Tuesday, April 13, 2010
Battle Playoff Predictions
It's that fun time of year once again. Finally after a grueling 82-game season that also featured a thrilling Vancouver Olympics with Canada edging USA on Sidney Crosby's sudden death winner, sixteen teams are left to vie for Lord Stanley.
Gone are the Rangers, Anaheim and Calgary. In are mainstays Detroit and the Devils. Is this the Spring San Jose conquers their demons? Can the Ovie-Backstrom Caps win their first Cup? What about playoff hockey finally returning to the Desert for the traditional White Out dating back to Winnipeg? Meaningful hockey also returns to LA and Colorado where two upstarts try to put a dent in playoff brackets. Exciting stuff. Is this the year the Cup returns to Canada? The Sedins hope to deliver. Montreal hopes Halak can carry them to a monumental upset. Do the Hawks have enough goaltending to win the franchise's first championship since Bobby Hull starred in 1961? Can Rinne's Preds play spoiler and win their first series? Are Miller's Sabres being overlooked or is Tuukka Rask ready for primetime? Is Kovalchuk enough to bring Cup No.4 back to Jersey? Or will the Devils' best team since its last winner under Pat Burns go belly up against the hated Flyers? Can the Crosby-Malkin Pens repeat? Who will surprise? Who will disappoint? Who is this year's hero?
All these questions will get answered beginning tomorrow. We'll take our best crack at it.
BATTLE PLAYOFF PREDICTIONS
(1) Capitals over (8) Canadiens in 6
Analysis: Halak steals a game or two but too much firepower.
(2) Devils over (7) Flyers in 7
Analysis: Tempted to take Philly but Devs have too much to lose.
(3) Sabres over (6) Bruins in 6
Analysis: Won't be easy versus Rask but Vanek heating up and Miller.
(4) Penguins over (5) Senators in 5
Analysis: If Fleury struggles and Elliott performs, this could get interesting.
(1) Capitals over (4) Penguins in 6
Analysis: Depth proves the difference.
(3) Sabres over (2) Devils in 7
Analysis: Teams are very similar but think Myers and Miller deliver.
(3) Sabres over (1) Capitals in 6
Analysis: Goaltending, defense, grit and better coaching wins out.
(1) Sharks over (8) Avalanche in 5
Analysis: Too much scoring, depth, experience and so much at stake.
(2) Blackhawks over (7) Predators in 7
Analysis: Rinne/underrated offense scare but home ice/balance boost Hawks.
(3) Canucks over (Kings) in 7
Analysis: Dangerous opponent but can't go against Sedins and Kesler.
(5) Red Wings over (4) Coyotes in 6
Analysis: Bryzgalov gives 'Yotes chance but Wings hot and prove too much.
(5) Red Wings over (1) Sharks in 7
Analysis: Potential for lots of scoring. Will Shark D be exposed?
(3) Canucks over (2) Blackhawks in 6
Analysis: Teams very even. Pressure's on Louie to deliver.
(3) Canucks over (5) Red Wings in 6
Analysis: A toss-up. Which goalie steps up? Samuelsson haunts former 'mates.
Stanley Cup: A delicious match-up between two Cup starved cities. Think of the storylines. Olympic rematch between Miller and Luongo. Canada versus USA again. Third time post-lockout. It would be a nightmare for NBC but how can you ignore the star power of The Sedins? This would be good for the sport. A battle between three seeds who've been the butt of jokes forever. One gets to end it.
(3) Canucks over (3) Sabres in 6
Analysis: Hard to go against Vancouver's firepower. Miller would have to steal series. This is the most talented Canuck team since '94. They'll struggle to get past first round but ultimately, they are the best team. Can Alain Vigneault and Louie deliver? That's what we're playing. The time is right. 1-2-3-4 Presssssuuuureee!!!!! Billy Joel would be proud.
Stanley Cup Champion-Vancouver Canucks
Conn Smythe-Henrik Sedin, Canucks
Leading Scorer-Henrik Sedin, Canucks
Top Finisher-Thomas Vanek, Sabres
Best Goalie-Ryan Miller, Sabres
Best Defenseman-Tyler Myers, Sabres
Breakout Star-Ryan Kesler, Canucks
Rookie Under Radar-Colin Wilson, Predators
Best Coach-Lindy Ruff, Sabres/Mike Babcock, Red Wings
Coach You Can't Trust-Bruce Boudreau, Capitals
Scary-Evgeni Nabokov, Sharks
Jinx-Marian Hossa, Blackhawks
Disappearing Act-Joe Thornton, Sharks
Hot Seat-Roberto Luongo, Canucks/Jacques Lemaire, Devils