这导致东部转向倒挂，西一个令人难以置信的有趣的第一轮锯系列统治任何人，但造成了大多粉笔第二轮。 荣誉的表演提出了菲尼克斯野狼，科罗拉多雪崩队和洛杉矶国王队谁在多年的演出超过令人钦佩的各队的第一次季后赛的外观。 洛杉矶国王队和科罗拉多雪崩队表示他们将是一个可行的团队相当长一段时间，因为每个年轻的一批球员，只会从中吸取经验教训，并继续变得更好。 八大系列七去至少有六场比赛，这意味着第二轮得到了一个可怕的很多辜负。
加拿大人做了什么，多数人认为是不可能的，一旦得了一系列以3-1华盛顿优势。 它被认为是上限为弱势爆冷，但不是的方式，最终蒙特利尔被拉断底价...辩护。 华盛顿无法得分和传统智慧告诉你，如果蒙特利尔可以关闭华盛顿话，肯定他们将能够做同样的事情到匹兹堡......吧？ 不见得。 首先加拿大人依赖过于严重的雅罗斯拉夫哈拉是几乎完美。 哈拉可能有几场比赛中他这样的，但他不能发挥这样晚上和晚上的休息的方式。 此外，企鹅是更加物理团队比华盛顿，因此可以更有效地穿你向下远比可能的上限。 也有永远存在无形的企鹅有，那就是他们的经验。 华盛顿是不确定他们能否取胜当事情变得糟糕，但匹兹堡不具有疑问，在他们，因为他们知道（从2-0次，上赛季5-0损失在游戏中5红翼在回来后总决赛），他们必须击败任何人在任何时候，不管在什么情况下的能力。 虽然蒙特利尔将被证明是一个强硬的对手匹兹堡这是不可能的克罗斯比和公司将通过顽强的球队哈布斯驱逐被。 匹兹堡将继续前进。
这可能是最有趣的比赛，在这一轮在纸上。 两支球队都发挥了非常物理游戏，所以很多大的命中会被交易。 除此之外然而，飞行物有优势。 虽然依靠二次得分两队都提前到2轮飞行物有更好的得分的主要选择。 这是不可能的卡特，布里埃，其余的将在检查这阵子举行。 波士顿表现出无力进球（不一样的球队我以为他们会当我拿起他们赢得东部季前赛）在本赛季的课程，可能不会改变。 出于这个原因，我正在费城。
恭喜圣何塞终于争取那些第一轮恶魔和推进，以2轮的第一次在什么好像永远。 幸运的是圣何塞，他们管理没有太多的得分来推进他们的三巨头（马尔，希特利和桑顿）。 他们肯定会需要一个改变，如果他们想击败红翼的希望。 再次，我们可以谈论X和O公司整夜，但是当它归结到它，我只是不能接反底特律。 每年好像他们是由一个和未来西部联盟球队成熟采摘和底特律总是证明每个人都错了。 因此，我捡底特律摘下圣何塞。
两支球队逃过什么样子会是首轮冷门通过第三期复出。 我们是幸运的，他们并没有因为去年的争夺战中两队之间的同一轮是必须看电视，今年将可能会更好。 两支球队都是伟大的前锋与凯恩和公司为芝加哥和SEDIN双胞胎和船员温哥华。 将有机会进攻嘉豪两支球队，所以你有什么期待在比赛中则这样呢？ 当然，目标抚育。 坦率地说，芝加哥的netminding一直如此糟糕，他们已经在该类别中处于劣势; 现在的事实补充说，他们会在另一端争夺罗伯托的Luongo，它是为老鹰甚至更多的麻烦。 然而，去年他们能够得到的Luongo他们一定能够做到这一点，今年再次。 所有的老鹰队需要他们的守门员是要充分发挥他们会处理其余部分。 我拿起芝加哥赢得了整个事情在今年年初，我不会退缩，现在...芝加哥获胜。
雅罗斯拉夫豪拉克的关键是这个系列赛。 哈拉所有需要做的就是保持华盛顿在海湾，如果他能设法做到这一点的加拿大人会得到足够的得分反对华盛顿的瑞士奶酪防御机会。 有两件事我们肯定知道：蒙特利尔不能阻止得分华盛顿和华盛顿无法从得分阻止蒙特利尔。 正如我所提到的头号重点是哈拉而且它是非常重要的蒙特利尔发挥极其出色纪律曲棍球每场比赛的每一分钟。 技术失误将作出这只是比赛的性质而做出错误的决定（传球不好，懒散冰球的追求，等等），并采取惩罚坏的将是蒙特利尔的季后赛生命的尽头。 华盛顿有足够的天赋来克服错误就会使和缺乏足够的防御和参差不齐的干扰球，但蒙特利尔没有。 很多人认为华盛顿是成熟采摘，而这可能是真的，但如果蒙特利尔不保留自己的错误率相比，华盛顿的非常低的资本会打击他们离开。 即使在蒙特利尔没有说拿一个糟糕的判罚，他们不得不依靠的球员在他们的花名册的季后赛经验拿别人与他们的盒子，一点一滴的事项。 如果能蒙特利尔做这些事情，他们会取胜; 但说我走的是资本在五年。
费城会赢得这个系列赛。 它有一点做的飞行物的能力，更多的是与新泽西州的不足之处。 鬼子太依赖首先得分然后用中性区的陷阱和马蒂布罗德扼杀其他球队。 新泽西州不会总是先得分，并有导致保护，也不一定要回来被下调2个或者多个目标应该费城拿到遥遥领先的能力。 这不是1995年了，新的非霍奇金淋巴瘤，不利于新泽西州的系统得到季后赛的成功有很大的量。 他们还提出一个众所周知的墙的伊利亚·科瓦利丘克他们最大的得分威胁面前。 每场比赛将很可能是因为鬼子怎么玩接近，但它是费城的系列取胜。
克罗斯比已经热的晚，但包括两场对阵纽约岛民谁拥有一个非常小的防御，并且导致一吨的得分机会，许多目标。 企鹅有一个很难从得分阻止球队的同时，也没有最大的得分实力本身（授予Gonchar和马尔金受到伤害，这样应该确保自己了）。 有人说，该企鹅只是需要获得季后赛，现在的时机已经到来，他们会更主动地得到他们的共同行动，建立在过去几年的经验，去要回在至少分区决赛。 但是，我认为渥太华参议员可能有话要说有关。 参议员已经在发布会在过去的一个月本赛季最好的球队之一，并发挥令人难以置信的好作为一个单元。 失去亚历科瓦廖夫将是一个挫折，但渥太华他们仍然有丹尼尔Alredsson，杰森Spezza和迈克费舍尔所以他们不会向往的得分呈现在冰面上。 他们的防守队员都相当大，这样将匹配，相对较好的企鹅“从上线到底部。 射门机会将要求对企鹅对渥太华更多的工作比它与岛民。 也许对于渥太华最大的缺陷是布赖恩埃利奥特缺乏季后赛经验。 而重要的经验在所有位置，除非你肯·德莱顿或帕特里克·罗伊它是守门员最重要的。 然而，有多大的企鹅一直在玩（不一致），他们是成熟的不安，我觉得渥太华参议员将做到这一点。
作为技术在分析如何，我认为这场比赛行动将去也许是在浪费时间。 圣何塞一直在这里一次又一次和科罗拉多州是一个长队已超额完成整个赛季。 我想在美国科罗拉多州的时间会很不错，但它只是没有在卡他们今年。 圣何塞有更多的经验，是一个整体更好的球队，而根本不会输给科罗拉多州。 圣何塞借此系列。
纳什维尔具有在季后赛总是很高兴，因为无论有助于非传统市场增长的曲棍球是为游戏和联赛一件好事。 纳什维尔一直在这里过，但一直没有成功地闯过了第一轮（没有羞耻的，因为他们已经在其短暂的历史上扮演底特律在每一个打进季后赛）。 是什么让纳什维尔在这一系列成功的最佳机会是，他们不依赖于任何一个人提供他们的所有罪行。 史蒂夫沙利文，帕特里克Hornqvist，马丁ERAT，杰森阿诺特，JP杜蒙和谢伊·韦伯都有这是一个非常积极的迹象，因为芝加哥不能仅仅着眼于一个人在保持Preds在海湾的希望超过40点的季节。 纳什维尔的问题是，上赛季他们放弃了尽可能多的目标，他们取得这并不是一个好兆头打帕特里克·凯恩，乔纳森托斯，帕特里克夏普和共同的喜好时。 在四中七最佳系列。 虽然我为根曲棍球成功在纳什维尔的游戏的好，我认为芝加哥将太多的Preds和将移动过去纳什维尔的道路上的决赛，因为我预测在赛季开幕。
这是伟大的看到洛杉矶国王队重回季后赛。 我一直在说，因为休赛期，这是球队真正的，他们肯定没有辜负整个赛季都在这里，他们是在季后赛。 安泽Kopitar已经非常显着全年和乔纳森快速已经在网线到线的固体。 我说，这一年开始前，不仅将国王队杀入季后赛，但他们也赢得了他们的第一轮系列赛，我不会从那个退缩。 不幸的是，国王队（和我），他们都上去攻击曲棍球全年，即SEDIN双胞胎与亚历巴路士有时瑞安凯斯勒说是最好的线路。 哦，那罗伯托的Luongo家伙是不是半坏的。 很多人认为这是今年温哥华克服他们所面临的过去，终于走出西部。 我会去反对我的头在采摘这一个，说国王将采取系列，但他们更倚重罗布史古德利的世界杯夺冠经验，从一年前的，因为他们会需要它。
可怜的凤凰。 遏制回休赛期的所有权问题，不知道在那里他们将在今年发挥在赛季开始前，甚至在那里他们将在明年还没有最后确定。 尽管所有的球员团结在一起，而不是只得到了自己进入季后赛，但家冰在第一轮，右很大！？ 错了。 所有的辛勤工作得到他们的上场底特律红翼队在第一轮的奖励，什么奖励为一个伟大的赛季吧？ 我们可以打破的巅峰对决，直到母牛回家，但是这将是愚蠢的，我来接对阵活塞。 我希望凤凰给了底特律一个伟大的斗争，甚至设法击败他们，但是那是不可能的，这就是为什么我给这个系列的红翼。
谁曾想到在交易截止日前，收购由前枫叶选手伊恩·怀特，贾马尔 - 迈耶斯，马特Stajan，尼克拉斯Hagman的，和VESA Toskala的卡尔加里火焰会导致火焰无缘季后赛？ 各位怎么样的人除外卡尔加里火焰组织过任何决策的能力在里面; 老实说，他们在想什么？ 所有的多伦多赛季发挥不佳长但不知何故，采取了很多玩家从表现不佳的球队将提高发挥卡尔加里的水平？ 抓起这些家伙本来是在火焰中得分困境，帮助，相反，它什么也没做。 有传言纷飞周围的火焰组织是在几乎每一个层面一个巨大的变化，在休赛期，也许这是理所当然的。 一路上做出许多决定促成了卡尔加里的被淘汰出季后赛的争夺，但在最近的举动有很多的话语权在他们舒展运行徒劳。 为火焰进入本赛季的目标是最终闯过第一轮......有趣的事情如何变化。
与他们6-3输给了华盛顿首都手中周二卫冕斯坦利杯冠军跌至0-10结合对新泽西州和华盛顿这个赛季。 尽管战绩企鹅已经设法把自己的位置有家庭冰在季后赛第一轮，仍然有机会赢得大西洋赛区。 但是，事实上抛开什么反对两人在东部最好的球队的战绩0-10意味着企鹅在季后赛？ 数字本身并不意味着一大堆，因为常规赛头对头记录不延续到了季后赛，但是这就是为什么他们失去了这么多次向这些球队是更大的故事。 华盛顿压根儿到企鹅他们做了什么给大家的一年，那就是进球得分和得分多一些。 没有什么复杂的关于首都“的游戏，很多专家都说到时候要尽量发挥和最好的七大系列击败一支球队缺乏防守将是相当不利的。 更令人震惊的是企鹅他们的表演对新泽西州。 鬼子用他们的中立区的陷阱，不仅击败了企鹅，但他们在各自的六场比赛他们打的主导匹兹堡。 企鹅管理只有5六场比赛，没有进球，其中被关闭，包括二完全封锁对方。 似乎有一些事确实为给企鹅中立区陷阱头疼，今年比以往任何时候都貌似更。 这种风格影响了他们这么多，坦帕湾闪电利用对企鹅在同一系统最近完美击败匹兹堡2-0。 如果鬼子，现在闪电已经创建了一个蓝图如何支配企鹅那么很可能在季后赛中其他优秀的球队也可以使用相同的系统，实际上导致企鹅被淘汰早在第一轮。 入门拒之门外通过对两支不同的球队三个不同场合的陷阱是没有侥幸，这就是为什么对新泽西州的0-6战绩是可怕的匹兹堡。
最后，这一切都结束了，但喊出来西！ 每一个季后赛席位已经敲定，现在我们只需等待，看看有什么的巅峰对决将是。 今年的比赛包括上赛季的几个不同的面孔为洛杉矶国王队，科罗拉多雪崩队，纳什维尔掠夺者和菲尼克斯野狼都只是从一个赛季前家里看后合格了季后赛的发挥。 这将是非常高兴看到一些新的血液的行列西边出来，但我们不能忘了频繁的传单在底特律红翼存在于季后赛19 日连续一年。 在西部山顶可以在任何的新队取代红翼？ 收听下一次，当我们预览西部和我给的理由为什么底特律将（或不会）返回到总决赛再次。
4月14 日 ，几乎是在这里！
昨晚匹兹堡企鹅是在检查由新泽西恶魔谁现在已经横扫了本季系列的每一次对企鹅6-0和果断地举行又一次。 一队称霸另一个像这样的情况并不罕见，但在这种情况下，不同的是，企鹅一直一直在全年联赛中最好的球队之一，尽管失去了每一场比赛甚至还在争取为师冠新泽西反对他们。 这不是很经常可以看到一队由另一支球队得到为主，但仍是如此之高，在积分榜上。 所以，这是什么意思季后赛？ 坦率地说，只要两支球队让（他们肯定会），但这并不意味着一大堆他们应该匹配了彼此，直到第一个游戏的玩法。 如果匹兹堡能设法赢得第一的最好的七大系列新泽西那么石板基本上擦拭干净。 然而，如果新泽西州匹兹堡殴打和支配他们以同样的方式，他们都那么一年新泽西州会影响到球队企鹅这么多，该系列将基本上结束了它甚至被启动之前的信心。 有没有真正韵或理由红魔“优势在企鹅它充其量不过是新泽西打他们的系统和稳健的企鹅让太多的机会，而不是创造足够他们自己的事。 我们会从这里看到发生了什么，但如果没有别的这一系列的胜利应该给新泽西州一吨的信心拉伸运行继续和过渡进入季后赛。
对于您西区的球迷，不看，但现在的底特律红翼队是在黄金位置晋级季后赛再次。 截至目前红翼有一分的优势超过9 个地方卡尔加里同一款游戏在手，并击败他们每个玩过的最后两个时代的火焰。 无论常规赛如何去底特律，他们似乎总是弄死他们表现出一年四季的任何弱点，并恢复到最佳状态，当四月来临时。 底特律也越来越健康，所以可能性，他们将辗转向下伸展减少与他们回到各自的球员。 如果他们进入季后赛，这很可能会为7 日或8 日的种子; 什么奖谁上台摒弃了会议常规赛冠军的球队。 你工作了一年把自己在可能的最佳位置，你与第一轮比赛反对两个卫冕冠军会议奖励。 有没有像一个日期与弗伦岑，Zetterberg，Lidstrom，秋克等，以及他们所有的斯坦利杯戒指作为话说声称的最高点在会议中的一个祝贺的方式。 尽管这个赛季已经为底特律，如果他们在你要挂他们作为收藏出来向西之一。
最后，什么是芝加哥黑鹰队想在交易截止日？ 在大一点自己的球队是坚实的，不需要调整，以确保了一下应该是一个运行斯坦利杯总决赛（这是一个合理的目标，至少）。 但是，这绝对需要解决的一个领域是干扰球。 不尊重休特和涅米，但他们还没有准备好带领一个团队的应许之地。 无论有任何注季后赛经验，虽然你只能体验其实玩，当团队的其他成员准备好做出有力的推动是没有时间为您netminder让他的脚湿。 凯恩，基思，夏普，陶斯，霍萨，Byfuglien，Versteeg，坎贝尔（受伤前）等等都有望提高，去年的运行到分区决赛采取各自的游戏'到一个新的水平，并在最后一件事他们需要的是干扰球给他们带来了下来。 会后，有人喜欢曼尼Legace谁拥有了一定的经验，甚至是JS Giguere谁，尽管在阿纳海姆失宠有着不俗的业绩和风景也许改变正是医生命令他。 无论哪种选择，本来价值至少尝试，因为任何一方都不可能做任何不如涅米和休特已晚。 在两个星期日在连续两个休特和涅米已经放弃了过多的目标在极短的时间使自己的球队吹2分别3目标引出，吹导致芝加哥无法从两次反弹。 当然这可能发生在任何人在某一天，而是两次7天是不可接受的，这并不是一个好兆头很好芝加哥这个赛季，如果他们发挥甚至接近在季后赛不佳。
今天一个星期前，世界看到的最好的曲棍球比赛在相当长的一段时间，肯定是奥运赛事的最好的一场比赛之一。 尽管美国人表示极大的韧性是加拿大为首的西德尼·克罗斯比谁离开了温哥华冬奥会的金牌曲棍球王。 Crosby的加班目标标志着一个梦幻般的2周曲棍球，产生了大量不可预知的时刻结束。 虽然这是加拿大人谁爬上山顶，到底真正的赢家是冰球迷在世界各地。 所以我趁这个时候祝贺加拿大人对他们的胜利，敬礼曲棍球的比赛一般，并告别什么是一个真棒2周曲棍球。
随着奥运会已成过去，我们从过渡一组伟大的冰球到另一个非霍奇金淋巴瘤拉伸运行进入全面铺开。 因为它代表今天6点通过在东部11一共有四个点隔开，而争夺7和第 8点在西方是一个更加紧密的比赛。 在接下来的几个星期里，我们会发现谁做了正确的行动在交易截止日前，谁应该做得更多。 我们会看到，如果新贵凤凰可以科罗拉多（回光辉岁月上面描述的？）可以保持发挥足够高，以保持季后赛的位置自己的水平，因为它是这两个队今天装配的新概念。 可以底特律红翼设法巩固季后赛席位还是会被排除在外，第一次因为恐龙漫游地球？ 难道匹兹堡企鹅补充足够的新面孔他们的阵容肯定了他们可能不得不把他们入队在东部击败任何不足之处？ 有华盛顿首都终于解决他们足够的把自己弹射到严重的竞争者杯类防御性困境？ 为什么没有波士顿谁是东部头号种子，去年，没有做更多，以解决他们无法得分？ 在这期间谁将会赛季结束亚历奥韦奇金或西德尼·克罗斯比以前更多的球？ 所有这些问题将得到解答在接下来的一个月，这意味着曲棍球球迷们也会从现在起直到被宠坏的斯坦利杯总决赛在六月结束。 好好装备自己puckheads，因为这将是真棒！
NHL的两个最大的明星了冰反对互相为自一年前他们的经典东部半决赛的第一次。 我说的是西德尼·克罗斯比的过程和对企鹅奥韦奇金亚历克斯和华盛顿首都的。 这是联盟最大的两个明星不仅对决也是两人在曲棍球上最好的球队，但。 这场比赛是一个非常有趣的比赛，最终看到了华盛顿匹兹堡关在第三期采取比赛6-3，但比赛本身并没有故事情节。 不幸的是，更大的问题是，本场比赛没有电视转播的出口的人全国各地能看到。 当然这是正在播出的NHL网络上，但谁的人有渠道的数量不仅在纯数字的限制，但也仅限于人谁已经恋爱游戏。 此游戏需要的是对将达到最高人数可能，虽然一个星期的比赛不会对NBC和我接受这个它仍然可能是在对战站。 诚然，非霍奇金淋巴瘤没有最好的电视合同，但他们甚至没有最大化的交易，他们确实有潜力。 曲棍球是一个梦幻般的运动，但我这样的人不需要坚信这一点，这是散风扇谁调整到去年的季后赛系列赛谁需要看到游戏的最好的球员一个展示今年再次以接近比赛吸引他们; 但是，机会是他们没有看到比赛，因为球迷因果关系很可能不具备NHL网络。 与之形成鲜明对比的这在同一个晚上在NBA是展示套管两个在勒布朗 - 詹姆斯和科比在TNT的最大的明星很多更多的人有机会获得。 这简直是NBA的做营销比非霍奇金淋巴瘤的一个更好的工作的一个例子。 在我最起码意见NHL有一个产品，这是NBA场，每天晚上它是更好的营销只是在NBA的一部分的问题是一样好。 如果NHL要保持游戏的增长，简单地采取了伟大的产品，给群众（谁无疑会喜欢他们所看到的），那么他们必须要注意的细节; 否则联赛将继续走了一步，并倒退了两步，当谈到日益普及其在美国。
在冰上新闻埃德蒙顿油工都没有最好的一年。 有很多原因，埃德蒙顿一直在努力，但也有毫无疑问，没有人已经失去了撕心裂肺比油工。 针对上周五晚上在达拉斯星埃德蒙顿的对决就是这样一个令人心碎的损失的完美典范。 刚刚超过一分钟走下来一个目标，油工拉到自己的守门员赞成第六攻击者，并与1:02左在时钟两队战成三人。 球员们都感到非常高兴，球迷们激动，它看上去像埃德蒙顿打算至少从他们的西方敌人会议偷点。 不过，即使没有一分钟后击中心痛埃德蒙顿再次詹姆斯尼尔猛敲家仅23秒后反弹将提前达拉斯好。 说你想了解的方式失去了埃德蒙顿什么和如何他们已经失去了这个赛季的所有比赛一样，但一个晚上，它似乎每个人都在埃德蒙顿就有理由来庆祝一个勇敢复出，而不是最后的第二次失败，但它...是不是意味着要。 在任何情况下感觉不好的专业运动员很辛苦，但在这种情况下，我觉得不好的油工组织和他们的球迷，他们可以买一个的胜利？
最后，我会失职，如果我没有提到的暴发户纽约岛民都具有成功的令人难以置信的金额。 上个赛季，这是一个最差的球队在冰联赛，并与一吨风暴落冰处理至于其未来的长岛。 尽管持续的关冰问题的岛民都相当一个赛季放在一起在冰面上，并在首要位置进入季后赛。 信用可以去的家伙像约翰·塔瓦雷斯谁接走头号整体过去的这个休赛期，或隐藏的宝石像马特Moulson谁已经超出了所有人的预期。 还有的netminder德韦恩Roloson恒星打谁，尽管他的年龄已经表现非常令人钦佩的整个赛季。 不管答案是什么，岛民们组建了一个团队，努力工作每一场比赛，继续变得更好随着赛季的推移，用自己的职业道德结合自己的技能也许窃取游戏，他们不应该，否则取胜。 偷一个双赢时不时就必然会发生任何年轻打败的球队。 在但是岛民队击败像新泽西和底特律在极短的相当令人信服的方式的情况下（有关两队出来）是不是偶然的。 你不战胜顶级球队比赛，但他们关闭了，除非你是很好的，并相信它或没有人的纽约岛民是一支优秀的球队。 我去年所说，早在本赛季，我在这个团队战的夜晚喜闻乐见的方式和夜不归宿它终于开始得到回报他们。 这可能是岛民还是会功亏一篑了季后赛，今年，但如果他们继续玩的方式，他们都是球队将有什么可羞耻的，并有一些伟大的基础上为下个赛季。 已经有很多很好的感觉故事两队本赛季，但没有比这纽约岛民队更好谁是看似超水平发挥迄今。 If you get a chance to watch them on any given night check them out, it's a lot of fun.
Enjoy your weekend of hockey everyone!
The Los Angeles Kings sit atop the Western Conference 34 games into the season. Plenty of people felt good about the improvement we would see in the Kings this season but did anyone have them playing this well? The team owes a lot of its success to the incredible emergences of Anze Kopitar who has become a star almost over-night, and the stellar goaltending from Jonathan Quick who is certainly living up to his name. Aside from the two aforementioned players the Kings do not look like much on paper because their numbers are par or subpar in many cases. Los Angeles has an ok power play and awful penalty killing which ranks near the bottom of the league. While the Kings score a lot of goals they also give up a ton and as a result a lot of the plus/minus numbers for many of its players are pretty terrible. With that in mind, although Los Angeles seems to do a lot of things wrong on paper there is one thing they do incredible well and that's win! Despite everything the Kings seem to come out on top when the final horn sounds and simply put that's all that matters. As a result of their style of play it bodes very well for the Kings come playoff time because style points absolutely do no matter, the idea is to win no matter what happens and in whatever way possible. Timely goal scoring and penalty killing are what make it happen and that is why the Kings—as long as they remain healthy—are going to win at least their first round playoff series and perhaps even further. There is in fact still a long way to go but keep an eye on this team because you'll be hearing a lot more from them come spring time.
On the other end of the Western Conference playoff tree are the Detroit Red Wings. That's right people the Detroit Red Wings from Hockeytown USA find themselves in ninth place a point out of a playoff spot after 32 games played. Granted, Johan Franzen has been out since October as he recovers from knee surgery and his scoring would probably be enough to at least have them in a playoff spot today. However, as it stands Franzen has not been playing and the rest of the team has been unable to pick up the slack as much as they need to. Their first issue is once again goaltending for they went through a similar situation last year in the regular season when neither Osgood nor Conklin (and this year Jimmy Howard) could keep the puck out of the net. The difference between this year and last year is that last year Detroit could outscore anyone to make up for the netminding deficiencies. Detroit has the experience and enough talent to go far come playoff time should they qualify, but getting there is going to be the problem. Fact is that Detroit is getting older, they have plenty of young talent to replace the older guys but these young players need time to find their niches and really get used to their roles to mesh as a team. Not only do the Wings have to worry about internal problems but the fact that the rest of the Western Conference simply got better. With stiffer competition and the lack of intimidation factor that used to come with playing against Detroit (even only two short seasons ago) the Red Wings could, and I think will, find themselves out of a playoff spot for the first time in a long time. Now the Western Conference has turned upside down with LA on top and Detroit on bottom… get used to it folks because it's the new NHL reality.
A few random thoughts for the moment:
After most NHL teams have played in the neighborhood of eight games it is important to note (as should be said every year about this time) that no top team is as good as they seem and no bottom teams are as bad as they seem. So Pens and Rangers fans keep your lids on and Leafs fans it really will get better.
The LA Kings are for real. There has been some debate whether they're ready to be good now or are still a year off. Well after a very strong start there should be no doubt in anybody's mind that they are ready to compete now. So to those of you on the east coast if you do not watch any other games for west coast teams all year make sure to catch LA in a home game if you can it's worth it to watch a team just beginning to bloom.
Early signs point to the Atlantic Division in the east and the Pacific Division in the west as being the most competitive division in each conference. As a result they will probably have the most teams in the playoffs come April.
The Washington Capitals are in the bottom third of the conference in terms of goals allowed. As exciting as that offense is to watch they can forget about winning anything other than the division if they don't play better defensively (and that's not entirely on the goaltender).
The Ottawa Senators have been playing well. Enjoy it while it lasts Sens fans because they are a fraud.
Credit to the Phoenix Coyote players who have not allowed any of the off-ice drama from the summer affect them. They are playing very well right now and the team is going to be solid all year of they can remain focused on hockey. Playoffs? Doubtful, but they are no easy W for anyone. Kudos to the players and keep up the good work.
As much as many puckheads might hate to admit it the Detroit Red Wings are the favorites to win the West until they are officially eliminated from playoff contention or knocked out of the playoffs themselves.
Enjoy your weekend of hockey everyone, all teams in play Saturday, should be a good one.
Tomorrow the journey for the Stanley Cup begins but for now we preview the other side of the coin before the puck drops, all analysis ends, and the games begin.
Ok corny intros aside here is my preview of the west (much like I did for the east) followed by the finals pick and who I think will hoist the Cup next spring.
The eight teams to qualify—in no particular order—are as follows: Detroit Red Wings, Chicago Blackhawks, Columbus Blue Jackets, St. Louis Blues, Vancouver Canucks, Calgary Flames, Los Angeles Kings, and the San Jose Sharks.
The Detroit Red Wings are the best of the best again and despite having lost Hudler and Hossa they will simply use the machine of a farm system they've created to reload without skipping a beat. The only outstanding question in Detroit is the regular season play of Chris Osgood who put up subpar numbers last year from October through March. Showing up in the playoffs has always been Osgood's MO but if he is as inconsistent this year as he was last season the rise of other teams in Detroit's division could find the mighty Red Wings fighting for a playoff spot.
Things are looking up on the ice in Chicago as long as Patrick Kane can stay out of trouble off the ice. Kane along with Patrick Sharp and Jonathan Toews (among others) return while veterans John Madden and Marian Hossa have been added to an already star-studded roster. Much like their counterparts to the north Chicago's only real unknown is in net as Nikolai Khabibulin is now a member of the Edmonton Oilers. The most seasoned and perhaps most likely person to provide stability for the Hawks between the pipes is Cristobal Huet who has shown some signs of greatness. No matter who ultimately gets and keeps the starting job as the goaltender goes so goes Chicago. If their netminder is consistenly good then Chicago can win it all, and if not then they won't, but either way the playoffs are in their future.
Columbus got its first taste of post-season hockey last season riding mainly the back of surprise rookie netminder Steve Mason. While Mason will not enjoy the same amount of individual success as last year it is my contention that the team will fare better overall. Rick Nash is on a short list of stars on the Blue Jackets but what Columbus has over other teams is cohesiveness. This group has gone through a lot of losing together and last year they experienced a taste of winning. Last year's success felt good to them and the bitterness of not winning a game in the post season no doubt left a bitter taste in their mouths and will only bring them together to work harder for one another to become a better squad.
Vancouver rode Roberto Luongo all the way to the post-season last year and sweep the St. Louis Blues out of the playoffs on the stick of Alex Burrows. The playoffs were a coming out party of sorts for Alex Burrows (according to some) and Canucks fans have to hope it was just that. Locking up the Sedin twins was huge for any hopes of being a serious contender for Vancouver but the past few seasons have shown that they cannot rely on the Sedin's for all of their offense. Having three solid lines is something they have lacked for a few years causing their postseason success to be limited. Adding the experience of Mathieu Schneider will greatly improve their blueline but it will be up to the likes of Ryan Kessler and the aforementioned Alex Burrows to prop up this team to the next level. Round one is a given, but round two and beyond is up to Vancouver.
For the Calgary Flames it is short and sweet. They can make it to round one of the playoffs (as they will do again this year) but the question yet again for the Flames is will they have enough discipline to take their frustrations of first round exits and translate it into playing more sound hockey. It's no longer about skill for Calgary, they've got that, it's amount having the mental fortitude to better themselves as a team.
The Los Angeles Kings will probably be the most interesting and exciting story of the Western Conference this season. Most all puckheads agree that this team is on the rise but I think not only are they on the rise but that they will win their first round playoff series. Sure it puts me in a bind as far as other preseason predictions go but I'm saying this one supersedes all other predictions I make with the exception of the scenario in which they play the team I think will advance to the finals out of the west. Generally I am simply that confident in what the Kings organization as a whole is doing. They have taken their licks over the years but have spent a lot of time learning from those lumps and have put some pretty talented players in key areas. They have a lot of good, young players in Dustin Brown, Alexander Frolov (heading into the prime of his career), Jack Johnson, Jarred Stoll (also heading into this prime) and Jonathan Quick who was extremely reliable in goal last year and is likely to only get better. Along with this young talent they have added seasoned veterans in Ryan Smyth and Rob Scuderi who has just come off a Stanley Cup Championship with the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Kings have the right people in the right places at the right time and barring injury this team is poised to be successful right now.
Lastly are the President's Trophy winning San Jose Sharks who have done little to change their team in terms of quantity of moves but the quality of moves has been stellar. Dany Heatley was picked up—at the expense of Jonathan Cheechoo—and will be a wonderful addition to this squad. Regular season success has not been a problem for the Sharks (true of many west teams it seems) but Heatley puts them over the hump into serious contention to win the west. Heatley can not only score a lot of goals but he has enjoyed a fair amount of success before so his experience along with a chip on his shoulder to show those in Ottawa that he can still play is going to move San Jose along another step in the right direction.
The only other team that could make any noise should they make the playoffs are the Anaheim Ducks. Their experience is what sets them above the rest but unfortunately perhaps their greatest asset is their biggest downfall. The Ducks are an aging team who have lost yet another step at every position and can only hope to stay close until the trade deadline where they can maybe make a move for a younger group of players with fresher legs for a lengthy playoff run. Edmonton is not far behind either but they fall short of the star power and physical play needed to succeed in the west. Goaltending is Edmonton's strongest aspect but that was true last year as well so they will not get their either. No other team has a prayer of even getting to the playoffs let alone making noise once they get there.
With all of that said I think the Chicago Blackhawks will be the team to make it out of the west as they will find what they need in net and will go a step further than last year. Chicago will take on the Boston Bruins who will outlast a tired group of Pittsburgh Penguins to take the east. This sets up an awesome original six match-up which will be a marketing dream for the NHL. After an incredible back and fourth battle the Stanley Cup Finals will again go seven games at which point the Chicago Blackhawks will finally allow Marian Hossa to hoist the Stanley Cup as the 2009-2010 Stanley Cup Champions! Enjoy opening night everyone!
Well it has been a long time coming for but finally the NHL season is upon us and as such so is the return of the NHL section of sportsroids.com. I am just as excited as anyone for the season to rev up again so let's get right to it.
The Pittsburgh Penguins are back to defend their title and with the exception of the loss of Rob Scuderi the team is about the same now as they were on the day they won the cup. Despite that, repeating is going to be a daunting task because not only are they the defending champs but in order to repeat they will have to reach the Stanley Cup Finals for a third year in a row. At the same time they still have two of the best players in the world on their team so it will be interesting to see how the story develops in Pittsburgh.
As for the rest of the league there are a lot of intriguing stories to keep an eye on including some old faces in new places (for example Dany Heatley to San Jose, Marian Hossa to Chicago) as well as the return of a few from their disappearing acts (Ray Emery in Philadelphia, Theo Fleury in Calgary). There are also plenty of questions to be asked about both up and coming teams as well as those who have been on the cusp but have not quite made that next big step:
In the East, can Washington play just enough defense this year to get them into the Conference Finals and possibly make their first finals appearance in the Ovechkin Era? Will Philadelphia finally get the consistent play in net they have lacked the last two years that will likely get them over the hump? Does the Southeast Division continue to be a two horse race or can Tampa Bay finally put their talent together well enough to become serious playoff contenders? And what is actually going on in Montreal and Ottawa, have they finally got their respective acts together?
Out west, will Chicago seize this opportunity to dethrone the Detroit Red Wings in the Central Division? Is Dany Heatley the answer to San Jose finally translating their regular season triumphs into post-season glory? Are the LA Kings poised to translate their young talent into a playoff appearance? Is Calgary ready to kick their first round exit habit of the last few years? What is the deal with the Coyotes, are they moving or what?
Of course along with all of the aforementioned questions there are to two major events on the horizon this year in both the Winter Classic (January 1 at Fenway Park) and the Olympic hockey tournament in Vancouver this February. There is so much to talk about and look forward to this season. Over the next few days I will go through a preview of each conference, give you not only who will win each but what other stories to watch out for like what teams will overachieve and those that will disappoint.
So much to do and talk about, it's great to be talking puck again. We here at sportsroids.com are very excited to start year two of hockey blogging, it's great to have you with us!
ESPN is reporting that the long term deals recently signed by Marian Hossa in Chicago and Chris Pronger in Philadelphia are being investigated by the NHL. In short the league is considering whether the two players were asked about when they would retire in order to front load a long-term deal to circumvent the salary cap. In my view no matter what these probes turn up the two aforementioned deals along with contracts worked with some Detroit Red Wing players are obviously to get around the salary cap. This rule bending simply needs to stop. At the end of the day the salary cap's intention is to give medium to small market teams a chance to field championship caliber teams and by making these long term deals the rich teams are simply doing what they've always done and spending their way to the top. If the richer teams continue to do that the viability of the league as a whole is in jeopardy and that's not good for any time. Some argue that the viability of the league generally is an issue for the league officials to deal with and that individual teams have a responsibility to do what they can to win and that's it. However, in reality “bending” the rules designed to make and keep the league prosperous hurts everyone including the teams on top no matter how many playoff appearances or championships they may bring in. More teams in contention in more cities means better US TV deals and higher sales of merchandise which means more money for everyone consistently over the long haul. So to the big market GMs of the world think about the long term consequences of your actions before you decide to upset the balance by bending the rules to get a competitive edge.
When free agency began there were a lot of teams with a lot of needs and as a result the early hours have seen plenty of shuffling around. It's funny to see how quickly teams respond to players leaving, for instance there is the news that Dwayne Roloson is heading to Long Island and shortly thereafter Edmonton makes a deal to acquire Stanley Cup winning netminder Nikolai Khabibulin. Teams spend a lot of money trying to improve their rosters and to play a bit of cat and mouse with their rivals. There are even GMs who learn from other GMs how to circumvent the salary cap to get their man; last year Detroit signs the likes of Zetterberg to long term deals and low and behold the rival Blackhawks do the very same thing when they signed Marian Hossa to a 12 year deal. So does spending all of this money, playing mind games, etc. really result in better chances at winning the Stanley Cup? Ask the pre-salary cap Detroit Red Wings and the answer will be yes but that system has not lended itself to very much success otherwise. Consider the Montreal Canadiens and New York Rangers of the past few years; so much money spent on those considered to be big stars but yielded very little success compared to expectations.
A great example of what it takes the win is the current Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins. Sure they have the superstars in Malkin and Crosby but anyone who watched the playoffs knows their performances alone were not enough. Guys like Staal (a star perhaps in the making but not their yet), Kennedy, and Talbot played key roles in bringing the Penguins the title and clearly would not have won without them. Picking up a few pieces along the way (not to mention a timely coaching change) and the Penguins had the cohesion needed to take home the Cup. We will know more about the makeup of the teams come training camp but in the meantime if you're keeping a close eye on your teams moves in free agency be looking at the whole picture. It's not just about signing the big scorer or even a big time goalie; what you should look for is if your team is putting together a cohesive unit. Make sure there is a role for every superstar signed and look to see if every role that needs to be filled is done so and you don't have a bunch of guys all signed to do the same thing. If there is a place for everyone the deals work, and if there isn't Championships become a pipe dream.
As the Pittsburgh Penguin organization and fans continue to celebrate their club's victory and people in Detroit continue to lick their wounds the rest of the hockey world looks to the future. The NHL awards dinner is Thursday June 18, the NHL entry draft on June 26 and of course NHL free agency starts July 1 st . With the NHL awards first up we'll take a look at three of the biggest awards (according to me) up for grabs and my prediction for who will win; those awards are the Calder Trophy (Top Rookie), Norris Trophy (Top Defensemen), Vezina Trophy (Top Goaltender), and the Hart Trophy (League MVP).
Calder Trophy Nominees are Steve Mason (CBJ), Bobby Ryan (ANA), and Kris Versteeg (CHI). Bobby Ryan made an unbelievable impact on the Ducks this year and will certainly big a major force in Anaheim for years to come but he's not taking home this trophy. Kris Versteeg is an important part on a very young team that will be fantastic for years to come with guys like Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp, and Duncan Keith (among others) but it's not his trophy to win either. The winner in my view has to be Steve Mason of the Columbus Blue Jackets because if not for him the Blue Jackets would not have made the playoffs let alone a decent seed at sixth. Mason led the league in shutouts with 10 and first in Goals Against Average (GAA) in the Western Conference at 2.29. They have some talent in front of Mason in Columbus but he was the backbone of the team and if he plays like this in the years to come as the talent improves with time the Blue Jackets can make a lot of noise but without Mason they won't go anywhere. So as far as I'm concerned the 2008-2009 Calder Trophy winner will be Chris Mason.
Norris Trophy Nominees are Zdeno Chara (BOS), Mike Green (WSH), and Nicklas Lindstrom (DET). Mike Green had a wonderful season for Washington but he was more of an extra forward when he was playing than a good defensemen. Green scored with regularity and played a major role in Washington taking the two spot in the Eastern Conference but his defense is lacking compared to the other two nominees. Nicklas Lindstrom is back once again trying to win the Norris for the 7 th time in his career and is nominated for the umpteenth time. Lindstrom has been a major part of Detroit's success over the years as the face of the team changes over the years Lindstrom remains a constant and it seems like his game never diminishes. I do not think Lindstrom is going to win this year but once again his presence on the ice and leadership on and off of it is second to none. Last but not least is who I think will win the award and that is Zdeno Chara. A major part of the turn-around for Boston from 8 th to 1 st was the play and leadership Zdeno Chara exhibited this season. He has always been a good player but he stepped up majorly this year not only scoring timely goals but also asserting himself physically to help dominate a number of teams over the course of the season. As a result of those things I think Zdeno Chara will be awarded the Norris Trophy.
Vezina Trophy Nominees are Niklas Backstrom (MIN), Steve Mason (CBJ), Tim Thomas (BOS). Niklas Backstrom has a wonderful season for the Wild but two things that hurt his chances are A. that he plays for a team that did not make the playoffs, and B. that he played in the Jacques Lemaire neutral zone trap that has a reputation for making a goalies life much “easier” on a goaltender whether that's fair or not. As a result a person who is probably deserving of winning this award will be left out in the cold. It's a similar story for Steve Mason in that he is definitely deserving of winning the award but since he will in all likelihood win the Calder Trophy the odds that he wins the Vezina trophy are not good. Of the three in the running Mason probably did the most for his team and as a result should probably win the award but it is doubtful that he will take the trophy home. That leaves Tim Thomas who may win the award just by process of elimination but despite that Thomas certainly deserves to win the award and his nomination was well earned. Thomas led the league in GAA at 2.10 as well as save percentage at .933 and was under a lot of pressure to perform in Boston because many felt he could not be a top goaltender. He proved everybody wrong with his consistency this season and should be awarded accordingly. While it may be true that Thomas will win as the last man standing of the three up for the award Thomas could win the award up against any other goaltender in the entire league which is why he'll be given the award at the show on June 18 th .
This year's Hart Trophy nominees are Pavel Datsyuk (DET), Evgeni Malkin (PIT), and Alexander Ovechkin (WSH). This is probably the most anticipated award of the whole show and is definitely one of the most hotly contested award up for grabs. Each nominee is as deserving of the award as the next and that makes it one of the hardest awards to call because each player is so important to the success of his respective team that so little separates them. Pavel Datsyuk had an unbelievable year finishing 5 th in assists (65) and 4 th in points with 97. He is one of the best two way players in the world and has played a large part in the amount of success the Detroit Red Wings have experienced in the last few years in particular. Datsyuk's play in both the offensive and defensive is something that every team craves to get out of their players to at least be adequate at doing let alone excel the way Datsyuk does. To stand out on a team of superstars the way Datsyuk does really says a lot about his game and makes him a deserving Hart Trophy candidate.
Next is Evgeni Malkin who had an unbelievable season in Pittsburgh leading the league in assists with 70 and overall points with 113. Malkin has the ability to take games over when the going gets tough and does just that time and time again carrying the team on his back. He's a player who is great at scoring goals when he needs to be also in making players around him better while he's on the ice. Malkin is a pretty good two-way player—although not as good as Datsyuk—who can back-check with the best of them and turn a rush for the other team into a great counter-attack for Pittsburgh. Leading by example is a strength for Malkin and is a top reason why the Penguins went from a team on the outside looking in on the playoffs to home-ice advantage in the first round in a very short period of time.
Last but not least is Malkin's fellow Russian teammate Alexander Ovechkin. What Ovechkin can do on the ice is clear as he led the league in goals with 56 and finished second in points with 110. Ovechkin is an explosive player who helps make Washington's power play one of the best in the league by far, and can help keep the Caps in a game by scoring big goals in games Washington probably should not be in otherwise if they're being dominated in their own end. Perhaps Ovechkin's biggest weakness is that he is not very good in the defensive zone and has a tendency to disappear if the other team is controlling the puck in the Washington zone while also disallowing the quick breakout counter attack. Nevertheless the energy Ovechkin brings to the game feeds off on other players and certainly makes them better offensively than they might be in other situations. So in terms of value to a team there may be no one who means more to their team than Ovechkin means to the Capitals because he is the lifeblood of that organization. All that said it is hard to say who will win the award by just looking at these three guys on paper. However, it may come down to the fact that Malkin plays with another star in Sidney Crosby and Datsyuk has a bunch of guys around him who are superstars in their own right. Ovechkin on the other hand does not have the stand out superstar around him and as a result Alexander Ovechkin will be your 2008-2009 NHL MVP.
It has been a wonderful season and the NHL awards are a great way to reflect on how wonderful the season has been even including the playoffs despite these being regular season awards. I hope everyone enjoyed this season as it was one of the best for the NHL in recent history which is something they can certainly build on. Now that the season is over it's a fresh start for everyone and so there should be a fair amount of things to talk about this summer as teams prepare to make a cup run of their own next season. Thanks for reading this season everyone and I hope you continue to follow along right here on sportsroids.com as we cover the happenings of the offseason and into training camp come September.
The Pittsburgh Penguins defied the odds Friday night by defeating the Detroit Red Wings to win the franchises third Stanley Cup and first since 1992. The hero of the night was Max Talbot who scored both of Pittsburgh's goals and had the Red Wings scurrying to keep up with him all night. It had been said that the Wings were going to be able to use their experience to walk all over the Penguins to win back-to-back titles with ease. What Pittsburgh showed Friday night is not only did they have outduel Detroit in a game seven, but for the second game in a row they showed more depth than the Red Wings from top to bottom. Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin were again both held without a goal and once again the Penguins showed they don't need their stars to score in order to win. Malkin did in fact have an assist on this night propelling him to his 36 th point and ultimately the Conn Smythe trophy making him the first Russian and only fourth non Canadian to win the Award.
One star the Penguins did need to come up with a huge game was netminder Marc-Andre Fleury and boy did he delivery. Fleury played arguably his best game of the series in game seven exercising all of his Joe Louis Arena demons in the process. Going into the game most felt that Pittsburgh needed a strong game from everyone on the ice to ultimately hoist the cup and that's exactly what they got. Pittsburgh was sharper than Detroit from start to finish including the man who came to the Red Wings in the offseason from Pittsburgh in one Marian Hossa. It was the ultimate irony as Hossa not only did not win a Stanley Cup in Detroit but he lost to the team he left because he felt he'd have a better chance of winning as a Red Wing. Hossa was a ghost in the final series and perhaps the pressure to perform got to him, or maybe we'll later on about an injury he was playing with but the bottom line is he left Pittsburgh last summer to win a cup and it was the Penguins who ended up winning the whole thing.
So congratulations to the Pittsburgh Penguins on their victory. This is a bunch of young guys who may find themselves in this position time and time again in the years to come. But for now, it is a moment for them to simply soak up and enjoy because despite their talent it is also something that may never happen again. Detroit will no doubt be back next year as they retool and get re-energized for next season, but for now the mountain top belongs to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The time is almost upon us and no one is more excited than I as the hockey world prepares for the 15 th game seven in Stanley Cup Finals history. All of the hype over the past few days will culminate it what we hope will be one of the best nights of hockey in recent memory and perhaps one of the best games in all of sports history. That remains to be seen of course but one thing we know for sure is that the Stanley Cup WILL be hoisted tonight and if that isn't enough to get you charged up then you simply don't like hockey. The fans, players, coaches, and media are all ready to go so the electricity inside Joe Louis Arena at the drop of the puck should be extraordinary.
So who will be victorious tonight and raise the Stanley Cup? Many think Detroit is the easy pick having home-ice advantage and experience on their side from having been here time and time again including last year over these very Pittsburgh Penguins. Detroit will also get last change so they expect to continue to hassle Crosby and Malkin at every turn frustrating them from the start of play until the final whistle. However, tonight's X-factor is the third line of the Penguins with Staal, Kennedy, and Cooke. They have played very well at home providing great energy and both goals for Pittsburgh in game six. The biggest advantage for them is that Detroit likes to match-up against every line man-for-man and as a result of that the Penguins third line disrupts that order. For the most part this series the Penguins third line has got the best of Detroit even managing to frustrate them a few times. The top players are going to play well no matter what but when it comes down to it Pittsburgh's third line has an edge over Detroit's third line. So will all the emotion flowing through the Joe tonight it is the third line of the Penguins that will be the difference in them WINNING THE STANLEY CUP. I picked Pittsburgh to win at the outset of this series and I will not back away from that now. Detroit has a lot going for them tonight but it won't be enough as the Pittsburgh Penguins will hoist the Stanley Cup for the third time in team history and first time since 1992.
Whether you're a fan of Pittsburgh, Detroit, or just a fan of hockey generally tonight should be an exciting and memorable night; for no matter what happens it should be a great not for hockey. Enjoy the game everyone!
The Pittsburgh Penguins answered the call Tuesday night to force game seven on Friday in Detroit. Pittsburgh used a lot of energy to dominate the entire first period and second putting up two goals before Detroit could get on the board. A few interesting notes about Tuesday's game are as follows: Sidney Crosby only played 17 minutes while Tyler Kennedy played 19; neither Malkin nor Crosby figured in on the score sheet; the players (excluding goaltenders) who had the best game were probably Jordan Staal, Tyler Kennedy, Brooks Orpik and Rob Scuderi; and last but not least Chris Osgood played a great game and the Penguins still won. Marc-Andre Fleury huge because he kept Detroit out of the net toward the end of the game which was exactly how Pittsburgh needed him to play after yielding five goals in game five. No save was any bigger than the breakaway save on Dan Cleary which probably would have put the Penguins behind the eight ball in terms of momentum.
On the other end were the Detroit Red Wings who were outplayed for most of the night but all-in-all did not play a bad game. Detroit was able to completely shut Malkin and Crosby out –at least kept them both off the score sheet—which most people ahead of time would have said that Detroit completing such a task would result in them hoisting the Stanley Cup. Chris Osgood also played a very solid game—as previously mentioned—a performance good enough for a victory on most nights. The unfortunate thing for Detroit was that they probably set out that night saying they would make the role players for the Penguins beat them on this night and Pittsburgh did just that. It's unlikely that the Red Wings will panic as a result but it definitely gives them something to think about going into game seven.
It's probably too early to make do any serious predictions about game seven just yet. With that in mind it's probably safe to say that the sports world will be very excited in anticipation of this game. There are storylines aplenty as there have been all series long, and if nothing else the Penguins have garnered more respect from the Red Wings than they had before the series started. All of the stats will be thrown out the window once the puck drops on Friday night and it should be quite a treat for everyone from the diehard hockey fan to the casual fan of sport. Let the hype begin as Pittsburgh and Detroit prepare for a one game playoff for the Stanley Cup!
The funniest thing about this series so far is that arguably the team to play best in each game has lost. In the first two games the Red Wings looked tired and broken down, were outshot by an enormous margin and yet they took a 2-0 series lead to Pittsburgh. On Tuesday night (despite scoring first) the Penguins looked outmatched and yet they were victorious. The difference so far has been timeliness goaltending and goal scoring but also in being first to the loose puck at the right time. Special teams have also played a major role as Detroit's penalty killing woes continue yielding two goals (including the game-winner) to Pittsburgh on Tuesday. So what will be the difference in the series as it rolls on? Pittsburgh simply needs to get timely goaltending from Marc-Andre Fleuryp; but furthermore they simply need Malkin and Crosby to each have decent games at the same time! The great news for Pittsburgh is that Detroit has played Crosby extremely tough and yet he still has a point, if that is as bad as it gets for Crosby then Pittsburgh has a great chance of not only getting back into the series but of winning it. Detroit on the other hand needs to use the time they have on Wednesday to rest. They seemed more upbeat on Tuesday and should be in much better shape come Thursday and perhaps that will help their penalty killing. Detroit also cannot continue to allow Pittsburgh to get on the board first because if they do then the Penguins will eventually get a two goal lead and build from there which can get to Osgood as has happened many times this season. In the end however it all comes down to who can one less mistake than the other team because that will likely be the difference between winning a game and therefore the series; and at the moment momentum seems to be in Pittsburgh's favor. The fans are pumped, the players seem relaxed and the hockey world in genearlly is strapping up for a great game four… See you on the other side!
Aside from Detroit's third goal (poor play by the defense and poor goaltending to boot) the Pittsburgh Penguins have been in each of the first two games but the difference is they have been outworked. Detroit certainly has a lot of talent but what makes them so successful is they pride themselves on their work ethic from top to bottom. No matter the skill level of the player each and every Red Wings works as hard as possible from start to finish and it is killing the Penguins. There is also a little bit of bad luck invovled–mainly potential goals by Crosby and Guerin narrowly missing by hitting the post each time–but bad luck does not lose you a series. If Pittsburgh wants to win they simply have to work a little bit harder; they do not need to outmuscle or outclass Detroit (they can't) but they can match their work ethic. By matching their work ethic they Penguins can surely win each of the next two games because that extra work combined with the home crowd, and the skill they already have can put them over the top. There is also the Chris Osgood factor, although he has played very well thus far he has been weakening as time goes on and there was a reason he split time with Ty Conklin this year and went into last year's playoffs as the backup to Hasek; Pittsburgh simply needs to keep going after Conklin the way they went after Varmalov in the second round and the way they did in Cam Ward (slowly but surely) in the Conference Finals. Pittsburgh winning game three means everything to the series and they can certainly do that. If the Penguins win game three then the series will surely change in tide no matter what happens in game four as they have shown they can come back from adversity. We'll see ya after game three everyone.
Ladies and gentlemen the time has arrived as hockey fans the world over gear up for the sports biggest club competition final featuring the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Detroit Red Wings. The storylines in this series are plenty as the defending champs try to stave off last year's runner-up in the new and improved Pittsburgh Penguins. Beyond all of the hype and excitement is where we find the keys to victory for each team. For Pittsburgh they need to have their best players be their best players and have each role player take his role and embrace it every step of the way. If someone is in a scoring slump he shouldn't try to do too much to make up for the slack simply allow everyone else to fill in the void and focus on doing one thing and doing it well. Crosby, Malkin, and Fleury will have to be at the top of their game for sure but the team needs to rely a lot on last year's journey and the success of veterans like Billy Guerin whether it's on game day or at practice. Detroit on the other hand needs to overcome their health problems. The biggest hurdle for them is have played three overtime contests in the last round and are licking their wounds as a result. Otherwise the team has nothing to worry about as just about all of them have experienced an enormous amount of success. Unlike last year however this series will have a different tone and the Pittsburgh Penguins will use their grit, experience, and skill to raise the Stanley Cup for the first time since 1992 and the third time in team history. No curse here for touching the Prince of Whales Trophy folks, it will be the Penguins taking home the 2008-2009 Stanley Cup Title. Enjoy the Finals everyone!
After there game three and game five respective blow out wins the Pittsburgh Penguins and Detroit Red Wings are each one win away from a repeat of last year's finals. Both teams looked very impressive as both their stars and role players shined in fairly one-sided victories. The Penguins had to flex a little more muscle because of the solid performance by Cam Ward that was aided by basically nothing from the rest of the team. Sure one might say the game was closer than the 6-2 score indicated but Ward still needed to get a lot more out of the guys in front of him to win and he didn't. In Chicago on the other hand, Huet getting his first start of this post-season proved to be a disaster as the Wings soared to an early 3-1 lead and never looked back. So for the moment both teams look to be in control and although neither series is over, a finals rematch is looming. As such, what could we expect to see differently this time around? The Penguins would certainly like to get off to a better start than last time and their year's worth of experience will certainly aid in that. It isn't just having lost in the finals last year but also having been pushed to the brink in the regular season (almost not qualifying for the playoffs) and in the playoffs when they were down 2-0 to Washington. Detroit simply needs to do what they've been doing and they will be fine. Of course the storyline to watch would be Marian Hossa taking on his old team as he left them for a chance to win the Stanley Cup in Detroit. Could the Penguins prove he made a mistake by leaving or will the Red Wings again prove their league supremacy? Perhaps we will find out soon enough!
Ode to the Detroit Red Wings for making a 3-2 overtime Conference Finals game one of the least entertaining hockey games I have ever seen. Outside of Hawks and Wings fans game two of the Western Conference Finals quite frankly was boring. The Red Wings are so methodical in how they play the game that despite how quick their team is moving all the time the game appears to be going at a snail's pace. There is rarely any up and down the ice play, chances come very infrequently and when they do come along there is almost never any counter attacking for either side. I take nothing away from what the Red Wings do because they create chances for themselves and tend to capitalize on them when they do arise meaning they don't need the up and down style of play to be successful. However, it makes for slow play with little to no suspense at all. I think Detroit will win the series and move on to the finals where they will employ the same style that got them there in the first play no matter who they play. But for the sake of the NHL and hockey fans generally I hope Chicago can find some way to come back to win this series… or at least whoever the Wings end up playing in the finals forces them out of their style allowing the game to pick up the pace.
The Eastern Conference Finals start tomorrow night between the defending Eastern Conference Champion Pittsburgh Penguins and the last team to win the Stanley Cup out of the east in the Carolina Hurricanes. These two teams may not have the natural rivalry Pittsburgh had with Washington but there is plenty to keep us entertained. Most notably is the sibling rivalry that puts Eric Staal (Carolina) against brother Jordan Staal (Pittsburgh) for the first time in the playoffs. While there no doubt the utmost respect between the brothers anyone who has a sibling knows that there's nothing like beating a sibling and claiming bragging rights in the family. There is also the Pittsburgh connection that Hurricanes assistant coach Ron Francis has as he won two Stanley Cup titles with the Penguins in 1991 and 1992. But the best motivation for each team is the fact that this series is for a chance to play for the Stanley Cup! No professional hockey player needs any more motivation than that. So let's take a look at each team, their respective keys to victory and my prediction of how this series will turn out. [After going 4-4 in round one the sportsroids.com predictions are now at 7-5 and looking to improve!]
The Carolina Hurricanes are only three years removed from hoisting the Stanley Cup and still have a number of members from the 2006 team on the 2009 version which is an invaluable asset. The most important of that group is Conn Smythe winning goaltender Cam Ward. Ward has been the key to Carolina's success all year long; he has been the reason they qualified for the playoffs and why they were able to advance past both New Jersey and Boston, two teams who many had going to the Finals. In order for Carolina to have any chance of defeating Pittsburgh Cam Ward must be top-notch. Carolina simply does not have the fire power to outmuscle Pittsburgh in an offensive shootout so it is imperative that Cam Ward shuts them down. Aside from Ward the Hurricanes will have to make use of their speed and grit to be victorious. The Canes do not have a whole lot of size so they will have to use their speed to create scoring chances and make sure they get optimal scoring performance from Eric Staal and Jussi Jokinen just as they have thus far in these playoffs. Carolina will also need to use their speed to be gritty down low in both zones and be the first to loose pucks in the neutral zone and in the defensive zone. But even if Carolina does all that if Cam Ward isn't almost perfect they still won't win.
The key for Pittsburgh? Surprise Surprise, it's get to Cam Ward! We know the star power that exists on the Penguins and their ability to get secondary scoring from people all over the line-up. Generally speaking the Penguins simply need to keep playing the way they've been playing throughout the playoffs and also need to have Fleury return to the form he was in against the Philadelphia Flyers. One can talk about strategy from the Penguins' prospective all day long but the bottom line is they need to get to Cam Ward. If Pittsburgh makes Cam Ward look human they will advance in the series with little trouble; if they don't the series will go a long way, Pittsburgh will start to get frustrated and before you know it Carolina will be headed to the Stanley Cup Finals. Despite all that, barring major injury, I don't think Carolina matches up well with Pittsburgh and although the games will be very close it will be Pittsburgh advancing to the Stanley Cup Finals defeating Carolina in five games. And so for the second it will be the Pittsburgh Penguins taking on the Detroit Red Wings for the right to hoist Lord Stanley's Cup.
The Conference Finals start Sunday afternoon so before they get rolling let's take a lot at both series to see what we should expect from both and most importantly who will win!
The Western Conference features the regulars versus the new kids on the block as the Detroit Red Wings take on the Chicago Blackhawks . Detroit won the Stanley Cup last year and are in position to be the first team to repeat as champions since they did it in 1997-98. This process is nothing new to the Red Wings and they'll be all business come Sunday afternoon whereas the Blackhawks have not been here in quite some time. Chicago is looking to return to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time since 1992 where they were swept by the Pittsburgh Penguins . With those facts in mind which team has the edge? The easy answer is the Detroit Red Wings and rightfully so but there are other factors that play into this series that will make it a lot closer than it might first appear on paper. The following are what I think each team needs to do to win:
Detroit simply needs to remained focused on their goal. One of the things they pride themselves in is not retaliating to any post-whistle scrums, cheap shots, or “jaw-jacking” the other team might do which they have to continue to do. The Red Wings must allow their superior level of skill to shine through no matter the circumstances and stay out of the penalty box. This series is different from the previous two in that way because it is a natural rivalry that goes back to the 1920s and the early days of the NHL. But the most important factor for Detroit is going to be the play of Chris Osgood. There is no denying all that Osgood has accomplished but none of that is counted toward his record in this series. Osgood has played well thus far in the playoffs but if it returns to his regular season form at all the Hawks will eat him alive which would push Mike Babcock to insert Ty Conklin who was not much better over the course of the season and hasn't played in these playoffs at all so far.
Chicago has to keep playing with reckless abandon giving no credence to any of the factors going against them. Sure this is the first time most of them have been in this spot and yes the Red Wings greatly outmatch them at almost every position and yes Detroit is very methodical about their play from the opening face-off to the end of the game. Chicago cannot look to the other side of the ice and be blinded by the glare of Hart, Conn Smythe, and Norris Trophies and Stanley Cup rings. The young Hawks simply need to play hockey they way they have all along in these playoffs. They don't care who they are up against they are just a bunch of young guys who love to play hockey and are going out there to beat up on whoever they're playing. Most importantly, they will have to rely heavily on Nikolai Khabibulin's experience in goal to possibly propel them to the next level. If the Hawks can do that they give themselves a very good chance of winning this series. In the long run however I think the Red Wings will be too much and will send the Hawks packing in a very competitive five game series.
Tune in tomorrow for the Eastern Conference Finals preview.
Round two came to a close Thursday night and what a round two it ways. With three series going to game seven and the other an incredibly entertaining six game series the NHL should hold its head high tonight. Detroit/Anaheim and Boston/Carolina put the icing on the cake with two incredible game seven performances culminated with a game seven overtime won by the Canes over the Bruins. As much as I love hockey it has fallen from the graces of many people since the lockout in 2004, but this round has put the NHL back on the national map. Casual fans are tuning in and that base is continuing to grow as the ratings have skyrocketed as a result. Sports fans across the board have soaked up every moment of round two with many hoping the stage isn't set for the Conference Finals to be a letdown. But with the stakes getting higher as we move onto round three it seems highly unlikely that something like that will happen. The time will come in short order to look forward to the next round but now is the time to reflecting upon round two and simply appreciate what we saw.
The Pens and Caps stole the headlines with plenty of star power, the incredible story of rookie netminder Simeon Varlamov, and six unbelievably entertaining games including three overtime contests and at least one lead change in every game. The Pens and Caps not only put on a great show but they further escalated a rivalry that will be sensational for years to come. The other second round series in the east did not have nearly the amount of drama as the Pens-Caps until game seven.
The Bruins and Canes gave us everything one hopes to get out of a game seven. Each team had a lead at one point in the game with the Bruins taking the early 1-0 lead before Carolina battled back to net two in a row only to see Boston send it to overtime. In the extra period there were chances aplenty stifled by tremendous goaltending by both Ward and Thomas. And just as it seemed like the game was destined for double overtime Scott Walker buried a rebound behind Tim Thomas to score his first career playoff goal… and boy what a time to do it.
In the West the headliner was the battle between the last two Stanley Cup Champions in Anaheim and Detroit. Despite Anaheim being seeded eighth many felt the Ducks had a chance to put away the defending champs. The two teams battled game to game until the series finally culminated in a game seven that went the way of the rest of the series. Both goaltenders put on a great show combined with a lot of heavy hitting and lots of drama with both teams getting ticked at the referees at one point or another. In the end however the defending champs showed their grit by scoring the series winning goal with three minutes remaining in the third period.
Lastly we'll mention the upstart Blackhawks put away Roberto Luongo and the high-flying Vancouver Canucks. In their respective first round series the Hawks and Canucks traveled very different paths. Vancouver steamrolled St. Louis while Chicago had to battle to put away a banged-up but resilient Calgary Flames squad that had high expectations; as a result many felt the experienced Canucks would be able to dispose of a good but young Blackhawks squad whose “time was yet to come.” The people in Chicago—fans and players alike—had different plans as the young squad played each game like they had been there before withstanding early leads by Vancouver and eventually busting through the brick wall that is Roberto Luongo to advance to the Conference Finals.
Perhaps one of the best playoff rounds in any sport ever… and we've still got two rounds to go. See you in the Conference Finals everybody!
Round two of the playoffs has been the best round of the post-season by far to this point and the excitement continues to build. Let's take a brief look at each series up to this point.
3. Washington Capitals VS 4. Pittsburgh Penguins
This has been the keynote series since the second round draw came out and it has not disappointed. Four of the five games have been decided by one goal and two were decided in overtime. The big stars Ovechkin and Crosby have stepped up to the plate and have excelled in the spotlight as all of North America looks on. There has also been plenty of drama to boot with both sides making complaints about the officiating at one point or another and Ovechkin hitting Sergei Gonchar knee-on-knee which has created plenty of controversy across the airwaves. The series has been the perfect showcase for the NHL as hardcore and casual fans alike tune in and are NOT disappointed. As of the writing of this article the Penguins have taken a 3-2 series lead after dropping the first to in Washington. Pittsburgh finally got some secondary scoring in game five and it proved to be the difference between the two teams as the big stars continue to cancel each other out. Penguin fans would love for this series to finish in six, but for the rest of the world how could this series culminate any better than if it comes down to game seven on Wednesday at Verizon Center?
1. Boston Bruins VS 6. Carolina Hurricanes
For many this has been the shocker of the three Conference Semi-finals as the high-powered Bruins were seemingly going to steam roll the Hurricanes right into the Conference finals. However, since the end of game one it has been all Carolina. Cam Ward, Eric Staal and Jussi Jokinen have been unbelievable leading the Canes to an unlikely 3-1 series lead. The difference in the series comes down to Carolina's best players performing at the highest level while the Bruins have not been able to rely on their studs as much as they have all year. Zdano Chara in particular has not been the same since game one where he shut down Eric Staal. For the Bruins to get back into the series they have to better utilize their size to create offense and continue to put pressure on Cam Ward. Boston cannot win by simply getting frustrated when Ward plays well and by trying to fall back into their defensive style when they're only up by one or when the game is tied, playing not to lose rather than to win. There is a lot of speed on the Canes and the Bruins need to neutralize that speed with some pace of their own. But don't think this is a fluke because the Canes have plenty of talent and have been to the promised land before winning the Cup in 2006.
2. Detroit Red Wings VS 8. Anaheim Ducks
Jonas Hiller had been playing extremely well until Thursday night when he was pulled for veteran netminder JS Giguere. Overall the Ducks have played incredibly well making use of their size and skill to stick with the same attributes as Detroit. Much has been written about this series on sportsroids in recent days which you can see by clicking HERE . The only difference at this point is that whoever plays in net for Anaheim has to be almost flawless while the rest of the Ducks do what they've been doing all along. Detroit will probably end up winning this series but the Ducks have show a ton of grit which has made for a very entertaining and suspenseful series.
3. Vancouver Canucks VS 4. Chicago Blackhawks
The Chicago Blackhawks have shown that they are not simply content with making it to the second round of the playoffs and that they feel they have a chance to go much further with their team's make-up. With the stars that Chicago has there's no reason to believe that they can't get into the Conference Finals and maybe beyond that. The Canucks on the other hand have needed to rely way too much on Roberto Luongo to win games for them and they are playing on barrowed time if they keep that up. As this article is being written the Canucks have a 2-1 lead in the second period after finally getting a goal from Mats Sundin. Guys like Sundin, Kesler, the Sedin twins and Burrows have to play at the highest level possible every minute of every game in order for the Canucks to get beyond just round two. Luongo alone can only carry them but so far. Regardless of the outcome however the series has been quite entertaining (much like the other three) and perhaps they will treat us to a game seven which every fan loves.
Coming into Thursday night the Anaheim Ducks had a 2-1 series lead over the defending champion Detroit Red Wings; as I write this they have yet to face off in game four. Regardless of the outcome of Thursday's game the Ducks have proven that despite their eight seed they are not intimidated by the Red Wings nor star struck by their success. The Ducks have had as much success in recent years as the Red Wings with just as many superstars and are playing without fear. Anaheim is hitting Detroit in the mouth disallowing them from using their enormous skill to the fullest potential. The Ducks have certainly relied on playoff newcomer Jonas Hiller—who has stepped up to the challenge and passed the test with flying colors—but they are also taking advantage of the few opportunities they do get to get the puck behind Chris Osgood. As good as the Pittsburgh-Washington series has been many would argue with validity that this series has been at least equally as entertaining. There is a strong possibility that the winner of this series will go on to win the Stanley Cup. Sure the games are on late when played in Anaheim but if you have the chance stay up one night to check this series out. Great goaltending, physical play, incredible skill, and plenty of drama are all contained in this series with a triple overtime game to boot! As a hockey fan or simply a fan of sports in general what's not to like about this series?
PS A lot has happened on and off the ice this week… tune in this weekend for this week in hockey review
Although the east has the so called “dream match-up” the second round of the Western Conference probably has the series with the most potential as the last two Stanley Cup Champions will go head-to-head.
2. Detroit Red Wings vs. 8. Anaheim Ducks
The seeding in this series explains who has home ice advantage and that is it. The match-up itself is a very even one as each team equals the other in talent and experience alike. Coming into the playoffs the defending champion Red Wings had only one question, goaltending. But after their first round sweep of Columbus it looks like Chris Osgood is back to form when it matters the most. Ahead of Osgood the Red Wings have continued to suffocate teams by scoring goals while limiting the other team's scoring chances by holding on to the puck for so much of the game. In large part perhaps the best and maybe only way to stop Detroit's offensive zone, puck-possession style is by asserting one's physical presence… enter the Anaheim Ducks. Not only do the Ducks equal Detroit in skill and experience but also in size. The Ducks are big up front and at the blue line which is what propelled them to the Stanley Cup just two years ago where they beat the Red Wings along the way I might add. Quite possibly the only weakness for the Ducks is netminder Jonas Hiller and that's only because he has never been here before. Hiller proved himself worthy in the first round by shutting out the President's Trophy winning Sharks and if that continues then consider that question answered.
So what is the X-factor in this series? For the Red Wings to win they simply have to do what they did in the first round and have done time and time again in the past, simply play their game from start to finish. For the Ducks they have to keep themselves out of the penalty box, but if they do go to the box they need to take a Red Wing with them when they can—via fighting majors or retaliation penalties—and when they do yield Detroit a power play they need make sure their penalties are because of hard play and not because of stupid interference or holding calls. The Ducks will also need to see if they can get Osgood to return to his 2008-2009 regular season form in which both is GAA and save percentage were terrible. However in the end it will be the Detroit Red Wings who take this evenly matched series in seven.
3. Vancouver Canucks vs. 4. Chicago Blackhawks
Many people would say this is another evenly matched series that can go either way but I tend to disagree. Roberto Luongo gets the edge in goaltending over Nikolai Khabibulin although give Khabiblulin another feather in his cap since he has won a Cup whereas Luongo has not. Outside of the goaltending comparison the Blackhawks have a much better overall team than the Canucks. On paper the teams are evenly matched but the Canucks rely way too much on Luongo to bail them out time and time again; that has worked out so far but is not likely to continue indefinitely. Alex Burrows stepped up big time for the Canucks in round one scoring huge goals with none being bigger than the series clinching goal in overtime of game four. The Sedin twins have been good but outside of the two of them and Alex Burrows playing above his pay grade in round one the Canucks did not get much support from the rest of the team. Mats Sundin should now get a chance to heal and could make a difference for the Canucks but since arriving in Vancouver he has mostly underachieved despite playing well down the stretch.
As for the Blackhawks, they have an enormous amount of skill up front (Kris Versteeg, Martin Havlat, Patrick Sharp, Jonathan Towes to name a few) while also possessing a very strong blueline with Ben Eager, Duncan Keith, and company. Sure they lost two games against Calgary while Vancouver swept through St. Louis but the Hawks were up against much stronger competition who they squashed in the last two games of that series. So all the Blackhawks have to do to win is to continue to play as a very strong unit while Vancouver's best chance of winning is relying heavily on Luongo. With that in mind, the Hawks have a much wider margin of error than the Canucks do and will win the series in six as a result.
Enjoy round two everybody!
Well the playoffs are now in full swing as every series will have played two games by the end of Saturday. So let's take a look and how the respective series are unfolding:
1. Boston Bruins VS 8.Montreal Canadiens
The final score of game one was about what everybody expected but the level of competition between the two clubs was probably higher than most thought. Boston roared out to a 2-0 lead but the Canadiens battled back to tie the game at two before ultimately going down 4-2. But the rivalry is hot and despite the perception of a major mismatch it doesn't seem likely to be over anytime soon. Game 2 is tonight before the series shifts back to Montreal so we'll see what surprises are in store for us.
2. Washington Capitals VS 7. New York Rangers
Jose Theodore didn't make it past the first game as he was benched for rookie back up netminder Simeon Varlamov after Washington's 4-3 loss at home to the Rangers. Again many people felt the Rangers were completely outmatch by the fire power of the Capitals and that the only chance the Rangers had offensively is if Theodore didn't play well. Theodore did not play all that well in game one and the Rangers stole one from Washington but surely things would be different now that Theodore was benched. Varlamov did indeed play very well in net for Washington Saturday afternoon as the Rangers were only able to net one behind the rookie netminder. Unfortunately for the Caps Henrik Lundqvist was up to the challenge and shut Ovechkin and company out. Now the series shifts back to New York with the Rangers having a commanding lead and looking for the sweep. Sportsroids when against the grain in predicting a Rangers win in this series and so far the Rangers have no disappointed.
3. New Jersey Devils VS Carolina Hurricanes
In a series that many felt would be evenly matched has surely turned out to be that way. After game one the Canes looked to be greatly overmatched; but after Carolina took game two in overtime we've got ourselves a series. The two teams are so similar in every aspect of the game and that makes the series a virtually toss up on paper. Sportsroids said Carolina in five and although that seems unlikely now we are sticking to our guns! Regardless of what happens there is a lot of great hockey ahead of us in this series.
4. Pittsburgh Penguins VS 5. Philadelphia Flyers
The Flyers seemed greatly outmatched after game one but game two was an entirely different story. Philly took the earlier lead but Pittsburgh battled back to tie. Then the Flyers took another lead only to see penalties allow the Penguins back into a game seemingly headed to the win column for the Flyers. But take nothing away from Pittsburgh, they dominated game one and although were largely outplayed in game two they took advantage of Flyer mistakes and now have a strangle-hold on the series. Don't expect the Flyers to quit though as they move home to play in front of their rowdy and very unforgiving fans at Wachovia center. Sportsroids told you this would go seven games, and although that is still possible if Pittsburgh wins either of the games in Philadelphia the Flyers will be in serious trouble. The Flyers won't fold but don't expect Pittsburgh to take their proverbial foot off the gas.
1. San Jose Sharks VS 8. Anaheim Ducks
People were wondering if the Sharks were finally ready to take it to the next level or if the same old Sharks would show up again in the playoffs. One game does not a series make but for at least one night it's the same old Sharks. Granted, the Ducks are not far removed from a Stanley Cup Championship but the Sharks at least need to score a goal. There is still a long way to go but if San Jose continues to play like they did in game one they will be making an early exit.
2. Detroit Red Wings VS 7.Columbus Blue Jackets
As I write this post the Red Wings are leading the Blue Jackets 3-0 at the second intermission, this after winning game one 4-1. The Blue Jackets have been a great story all season but the playoffs are too much for them and so they are done.
3. Vancouver Canucks VS 6. St. Louis Blues
The Blues were another good story going into the playoffs but after making a pretty good showing in game one they were completely shut down by Vancouver in game two losing 3-0. Like Columbus, St. Louis is an up and coming team with great goaltending but they appear to be severely overmatched by the Vancouver Canucks.
4. Chicago Blackhawks VS 5. Calgary Flames
Game one of this series was probably the most entertaining game of the first round so far. Game one had everything you could want in a playoff hockey game: lead changes, scrums, great individual battles, fantastic goaltending and overtime! Sure Martin Havlat ended the party early by scoring only 12 seconds into the overtime period but if game one was any indication of how the rest of the series will go then this and the Carolina-New Jersey series have the potential to become classics.
Like you, we at sportsroids will be watching intently to see how the rest of round one unfolds. Enjoy the ride hockey fans!
The Western Conference welcomes newcomers (Columbus), perennial powerhouses (Detroit) and those who haven't been there in quite a while (Chicago, St. Louis). Those facts make for a very interesting two months so we at sportsroids will try to make it simply for you by previewing the match-ups.
1. San Jose Sharks VS 8. Anaheim Ducks
The first all California NHL playoff match-up since the 1960s puts the old dogs against the new kids on the block… in a way. San Jose has had some very good teams in recent years and have experienced a fair amount of playoff success by getting their consistently and winning their fair share of games. Despite the wins racked up since their inception into the league in the early 1990s, the Sharks have yet to reach the hockey summit. Expectations are now higher for them than ever before after a disappointing year last season leading to the firing of Ron Wilson in favor of Todd McClellan who brought the Sharks their first ever President's Trophy. The Sharks are a relatively young team but the fans are tired of second round exits and are very much expecting a strong run at the Stanley Cup from the Sharks. On the flip side are the Anaheim Ducks who have been in the league less time than San Jose but already have two Cup finals trips to show for along with a Stanley Cup Championship two short years ago. In that regard the Ducks are the old dogs because they have “been there, done that” where San Jose has not. Bottom line is, the series will come down to experience versus youth; although I think Anaheim is a very dangerous team (despite their 8 th seed) who can cause a lot of damage if they get out of the first round. However, I think the Sharks time is now, their coach, city, and players are all read to take that next step and it starts with a six game series win over the in-state rival Ducks.
2. Detroit Red Wings VS 7. Columbus Blue Jackets
Much like the Sharks-Ducks series the Red Wings have been there done that and Columbus hasn't… ever. This is the first playoff go around for the city of Columbus and the Blue Jackets franchise. There will be a lot of energy in the Nationwide Arena game four as the Blue Jackets host their first playoff game. Despite all the energy the Blue Jackets will have going into Detroit the Red Wings will have too much fire power for the Blue Jackets to succeed. Goaltending has been dicey all season for Detroit but as Chris Osgood has shown before when it counts he is top-notch. Blue Jacket stars Rick Nash, RJ Umberger, Kristian Huselius, and rookie phenom Steve Mason will give Columbus a punchers chance in this series but will come up short. Cronwall, Zetterberg, Lindstrom, Franzen, etc. will be way too much for upstart Columbus… Detroit in five.
3. Vancouver Canucks VS 6. St. Louis Blues
Both teams have been hot as of late as St. Louis came from being down and out all the way up to the sixth seed; while Vancouver was 12 points down to Calgary only to surge back to snatch the division title from the Flames. When two hot teams meet on a playoff collision course there are usually a lot of fireworks and should make for a very entertaining series. The Blues have a lot of talent on their team in guys like Brad Boyes, David Backes, David Parron, rookie sensation TJ Oshie and goaltender extraordinaire Chris Mason. They fought hard to reach this point and have a city that hasn't seen the playoffs in quite some time pretty charged up. St. Lous will undoubtedly put up a great fight and may very well pull off the upset. However, the Sedin twins, Alex Burrows, Mats Sundin, and Roberto Luongo (the X-factor and probably the most important piece to Vancouver's puzzle) will push forward in the playoffs and dispose of the Blues in five.
4. Chicago VS 5. Calgary
The Blackhawks are finally back to the playoffs and the city is on fire, burning with passion for their hockey team. Martin Havlat, Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, and Patrick Sharp along with solid goaltending from Nikolai Khabibulin earned Chicago home-ice in the first round and some very excited fans. Many think Chicago can be very good for a long time but this year may be just a bit too early for the Blackhawks. They are up against a very tough first round opponent who are under a lot of pressure to finally perform in the playoffs after underachieving since their Cup Finals appearance in 2004. The Flames have assembled a lot of stars—Jarome Iginla, Mike Cammalleri, Dion Phaneuf, and Olli Jokinen to name a few—but the most important player on the ice will be Mikka Kiprusoff. The highly touted netminder has been nothing short of spectacular for Calgary over the years but has played a lot of games over the years (including this season) and has faced a ton of shots. Kiprusoff can hold up but will need help from the team in front of him to take some of the pressure off and limit the shots the Blackhawks get on net. 25-30 shots per game are ok but once you get higher than 30 consistently Kiprusoff is only human and will break down. Limiting shots on goal for Calgary is of the utmost importance if they want to finally have the success many think they can achieve. Although they blew their division lead down the stretch I think the Flames have the right pieces assembled to go deep into the playoffs…starting with a six game series victory over Chicago.
The NHL All-Star break is now over and mercifully so is the NHL All-Star game. It was the highest scoring all-star game and 22 goals scored plus the addition goal awarded for the shootout win for the East really could not have been any less entertaining. Even the skills competition was boring with the modification of the event to try to make it more exciting did the exact opposite. With that said, Tuesday night the de facto second half began and there were some pretty good games on tap. The best of Tuesday's games was in Boston as the Bruins battled the Caps.
Washington and Boston are two of the best teams in the lead not only in team points but in talent level and that makes all of their match-ups particularly intriguing. Washington made Boston come from behind twice in the game before the game was won 3-2 in overtime by Boston on a blocked pass attempt that by chance went into the net behind Theodore. It was unfortunate because both netminders played an incredible third period making incredible shots to keep their respective teams in the game as the aforementioned talent that these two teams are loaded with. Both Theodore and Thomas showed Tuesday night that despite all that talent it is the goalies who need to be the best player on the ice more often than not if any hockey team wants to be a legitimate Stanley Cup contender.
Some other notes worth mentioning before signing off:
Claude Lemieux made his return to Colorado with the San Jose Sharks. The 43 year old signed an AHL deal with San Jose before being called up to play with the NHL club last Tuesday.
The Buffalo Sabres scored 2 goals in the first 1:45 of the first period against Edmonton on route to crushing the Oilers 10-2.
The Detroit Red Wings started the second half of the season with a 3-2 OT loss to Columbus.
Monday night the Boston Bruins defeated the Montreal Canadiens 3-1 to improve their East leading point total to 68. Later Monday night the Sharks improved their league leading total to 69 which might lead some to believe that San Jose and Boston are on a Stanley Cup Finals collision course. While clearly possible it is not going to happen, or at least I don't think it will. San Jose still has to get by the Detroit Red Wings which will not be an easy task for a number of reasons namely their experience and goal-scoring ability. Chris Osgood has struggle a bit so far despite his good record and seems to be a weakness for Detroit at the moment but if last season is any indication come playoff time that weakness will morph into a strength. The Bruins seemed to lack a weakness; they play great defense, are scoring like crazy, have great size and will probably have fresh legs come playoff time because the trap they run helps to keep players from exerting too much energy by allowing them to simply stand in the neutral zone to clog it up as the other team comes to them. But two important pieces are missing for the Bruins: one is that their coach Claude Julien has experienced very little playoff success in the NHL. Secondly, Tim Thomas has one year of playoff experience and that was last year against Montreal in a series that he did not play particularly well, enough so that the Bruins brought in Manny Frenandez because they felt Thomas could not be trusted. Not having experience in other positions hurts but when the coach and goaltender both had very little success in the playoffs it is very detrimental to a team and in this case will keep Boston from even reaching the finals. So despite the looks of things now don't count on a Bruins/Sharks finals, but Boston will make a lot of noise nevertheless in the playoffs.
The second Winter Classic wrapped up from Wrigley Field Thursday afternoon in front of 40+ thousand fans who unfortunately witnessed a Blackhawks loss but were part of a historical experience they will likely not soon forget. The event itself was spectacular as Wrigley Field was set up perfectly with piles of snow scattered throughout and mini games going on around the main ice surface. The fan-fair was incredible and the presence of stars from the past combined with the rich sports tradition of Wrigley Field and the two franchises who are members of the original six NHL teams.
Unfortunately the game itself left much to be desired. It was off to a fast start as the game play was fast and the buzz in the stadium was unbelievable. Both teams settled in well to the elements and put on a great show in the first period combining to score four goals with Chicago taking the 3-1 lead at the end of one. At the start of the second period things slowed down an awful lot and the Detroit Red Wings took control by establishing their slow, puck-possession style of play which works as a great offense and defense. Despite Chicago's fast start once Detroit cut the lead to one at 3-2 those who watch the game closely knew that Chicago as more than likely in trouble. As it turns out the game in fact slowed down a ton which worked very much in Detroit's favor and they skated out of Wrigley Field with a dominating 6-4 victory.
Although the hockey game ended up being fairly unentertaining after the end of the first period it was a still a very exciting event; certainly things went well enough that the NHL should continue to stage this event once a year. But for now the Winter Classic is in the books and tomorrow things go back to business as usual as the All-Star game and a push for the playoffs are on the horizon.
The NHL's second Winter Classic is only two days away and the sports world should be in for a real treat. The Chicago Blackhawks have won 9 straight games and have recorded a point in each of their last ten. Not only is winning nine straight impressive but the Hawks have been putting away some very good teams including at home against Philadelphia and four road games against Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver and Minnesota. Chicago is getting great play from not just their big stars (Kane, Sharp, Toews, Campbell) but also from guys like defensemen Duncan Keith who has 18 points and is a plus 19 for the season. They are a solid team and are finally coming together to create what could be something very special not only in the years to come but this season in particular.
On January 1 st the Blackhawks welcome the Detroit Red Wings to Wrigley Field and rumor has it that the Red Wings are pretty good… Clearly the Red Wings are very good for not only are they the defending Stanley Cup champions but they are second in the West with 50 points trailing only the amazing San Jose Sharks who the Wings recently pummeled 6-0. Complimenting the Wings would take all day so I'll just let mentioning names like Lindstrom, Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Hossa, and Frazen (among many others) do all the explaining themselves. Not only will the atmosphere be great but the hockey won't be half bad either. The fans are hyped and the players are excited as face-off approaches. In two days the eyes of the hockey universe will be focused on Chicago, live at 1pm eastern time on NBC in the US and CBC and RDS in Canada. The wait… is almost over.
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