Posted on: June 1, 2011 7:35 pm
The Stanley Cup Finals - edition 2011 - start tonight in Vancouver BC. As in prior years, these finals will bring us surprises, thrills and heartache. Regardless if you're a Bruins or Canucks fan, the SCF becomes the final battle of attrition for North America's oldest trophy.
The Bruins will need some effort from the much maligned power play which is clipping in at just over 8% efficiency. If the teams play hockey and stay out of the sin bin, Bostonians will like their chances as the Bruins have scored the most even strength goals in this year's Quest for the Cup. Key players for the Bruins will be: Tim Thomas, Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron and Nathan Horton. Horton has shown the ability to score some timely goals by coming up with the series winner against both the Canadiens and the Lightning.
The Canucks have shown some resiliency against the defending Cup champion Blackhawks by protecting a 3-0 series lead that went to a Game 7 Overtime. By chasing the Chicago demons, the 'nucks were able to dispose of both the Predators and the ever-disappointing Sharks. The Western Conference champions from Van-city have the most offensive depth throughout the playoffs and quietly Henrik Sedin is leading all playoff scorers with 2 goals and 19 assists. The Sedin twins aside, Boston will need to contend with both Ryan Kessler and Alex Burrows. Kevin Bieksa will continue to provide some peskiness at defense while Roberto Luongo will try to quiet his detractors who have consistently criticized Bobby-Lu for not being a "winner".
I see a tough series with the Canucks prevailing in 6 games.
June 1, 2011
Posted on: April 15, 2009 9:29 pm
Literally, blood, sweat and tears. This is the 2009 version of the chase for the Holy Grail of hockey - The Stanley Cup. For all of today's players who grew up watching the likes of Gainey, Gretzky, Messier, Yzerman and Potvin lift the fabled Cup after two of the toughest months a hockey player will ever face, the moment is now theirs. For this spring's chase will Lidstrom repeat or will the cup be lifted by the likes of Thornton or even Chara. One thing is certain, only one team will end the playoff season on a winning streak. To the victor go the spoils.
Here's my insight on the first round:
Boston over Montreal (4-1)
What started as a dream 100th anniversary season for the Canadiens has quickly turned into a nightmare that meant making the playoffs by invoking the tie-breaker rule against the hard-luck Panthers. Montreal's first line of Koivu-Tanguay-Kovalev will provide some spark but it's Boston's well balanced attack that will prevail in what will be some tight scoring one goal games. The Difference Maker (DM)- Mark Recchi.
Washington over New York (4-2)
"Ovechkin shoots", a call heard over 500 times this year. He will clearly dominate both offensive sides in this fast moving matchup. Look for Sean Avery to create more havock for his team than for the Capitals. A few too many power play opportunities for Washington will kill any chances the Rangers have to stay in this series. Look for Torterella to come up with some solid game plans, but Bruce Boudreau simply has the better horses to win this race. DM - Mike Green.
New Jersey over Carolina (4-3)
The past vs the present. Watch the teacher in Martin Brodeur teach a lesson to future teacher Cam Ward. This one will go both ways and the team with the best game plan will win out in the end. Edge here on coaching easily goes to Brent Sutter. Eric Staal will make his presence known but ultimately, Zach Parise will show why he's the real deal. DM - Jamie Langenbrunner.
Pittsburgh over Philadelphia (4-2)
Too much offense will prevail over suspect goaltending. Although Martin Biron can be hot at times, consistency was never in his asset portfolio. Penguins are too well distributed offensively to be witheld by the Flyers. Expect a few blowouts in this one, perhaps even one by the Flyers. Mike Richards will showcase why he's the Flyers franchise player. DM - Sergei Gonchar.
San Jose over Anaheim (4-3)
The Sharks will be able to shake the proverbial monkey off their back and this should be the first step into a long playoff run. Nabokov will continue to be solid and having a few veterans like Lemieux and Roenick around will remove much of the self-imposed pressure put on Joe Thornton. Anaheim gets a shot at a game seven due to strong defensive hockey and the strong leadership og a Ryan Getzlaff. DM - Joe Thornton.
Detroit over Columbus (4-1)
This is the Jackets maiden voyage into playoff land. The last team to do so. Watch for Rick Nash to place a lot of pressure on himself and try to over do it. Some added punch could come from newly acquired Antoine Vermette but Detroit's high octane offense will defuse any opportunities the Jackets may think they have. Watch for Datsyuk to dominate and Osgood to be well shielded. DM - Nick Lidstrom.
Vancouver over St Louis (4-3)
Home advantage gives the edge here or else this is a pick'em. These are two of the hottest teams since January 1st. Coaching will keep the Blues closer than they may deserve to be. Andy Murray has finally convinced his crew to buy into what he's selling. It has worked. The veteran leadership of Sundin will help in the locker room but Captain Luongo should dominate in the crease, keeping the Canucks from losing games that they otherwise would. DM - H or D Sedin.
Chicago over Calgary (4-1)
Team on its way up meets team on its way down. The Hawks are the youngest team in the league and one of the fastest. A seven year absence from the playoffs and a jammed pack United Center will keep these kids pumped. Joel Quenneville's years of experience will be the stability factor long with Khabibulin finding his game after a 4 year search for it. Calgary might steal one in cow-town but being banged up as they are, keeping up with the young legs will be very difficult. DM- Jonathan Toewes
Enjoy the games.
Posted on: April 7, 2009 6:28 pm
Watch an NHL playoff game and you will realize that each game that is played seems to be the momentum turner for the winning team. How many times have we seen a team up 2-0 in a series only to lose game three. All of sudden, the calls of "they couldn't close the deal" or "they had their chance to put this series away" have we heard after all of a sudden the team is only up 2-1.
In the late eighties and nineties, teams that were down 1-3 came back to force or even win game seven on numerous occasions. The best example of a team learning about what it takes to win 4 rounds in the playoffs were the 1982-83 Edmonton Oilers. With a plethora of young superstars such as Messier, Lowe, Coffey, Anderson, Kurri and oh yes # 99 himself, Wayne Gretzky, the Oilers were pegged to be the team that could finally dethrone the reigning 3 time champion Islanders.
What the Oilers learned from that series was that grit and determination was what was needed to win the coveted Stanley Cup. After a gritty game four that saw the Islanders make it 3-1 in the Finals that year, some of the Oilers had passed by the Islander dressing room after the game and looked at these beaten up, tired old men - the likes of Trottier, Gillies, Nystrom and Bossy - icing down sore knees and shoulders. What they took from that was that these guys played to the maximum of their capacity and were able to simply overwhelm the young Edmontonians for 60 minutes of gruelling hockey.
When the puck dropped for Game 5, the Oilers were already beat. New York made the best of their chances and stuck to a game plan that ensured they would not make mistakes for Edmonton to capitalize on. The Islanders went on to win Cup # 4 and at the same time hand over the torch to Edmonton.
From that game Edmonton's young kids got a little older, a lot wiser and New York eventually got too old to withstand the pains of 4 rounds of hockey. That year, 1984, Edmonton won its first of 5 Stanley Cup titles. It took them 15 wins to do it.
Now a team winning a Championship needs 16 wins to make it happen. Who will withstand the pressure packed competition of the playoffs this year. There is no clear front runner and that is why these NHL playoffs make for the best sports entertainment in spring.
Next week - First Round Playoff predictions