Wednesday, April 15, 2009
Stanley Cup Playoffs- First round match-ups and predictions
#1 SAN JOSE SHARKS VS #8 ANAHEIM DUCKS
If the Sharks can get their scoring touch back and use their speed, they should be able to take out the Ducks. The pressure is on the Sharks now, more than ever on the heels of their first Presidents trophy.Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Dan Boyle, and Evgeni Nabokov will need to elevate their game. Thornton has been disappointing in the post-season in the past and has slowly begun to shake that moniker. Only a deep post-season run with Jumbo leading the way will do that. The Ducks will try and muddy up the waters and slow the series down. Watch out for Anaheim rookie forward, Bobby Ryan. He has a tremendous skill set and the top line of Ryan, Corey Perry, and Ryan Getzlaf will cause the Sharks fits. Anaheim is a veteran team who is only 2 years removed from winning the Cup. Jonas Hiller will start, but the Ducks won't hesitate to go to J.S. Giguere if Hiller falters. For the Sharks, the health of Marleau is key. The Sharks need to roll out 2 complete scoring lines and with the return of Marleau and Clowe, this is possible. This will be a tough series that could get very nasty. Player to watch: Sharks Joe Pavelski
Prediction: Sharks in 6.
#4 CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS VS. #5 CALGARY FLAMES
The Chicago Blackhawks make a triumphant return to the post-season. Led by their young snipers, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, this team appears to have every reason to believe they can make some noise in the playoffs. The signing of free agent defender, Brian Campbell rounded out a D corps that also features Cam Barker and the underrated Duncan Keith. Patrick Sharp returned from injury and the acquisition of Sami Pahlsson should help on the penalty kill. For the Flames, they made the big trade deadline move to bring in Olli Jokinen. Things started out well after the trade, but the Flames struggled mightily the last few weeks of the regular season. Their poor play down the stretch cost the Flames a division title and home ice advantage in round 1. Goalie Mikka Kiprusoff will need to play very well and Sarich, Regeher, Phaneuf and Leopold will need to bring a sound defensive effort to stop the 'Hawks high powered scoring team. Captain Jarome Iginla can't be expected to do it all. A player to watch on the Flames is Mike Cammalleri, who had a career year. The Blackhawks appear poised for a post-season run if Nikolai Khabibulin can regain the form that won him a cup in Tampa in 2004.
Prediction: Blackhawks in 7.
#2 DETROIT RED WINGS VS #7 COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS
The Blue Jackets make their very first post-season appearance behind the tremendous play of Captain, Rick Nash. The other key component for Head Coach, Ken Hitchcock's team is rookie of the year candidate, goaltender Steve Mason who's 33 victories and 2.29 GAA gave the Jackets a chance to win on most nights. They are facing a daunting task however facing the defending Stanley Cup Champion, Detroit Red Wings. Things aren't all great in Hockeytown however. Goaltending has been an issue and it appears Osgood may have done just enough to be the game 1 starter. Up front Detroit is deeper at forward than any team in the league. Zetterberg, Hossa, Datsyuk, Holmstrom, Hudler, and newly re-singed Johan Franzen round out a very strong goal scoring core. If the Blue Jackets can get a split in Joe Louis and come home 1-1, the Columbus crowd will surely be in a playoff frenzy. It will be a tough road, but I think the Blue Jackets are capable of making life difficult for the Wings. A player to watch is Blue Jackets center, R.J. Umberger whose game is tailored for post-season hockey. He had a nice run last year while with the Flyers.
Prediction: Detroit in 6.
#3 VANCOUVER CANUCKS VS. #6 ST.LOUIS BLUES
The Blues are the "feel good" story of the NHL this season. They came on in the second half of the season and climbed all the way to the 6th seed. Brad Boyes (33 goals) and David Backes (31 goals) have provided the scoring. Veteran Keith Tkachuk is the calming presence on the bench. This team came out of nowhere and was red hot down the stretch. Former Nashville goalie, Chris Mason has made the most of his chance in net. A ton of credit goes to Head Coach, Andy Murray who made all the right moves and now the Blues are not only in the playoffs, but have a chance to make some noise. The Canucks won the Northwest division in the final days of the regular season as the Flames fell apart. The addition of Mats Sundin hasn't exactly gone as well as they would have liked. The Sedin twins had solid campaigns, (82 points each in 82 games each) to pace the Canucks. Center, Ryan Kesler had a career year and is a terrific two-way player. Willie Mitchell (plus 29) will be relied upon to shut down the Blues top line. But when you talk about the Canucks and their chances for success, look no further than Goaltender, Roberto Luongo. He battled through injuries and it took him a few weeks to get back into form. He did record a startling 9 shutouts in only 54 games. If Luongo is hot, it could be a tough series for the Blues. St. Louis is a nice story, but it may be close to midnight for this Cinderella. Player to watch,Brad Boyes. This guy is on the verge of becoming an elite NHL player, he just has to do it in the post-season.
Prediction: Canucks in 7.