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Second Round Preview and Predictions

I didn't make any predictions for the first round, but I'll have to begin in the second round because of all of the interesting matchups that have come about.

Boston Bruins vs Carolina Hurricanes: The Bruins have to be the the favourite in the conference. They're the Red Wings of the East. For the Penguins and Capitals, that means they'll only be able to beat them when they're on their top form. I say Bruins in six.

Washington Capitals vs Pittsburgh Penguins: The series to watch for round two. Begins Saturday - keep in mind that it's at 1 pm ET. The playoffs are about defense, so you have to give the Penguins the edge here. When you think of the Penguins offense, you only need to look towards the opposition's defense and goaltending to see if the other team has a chance. Vharlamov, you better be ready for this one. Penguins in seven.

Detroit Red Wings vs Anaheim Ducks: A re-match of the 2007 Western Conference finals. Ducks and Wings both know how to get it done in the postseason, and goaltending will be put to the test. Osgood vs Hiller? You have to give the edge to Hiller right now. The Ducks will have to keep up their scoring if they want to beat a very good Red Wings team, and I think they'll be pressed to do that on a nightly basis. Red Wings in five.

Vancouver Canucks vs Chicago Blackhawks: The Blackhawks are doing an amazing job in all aspects of the game this playoffs, and it paid off with a first series victory over the Flames. They outhustled and outchanced the Flames, and proved that they can play beyond their years. Led by the 20 year old Toews, the Blackhawks are already proving why they will be a force in the West for years to come. Blackhawks in six.

Burke, Wilson and Nonis All Smiling

San Jose out in the first round. Vancouver blasting into the second. Anaheim showing shades of their Stanley Cup champion form.

All three occurences are to the surprise of the naysayers, and the delight of our very own Brian Burke, Dave Nonis and Ron Wilson.

Wilson was labelled as a coach that could develop players well but couldn't lead them to the later rounds of the playoffs. Todd McLellan was brought in to help lead the Sharks to a longer postseason, but it didn't happen this year. Hey, at least they didn't give us any false signs, dropping the first two games of their opening round series against the Ducks.

Those Ducks were built in part by Brian Burke, and though he isn't responsible for the drafting of Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf, his other moves have panned out well. Current Ducks starter Jonas Hiller is proving his reliability as an NHL starter, while Bobby Ryan is emerging as one of the future 'Big Three' on the Ducks, playing with Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf. Chris Pronger, a free agent signing by Burke, has been a rock for the team.

Burke didn't build the Ducks, but he put them over the edge, and contributed to a solid foundation for the future. So much for his supposed departure from the organization while it was 'in shambles'. To think that people were calling for the Ducks to retool and send Niedermayer or Pronger elsewhere on the trade deadline, and they've knocked off the President's Trophy winner.

Our V.P. of Hockey Operations and ex-Canuck GM Dave Nonis, can be credited with luring Roberto Luongo to Vancouver in lopsided trade with the Panthers that sent Todd Bertuzzi the other way. Nonis also hired Vancouver's benchboss Alain Vigneault, who won the Jack Adams trophy for top regular season coach in 2007.

While Wilson may have been a part of the choking problem in San Jose, he certainly wasn't it's central feature, as demonstrated by this year's first round collapse.

Burke and Nonis certainly take pride in the work they've done with their past clubs, and they can crack a grin as the monsters they created take on a life of their own.

Quick Hits and Hearing the Crickets

Hey all, not much going on in Leafland at the moment. I wake up each morning hoping to read that Burke has done or said something of interest, but he's kept quiet after shocking the hockey world with his Tavares Manifesto.

For now, we bandwagon and cheer for other teams. Who's everyone backing this offseason? I'm half-heartedly supporting the Penguins, but I'm also a huge fan of the Capitals and this year's edition of the Bruins. That might have something to do with the shellacking they handed the Canadiens.

Link Ticker:

And just so we're all on the same page, yes, I know Burke is pursuing Jonas Gustavsson. We should hear more about that in the weeks to come. Word is that he's making up his mind between Dallas and Toronto. I apologize for not posting on this. I have been busy in recent weeks.

Burke Openly States He's Fixed on Tavares; What Now?

The New York Islanders won the draft lottery tonight, giving them rights to select first overall in this year's entry draft.

I've said all along that the Islanders haven't made up their mind on whether they want Tavares or Hedman. If they're really fixed on Tavares, which might be the case as an Islanders representative has been spending a lot of time in London with Tavares and the Knights, then I'm not sure Burke can do anything to wrestle the top pick from Garth Snow's hands.

Then again, Burke has been through this before. In Hartford, he was able to move up to the 2nd spot to grab Chris Pronger, and with Vancouver he moved up to get both of the Sedin twins. As Jim Kelley reports, Burke is not blowing hot air when he says he wants Tavares.

It's hard to imagine what it's going to take to land him, but believe me Burke will mount one hell of a campaign.

Leafs fans, be ready to see Burke overpay for Tavares. Keep in mind, if you want to see this team being led by a top end offensive talent for years to come, then you should be cheering Burke all the way along.

Tavares Tuesday: When the Finalists Cash Their Coins

Note from Goose: Today we are joined by Bradley Garton who will be discussing the Leafs bleak Tavares hopes. I found him on the street and got him to write this post on a piece of paper. This is what he said.

Afternoon folks. With all the draft draw mayhem Goose has been out tracking the final seconds in the race for the Tavares Cup. That being said, I've been drafted to fill in the void between postings; I figure it's the least I can do, the best being my incarceration for the alleged tampering of bingo machines.

So, at long last, Toronto's race for the Tavares Cup has come to a statistical, if not definite, close. It's at this point where, looking back, I think we may all have pressed our imaginations a little too hard against the cold, hard wall of reality; that Tavares is about as likely to become a Leaf as Evgeni Malkin is to be nominated into the House of Commons. This isn't to say we were wrong for dreaming, just that those bright, puffy clouds bearing the number 61 paved the way to much sadder, smaller figures.

Feeling obligated to do what I can to help the fans, I've been doing my best to keep the dream going. Investigating the rules for the draft lottery I learned there are 1001 possible draw combinations and that only 1000 of these are assigned to the bottom 14 teams. So, I called up the big guy Gary Bettman with the hopes that if that one extra number is drawn, John will be evenly distributed between all 30 teams for the 2009-2010 season.

So far he hasn't returned my calls, but my hopes are high.

So keep your chins up folks, and to John: I hope you're looking forward to the 8 periods you may just be spending with us next year.

Would Burke Trade Up in the Draft?

Interesting article from the Toronto Sun. They like to stir things up, and there's probably not a lot to it, but for what it's worth it's an interesting notion.

They're claiming that Burke "is expected to take a run at the top overall pick (and John Tavares) by attempting to trade up. His trump card? The organization has the monetary resources to spice up a deal, especially with a financially strapped team."

I highly doubt that Burke would be able to wrestle the top pick from the Islanders, who are in dire need of a superstar like Tavares. I think the first pick this year is untouchable, and certainly out of the price range Burke would consider.

Nevertheless, if Burke believes that the player he wants will be gone before 7th, he might have to move. It's unfortunate that this situation might cost us something big, when we could have easily fallen a few spots in the draft by just losing a bit more.

Nonetheless, we are where we are. I say we just stay 7th. We'll get someone good.

I'm going to do a full first round preview, but if you look at the rankings, we're sure to get a very good player at the seventh pick. He'res my projecting of the first seven picks, assuming that the Islanders win the lottery.

1. John Tavares - NYI
2. Victor Hedman - TBL
3. Matt Duchene - COL
4. Magnus Paajarvi-Svennson - ATL
5. Evander Kane - LAK
6. Jared Cowen - PHX
7. ? - TOR

Who will the Leafs select?

There are certainly a few names that Toronto could consider, including Brayden Schenn, Jordan Schroeder, Nazem Kadri, Dmitri Kulikov, Ryan Ellis, Simon Despres and Oliver Ekman-Larsson.

Out of those, the most likely to be considered are Schenn, Schroeder and Kadri, all forwards.

Of the teams in the top seven, the most likely to trade their pick for stars in their prime is probably either the LA Kings or Tampa Bay Lightning.

If either of those teams were to win the lottery, thus giving them the first pick, they would consider moving it for the right price.

Leafs Settle for Seventh Pick

The Leafs played their last game of the season against their provincial and divisional rivals, the Ottawa Senators. What should have been a satisfying way to finish the season turned out to be a large headache for some hoping the Leafs would move up in the draft.

Last night, the team just needed to lose against the Seantors and have Pheonix and Los Angeles win, in order to find ourselves slipping into the 5th overall pick in the entry draft. That would have then given us a marginal, 8% chance at winning the first overall pick. While the two other teams won their games against much better opponents, the Leafs found a way to win theirs, negating the other two team's advances in the standings.

So the Leafs will enter the draft with all likelihood the 7th overall pick, unless we win the draft lottery with a 4% chance of getting moved up to the 3rd pick.

Last night's win should have been a vindication to most Leafs fans. We have a nack for beating the Senators when the teams meet up last, whether it's in the regular season on playoffs. It was a storybook finish to an otherwise meaningless season. Boyd Deveraux capped his poor season off with a hattrick effort to push the Leafs over the Senators one more time, and just like that it's golfing season for both clubs.

Many people are upset that we don't get that 8% shot at Tavares, a better chance at a franchise player than winning a doughnut with your next Roll Up The Rim To Win coffee.

Let's be realistic, though. Is Burke's rebuilding plan going to rely on the luck of a bingo-style lottery draw? Or is he, like many GMs before him, going to build a contender by taking the situation that's presented to him?