WHY WE PLAY THE GAMES

2010 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS PREVIEW

ROUND 2

 

OK – all bets are now off!!  The top three seeds in the Eastern Conference – say goodbye!  The top three seeds in the Western Conference – still alive!  In the East, the fourth seed advanced to the second round.  In the West, no such luck.  It all makes for some great hockey in the next round!

As far as I’m concerned, with one, or possibly two exceptions, the Stanley Cup is up for grabs!  Without sounding like your favorite reality show, eight teams are left, who will be eliminated in Round 2?  I’ve got a feeling we’re in for a lot more drama in this round, so let’s go!

 

EASTERN CONFERENCE

Pittsburgh Penguins vs Montreal Canadiens

Headliner: The most storied franchise in hockey still managed to pull off an NHL first – they became the first 8th seed ever to overcome a 3-1 series deficit to win in 7 games.  The defending Stanley Cup Champions will have their hands full in this one.

How they got here: #4 Pittsburgh defeated #5 Ottawa in 6 games, #8 Montreal upset #1 Washington in 7 games

Impressed with: Pittsburgh – Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Sergei Gonchar; Montreal – Jaroslav Halak, Hal Gill, Mike Cammalleri, Tomas Plekanec (or was that Jaromir Jagr?  Ask Jose Theodore for an explanation)

Need to see more from: Pittsburgh – Ruslan Fedotenko, Tyler Kennedy, Marc-Andre Fleury; Montreal – Sergei Kostitsyn

Pittsburgh wins if: Marc-Andre Fleury becomes the goalie he was last spring.  So far I haven’t seen enough consistency from him to expect this team will defend their title.  Luckily, he hasn’t had to be stellar, yet, and the team’s scoring prowess has made up for it.  To be fair, the Penguins knocked off an Ottawa Senators team playing without 75% of their top scoring line, and still the series went to six games.  Had it not been for a great 3rd period, where Crosby admitted they had to get desperate, it could have gone the distance.

Montreal upsets if: Jaroslav Halak can continue his stellar play against Sid and company.  We’ve seen this movie far too many times in the past, especially with this franchise.  Montreal has historically relished the underdog status, and has proven many times before they can get it done when the games and series are on the line.  Even though they placed 8th, they have players who have been there before – Scott Gomez, Brian Gionta, Hal Gill, Jaroslav Spacek.  Halak’s performance in round 1 has already been compared to the Ken Drydens and Patrick Roys of the past.  The Forum Ghosts seem to have convinced the Hockey Gods that the Habs are worthy of a 25th championship – be afraid Pittsburgh, be very afraid!   I never expected them to get by the high flying Washington, but now I have a real feeling about this one, given what I’ve seen so far.

Prediction: Canadiens in 6

 

Boston Bruins vs Philadelphia Flyers

Headliner: The Big Bad B’s go up against the Broad Street Bullies in the most unlikely of 2nd round match ups.

How they got here: #6 Boston upset #3 Buffalo in 6 games, #7 Philadelphia upset #2 New Jersey in 5 games

Impressed with: Boston – Tuukka Rask, Miroslav Satan, Mark Recchi; Philadelphia – Brian Boucher, Claude Giroux, Mike Richards

Need to see more from: Boston – Marco Sturm; Philadelphia – Blair Betts

Boston wins if: Marc Savard can be effective in his return from injury to add to an already pretty good Bruins attack.  Rask will need to outplay Boucher in net as both teams can score enough goals to win.

Philadelphia upsets if: Boucher can continue to be a brick wall.  The Flyers need to find a way around “the big Z”, Zdeno Chara.  Not an easy task, but Chara’s only asset is his size.  Teams have proven in the past he can be shut down with physical play – something Philadelphia is a master at.  The team will have to do without Jeff Carter and Simon Gagne, but with Chris Pronger still healthy it shouldn’t be too hard to overcome.  Again, I have a real feeling about these teams who were playing playoff hockey long before the playoffs even started.  It seems to me all of the teams who had to fight their way in are the teams who are determined to stick around and make some noise.

Prediction: Flyers in 6

 

WESTERN CONFERENCE

San Jose Sharks vs Detroit Red Wings

Headliner: This is where we separate the men from the boys.

How they got here: #1 San Jose defeated # 8 Colorado in 6 games, #5 Detroit upset #4 Phoenix in 7 games

Impressed with: San Jose – Joe Pavelski, Dan Boyle (Game 3 of the Colorado series notwithstanding); Detroit – Jimmy Howard, Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk

Need to see more from: San Jose – Evgeni Nabokov, Dany Heatley, Joe Thornton; Detroit – Daniel Cleary, Kris Draper – perennial stalwarts in the playoffs must be better

San Jose wins if: To use a cliché – their best players are their best players.  Dany Heatley and Joe Thornton have yet to bulge the twine, so if they could ever get going, look out.  Goalie Nabokov will now face a much more potent attack than the Phoenix Coyotes, and a much hungrier team.  He can no longer be “just OK”.   He will need to steal some games for the Sharks to make it out of the 2nd round.

Detroit upsets if: They get the contributions from most of their team like they did in round one.  Jimmy Howard, the fine young rookie goaltender, will need to be great, especially if the Sharks wake up on offense.  But who are we really kidding here? – the Sharks barely made it out of round 1 alive while the Wings keep on truckin’…while it’s true Detroit has played a lot of hockey the last few years – there is a reason why they have – they’re just damn good.  I don’t think Nicklas Lidstrom is ready to retire just yet.

Prediction: Red Wings in 6

 

Chicago Blackhawks vs Vancouver Canucks

Headliner: The rematch these two teams have been waiting for.  The word on the street is when Roberto Luongo and Patrick Kane were shaking hands after the Olympics, Kane said to Luongo “see you in the Stanley Cup Playoffs”.  Well, here we are.

How they got here: #2 Chicago defeated #7 Nashville in 6 games, #3 Vancouver defeated #6 Los Angeles in 6 games

Impressed with: Vancouver – The Sedins, Mikael Samuelsson, Roberto Luongo; Chicago – the usual suspects – Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa, Patrick Sharp

Need to see more from: Vancouver – Alex Burrows, Mason Raymond; Chicago – Dustin Byfuglien, Troy Brouwer

Chicago wins if: Byfuglien can get back into Roberto Luongo’s kitchen like he did last year and allow Chicago’s top forwards to register points.  Antti Niemi, still a bit of a question mark after a shaky first round, even after registering two shutouts, will have to match Luongo save per save.  Shutting down the Sedins and Samuelsson will be key.  Not that they’ll want to look past the task at hand, but Chicago still has one more rematch they’ll be playing hard for – the Detroit Red Wings.

Vancouver upsets if: The Canucks equal the Hawks’ offensive output, and stay disciplined.  The Kings tried hard to get them off their game in round 1 (and almost succeeded).  While it’ll be nice for Western Canada to see if they can get to the final four, I just don’t think it’s going to happen, but it will be a long, hard battle as both teams seem to have benefitted from a year of experience.

Prediction: Blackhawks in 7

 

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