Wednesday, April 11, 2007

A Golb: Playoff Preview

With the final games of the season just wrapping up, it's now that time of the year that everyone (in Canada) lives for. The Stanley Cup Playoffs. And you know what that means? Stanley Cup Playoff Previews! Oh, and maybe a prediction or two.

Now in case there's some of you who don't know the teams involved in the playoffs. Relax. I'll be mentioning them here. But you really should already know, I mean, you are a hockey fan right? Why else would you have gotten to the end of the second paragraph?

Or maybe you just don't watch the NHL until the playoffs. I've heard of people like that. In that case, maybe these predictions will help you seem smarter to all your hockey-enthused friends and maybe they might deem you worthy to take part in their exciting hockey arguments like who would win a face-off between Tyler Arnason and Trevor Letowski.

Right on.

Okay, here they are. I just want to mention in advance that I AM a New York Islanders fan. I don't know why and I don't know how. But I am. Maybe its because I thought they had pretty jerseys. Either way, there will be no bias.

Western Conference

(1) Detroit Red Wings vs (8) Calgary Flames

The Wings are hot right now and their only weakness they have on their depth chart is a couple of key injuries to Bertuzzi, Chelios and Zetterberg. Regardless, they have superb depth throughout all their lines and its easy to see how they led the conference. Not only do the Wings have solid players filling their squad they also have loads of experience with the likes of Maltby, Holmstrom, Draper (who are all on the same line), Lidstrom and Schneider. Not to mention Dom Hasek between the pipes. The Wings young guns seem to be picking it up just at the right time as well and should give the team added exuberance.
The Flames have been to a Cup final recently and there are still members on the team who will use that experience to try and make things right this time. I'm just not convinced that this team is a better version than the 2004 version. They will definitely give the Wings a good run in the series, I don't doubt that. But beside their top line, I can't see any of the Flames potentially outplaying their counterparts. They have experience in Amonte, Friesen, Yelle and Warrener, but they will be hard-pressed to defeat a more rounded and skilled Detroit team. If they win, it will be because of tons of hard-work, smart checks and Miikka Kiprusoff.

Prediction: 4-2 Detoit

(2) Anaheim Ducks vs (7) Minnesota Wild

I think this series has the potential to be close, to be completely honest. I know the Ducks are a formidable team and own arguable two of the best defensemen in the league in Pronger and Niedermayer, but they seem to have trouble against the Wild all year. This is the playoffs however and its a whole new ball game, so in turn, I will give top marks to the Ducks offensive capabilities. They have their superstar in Teemu Selanne, who will be counted on for a steady flow of offense in the series (plus he's dynamite on the powerplay). What's even better than their offense is their defense. Minus Pronger and Niedermayer, they have a great, hard-checking defensive corps with Beauchemin, O'Donnell and Jackman. Goaltending is a slight question mark with Giguere being out, but Bryzgalov is proven and will not necessarily be a downgrade for the team in the series. With that said, these games might come down to him.
The Wild were relentless in their bid for a playoff spot and were rewarded with the seventh seed. This is mostly due to the return of Marian Gaborik, who is absolutely phenomenal when paired with Demitra. Side note: When I heard of the signing of Pavol at the start of the season I concluded that the Art Ross should be handed to Gaborik, no questions asked. Didn't happen. Probably because both those guys are made of poorly made glass. Anyway, expect Lemaire to continue his suffocating defensive tactics in this series and still lose. Not just because he's French either.

Prediction: 4-3 Ducks

(3) Vancouver Canucks vs (6) Dallas Stars

Are you fucking serious? The Canucks made the playoffs? Third seed? Pff, now I know you're shitting me. This is what I would have been heard saying if I was not aware of anything that happened with the Canucks this year. No word of a lie, I totally expected Vancouver to be golfing right now if you asked me back in October. I know Luongo is great, possibly the best besides Brodeur, but I didn't think he'd steal more than a handful of games while the team in front of him shit down their leg the entire season. Well...I'm wrong. Luongo stole much more than a handful and the team in front of him played fairly well. Daniel and Henrik Sedin emerged as the teams new go-to guy(s), unseating Markus Naslund (what the fuck happend to him?). The team is overall decent and have played with heart and determination all year. They have a tough and underrated defense and will be helped by world-class goaltending. They won't score much as it is so if the Sedins aren't producing here...they're fucked. Seriously, who's gonna pick up the slack? Taylor Pyatt? Matt Cooke? Trevor Linden? Fuck, maybe 10 years ago.
The Dallas Stars have a solid team, as always and expect them to play the Canucks tight defensively and make good on most of their chances to score when they get them. They have some high quality snipers on the team and backed by another quality defense. Again, this series might come down to goaltending too...if it wasn't a yearly tradition for Marty Turco to choke. It's actually pretty funny how that always happens. But be sure with the likes of Modano, Nagy and Zubov this team won't just fade without potting a couple in. And by couple...I actually mean two.

Prediction: 4- 1 Canucks

(4) Nashville Predators vs (5) San Jose Sharks

Well I certainly thought Nashville would be higher than this. Their team is pretty stacked. Defense is a little young, but really...have you seen their top three lines (without injuries)? It's almost unfair. Still...they did fuck around the last few games of the year and got themselves the fourth seed that they probably deserve. Can't argue with Forsberg at all, proven playoff player, all-round sniper and he's been doing great lately. Gotta watch that ankle though, okay big guy? Because if you don't stay healthy and win a Stanley Cup for Nashville...Dave Poile is going to completely break your ankle off and beat you to death with it. Besides that...Kariya will add his scoring and play-making touch, David Legwand will try and build on the season he's having with a good playoff and I have a strange feeling Alexander Radulov will be a factor in this series. Plus, Vokoun is back now and if he falters they have superb back-up, Chris Mason to steer the team into the second round.
Oh, kind of gave away my prediction for this series with that last sentence. Whatever, its fine. The Sharks will undoubtedly ride their first line for success and since this is not NHL 06 and there is such thing as fatigue, then I'm going to assume they will have to resort to their depth at some point. Now don't get me wrong, they don't have a terrible team by any means...but it just isn't the type of team that will get you past the first round against a formidable Nashville team which is much better than it's fourth seed suggests. Also, I'm not sure whether Nabokov will choke or not but, like Nashville, they have a strong back-up. In the end, I think the Sharks need Thornton, Marleau and Cheech to get as many points as possible while they are on the ice...and depend on the rest of their team to hold then lead if they get it. Or hope Bill Guerin can find a time-machine.

Prediction: 4-1 Predators

Eastern Conference

(1) Buffalo Sabres vs New York Islanders

New York Islanders win in five.

Alright, no bias. But this is bullshit.

Probably the best team in the league, the Buffalo Sabres will most likely make quick work of the Islanders. With Briere, Drury, Vanek, Roy, Miller and others having great seasons its going to be quite the task for the Islanders to even win a game against the Sabres. Plus, Tim Connolly is returning and should add some extra creativity and skill to the mix...until he suffers his 8th concussion halfway through the second of game two. With that said, there really isn't a weakness on the Sabres' squad and are going to be quick. This should be easy for them.
Boy was I ever happy when Wade Dubielewicz poke-checked the hell out of Sergei Brylin to win the game and move onto the playoffs. I was so happy I shrieked like a 12 year old girl and then promptly pissed myself. What made it even awesomer is that by winning...the Isles totally fucked the Leafs. It was great. Anyway...the Isles have some quickness as well. Jason Blake. He's pretty fast. Aaron Asham too. So there. I think they have some great weapons on the team with Yashin (no longer "completely" useless), Ryan Smyth (what a steal), Blake, Satan and Poti. Also they will be much aided by the added experience and production of Mike Sillinger. Who might be around 50. Of course this would all be different if Ricky D was between the pipes. I'd be predicting an upset. Maybe.

Prediction: 4-2 Buffalo

(2) New Jersey Devils vs (7) Tampa Bay Lightning

New Jersey is a tight defensive team and is the proud owner of probably the greatest goaltender in the world right now. Great team on both sides of the puck, the Devils will be a force to be reckoned with. Patrik Elias, Brian Gionta and Brian Rafalski will be counted on for great performances in the series. Brodeur will do his thing and they should come away with this one. Probably early too. Side note: Watching TSN today...they had Jeremy Roenick on. The fucker predicts Tampa Bay to win the cup. What the fuck is wrong with him? He used to be great. Now he's just a slick, old, grease ball who sits back and makes retarded predictions....and repeats them in succession about 40 times cause no one responded to how dumb it was.
Tampa Bay is a lot like San okay defense...and a goalie who could fuck up and no one would be surprised. However, they do have the Rocket Richard trophy winner in their midst and that's gotta count for something. The line of Prospal, Lecavalier and St. Louis should continue their success...they are pretty much too good to be held completely scoreless. Again, like San Jose, they need to exploit that line and let the rest of the team do their jobs. They have a great role player in Tim Taylor and some young guys who can make a difference with Ryan Craig and Shane O'Brien. Though, still...can they beat Brodeur?

Prediction: 4-1 Devils

(3) Atlanta Thrashers vs (6) New York Rangers

Wow, the Thrashers have quite the collection of snipers. Kovalchuk, Hossa, Kozlov and then one fat/slow star in Keith Tkachuk. Most people have been arguing that Atlanta lacks depth past their first line, I agree I guess...but I don't find it as bad as other teams. I mean, they've got Scott Mellanby back there, Bobby Holik too, Jonny Sim is underrated in my opinion...Eric Boulton. Kari Lehtonen is decent and has played healthy enough to get Atlanta to the playoffs, so thats not half bad. But yeah, I think the Thrashers definitely have a shot. You don't think so? You're telling me you're going to doubt Eric Boulton?
The Rangers are assholes and they deserve bad thing that has ever happened to them. But hey, they finished the season red hot and look to use that momentum to upset the Thrashers in round one. Jagr and Nylander will be the main threats here, with Straka and Shanny bringing the added scoring touches and extra experience. The rest of their team is pretty deep which is why I'm kind of debating who to pick here. Besides that, I thought the signing of Sean Avery was great and he's been a perfect fit for the Rangers all year. They're all dickheads anyway, why not add one more. Even though he is a head of dick...I kind of like the way Avery plays, plus he does chip in on the score sheet regularly. Goaltending will not be an issue, Henrik Lundqvist has been sublime so far and I think he'll do a great job. For being a dickhead.

Predicition: 4 - 3 Thrashers

(4) Ottawa Senators vs (5) Pittsburgh Penguins

To give you an idea of how this series is beginning...the Senators coach, Bryan Murray, just called his team the underdogs. Well, if he needs to ignore basic facts to get his team fired up then he should go for it, but if anyone has anything to prove its the Pittsburgh Penguins, who are in the playoffs thanks to a few of teenagers. Back to the Senators. Lethal top line that contains one of the best snipers, Dany Heatley, a great passer, Jason Spezza and a mixture of both with Alfredsson. Also, of course, the Sens have depth throughout their lines and should get far into the playoffs. If they weren't notorious for choking all the goddamn time...but I guess the Leafs aren't in it this year, so maybe that will help. I'm not entirely sold on this Ray Emery either. We'll have to see how he fares this series...but I bet we see Gerber at some point.
Pittsburgh has the league's top scorer and best rookie and have finally made the playoffs again. At least we finally know they're improving, but taking 2 first overalls and 1 second picks to do so is pretty rediculous. Having a great team is one thing...but having a great, young team is better. Crosby, Malkin, Staal, Christensen, Talbot, Fleury, it doesn't end. Plus one of the best offensive d-men in the league in Sergei Gonchar. No, I think its safe to say they should be set for awhile. Not without experience either, the Pens can rely on Roberts and Recchi for leadership throughout their playoff. Maybe the Sens are the underdogs.

Prediction: 4-2 Pittsburgh

Alright, there you have it. The playoff preview. It is now 6:00 AM and I'm going to go get some more coffee. Then head to school. Then work. Then put my head in the oven.


Rupert Entwistle said...

I think you've inspried me to go buy a new hockey video game. Hockey playoffs are the best.

The Big Fundamental said...

Don't do it. Hockey does not translate well to video games

Man Hole said...

Incredible...the guy stayed up until 6:00 AM just to write a blog.

Well, guess it just means that I have to pick up the old socks for the NBA playoff preview. Bastard

Anonymous said...

waaay too fucking long
boring zzzzzzzzzzzz...

St. Chris Simon said...

Nah I didn't stay up to write that, I stayed up to five writing (yet another) term paper.
And I guess anonymous doesn't like reading anything longer than a comic I'll try to shorten it next time. Plus I had spacing issues...that post was like 34 inches.

Man Hole said...

Stab in the dark...Marc?

clock cleaner said...

it's okay marc, you can use your identity

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