With the playoffs blooming, M&G will be running a brief envious commentary each day, or at least every other day, as they unfold. Our beloved Flames missed the cut again but that doesn’t mean yours truly is not watching as many games as possible.
This series may be of interest to some fans of the worthy 16 teams currently in pursuit of Lord Stanley, if they are looking for a neutral commentary. Did your team really get the shaft from the ref on that call or was that hit really suspension worthy?
Read on, I do my best to watch all games but for the first round that is pretty tough but nonetheless – little late in getting started but brief breakdowns, predictions and some memorable moments game by game.
It’s a little cheeky to be making series predictions two games in but nonetheless it makes for a more interesting read.
Vancouver Canucks vs Blackhawks (Series 2-0 Canucks)
Commentary: The Canucks are the heavy Cup favorite this year and this series is not much of a surprise in how it sits. The Canucks look almost business like on the ice, as in ‘taking care of business’. I took incredible heat in my pre-season prediction of the Blackhawks missing the playoffs but it wasn’t that far from the mark.
The top lines of the ‘Hawks are hitting a wall but they are finding scoring from the bottom six, a definitive surprise. Roberto Luongo, although looking like a wall in Game 1, let in some soft goals in Game 2. Foreshadowing for Canucks fans perhaps? This series isn’t the real concern; it is the next ones when the pressure only increases game by game.
Prediction: The Canucks
Take heart 'Hawk fans, the Blackhawks will be back stronger next year but this year is a hang-over year from the Cup win last year. The Cap messed up the peripheral players but next year you will return stronger and more Cup contention worthy.
San Jose Sharks vs Los Angeles Kings (Series Tied 1-1)
Commentary: With the fall of Anze Kopitar the safe money went to the Sharks to win this one easy. SURPRISE! The Sharks were in for a hell of a first game and an exciting OT winner from Joe Pavelski – game could have gone either way. Going into Game 2 it should have been a slam-dunk for the Sharks with BOTH Jarret Stoll (suspension) and Anze Kopitar out. Nope, the Kings took the game 4-0 with a shut out from Jonathan Quick and very strong games from Drew Doughty and Jack Johnson.
For the record I don’t think the Jarret Stoll hit on Ian White was suspension worthy. Part of that may be the bad feelings I have for UFA money hungry Ian White and his short time in Calgary, another part of it may be the old-school nature of myself when it comes to physical hockey.
Prediction: The Kings
I know the reason why the highly skilled Sharks have not had playoff success for years but I am not telling right now, maybe later Sharks fans. I think it is feasible that Doug Wilson may be fired if the Sharks lose this series. Calgary is looking for a GM who isn’t acting the part Doug, give us a call if you find yourself looking for work in the off-season.
Detroit Red Wings vs Phoenix Coyotes (Series 2-0 Wings)
Commentary: I was pulling for the Coyotes in this series but there is no way after what I have seen so far. The Red Wings are a machine. The most dominant team of the last decade and the playoffs are where they live. The Coyotes look slow on the ice and that is the mark of a defensive team that is tentative. The Wings can beat you in several ways and watching them play this series so far is like watching a cat with a mouse.
Prediction: The Red Wings
The big glaring weakness of the Wings is in Goal. It is no secret and it is obvious, Jimmy Howard is not an elite Goalie by anyone’s standard but for this series it just doesn’t matter. When the Wings match up against an offensive team it will matter, but not for this series.
Anaheim Ducks vs Nashville Predators (Series Tied 1-1)
Commentary: This is probably the most interesting series of the first round West. The Ducks lethal first line (one I personally consider the best 3 man line in the NHL) versus one of the best defensive teams in the NHL, the Predators have the 3rd lowest GA in the NHL. Don’t really know which way to go on this one. The games have been close and the Ducks have the playoff experience of Selanne on top of this. The Ducks look extremely vulnerable when Emery isn't in net. They even seem to play more tentative without him.
Prediction: The Predators (by a big cat whisker)
This series is very tough to call. The fortunes of the Ducks rest squarely on Ray Emery and that is scary. He came out of the blue at the end of the season after failing to crack an NHL line up prior and is now playing lights out. If he continues to do so the Ducks will likely advance, if not, they don't. Whenever I have a series that is too close to call I will tip to the better Defensive team and the Predators are that but Rinne has to raise his game, I don't like what I am seeing from him so far. He has to play elite.
Washington Capitals vs New York Rangers (Series 2-0 Capitals)
Commentary: I wanted to call this match-up the Capitals vs Henrik Lundqvist but regardless this one is all about Ovechkin’s revenge. The Capitals are still stinging from last years upset, make no mistake they will take this one. Prediction: The Capitals
Lundqvist and Marc Staal will keep this series closer than it should be. Sorry Ranger fans but the Capitals are going to advance.
Philadelphia Flyers vs Buffalo Sabres (Series Tied 1-1)
Commentary: Back from last year’s Cup final with higher expectations and ready to roll the Flyers ran into the wall of Ryan Miller the first game, as he looked back in form, but he lost it again in game two. I just see the Flyers as rolling this year, a sort of Red Wings of the East, without all the success and accolades of course. Vulnerable in net but rolling 4 solid lines, experienced Defensive giants with (Lidstrom / Wings) (Pronger / Flyers) etc.
Prediction: The Flyers
Make no mistake about it, the Flyers are built for the playoffs and they have their eye on the top prize. They can be upset of course but the Sabres are not the team to do it. Miller would have to be lights out fantastic for the whole series and he has already had his stumble in game two.
Boston Bruins vs Montreal Canadiens (Series 2-0 Habs)
Commentary: I wish I could have got this up before the series started. The Canadiens match up better against the Bruins for playoff hockey. I know that sounds all hindsight is 20/20 but Carey Price is the real deal, P.K. Subban is going to mature into a great Defenseman and as overpaid as Michael Cammalleri, Scott Gomez and Brian Gionta may be, they give the Habs the depth and necessary fast offensive punch they need to beat the Bruins D.
Prediction: The Habs
I know its cheeky at this point but I saw the Habs taking this series much to the pain of Beantown. It is just a bad playoff draw for Boston, they are a better team than the series result will show.
Pittsburgh Penguins vs Tampa Bay Lightning (Series Tied 1-1)
Commentary: This one will be close but I give the edge to the Bolts. I liked the Bolts at the start of the season. They were a team I predicted to rise significantly and they did not disappoint. With Crosby and Malkin in the line up I may have tipped in a different direction but without them I do not see the Pens holding up despite the best efforts of Jordan Staal and Marc-Andre Fleury. Prediction: The Bolts
The not so secret weapon for the Bolts in this series, and for the playoffs for that matter, is Vincent Lecavalier on the second line. He will get it done. Dwayne Roloson is old but steady and also playoff experienced from his run with Edmonton back in 2006.