Boston and Chicago Rolling Along

Wow, was I way off base on my predictions for the Conference Finals. At least Game 1 in the West was a close one but the other 3 games, especially both games so far in the Bruins and Penguins series haven’t been close, AT ALL. Take last night for example, Marchand scores :28 in and then I felt this would have more accurately summed up what Boston was shooting at all night.

I’m a little shocked by what the Penguins have brought to the ice so far in this series, especially after dominating Ottawa the way they did. After losing the first game to Boston, I would have expected to see the Penguins best game last night but instead we were treated to their worst. I’m not sure where the Penguins entire defensive unit is but clearly they haven’t been anywhere near the Consol Energy Center. For those Penguins fans out there, I hope they know what time their flight to Boston is and how to get to the airport.  I was right about one prediction going into this series, I just didn’t realize it would be greeted with such thunderous applause.

If I am a Penguins fan, I am a bit worried that I’ve dropped the first two games and that they haven’t been close. Now, the Bruins get to go home and get the crowd behind them, get last chance, etc. Pittsburgh better figure it out quick.

Look, while my predictions on the number of games won’t turn out to be right, I’m not sold that LA and Pittsburgh aren’t going to find a way to come back. Both of these teams are too good to just roll over here and head home for the summer. LA has been great at home so Chicago will have some work to do. Pittsburgh’s situation is a little tougher because now they have to go win on the road.

What do you think? Boston and Chicago continue to roll or can LA and Pittsburgh find a way back into this round?

 

Conference Finals Preview

tumblr_mnoapetS531qgwtnqo1_500

The battle for Lord Stanley’s cup resumes tomorrow night. It’s kind of amazing that the 4 teams that remain have all won the cup in the last 4 years. If you’re a fan of any of the teams that remain, you’re on a pretty good ride.

Boston vs Pittsburgh

These are the two teams that most of us were hoping would meet in the Eastern Conference Final. There’s a lot of bad blood between these teams. As a reminder, here are some of the reasons why:

  • Pittsburgh steals Jerome Iginla right from under the Boston Bruins at the trade deadline. We all thought Iginla was headed to Boston, as did Boston management.
  • Boston then made a trade to bring Jaromir Jagr, one of the most hated ex-Penguins, to Boston after the Iginla deal went south.
  • Ulf Samuelson ultimately ended Cam Neely’s career with a knee on knee check
  • Matt Cooke has appeared to have ended Marc Savard’s career with hit to the head.

This is a series that will feature a high-octane, up-tempo Pittsburgh squad against a very physical and aggressive Boston squad. On paper, this is going to be a great series. Both are coming off a semi-final series that was pretty much a piece of cake. Don’t expect this one to be.

If Pittsburgh is going to win this series, it’s going to be because of their speed and ability to score a lot. Malkin, Crosby, Kunitz, Neal, Iginla, Morrow and Dupuis give the Penguins A LOT of depth. Paul Martin has looked decent in the playoffs and the Kris Letang isn’t a Norris Trophy finalist by accident. Tough team to beat, especially since they are on a roll.

If Boston is going to win this series, they will do so because their 4 lines are going to wear down the Penguins. They come at you in many different ways and are relentless on the puck. The one thing we saw in the Rangers/Bruins series is that the Rangers defense NEVER got a rest because the Bruins had all 4 lines working. If they can do that against the Penguins, it could mean problems for the Penguins defense. While Vokoun was solid against the Senators (and the Islanders when he came in) I’m still not sold that the Penguins don’t have a goalie issue.

I don’t see this series being anything less than six games and I do think there will be some issues in goal for Pittsburgh (whether they are bad enough to make another change, I can’t predict) but I also believe that Pittsburgh’s quickness with the puck will keep Boston on its heels, much like Toronto did but the difference in this series is that Pittsburgh has a lot more skill than Toronto.

I pick Pittsburgh in 6 maybe even 7.

Chicago vs Los Angeles

The Blackhawks are coming off an emotional 7 game series against the Detroit Red Wings. Down 3-1 in the series, they battled back. The Kings are coming of a 7 game series against the San Jose Sharks but it wasn’t as emotional as the Hawks/Wings series.

The Hawks had an impressive regular season and pretty easy first round matchup against a very inexperienced Minnesota team but something is just missing for me when it comes to Chicago. They have a lot of depth but I haven’t felt that a lot of that depth is playing to its potential. Detroit wasn’t a very strong team on the blue line and the Hawks struggled against them.

If Chicago is going to win this series, then they are going to do so because they’ve figured out a way to solve Jonathan Quick (something that wasn’t done last year and so far this year.) Chicago has the depth to do it but Toews, Kane, Sharp and Hossa need to play like they did in the regular season.

If LA is going to win this series, they’ll do so by being great on the road and continuing to be great at home. Quick is no doubt the best player of the 4 remaining teams and as long as he continues to be that, LA will certainly have an advantage in this series.

I’m actually going to say that LA rolls right over the Hawks in this series. They are big, they are mean, they have excellent defense and goaltending and I see no reason why the Kings can’t win in 5 on their way to their second straight Stanley Cup Final.

The Red Wings Continue To Surprise Us

I love playoff hockey and right now, the Detroit Red Wings are a prime example as to why I love it so much. When there were only a handful of regular season games remaining, you really couldn’t browse hockey web sites and forums without seeing the discussion about the possibility of the Red Wings playoff streak coming to an end. But then, this team went on a tear, winning their last 4 games of the regular season and outscoring their opponents 15-3 in those 4 games, which secured them a spot in the post-season. Streak still intact and now Detroit looking to turn some heads but no one really gave them a chance, yours truly included.

[Read more…]

Penguins-Senators Series Preview

Near the end of the regular season, it looked like the Senators were going to plummet all the way into the 8th spot so this was a matchup I thought we’d be seeing in the first round. They stopped at 7 but never-the-less, we get the match up in the second round.

I don’t really know if Ottawa was impressive in the first round of if the Canadiens just fizzled. I’ll go with my gut feeling and that feeling is that none of the teams in the Eastern Conference thrilled me through the first round so I guess Montreal just fizzled. Pittsburgh made a lot of mistakes against the Islanders and the Senators are a well-coached team.(Shouldn’t Paul MacLean be a slam dunk for the Jack Adams Award?) If Pittsburgh continues to make those mistakes in this round, the Senators might just eat them up. MIGHT!!!

[Read more…]

Sharks-Kings Series Preview

This is the series I am most looking forward to. These don’t appear to be the San Jose Sharks we are used to. By that I mean it’s no longer a team that hinges on the success of Joe Thorton and Patrick Marleau. Sure, they still play an important role on this team but I look at the Sharks as a team that now belongs to Joe Pavelski and Logan Couture. The Sharks easily handled the Vancouver Canucks in round one and head into the Conference Semi-Finals a well-rested and confident bunch.

Let’s not give the Sharks $200 for passing “Go” just yet. These are the Kings, the king of all Kings if you will, the defending Stanley Cup Champion. Throw out the first two games against the Blues in the first round and you could say the Kings handled the Blues pretty easily as well. After a little bump in the road to get things started, the Kings rattled off 4 straight wins to send St. Louis home….again.

[Read more…]

Hawks-Wings Series Preview

This is a match up that very few saw happening a few weeks ago but a very welcomed match up since the upcoming re-alignment will put an end to this rivalry. Let’s be honest for a moment, this isn’t the deepest or most talented team or even the most experience team that Detroit has put on the ice over the last 20+ years but the growth that they’ve shown over the last month has been very impressive.

Just a few short weeks ago, the Red Wings were being inserted into the conversation about the draft lottery, not about making a run in the playoffs. Yet here they are, one of the final 8 teams to remain in the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs and they are coming off an impressive series win against the #2 Anaheim Ducks. They’ve managed to go further into the playoffs than the 2012 Red Wings, a team that put together a league record 23 game home winning streak. The Red Wings have come a long way but now, they face an enormous task, the rival Chicago Blackhawks.

It’s no surprise that the President’s Trophy winning Chicago Blackhawks are still around. They are a team loaded with guys that know how to score, defensemen that know how to minimize the opposition’s opportunities and a goalie that cleans up after those rare mistakes are made.

[Read more…]