Possibly my favorite sporting event, make that is my favorite event when I don't havea dog in the hunt, starts Wednesday night. The NHL Playoffs. Nothing in North America's professional sports is as rugged, as nasty, and as grueling as the chase for the Stanley Cup. 16 teams in, one will get the 16 wins they need to drink from Lord Stanley's Cup in June. Who will it be? Well, the title of this post offered a clue.
Eastern Conference predictions (seed in brackets):
 Montreal over  Boston 4-1: I may be kind to the Bruins' chances given their 16 points to 1 loss in the season series.
 Pittsburgh over  Ottawa 4-1: Tempted to pick a sweep should Bryan Murray not be lying up his ass when he says Fisher and Alfredsson will be out for weeks, but the youthful Pens will drop one early.
 Washington over  Philadelphia 4-2: Maybe the toughest opening round series for me to pick. Both teams come in on a bit of a roll, Washington's been playing desperation playoff hockey for months now, and Huet has some post-season experience, Biron has none. I'll take the Caps and the best player in a struggle.
 New Jersey over  New York Rangers 4-2: Maybe wishful thinking given that the Devils beat them for the first time all season today. But give me New Jersey's team system and Marty Broudeur over the jury's still out on the Rangers defense now that it's postseason time.
Second round:  NJ over  Montreal 4-2,  Pittsburgh over  Washington 4-3 (Crosby shines just enough more than the Caps to win in the marquee series)
Third round:  Pittsburgh over  NJ 4-2, Brodeur can only perform so many miracles vs the more talented Penguins.
Western Conference predictions (seed in brackets):
 Detroit over  Nashville 4-2: Not convinced Detroit is well suited for the playoff grind, but they'll be able to knock off the surprising Preds.
 San Jose over  Calgary 4-1: One of these years the Sharks will actually do what everyone thinks they can do and make a very deep playoff run. It starts with an easier than expected win over the Flames.
 Colorado over  Minnesota 4-3: Wild are tougher than they have been in the past, but the Avalanche pulls off an upset in a payback for 2003.
 Anaheim over  Dallas 4-3: A repeat is too much to ask for, but the Ducks will outlast Dallas in the longest, most drawn out, first round series.
Second round:  Detroit over  Colorado 4-1 (Not good enough on defense and in goal to pull off two upsets),  San Jose over  Anaheim 4-2
Third round:  San Jose over  Detroit 4-2, Sharks are balanced, tougher, and I'll take Nabokov over Hasek or Osgood in goal this late in the playoff grind.
Stanley Cup Champion:
SAN JOSE SHARKS over PITTSBURGH PENGUINS 4 games to 2. Sharks finally live up to their promise, Crosby, Malkin, et al give it their all but are at least one year away from winning it all.
Playoff MVP: Evgeni Nabokov as the Sharks play so balanced so there's no obvious, clear cut pick from their forwards.