It’s that time of year again. Stanley Cup time. Amazing hockey time. And this year is one of the best since I’ve become a hockey fan, since Lance and I both have teams in the playoffs and I think they are both going to put on a hell of a show. So Lance and I have decided to analyze the playoffs and present them to you.
Enough guilding the lily. Here are my thoughts.
1. Washington Capitals vs 8. New York Rangers
This is a battle of defense versus offense. The New York Rangers scraped their way into the playoffs this year, while the Washington Capitals rode in with ease – although with less glamour than they have in previous years. The Rangers have a major resource in goaltender Henrik Lundqvist and Marc Staal has had an impressive showing as of late. And if Marian Gaborik decides to wake up and play hockey this could be quite the match. But the Capitals have ridiculous amounts of offense with Alex Ovechkin, Alex Semin, Mike Green, and Nicklaus Backstrom. Their goaltending is solid but young and nowhere near as experienced as Lundqvist. Last year, the Capitals were eliminated by a team with an incredibly strong goaltender but weak offense: the 2010 Canadiens. But I don’t think they’ll be repeating that disgrace.
2. Philadelphia Flyers vs 7. Buffalo Sabres
This is really hard for me to handle, but the Flyers are going to win this series. I would love nothing more than for the Flyers to crash and burn in the first round but they just have to many offense threats for the Sabres to deal with. Even with Ryan Miller in net. The Sabres have been pretty hot lately, but I don’t think Thomas Vanek and Nathan Gerbe will be able to continuing scoring two goals a night against Chris Pronger (aka Captain Elbows). As good as Miller is, he’s going to have a hard time keeping his eyes on Claude Giroux, Scott Hartnell, Danny Briere, Mike Richards, James Van Riemsdyk, and Kris Versteeg. Unfortunately, it will not be Miller Time.
3. Boston Bruins vs 6. Montreal Canadiens
This will definitely be the series to watch in round one. This is a rivalry that goes back decades. And the Canadiens are definitely going to be looking for some payback after Zdeno Chara’s hit on Max Pacioretty. But I think the Bruins are going to pull this one out. They have been far too consistent this year to blow the playoffs in the first round. Unless Tim Thomas loses his temper and does something stupid (See below). The Canadiens won’t be going down without a fight though. Not with Michael Cammalleri’s shoulder feeling better and James Wisniewski at the point on the power play. Also, Carey Price has been great in net this year, but I worry that his 72 starts this year may have tired him out.
4. Pittsburgh Penguins vs 5. Tampa Bay Lightning
This is the main event for me. It’s my two favorite teams in the East going head to head. And both of them are capable of playing really high offense hockey. But I’ve got to give this one to the Penguins. Not only because I am a fan, but they just have far too much depth to be denied here. This team lost what was perceived to be their only sources of offense and still managed to finish as the fourth best team in the entire league. This Penguins know how to adapt like no other team. Not to mention that Marc-Andre Fluery has been a man on a mission between the pipes. And not to discredit the Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender, Dwayne Roloson, but he’s no Fluery. Of course, there is the presence of Steven Stamkos, Martin St. Louis, Vincent Lecavalier, and Simon Gagne on the ice. Those are some pretty powerful weapons, but I think the Penguins will be able to handle. Especially if Sidney Crosby returns to the ice during the series.
This is how awesome Fluery is when the game is on the line:
1. Vancouver Canucks vs 8. Chicago Blackhawks
The Blackhawks and the Canucks met on the ice during the 2010 Stanley Cup playoffs and it didn’t end well for the Canucks. But these are not the same teams that they were then. The Canucks are the winners of the President’s Trophy this year, meaning they have more victories than any other team in the league. The Blackhawks had to hope for the Dallas Stars to lose their final game so they could remain in eighth place, just barely skating into the playoffs. The Canucks have the usual power pairing of the Sedin Twins, Daniel and Henrik, but they also have Ryan Kessler, who has become a serious offensive force this year. Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews have been solid for the Blackhawks this year, but not as of late. The Blackhawks do have the powerful weapon of Patrick Sharp on their side, but I’m not sure its going to be enough. While the Canucks’ goaltender Roberto Luongo has a history of blowing high pressure situations, he has looked very solid this year. And just in case ,they have an excellent back up goalie in Cory Schneider. On the Blackhawks side, they’ll only have Corey Crawford to rely on. While Crawford is a good goaltender, he doesn’t have the experience Luongo brings to the table. Expect the Canucks to pull this one out.
2. San Jose Sharks vs 7. Los Angeles Kings
Yes, the Los Angeles Kings are struggling with injuries. Yes, the San Jose Sharks have Joe Thorton, Dany Heatley, Joe Pavelski, and Dan Boyle. But what Lance forgets in his predictions is that the Kings have Jonathan Quick, who is a better goaltender than either of the San Jose Sharks options, Antti Niemi and Antero Nittymaki. In fact, the back up goalie for the Kings, Jonathan Bernier, is better than either of those options. While the Kings have lost Anze Kopitar and Justin Williams to injuries, they still have Dustin Brown, Drew Doughty, and Ryan Smyth, who can all be threats. Oh, also the San Jose Sharks always choke in the playoffs. I mean always. So there’s also that. This one goes to the Kings.
3. Detroit Red Wings vs 6. Phoenix Coyotes
Unfortunately, there isn’t much to say about this one. The Coyotes are a good team with some depth but they can’t compare to the Red Wings. There are threats on every line of the Red Wings from Pavel Datsyuk to Todd Bertuzzi to Daren Helm to etc., etc., etc. Ilya Brzygalov is an incredible goaltender, though, and he is what gives the Coyotes hope. Especially because Jimmy Howard, Detroit’s goalie, has been very inconsistent this year, with the Red Wings often having to win in spite of him instead of because of him. Expect a decent battle, but this is a definite Red Wings victory.
4. Anaheim Ducks vs 5. Nashville Predators
This is where is would be really funny for me to trash Lance’s Anaheim Ducks and talk about how pathetic their chances are. But there is no way I can do that. They’re too good. They have scoring threats in Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf, Bobby, Ryan, Teemu Selanne, Jason Blake, Lubomir Visnovsky, and Cam Fowler. That’s what we call stacked. Not to mention that they have a roster full of veterans that bring playoff experience to the table. And they have interchangeable goaltenders because they are playing so well right now. The Nashville Predators have…Partric Hornqvist and…Patric Hornqvist. They’ve also got Shea Weber and Ryan Suter, true. But even with Pecca Rinne playing as well as he has been in net, I just don’t think it is going to be enough. Sorry Predators this just isn’t going to be the year you finally make it past the first round. Ducks win.