EIGHT LESSONS LEARNED?

2011 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS PREVIEW

ROUND 2

 

No matter how long it’s been, no matter how much longer it will be, the more I continue to watch and comment on this game, the more I’m amazed at just how little I truly know about it.  Every year I make my predictions, and every year, on paper, how could I lose?  Well, there’s a reason we play the games.  Evidently I haven’t learned this yet.  What I do know is I haven’t got a clue what to expect anymore.

 

EIGHT LESSONS LEARNED FROM ROUND 1

  1. Rule #1 – A Playoff Series is not truly over until somebody wins the fourth and deciding game.  Rule #2 – When in doubt, please see Rule #1
  2. A game is not over until the final buzzer.  If the score is 3-0 or 4-0, the game is not over.  5-0 or better, then maybe you are safe to relax and enter defensive mode.  Maybe.
  3. Just because a team has your number doesn’t mean you can’t finally beat them.  Past history against a playoff rival means nothing.  Absolutely nothing.  More than anything, a team has to believe in themselves.
  4. Great goaltending will take you far, but a great team in front can take you farther.
  5. Going to bed between the 1st and 2nd overtime is a crime punishable by an increase in cable rates in some countries.
  6. No fighting in the playoffs?  Who said?
  7. It doesn’t matter how many goaltenders start the game for you, as long as you can find one to finish it.
  8. Referees may not call a penalty the entire game, but that doesn’t mean they won’t call one in the last five minutes of the 3rd period.

Well, you get the idea.  Now, right or wrong, my fearless predictions for Round 2 - not much time to think about it, what with the quick turnaround, but here goes.  All I know is if this next round is half as fun as the first, bring it on!!!

 

EASTERN CONFERENCE

Washington Capitals vs Tampa Bay Lightning

Tagline: Overcast with a chance of showers?

Headliner: Two of the most dynamic players in the game go head to head.

How we got here: #1 Washington dispatched #8 NY Rangers in 5 games; #5 Tampa Bay upset #4 Pittsburgh in 7 games

Impressed with: Washington – Michal Neuvirth; Tampa Bay – Dwayne Roloson

Need to see more from: Washington – Mike Green; Tampa Bay – Steven Stamkos

Washington should win if: They keep the momentum from Round 1 and continue their fine defensive play.  Did I just say that about Washington?

Tampa Bay could win if: Dwayne Roloson remains the story in goal for the Bolts.  This Washington team is healthy, unlike Pittsburgh who was missing it’s top two scoring lines.  Stamkos started to come on towards the end of the round, but needs to keep it going.

Prediction: Capitals in 7

 

Philadelphia Flyers vs Boston Bruins

Tagline: Would you like coffee with that Philly Cheesesteak?

Headliner: The rematch Boston has agonized over for the last year.

How we got here: Both overcame adversity from their opponents and made it through in 7 games, Philadelphia over Buffalo, Boston over Montreal

Impressed with: Philadelphia – Claude Giroux; Boston – Nathan Horton

Need to see more from: Philadelphia – One of their three goaltenders; Boston – Milan Lucic

Philadelphia should win if:  They can get their game going.  They almost let Ryan Miller and the Sabres escape with a very slim margin of victory, the last game notwithstanding, which the Flyers dominated.  The Game 7 performance is what I expected through the first five games.  Chris Pronger finally returning has helped, and as he continues to get better, the Flyers will get better.  The biggest question will be in goal.  Tim Thomas is heads and tails better than any of the three net minders Philadelphia used in Round 1.  It’s looking like Brian Boucher will be the guy, and he will have to prove it.

Boston could win if: They show a little more killer instinct, especially if they get up in the series like last year.  Déjà vu?  You bet!!  One area of concern is their power play.  It was virtually non-existent against Montreal.  They will have to correct this if they have any hope to avenge last year’s catastrophic collapse.  While they may have compensated for this with Vezina Trophy nominee Tim Thomas in net, even he wasn’t exactly invincible.  If the smallest team in the league could get to him at times, so can the Broad Street Bullies.

Prediction: Flyers in 6

 

WESTERN CONFERENCE

Vancouver Canucks vs Nashville Predators

Tagline: Grizzly Adams meets Johnny Canuck

Headliner: “Hockey Tonk Smashville” is in the 2nd round for the first time in franchise history, and even they can’t believe it.

How we got here: Vancouver, in their third attempt, was finally able to beat Chicago, in a 7th Heaven classic for the ages; Nashville upset Anaheim in 6 games

Impressed with: Vancouver – Alex Burrows, the Sedins; Nashville – Jordin Tootoo

Need to see more from: Vancouver – Mikael Samuelsson, Nashville – J.P. Dumont

Vancouver should win if: They play the patient game and don’t allow the Predators to get under their skin.  The Canucks have enough firepower to get it done, not to mention the emotional boost from beating a team they couldn’t get past in previous playoffs.  Look for the team we saw through the bulk of 82 games to finally show up.

Nashville could win if: They continue to play the same way they’ve always played.  Even though Anaheim and Nashville finished 4 and 5 in the West, everyone is in awe on how the Predators are even here, with the lineup they have, but give them credit – they’ve done it with goaltending and good defense, and clutch goal scoring from people you wouldn’t expect.  The statistics are staggering – 21st overall in the league in Goals For – 3rd overall in Goals Against.  If they can ever get Martin Erat back, the Preds might be a legitimate threat.  Do you have Nick Spaling in your hockey pool?  What about Joel Ward?

Prediction: Canucks in 5

 

San Jose Sharks vs Detroit Red Wings

Tagline: An octopus is no match for a shark

Headliner:  In the rematch of last year’s Conference Semi-Final series,

How we got here: San Jose beat archrival Los Angeles in 6 games; Detroit swept through Phoenix in 4 games

Impressed with: San Jose – Ryane Clowe, Detroit – Pavel Datsyuk

Need to see more from: San Jose – Antti Niemi; Detroit – Justin Abdelkader, Kris Draper

San Jose should win if: Antti Niemi can give the Sharks more stability in goal.  If they let Detroit get on a scoring roll like Los Angeles did for a brief period, they’re dead.  We know the Sharks will get their points, they just need to keep the other team off the board.  I have to stick with San Jose just because I picked them to come out of the West, but at this point, who knows?  Maybe I’m relying too much on past history, but if the Sharks were able to get to the Conference Final last year with virtually the same team, why can’t they do it this year?

Detroit could win if: They keep scoring and scoring often.  The Red Wings, despite being the oldest team still in this playoff tournament, are still the most experienced.  They will benefit from being the most rested.  They should get more firepower back, as Henrik Zetterberg is expected back.  I do question their goaltending, but it’s never been an issue before.  It’s kind of hard to find fault in a team with a goose egg in the loss column, but one has to wonder if this series goes the distance if fatigue will become a factor.  I think so.

Prediction: Sharks in 7

 

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