Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Picking The Playoffs

It's that fun time of year again. For 16 teams, they dare to dream of hoisting Lord Stanley in the warm month of June filled with champagne and Cup parades. Last year, it was finally Chicago's moment to celebrate their first Cup win since the days of Bobby Hull in 1961 with Patrick Kane playing the hero, stunning the Flyers in sudden death. This year, the defending champs didn't know they were in until the Stars lost to the Wild on the final day of the regular season. Now, they play the role of underdog against the odds on favorite President's Trophy winner Canucks, who are having a special season but have gone out two straight years to those Blackhawks. Will it be a third for Roberto Luongo or is the year the Cup finally returns to Canada for the Canucks first championship?

That and a whole lot more, we'll try to answer in this exciting playoff preview filled with predictions and who will be left standing at the end.

EASTERN CONFERENCE

Round One

(1) Capitals over (8) Rangers in 6
(7) Sabres over (2) Flyers in 7
(3) Bruins over (6) Canadiens in 6
(5) Lightning over (4) Penguins in 6

Analysis: Too much pressure on Caps to bow out early to Rangers minus Ryan Callahan. The Flyers were our preseason Cup pick but question marks in goal and with Chris Pronger are bad timing for hot Sabres who can expose weakness and boast better netminding. Bruins-Habs is as good as it gets but Boston's too big and strong for Habs. Unless Carey Price steals it, we can't see a deep Boston club losing. The Bolts are hot and Vinny Lecavalier's back. Pens will have problems scoring unless Sid The Kid returns. Marc-Andre Fleury is their best bet.

Conference Semis

(1) Caps over (7) Sabres in 6
(3) Bruins over (5) Lightning in 5

Analysis: Ryan Miller could make things interesting but a more talented and healthier Cap roster prevails thanks to Ovechkin. Boston's size will create problems for high-tempo Bolts. Physicality will prove too much.

Conference Final

(3) Bruins over (1) Caps in 6

Analysis: Unless Tim Thomas folds, this should be the year Boston returns to the Final for the first time since the days of Adam Oates, Cam Neely and Ray Bourque. Zdeno Chara and Milan Lucic lead a strong Bruins club in search of first Cup since '72 (Orr, Espo).

WESTERN CONFERENCE

Round One

(1) Canucks over (8) Blackhawks in 6
(2) Sharks over (7) Kings in 6
(6) Coyotes over (3) Red Wings in 7
(4) Ducks over (5) Predators in 6

Analysis: Canucks are deeper and better. Ryan Kesler should have a big series and Christian Ehrhoff's emerged into a tower on the blueline. Luongo's experience over Corey Crawford. It'll be heated but Vancouver can't lose this time. If the Kings had Anze Kopitar, I'd take them over Sharks. Sharks boast too many weapons including Calder hopeful Logan Couture. The 'Yotes came close last year. Unless Henrik Zetterberg plays, they should finally win franchise's first series since the '87 Jets. Ilya Bryzgalov and Keith Yandle are difference. Pekka Rinne and Shea Weber give Nashville a chance but too much Corey Perry, Teemu Selanne and Norris pick Lubomir Visnovsky.

Conference Semis

(1) Canucks over (6) Coyotes in 5
(4) Ducks over (2) Sharks in 7

Analysis: Canucks have too much firepower for Coyotes. Big series for The Sedins and Alex Burrows. The Sharks are deeper but would you go against Perry, Bobby Ryan and Ryan Getzlaf? Ducks blueline also is underrated with Francois Beauchemin and Toni Lydman plus rook Cam Barker. If they lose, it'll be because of goaltending where Ray Emery's the guy with Jonas Hiller (vertigo) sidelined.

Conference Final

(1) Canucks over (4) Ducks in 7

Analysis: A rematch of '07 this time goes to 'Nucks, who are more balanced up front and on back end with Kevin Bieksa, Alex Edler and Keith Ballard big minute loggers. The goaltending also favors them. Look for scrappy additions Max Lapierre, Raffi Torres, Chris Higgins and Jeff Tambellini (yes that guy) to contribute at key moments. It should be enough to get them to their first Final appearance since '94.


STANLEY CUP

(1) Canucks over (3) Bruins in 6

Analysis: The battle between Neely's former team that gave him away and the one he emerged into one of the game's premier power forwards much like protoge Lucic, should be intense. A sexy goalie match-up featuring Vezina frontrunner Thomas versus Luongo, who has never performed well on the big stage. A contrast in styles between the magician-esque Sedins and the in your face B's led by Lucic, overlooked duo David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron, along with Nathan Horton and warrior Mark Recchi. A battle on the blueline featuring Ehrhoff and Zdeno Chara. The Canucks' talent should win out along with better depth on the back end. If it comes down, it should be a fantastic series. If they're ever gonna do it, now's the time.


Stanley Cup Champs-Vancouver Canucks
Conn Smythe-Ryan Kesler

6 comments:

Hasan said...

Not much analysis but I'll give it a shot, maybe less paralysis by analysis:

East First Round: Rangers over Caps in 6, Sabres over Flyers in 6, Canadiens over Bruins in 7, Penguins over Lightning in 7 (yes I'm predicting the East to blow up again, because of the matchups)

East Second Round: Penguins over Rangers in 6, Sabres over Canadiens in 6

East Finals: Sabres over Penguins in 5

West First Round: Nucks over Hawks in 5 (no Big Buff this time), Kings over Sharks in 7, Coyotes over Red Wings in 6, Predators (finally) over Ducks in 6

West Second Round: Nucks over Kings in 7, Coyotes over Predators in 7

West Finals: Nucks over Coyotes in 5

Stanley Cup Finals: Nucks over Sabres in 6

Derek Felix said...

Wow i love your picks. If that happens, Brian will be ecstatic and well torn. Two franchises who have never won before.

Hasan said...

Hah yeah, I almost picked the Rangers in the ECF too but figured on Penguin experience and defense. I didn't want to think of any series for more than like half a minute so we'll see how it goes.

The ones I'm shakiest about are the Habs and Yotes in the first round, but figure Habs-Bruins almost has to go 7 by rote, and if it goes 7 well let's just say I'm going by recent Bruin history and historic Bruin-Hab history to pick Game 7.

As far as the Yotes, well they had a tough series with the Wings last year and you almost have to think the Wings will lose in the first round one of these years, though it better be before Game 7 if it is going to happen.

Hasan said...

As far as the Sabres, I honestly didn't think they were very good until March - they really impressed me with the way they responded to the new owner and how they did on that killer seven-game road trip. Plus the Flyers are going into the playoffs the way we did last year so they're certainly beatable, especially with Pronger iffy.

Derek Felix said...

Agreed on Buffalo. I mean the Flyers were my preseason pick but questions with Pronger and in net have me thinking upset. Kinda disappointed in Coyotes tonight good start but that two man advantage killed their momentum.

Hasan said...

Well my picks were epically bad at 2-6 (including 0-4 with the East series, which I was more sure of lol) - although just about all of these series were literally a bounce of the puck from going either way. Your 5-3 wasn't too bad given the wild nature of the first round.

The Puck Stops Here

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