1. Boston vs. 8. Montreal
Since the league is a slave to NBC, it's pretty obvious that most of the suits would like to see the Big American market Bruins make it through to the second round. We think that it's good to have Canadian teams make runs through the playoffs (American ratings be damned), but let's admit it: the Habs have been a mess.
NHL's cream dream winner: Boston
1. San Jose vs. 8. Anaheim
Both teams are familiar to hockey fans. Both play in markets that are considered somewhat small and niche. It wouldn't be a disaster for the Ducks to advance, but the lure of a Detroit/San Jose conference finals is hard to deny.
NHL's cream dream winner: San Jose
2. Washington vs. 7. New York
This isn't a cut-and-dry case because the Rangers are a big market team. But let's face it, the league hopefully learned a thing or two that Boston-San Jose was such a big ratings success for Versus. Big Stars trump Big Markets, IMO. And there isn't a bigger star than Alex Ovechkin. The league needs him to advance and draw more eyeballs.
NHL's cream dream winner: Washington
2. Detroit vs. 7. Columbus
NHL's cream dream winner: Detroit
3. New Jersey vs. 6. Carolina
Let me take you inside an NHL executive meeting:
(A bunch of old white dudes sit around a table more expensive than a full year of producing NHL On the Fly)
Random Exec: So, the Penguins made the playoffs and so did the Caps.
(Gary Bettman drinks from a cup full of blood)
Random Exec: We've got a lot of gr--
Bettman: Fuck it. At least we'll get rid of the Devils or Hurricanes early.
NHL's cream dream winner: New Jersey
3. Vancouver vs. 6. St. Louis
How powerful is the preference for American markets? That's the big question with this one since the Blues are still a relative unknown to many hockey fans. We're going to go slightly off the beaten path and say that the league would be better off with Luongo, the embattled Sundin and the Sedin twins than with the St. Louis market.
NHL's cream dream winner: Vancouver
4. Pittsburgh vs. 5. Philadelphia
This series is the complete opposite of New Jersey vs. Carolina. Two great, historic hockey markets brimming with stars and interesting elements but only one can advance. If you don't know who the league would prefer, you haven't been following ANYTHING.
NHL's cream dream winner: Pittsburgh
4. Chicago vs. 5. Calgary
Lllllllet's see. On one side, you have an original 6-franchise in one of the biggest American markets, with one of the brightest American stars in ages and an arena that can hold 20,000 insane fans. On the other side, you have the dude who's banging Elisha Cuthbert, the beloved star that Sean Avery called out for being boring and a legion of rambunctious Canadian fans.
NHL's cream dream winner: Chicago
So, oddly enough, the league's probably rooting for an upset-free first round of the playoffs. Agree? Disagree? Offended that I'd mock the act of drinking blood? Do tell.