It is also one of my most favourite times of the year, the NHL regular season is officially over, and we are waiting for the main event to start, the Stanley Cup playoff. Joining me for this post season break-down is going to be a man that miraculously went 14-1 in predicting last year, which was far, far better than any expert, human, or primate went last season. The man coming off a repeate in performance in dominating the Kodiak hockey pool, finishing 1st for the second strait year (to my piddly 4th), my friend Jeff.
Also, we will be joined by the whims of chance, as a coin tries to upset two supposed experts. However, the quarter I used last year was spent on a Popsicle, or a Red Bull. As such, it will be replaced by a 1 RMB coin, which will double as an estimate as to how much the Chinese know about hockey.
How will we all do? Let's find out...
Glen Says: Welcome one and all to the big day that we have been looking forward to for 365 (or so) days! The NHL playoffs are underway, and the first round looks like it has potential to be a great one. There are a few series that we have seen in recent years (Boston-Montreal, Jersey-Carolina, and Pittsburgh-Philly), one that has never happened before (Detroit-Columbus) and several others that have no happened in recent memory (i.e. the rest).
While last year was relatively short of upsets, as all the lower seeds had approximately the same (if not more) points than the higher ranked teams that they defeated, this year seems to be different. We have St. Louis and Carolina, who have been the two hottest teams in the past month, Columbus who is riding an emotional high, and pre-season favourites Anaheim, New York, and Montreal, who have the talent for an extended run. I think that all of the six through eight seeds have potential to pull of a shocker. Of course, the chances of all of them pulling of an upset is low, but I think that we may just see some big shocks this year. Who you ask? Well you'll have to read on a little further for that one...
Jeff Says: So here we are once again, predicting the playoffs. I almost have deja-vue having successfully defended my title as Kodiak Hockey Pool champion, triumphing over Glen again, by only a mere 260 points or so and 178 in front of second....domination!, lol. This time I did not have to capitalize on a Glen blunder, for I put together the most powerful team ever, accept goaltending…lol. If things go right I will have had the Hart Trophy winner (Ovie), Norris Winner (Green) and if I am lucky, Rookie of the year (Ryan). What a year. Now it is onto bigger things, the playoffs. Exciting thing this year is my St. Louis Blues are back in and ready to make some noise, so let’s get started!
#1. Boston vs. #8. Montreal
Jeff Says: This should be a good series. At least, a series that will get pretty darn high television rankings. Boston comes in with a pretty solid team, and a defence that is stacked. Montreal comes in with questions and plenty of them. What is going to happen in net? Will Kovalev show up? I honestly do not think Montreal has what it takes to beat Boston four times in 7 games. They may steal one or two at home, but ultimately Boston takes this without to much trouble.
Prediction: Boston in 5
Glen Says: Call me crazy, but I don't believe the Bruins hype. During the middle of the season they were a terrifying beast of a team, but later in the season the struggled, and if Jersey hadn't have fallen so hard, they probably would not longer be in 1st place. I know that Montreal has been nothing short of a disappointment this season, and yes, I know that I predicted them to win the Cup, but needless to say I have tempered my expectations a bit. That being said, I think that we are in for a shocker here. I think that Price is going to deliver, and that Kovalev has been playing great of late, and has delivered for the Habs in the playoffs in the past. The Habs have beaten the Bruins in three playoff series this decade, two of which had the Bruins highly favoured. I'm going out on a big limb here.
Prediction: Montreal in 7
Coin Says: (EDITOR'S NOTE: My coin comments last year have not aged well, as such they will not be happening this year)
Prediction: Boston in 6
#2. Washington vs. #7. NY Rangers
Jeff Says: Washington has weapons. Between Ovie, Semin, Backstrum, and Green they are scary in the offensive zone. Defensively they are iffy. Goaltending is super iffy. To be honest, they are going to have to have the playoffs of their lives to make it all the way. However, I think that they just might do that. They finished 2nd in the east so they can’t be to shabby. New York will do best to stay out of the penalty box. With Avery on the loose that could be a problem, but I think Torts will keep a tight leash on him. It will be interesting to see if they match Avery up against Ovie or Green. I think they will be the two main targets, which will mean it is time for Semin to come up big. New York has the goaltending, but the scoring has not been there at all this season. So unless they are planning on having 2-1 games, they are in trouble.
Prediction: Washington in 5
Glen Says: This is actually a really intriguing match up. One of the worlds best goal scorers, against one of the worlds best goaltenders. Usually in the playoffs, it is smart money to bet on goalies, but I just don't think that the Rangers have enough up front to get the job done. Jose Theodore always plays well in the first round of the playoffs, but drops off sharply after that. I think that this will be a closer series than most people think, but I'll go with the favourites here.
Prediction: Washington in 6
Coin Says: Washington in 6
#3. New Jersey vs. #6. Carolina
Jeff Says: This is going to be a good series. New Jersey can play well, they have goaltending, proven goaltending, but it has been shaky lately and the scoring has not been there as much (I have Parise and Zajac on my fantasy team…production is down). Carolina has been hot, and I mean red hot the last 2 months. This is a team that can make some noise, and they also have a proven goaltender in Ward. This series will come down to every aspect of the game as I believe these teams to be evenly matched.
Prediction: Carolina in 6.
Glen Says: Jersey was the hottest team in the league for the middle of the season, while Carolina played simply phenomenal down the stretch. This should be an amazing goaltending duo, as both teams match up well from top to bottom. This is actually the third match up of these two teams in the playoffs, interestingly enough every time the winner has been in the Cup Finals. Expect that trend to break here.
In a battle of keepers, I'll bet on the greatest one to ever lace up.
Prediction: Jersey in 7
Coin Says: Jersey in 6
#4. Pittsburgh vs. #5. Philadelphia
Jeff Says: This is going to be another interesting one. I seem to say that for a lot of series, but truth is, the way things worked out, a lot of them are going to make for some great hockey. Philly was a team last year I called to make some noise. They are built for the playoffs and Pittsburgh is unlucky to draw their number. Pittsburgh is a great team, defence could be an issue, but goaltending is their, and offence is one of the most dangerous in the league. Trade deadline was also good in making them more playoff ready with Kunitz and Guerin. I wonder how Biron will play, assuming he is drawing the starters job. Philly’s defence does not jump out at me, but their offence sure does. Briere can be a force, and Carter is having the season of his life. With a healthy Gagne this is a team to watched.
Prediction: Philadelphia in 6
Glen Says: I'm not certain if the league wanted two of their best young teams to meet in the first round, or to have it hold off until a later time. Last year, both of these teams played great in their respective playoff runs, and I think that they will play great in this playoff run, it's just a shame that it will be a short run for one of these teams, as I think that this may just be the real Eastern Conference final, as whoever wins should have a damn good shot of making it out of East. I think that Philly has a great corps, but neither of their goalies have been great this season. The Pens got hungry last year, and will be tough to be beat.
Prediction: Pittsburgh in 6
Coin Says: Pittsburgh in 7
#1. San Jose vs. #8. AnaheimJeff Says: This is a good way for San Jose to start out. If they are going to win this year they need to beat some top teams. Anaheim has not been this power house they have always been the last few years. An early exit at the hands of Dallas last year should be leaving a bad taste in their mouths ready to be washed out with a solid showing this year. Unfortunately they traded away a number of pieces to their successful puzzle from a few years previous. This will not be easy for San Jose by any means. Anaheim, although not playing well now has the tools to win. I would not be surprised if an upset happens here. If Gigeure gets hot, then San Jose is in trouble.
Prediction: San Jose in 7
Glen Says: Now here is a match that many people (including myself) have been seeing as a potential Western Conference final for years, yet oddly it has never happened. The Ducks were pre-season favourites, so I don't think that the Sharks will be taking them lightly. I think that San Jose is just too good this year to go down in the first round.
Prediction: San Jose in 6
Coin Says: San Jose in 7
#2. Detroit vs. #7. Columbus
Jeff Says: Poor Columbus, first time in, and they have to face Detroit. Mason, who will win rookie of the year I am sure will need to be lights out, period. Osgood is beatable, but you have to actually get a shot on him first, and when you have top scorers who are also top defensive players that’s hard to do. This should be a rather easy series for Detroit, which may come back to bite them in the second round.
Prediction: Detroit in 4.
Glen Says: Alright, now is the time to show some guts. The Jackets are ridding a huge emotional high, and the Red Wings have played a lot of hockey in the last two years. In 2006, the Ducks made it to the Conference final, then won the Cup. How did they do in Year #3 you ask? Well they played like garbage in the opening round, made it close and then lost to the Stars. Detroit finds themselves in a similar situation, having played a ton of games in the past two seasons. I just see them being burnt out. Ken Hithcock knows hows to win, and everybody on this very young team seems to want to learn.
Prediction: Columbus in 7.
Coin Says: Columbus in 6
#3. Vancouver vs. #6. St. Louis
Jeff Says: Yes, my Blues are back in the big show. And they have done it by putting together the best 2nd half of the season out of any team. 9-1-1 to finish the season to boot. Goaltending is playing well, finishing with a shutout in their last game to clinch 6th. And they have scoring and speed. They are a dangerous team who is still missing a few top guns! Vancouver has been no slouch themselves the past couple months also putting together a great 2nd half. This series will be very interesting to watch, and I am pissed that most of the games will be late ones if they get to them of course. It is hard for me to pick against my Blues, especially if I think they actually have a shot, so I will not be doing that!
Prediction: St. Louis in 6.
Glen Says: Really, who likes the St. Louis Blues? How can you grow up in Canada and be a fan of that team? Especially when they had that turncoat Brett Hull on them for so long?
All razzing aside, I actually like the look of this team. Last year, I thought that they would break through into the playoffs, but it looks like I was only a year away. They have a ton of young talent, and Mason may end up being the best off-season acquisition of any team, and to think it only cost them a 4th round draft pick. That being said, when you talk about good young forwards and great goaltending, it's hard not to mention the Canucks. These teams are virtual mirrors of one another, with the Blues having the better forwards, and the Canucks having the better goalie. I think that both teams are hungry, and really want to succeed. That being said, there is something about this St. Louis team that make them hard to bet against for one round.
Prediction: St. Louis in 7
Coin Says: St. Louis in 7 (NOTE: It has the Blues coming back from a 3-0 deficit, can we say '72 Islanders?
#4. Chicago vs. #5. CalgaryJeff Says: Chicago is also in the playoffs for the first time in many years. They remind me of Washington last year…young team that has a lot to bring to the table. They are facing a team that has been hit and miss the last little bit of the season in my opinion. Both teams have the tools to succeed in the playoffs, it is all going to come down to which team shows up. Will Jokinen be the force Calgary hopes he will be? Will Phanuef lead the defence like we know he can? What about Chicago? What will Khavibulin do? How will their young guns play? It is going to be another interesting series. I do believe that Calgary has a great team, but I think Chicago will come in a steal away their 2nd round dreams.
Prediction: Chicago in 6.
Glen Says: Much more so than the Pittsburgh-Philly match up, you hate to see either of these teams loose in the first round. They both have a great nucleus of talent, and are teams that you'd really like to see win the Cup. The Blackhawks remind a lot of people of the Penguins, and with good cause. This has a lot of people pointing to Crosby and Malkin's first trip to the post season when they really froze when the bright lights were on in 2007. I really don't see that happening to Toews and Kane, both have proven that they can really up their game when it counts, and I see that happening here. Also, don't count out Brian Campbell, who has struggled late in the season, but has played very well in the past three playoffs. Calgary has been limping into the palyoffs, and I think that they are cold at the wrong time of the year. This will be a great series, with a disappointing result for anyone hoping to see the Cup return north of the border.
Prediction: Chicago in 7
Coin says: Calbary in 7
Glen Says: I've been ballsy already, so let's go out on a limb even farther. I think that it's going to come down to San Jose and Pittsburgh. The West seems prime for some upsets, with the Sharks being the pick of the litter to run through everyone else, and the East is full of enough also rans. The Bruins are not experienced enough, the Devils are not deep enough up front, and the Caps are not deep enough in the back. I think that the first round match up between the Pens and Flyers will result in the East Champion, and I called a Penguins win there, so let's go with it.
Sid and Evgeni beat Joe and Patrick in 7.
Playoff MVP: Sidney Crosby
Jeff Says:First off, my prediction for the Stanley Cup Finals: Fun pick…St.Louis vs. Carolina. This could happen!
Reality: I believe that as of this writing it will be San Jose vs. Washington.
San Jose has turned out a great year, and they have a few players firing on all cylinders. They have top notch goaltending, offence (especially with Marleau having the season he has had), and they have defence (Boyle and Blake…both from my fantasy team) so they are a force to be reckoned with. If Nabokov holds up they can beat Detroit, but it’s only if Nabokov can play up to it. Washington of course has the offence; their big question is in goaltending. They will benefit from a hard fought first round and if Green and Ovie can play as they have, combine that with Backstrum and Semin they have the tools. But Theodore has to step up, and I believe that he will.
San Jose wins in 6.
MVP: Joe Thornton
Coin Says: Pittsburgh vs. St. Louis...aka Jeff's wet dream
Pittsburgh in 5
Glen Says: Stay tuned for round 2 in a few weeks!!!
Until next time,