Well…..crap. The 1st round is over. And I am still shaking my head. I go back and forth between thinking what happened in the first round was good for the league and believing it was just a horrible first round. I think sometimes it was good for the league because the first round shows real parity throughout the league. It also shows a real ‘changing of the guard’ the mainstays like the Red Wings, Sharks, Penguins and Bruins are no longer a ‘given’ to move on past the first round. These other clubs like the Blues, Kings and Predators are now forces to be reckoned with in the NHL. Then I start thinking that it was mostly luck or a fluke or bad timing when teams the Coyotes, Devils and Predators advance to the second round in the fashion they did. Either way, my brackets are all screwed! And I was way, way off on most of my first round predictions. Blimey, was I off. I started looking at the second round today and have some confidence I can redeem myself somewhat, but then again….I could end up just drinking my sorrows away by the third round and revert to playing Solitaire on my laptop. I keep thinking of that Seinfeld episode when Jay Peterman takes off to Burma leaving Elaine to run the J. Peterman catalogue. She doubts herself and Kramer builds her confidence up by talking of finding one’s ‘Katra’….Elaine puts out her first issue and on the cover is the Urban Sombrero. Kramer takes one look at Elaine’s Sombrero and upon being reminded it was his advice and faith in Elaine that resulted in the Urban Sombrero…his response was, “Well, I was WAY OFF!” Thank you Cosmo Kramer. That scene perfectly describes my first round predictions.
Alllllllllrighty then….. onto round two!
Coyotes vs. Predators – This is going to be a great goalie match-up, or at least it should be. Pekka Rinne and Mike Smith have been lights out in the postseason so far. I firmly believe that Mike Smith is the only reason the Coyotes are in the second round. Well, that or the Blackhawks goaltending are the reason. But for this article’s sake let’s go with the Mike Smith side of things ok? I don’t see much in the Coyotes, I really don’t. The club is over achieving in my opinion, and usually the cure for that in the NHL is a solid defensive club….enter the Nashville Predators and Pekka Rinne. This is a good defence and should do some damage to the Coyotes over the long haul. Radulov has been pretty good so far for the Predators, I expect him to get better. The Coyotes are getting fairly even production though from all their forwards….and they do a lot of the little things right…win face-offs, first on the puck etc….but I still think Nashville is the overall better team…that Radulov line is having some real success. Weber and Suter are slumping, if they get it going offensively, it could be a quick series. I have the Predators eliminating the Coyotes in 5 games.
Kings vs. Blues – This is my favourite series of the second round. I have been watching these two clubs from afar for the last couple of years now. They have both been building pretty good young clubs. The Blues were under achieving a bit, but Ken Hitchcock has got the Blues running pretty well as of late. So, we have an offensive club in the L.A. Kings against a defence-first club in the St. Louis Blues. Although, the Blues have some firepower and the Kings can play in close games. I would like to see Penner, Richards, Stoll and Carter get rolling for the Kings….that possibly could make this a quick series. The Kings will live and die though at the hands of Jonathan Quick. If Quick falters the Blues will survive this series I think. The Blues offence pretty much consists of Andy McDonald and Patrik Berglund who combined for 15 points in the first round. The Blues are a very responsible team and are getting some really timely offence from those two players. If the offence falters in St. Louis any more than it has, it might just be a shooting gallery for the Kings. In my opinion this is a classic series that has a flashy offensive team against a defensive bunch of journeymen and role players. Every game in the series could be vastly different from night to night…high scoring and wide open one night – in favour of L.A. and stodgy, low-scoring defensive hockey the next night – in favour of St. Louis. Should be a great series. I think the Kings will win this one though. I would rather see this one as the Western Conference Final. I have the Los Angeles Kings sending the St. Louis Blues packing in 7 games ladies and gentlemen!
Rangers vs. Capitals – I don’t like this series at all. I really thought the Rangers struggled with the Senators. And it wasn’t because the Senators were playing out of their minds either. The Rangers just didn’t look like the team they were throughout the second half of the regular season. I hate the Senators. I think I have mentioned that before somewhere? Anyway, back to this series…. Ovechkin appears to be getting things going. His point total so far in the playoffs is good, not great…but remember he was on the ice against Zdeno Chara for most of the first round and still managed to put up some pretty good numbers (2g, 3a). Ovie could be a handful for the Rangers in the second round. Brooks Laich is a playoff guy. It seems to me that every year he goes late in most pools, unnoticed really, and then has these solid playoff runs. Keep your eye on Brooks Laich if you aren’t already doing so. He might end up being the only guy on Washington who does anything. Goalie Braden Holtby is playing well, but it is his first rodeo. I think the Rangers will get things going here in the second round. The Stanley Cup is wide open now in my opinion and I think the Rangers can use that to their advantage. A motivator like Tortorella can get this team going. Lundqvist should be able to steal a game or two and that should be enough. The Rangers are getting some great offensive production from the back end with Stralman and Girardi both recording five points in the first round. Hopefully for the Rangers, that continues. I think the Rangers are the deeper team and the better team, obviously based on their regular season numbers. Lundqvist wins this series. Unless Dale Hunter can play. I have the New York Rangers defeating the Washington Capitals in 6 games.
Flyers vs. Devils – I see this series as the series with the most potential to be lopsided. The Flyers looked just awesome in the first round. The Devils are another team from their own division, and it could be a fairly nasty series as well. I don’t anticipate it being anywhere near as intense and nasty as the previous series with the Penguins, but it could be a good one to watch. Offensively the Flyers are having an unreal playoffs so far. Claude Giroux is having a career playoff run. Scott Hartnell is becoming one of those playoff legends hockey fans reminisce about for years later at local watering holes. Giroux is racking up all the points, but I’m looking at Hartnell as a potential Conn Smythe winner already. I know, I know, it’s a stretch, but I like that guy, and am more and more impressed with him the more I watch him. The goaltending is again the Flyers Achilles’ heel here. Bryz is being Bryz….and that worries me a bit. Defensively the Flyers gave up a ton of goals to the Penguins and that is a concern. However, the New Jersey Devils are not the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Devils are getting a lot of offensive production from their entire roster, very balanced scoring. It may not be enough though. The scoring is balanced, it is more than I would have thought at this point, but I don’t see it being enough to match the Flyers. Not even close. In the past the Devils would rely on a stingy, hard-hitting defence and a one of the greatest goaltenders of all-time to bail them out when the club needed it. I hate to say it (even though I’m not a Brodeur fan…I respect the guy, but not a fan really), Marty Brodeur looks average…maybe a little above average…but in the end he is not the Marty Brodeur that we all know and admire. Age has caught up with the guy. The Devils can no longer rely on Brodeur to win a series for them. And if the Flyers can get Zajac, Clarkson and Kovalchuk off their games, then the Devils will have to find offence from other sources. I just don’t see that being enough to match Philly. I hate the Devils…have I mentioned that before? I don’t like the Flyers much either, they beat-up on the Leafs for years in the late ‘70’s and early ‘80’s….so this is a tough one to watch for me. Meh. I have the Philadelphia Flyers defeating the New Jersey Devils in 5 games.
In my blog on the first round I had the Penguins winning it all. I had the Penguins beating the Blackhawks….wow. I didn’t like the Penguins pick at all I thought if they could get by the Flyers they could very well win it all. On the flip side of that, I thought the Flyers would have a great shot should they be able to get by the Penguins. And based on who is left and how the first round unfolded, I think the Flyers are the favourite to win it all now. If the Flyers did not expend too much in the first round and can get out of the second round without out expelling too much against another divisional rival, I think Philly should be the favourite. I won’t make predictions again on the Stanley Cup until we get there, I was wrong, badly wrong on my first set of picks, so I’ll go round by round now! I hope everyone is enjoying these playoffs. Despite the outcomes of the series in the first round, there were no sweeps and from what I watched, all the series were quite competitive. Which isn’t always the case. I was mentioning earlier in this blog that I wasn’t sure whether it was a good thing or a bad thing the first round ended the way it did. In the end, I would say it was a good thing. Teams like the Red Wings have been a mainstay and that can get boring or stale. The league needs some new blood so-to-speak and teams like the Blues and Kings are just that. This league is a young man’s league nowadays, and it is really fun to watch in my opinion. I like tradition, so I like the Bruins, Blackhawks, Red Wings and Maple Leafs winning every year. But I can appreciate the change, I can appreciate that there has to be teams in newer and maybe untraditional hockey markets winning. Otherwise the league becomes boring, stale and stagnant. Like the Canadiens. It was a crazy first round hopefully the second round is just as much fun to watch.