Tomorrow night begins the most exciting two months in all of sports. Sixteen teams begin what they hope will be a long march to the Cup. Alas, only one of them will hoist Lord Stanley’s fabled chalice. Which one will it be? Well, it will certainly be one who escapes Round 1. And here are my predictions on who those eight teams will be.

Washington over New York in 5

Why I think what I think: The Caps have totally changed their style of play to be more prepared for the postseason. Number 4 in defense? Who wouldda thunk it. Plus the Rangers will sorely miss Ryan Callahan.

What could go wrong?: Henrik Lundqvist plays out of his mind; The Caps’ goaltending proves not playoff worthy.

Philadelphia over Buffalo in 6

Why I think what I think: The Flyers have far too much firepower up front. Buffalo overachieved just to make the playoffs. Is Ryan Miller even 100 percent?

What could go wrong?: Chris Pronger doesn’t return from injury; Miller plays like it’s the Olympics.

Boston over Montreal in 7

Why I think what I think: Tim Thomas and the Bruin defense will dominate. The Habs caught lightning in a bottle last year, but two years in a row is too much to ask.

What could go wrong?: Carey Price does a Halak impersonation. The Montreal curse gets the Bruins again.

Tampa Bay over Pittsburgh in 7

Why I think what I think: Pens will struggle to score against a weak defensive team. Pens’ power play will cost them chances to score big goals. Lightning have four guys (Lecavalier, St. Louis, Stamkos, Gagne) more likely to score than any penguin forward. Maybe you can throw Malone on that list, too.
What could go wrong?: Sid returns. Bylsma comes up with a strategy other than the “get to our game” one that failed so miserably against Montreal.

Vancouver over Chicago in 5

Why I think what I think: The Hawks couldn’t even win when they needed to just to get in. They lack depth. Vancouver is simply the best team in the NHL.

What could go wrong?: The Curse of the Hawks hangs over the Canucks.

San Jose over Los Angeles in 5

Why I think what I think: The Sharks have come on strong at the end of the year. The Kings are minus their best player in Anze Kpitar.

What could go wrong?: Joe Thornton pulls his usual disappearing act.

Detroit over Phoenix in 6

Why I think what I think: Why should it be any different than last year? Phoenix is the type of regular season overachiever that I pick against.

What could go wrong?: The geriatric Wings sustain more injuries; Jimmy Howard gags.

Anaheim over Nashville in 5

Why I think what I think: Nashville has never won a playoff series. Why would they start now? Anaheim is on a roll.
What could go wrong?: Anaheim’s goaltending collapses; Pekka Rinne plays like a Vezina winner.