Thursday, April 30, 2009

One Man's take on the 2nd Round of NHL Playoffs 09'...

Well... That's one round down & hopefully 3 more to go for the B's. As promised (threatened really) here's a follow up on the original set of Round #1 picks I had posted previously by series and a look at Round #2 from my point of view as we all continue the Bruins "Quest for the Cup" together.
As a quick review my Round #1 picks and comments were:

In the Eastern Conference

*#1 Boston Bruins vs. #8 Montreal Canadiens- The Pick was the B's in 5 (Who knew the Habs would get pushed around that much...)

*#2 Washington Caps vs. #7 NY Rangers- The Pick was the Cap's in 6 (Washington's lack of a true goaltender was and will continue to haunt this team. Put it this way it's not a good sign when your playoff goaltender is still sporting his Hershey AHL mask...)

*#3 NJ Devils vs. #6 Carolina Hurricanes- The Pick was the Canes in 6 (The Canes prevailed and they played one more game than I thought but who could have predicted the Game 7 melt down by the Devils at home and Brodeur failure?)

*#4 Pittsburgh Pens vs. #5 Philly Flyers- The Pick was the Pen's in 7 (As much talent as the Pens have you have to wonder if Philly's lack of team disciple was the real reason they lost this series and are now at home watching?)

That's 4 for 4 in the East! Nice!

In the Western Conference though, I had:

*#1 San Jose Sharks vs. #8 Anaheim Ducks- The Pick was the Sharks in 6 (I guess "The Curse of Jumbo Joe & the (Nurse) Sharks" continues in San Jose huh...Unreal)

*#2 Detroit Red Wings vs. #7 Columbus Blue Jackets- The Pick was the Wings in 5 (Good season for the Jackets but reality set in quick for them didn't it)

*#3 Vancouver Canucks vs. #6 St. Louis Blues- The Pick was the Blues in 7 (How'd this one work out for me?! Blues goalie Chris Mason did turn in a solid effort but Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo turned in a better one as did the Brothers Sedin who combined to post 3-6-9 numbers offensively and a +8 effort. )

*#4 Chicago Blackhawks vs. #5 Calgary Flames- The Pick was the Blackhawks in 7 (Despite the Hawks' only having ONE player post a PLUS effort (Jon Toews at a +3) they pushed through in 6)
So thats 2 out of 4 in the West (NEVER AGAIN SHARKS) so a total of 6 out of 8... Not bad but we can do better and with that in mind it's on to my picks for NHL's "Elite Eight" aka the Conference Semifinals.

In the East:
#1 Boston Bruins vs. #6 Carolina Hurricanes
Based on just their four regular season match ups (which the B's took 4 out of 4) and on paper this looks like a mismatch. The Bruins go four lines deep and bring the physical game on a consistent basis. We all know without question that the B's Milan Lucic can change the "feeling" of a game and an entire series just based on his physical effort on a shift by shift basis, which is exactly what they'll need him to take the lead on from the outset of things and not let the Canes get started or feel like they have any hope of upsetting the #1 seeded Bruins. We also all know that the B's start this years potential Vezina Trophy winner in Tim Thomas in net and have the potential Norris Trophy winner Zdeno Chara on their blue line. Which again on paper makes this series look like one sided. Then add in the fact that from the individual match-ups side, you only need to look at Chara up against Eric Staal, the Hurricanes main man upfront and see where this thing begins and ends to slant in the B's favor. Not to get too overconfident here and take anything way from Carolina's gritty club but let's face it, for the Canes to stay in this series and have any chance to pull an upset, Staal is going to need A LOT of help around him because when you get him on that one-on-one match up against the most dominant, punishing, physical defenseman in the NHL in Chara, it can be tough sledding for even the most talented forward let alone Staal... The Pick: Bruins in 5...

#2 Washington Capitals vs. #4 Pittsburgh Penguins
So... The NHL "some how" gets their "Dream" match up and first ever "Sid the Kid" Crosby vs. Alexander "The Great" Ovechkin Playoff series. Funny how that happened huh...Anyway like many others view point, I don't think those two (Crosby & Ovie) will really be the real difference makers in this series. Crazy you say? Let's just assume for a minute that the unique talents that Crosby & Ovie both bring to the ice will show themselves but in fact with cancel each other out regardless of how spectacular the both may be...OK? The next step is to look at each clubs "2nd tier" stars to see where the edges may come from and without hesitation two names jump out. The first is the Pens Jordan Staal. If you only look at the stats you'll see a player that only had one assist and was minus-1, in Round #1 and as such will NEED to be a main guy in this series and the one that will need to step up in big way if Pittsburgh is going to pull the upset here. I realize Staal is not alone in needing a bigger effort here as the Pens will also need to also more (read: Any) production upfront outside of the Crosby & Malkin lines...HELLO 3rd & 4th lines...Anyone home! Conversely from the Caps' side of things, Mike "The Planet 2" Green has also got to play much, much better than he did in the first round against the Rangers. "Hey Mike, your listed as a DEFENSEMEN right?" OK - then play some DEFENSE will you?!... The written excuse for Green's sub par round #1 was that he was sick for most of it but regardless of that he in NO WAY looked or played like the Norris Trophy candidate he's been rightfully touted as this year and as such was baggage for the most part for a Caps team that already is shaky in their own end due to their uncertain goaltending situation. In my opinion he's (Green) going to have to be THE big, big difference maker for Washington if they're going to have any chance to win this series as well. Because of this and some other factors, The Pick is - The Pens in a thrilling 7 games...

In the West:
#2 Detroit Red Wings vs. #8 Anaheim Ducks
This whole series may well come down to two facts: Fact #1: The Red Wings power play is now firing on all cylinders these days and downright scary... Fact #2: The lions share of the Ducks game is based on their very physical & sometimes down right dirty play which either has intimidated opponents and allowed for turnovers and odd rushes down their opponents end or them being severely shorthanded most of the time... So when you add these two facts together and I'm sure you'll agree that this combo may be tough (near impossible really...) for the Ducks to overcome this situation if they end up spending the whole series in the box, playing shorthanded. Look it, if you consistently play on the edge and at times to and over the extreme, you better make sure your goaltender and your penalty killing will be able to bail you out. With this in mind, The Pick is- Red Wings in a tough 6 games...

#3 Vancouver Canucks vs. #4 Chicago Blackhawks
The easiest way to look at this match up would be to throw out the line that this will be a clash of the Blackhawks offensive prowess against the Canucks defense, more specifically their goaltender Roberto Luongo. True but again easy... For me this one could be all about the "Battle of the After the Whistle, Pushing and Shoving Face Washers"... I see the Blackhawks fourth line of Ben Eager, Troy Brouwer, and Adam Burish continuing to unsettle things both on and off the ice just as the did so effectively against the Flames in round one. Burish in particular was a big factor agitating the Flames top line (See: Iginla, Jerome) on the ice as well as having a lot to say off the it too, which really seemed to effect the Flames and that whole series. On the flip side Vancouver have no shortage of "agitating grinders" as well with guys like Alexandre Burrows, Ryan Kesler, Steve Bernier, Kevin Bieksa etc,. All that being equal I see the "O vs. D" factor being important (that's my one of my Turk like "Key's"btw...)but again I'm really thinking this one will be decided by the team that's LEAST effected by their opponents "in your face, extra jab, extra comment, nastiness" and chippy style. The Pick- The Blackhawks in 6...

So in recap form my picks this round are: B's & Pens in 7 in the East and the Wings & Blackhawks in the West.

Until next time. Let's get focused again and Jacked & Pumped for Game #1 tomorrow night in Boston! Go Broounze! - KingKrej46

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