where he was scouting a different player, but instantly became interested in what the young defenceman could bring to the table. He should definitely compete for some power play time on this year's squad. Their man advantage needs to be better. The more I hear about this young man the better I feel about his prospects with the team.

Oh, and apparently he's into amateur video. Maybe we'll get him to help Daryl out in the video booth next year. Produce a few features for the intermissions!

Finally, they also added the KIJHL's fourth leading point getter from the back end, physical defenceman Jayson Reardon. He's listed at 6'1, 195lbs but we're looking at a guy who will be north of 200 at camp. Reardon scored 17 goals, 34 points and 156 penalty minutes in his first year with the expansion Chase Chiefs. Reardon's 10 power play goals make him another solid option for igniting the man advantage.

Ingram says he will add a physical element that they were missing when Cam Brodie got hurt last season. Reardon fought during the spring camp. He got cut and had a chipped tooth, but he was back out on the ice competing within minutes. The 1990 born Lumby, BC native sounds like an excellent prospect for a full time roster spot next year.

The transition from the KIJHL to the BCHL is no minor leap, but it's intriguing to take a look back at the top scorers from the blue line in that league.

1. Cody Lockwood (Kamloops) 9, 38, 47 (1987)
2. Skyle Smutek (Spokane) 11, 25, 36 (1990)
3. Torin Brusven (Nelson) 9, 27, 36 (1988)
4. Jayson Reardon (Chase) 17, 17, 34 (1990)
5. Cody Rose (Castlegar) 13, 17, 30 (1988)
6. Steven Koshey (Beaver Valley) 10, 20, 30 (1991)

Three of the top six scoring defencemen in the KIJHL are now Smoke Eaters. The other three are two 1988s and a 1987. That means Trail picked up all the top high scoring rookies. Hopefully that means good things for the transition game and the power play.

We'll have the new Smokies on Overtime tomorrow and I'll post the interviews later. I'll let you know whenever I hear any new information.


...The Smokies have named a new captain. Who is it? I'll let you know later this week on Overtime.

...Former Smokies D Kevin Koopman had surgery for a hernia recently. He could have had the surgery as far bac as December but delayed it so he could finish the season. Koopman played through the pain and did his best to help Trail get to the playoffs and make an impact. Good luck to that class act at Brown. Senators (his draft team) could use some of that this year too, Kevin!

...Penticton taking on Camrose in the Doyle Cup. A couple of old Vees taking on their former team. Camrose is a powerhouse with a great coach. So is Penticton. I wish I could be there to watch it. Ryan, Penticton's play by play broadcaster is a lucky man. Enjoy!

...A young man named Dustin made a very positive post on his experience at the Smoke Eaters camp over on the BCHL message board. That place can be a gong show sometimes, but it was a real positive post from a young player who seems to have a great attitude.

...Dave Nonis fired? Globe hockey writer and blogger James Mirtle and I talked about it on Overtime. He really didn't like the job Nonis had done with the Canucks and saw little hope of a turn around. I tend to think they should have been a playoff team, but his unwillingness to address their need for more scoring was his undoing. How could anyone who watch the playoffs last year not realize that a goal scorer or two could've put that team over the top? Instead now they have even more holes at forward than they ever did. Good luck Canuck fans, the Stanley Cup drought is getting longer!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Ingram on Smoke Eaters Camp

First of all I want to congratulate the Penticton Valley First Vees on winning the Fred Page Cup. I'm not sure there was a more talented team in the league this year and they certainly proved it with their BCHL Championship win. It was also another great season for the Nanaimo Clippers. The defending champs were swept in the finals, but getting back to the championship series again is a worth accomplishment in itself. Must have been strange for Dan Marshall to call a Penticton victory in his first season with the Clippers after many great years with the Vees. Maybe Dan was the curse, eh ;) Actually it amazes me listening to the quality of the other broadcasters in this league including both Dan and Ryan Pinder who did the finals. It's a lot to live up.

Not much chance to talk Smoke Eaters hockey lately. I miss it. Even miss the bus rides... well a little. This weekend they're holding a spring camp in Princeton and boy there's a lot of guys to take a look at. There will be 95 skaters and 15 goaltenders last I heard. The scouting and coaching staff have done a great job running around the province, country and continent to track down possible Smoke Eaters. Ingram tells me he's been busier since the season was over. There's no "off season" for managers in the BCHL.

Here's my interview with Coach Ingram that we aired yesterday on Mountain FM's Overtime. Remember we're still on weeknights from 6pm to Midnight even though the season is over. Lots of sports to talk about!

Remember you can also support the Smokies by attending events like AM Ford Fight Night on April 19th and Bullarama. They're also great events. I'm lucky enough to be doing the ring announcing at Fight Night which should be a blast. 15 fights of non stop action!

Hope to see you there.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Playoff Predictions

Long time no blog! I've got a few tidbits of Smokies related information to pass on very shortly. Maybe even tonight. The spring camp is coming up in Princeton this weekend with over 90 skaters and 15 goalies. Should be great.

For now I'm just posting some NHL playoff predictions so you can make fun of me when I'm wrong.

Oh, and I think I'm going to predict Pencticton over Nanaimo for the Fred Page Cup. I just have a hunch!

I wrote these down yesterday and since action is underway I better get on it now!


(1) Detroit over (8) Nashville in 5 games

I don't see this one being particularly tough for the Red Wings. You never know what could happen, but they should feast on Nashville's goaltending. The one thing to watch for is a great PK from the Preds and possible injuries biting the Wings.

(2) San Jose
over (7) Calgary in 5 games

I don't buy into the Flames at all. They were healthy all year and got no traction on three teams (Colorado, Edmonton and Vancouver) that were decimated by injury. The Sharks should own them. Calgary's only edges are physical and leadership. Not enough.

(6) Colorado over (3) Minnesota in 6 games

Who do you want to go to the playoff dance with... Forsberg, Sakic, Smyth and Foote or Gaborik, Rolston, Bouchard and Demintra? Colorado knows how to win the Wild don't. That's not to say it guarantees anything but with the teams as close as they are it sure makes a different. Colorado with a healthy Sakic, Forsberg and Foote all year wins the division easily. Wild will put up a fight but that's it.

(4) Anaheim over (5) Dalls in 7 games

I can't predict a short series with the record Dallas has against Anaheim this season. However, the Ducks defence is MILES ahead of Dallas'. It's not even fair. With Zubov out there's no way the Stars can match up on the blue line. Better scoring depth probably but not by enough.


(1) Montreal
over (8) Boston in 4 games

Habs owned the Bruins all year. Boston may get a fluke game but it won't be competitive.

(7) Ottawa over (2) Pittsburgh in 7 games

Nobody thinks it'll happen, but the Senators still have all the talent they had last year they just need to get their heads straight. I think the playoffs are a whole different animal and that may motivate this team. If not you have to shake things up drastically in the off season.

(3) Washington over (6) Philadelphia in 6 games

Hottest team down the stretch against a team that faltered. The Flyers forwards are too inconsistent and soft. Their defence is too big and slow. Their goaltending is average. Just not enough there. Capitals are confident, hungry and they have the best player in the game this year.

(4) New Jersey over (5) New York Rangers in 7 games

Toughest series to call in the NHL by far. Rangers have the forward depth, Devils have the better defence. To me it comes down to experience in goal. They're both great but Brodeur knows how to do it.

So there you have it.

Based on that I'd go in the second round Colorado over Detroit, San Jose over Anaheim (great series), Ottawa over Montreal, New Jersey over Washington.

In the third round San Jose over Colorado and New Jersey over Ottawa.

Leaving us with the New Jersey Devils and San Jose Sharks playing in the lowest scoring series of the century for the Stanley Cup. To me the Devils and Rangers are really the only teams who can play the kind of style you'd need to to challenge the western teams for the cup. That being said I'm giving the mug to the Sharks this year. That's a dangerous choice because they are often playoff failures. I think things are really clicking for those guys now, and their younger players have very valuable playoff experience under their belt. Campbell helps the transition game and Nabakov is more confident than ever because he was finally given the ball all season. What's your call?