Wednesday, April 15, 2009

My Picks In The West


1. San Jose Sharks- 117 pts.
8. Anaheim Ducks- 91 pts.

(reg. season series: Sharks 4-2)
This series could be very interesting, you have the Sharks who won the President's trophy for finishing first overall up against the Ducks who secured a playoff spot on the second last day of the regular season. Sounds like a big mismatch, but I think this spells a possible upset. The Sharks are deeper than the Ducks up front with major league scoring from Thornton, Marleau and Setoguchi (who cooled down in the second half), but the Ducks can match those guys with Getzlaf, Perry and Bobby Ryan (who had an excellent second half after starting the season in the minors). The Sharks have more depth and talent on the other lines.
The Sharks spent their off season making moves to improve their chances this Spring, replace their coach and completely revamp the defence with more experience and more offence with Dan Boyle and Rob Blake. The biggest factor will be the goaltending. The Sharks are solid with Nabokov while the Duck's goaltending tandem of J.S. Giguere or Jonas Hiller (#1?) is shaky and unproven. If the Sharks lose this series there will be a lot of head scratching in San Jose, they are serious contenders for the cup, but somethings missing...and I'm not sure what it is. This could be the most unpredictable series to call, so I'm calling an upset.
Ducks in 7

2. Detroit Red Wings- 112 pts.
7. Columbus Blue Jackets- 92 pts.

(reg. season series: Tied 3-3)
This is Columbus's first playoff appearance and unfortunately for the Jackets they have to play the defending champs, the Red Wings. An upset isn't entirely impossible, but unless Jacket's goalie Steve Mason can perform miracles, this series will be the first to end. The Red Wings have the edge in almost every position and special teams with way too much firepower in Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Hossa, Holmstrom and Lidstrom. Who does Columbus have? Rick Nash and...Steve Mason who was second in GAA, had 10 shutouts and 33 wins. The Jacket's definitely have the edge in the nets with Osgood looking not-so-good this year, but there will not be an upset here. Sorry.
Wings in 5

3. Vancouver Canucks- 100 pts.
6. St. Louis Blues- 92 pts.

(reg. season series: Tied 2-2)
I admit it, I watched game one of this series before writing this piece and it just confirmed my belief, the Canucks will win this series (and possibly others) if Roberto Loungo is Vancouver's best player every game. Fortunately for the Canucks the supporting cast (Demitra, Burrows, Kesler, Wellwood) is much improved from last year and the reason for the acquisition of Matts Sundin was to win the franchise the cup. Realistically the offence hinges on the creativity and talent of the Sedin twins and whoever has the pleasure of playing with them. Can the Sedins handle the pressures of the playoffs? Will Sundin earn his cash? Will the defence bend from the Blues relentless forechecking?
St. Louis was the hottest team going into the playoffs, their story is incredible considering they were last in the conference at the all-star break. Chris Mason playing way beyond expectations, the return of Andy McDonald after the all-star break, not trading players like ex-Jet Keith Tkachuk or Brad Boyes at the deadline are all factors why the Blues are in the playoffs. Talk of a return by Paul Kariya, who has missed most of the season with an injury adds interest to the series. I think the Blues can give the Canucks some serious trouble, I was originally going to pick St. Louis for the upset, but the play of Loungo in game one has me convinced otherwise.
Canucks in 7

4. Chicago Black Hawks- 104 pts.
5. Calgary Flames- 98 pts.

(reg. season series: Hawks 4-0)
I'm torn in this series, I would like to see a Canadian team advance, but the Black Hawks have been my favourite team since 1970, I've supported them when they were up and supported when they were down (...way down!) and now they are back in the playoffs. I'm pumped and pretty excited about the possibilities and I think they have a real shot of winning at least a series or two, but they are young and inexperienced. The only player that owns a Stanley Cup ring (with Tampa) is ex-Jet Nikolai Khabibulin a solid vet in goal who has recently been playing like Khabby of old. Speed, quickness and youth best describes the new Hawks; Toews, Kane, Sharp, Campbell and Havlat (who led the team in scoring) will be a handful for the Flames defence.
Calgary faltered in the stretch with key injuries to Bourque and Regehr, but the team has a wealth of experience and maturity. Any team that boasts the leadership of Jerome Iginla can't be counted out. It'll come down to a battle between Miikka Kiprusoff and Khabibulin.
Hawks in 6.

If San Jose didn't play Anaheim first round I might have picked them to win the conference, but it's hard to bet against the Wings, I'm going to say Detroit will once again win the west.
In the East, I don't think Boston quite has what it takes to win it all yet, I really think Pittsburgh will get it together and win the Eastern conference. So this might be a rematch of last spring's final. I like Jersey too and don't forget about Washington and the Canucks (we need a Canadian team in the finals!) get the idea! Sit back and enjoy the playoffs and try to forget it's beautiful outside.
Your comments are welcome. Let me know what your picks are.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

My NHL Playoff Picks! (part 1)

I've been thinking about making my playoff predictions for the past few days and I better do it now before the playoffs begin on Wednesday. Like everybody else that makes predictions on sports, I'm pretty much resigned to the fact I'll be lucky if I can get 50% of my picks correct. The first round of the NHL playoffs is guaranteed to offer at least one upset and I guess that's what's so fascinating about the first round, anyone can beat anyone on any given night despite the regular season standings, team's regular season's series, winning streaks and injuries to key players. Just because a team like St. Louis had a great run during the last month or the fact Chicago swept Calgary during the regular season, doesn't always translate to success in the playoffs.


1. Boston Bruins -116 pts.
8. Montreal Canadians- 93 pts.

(reg. season series: Bruins 5-0-1)
Whenever these long time original six rivals meet in the playoffs it always promises to be an intense, bitter battle. This time the Bruins are the heavy favourite, possibly the biggest mismatch of all the series. I think the Bruins have too much depth at all the positions and if goaltending is the key, Corey Price better step it up for the playoffs, he's been inconsistent and shaky through the second half of the season. The Bruins have marque players in Savard, Chara and Thomas who have achieved to expectations, the Canadians; Kovalev, Koivu and Price have not.
Stats aside, this could be a very watchable series if the Canadians gain some momentum early and can steal at least one of the first two games in Boston, then we'll have a great series. Otherwise this could get ugly.
Boston in 6
2. Washington Capitals- 108 pts.
7. New York Rangers- 95 p
(reg. season series: Capital 3-0-1)
This is a tough series to call, the Caps are loaded on offense with Ovechkin, Semin, Backstrom and Green, while the Rangers are the lowest scoring team in the playoffs. The Rangers have the edge on defence and Lundqvist is more solid than Theodore in goal. I've never liked the Rangers that much, maybe it's because they keep employing Avery or maybe it's the underachievers that make the Rangers look like they can throw money at their problems.
The Caps are exciting and I'd like to see how far they can go. Wouldn't a Caps/Pens match up be grand next round?
Washington in 6

3. New Jersey Devils- 106 pts.
6. Caroline Hurricanes- 97 pts.
(reg. season series: Hurricanes 3-1)
These are two teams I haven't don't see much of on HNIC or TSN, so it's hard to make an educated prediction, but any team that has Martin Brodeur can't be counted out. The Devils have the seasoned vets and they always seem to crank it up a notch in the playoffs. They traditionally haven't played much of an offensive game in the past, but this season saw the emergance of Zach Parise as a bona-fide scorer (94 pts.) along with 8 players with 15 or more goals, a non-typical NJ team.
The Hurricanes are riding momentum with a late season push that has seen Cam Ward play like the Conn Smythe winner he was when they won the cup, but will that be enough?
New Jersey in 7

4. Pittsburgh Penguins- 99 pts.
5. Philadelphia Flyers- 99 pts.

(reg. season series: Penguins 4-2)
Both these Pennsylvania teams finished with 99 points, but the Flyers failed to gain home ice with a loss on the last day of the season. The Pens are the hottest team going into the playoffs finishing with a 15-2-3 record in their last twenty and who can deny the one-two punch of Crosby and Malken, the first and third top scoring leaders. They also added some offensive depth with the acquisitions of Chris Kunitz and Bill Guerin on the Crosby line. The problem with the Penguins is they sometimes rely too heavily on Crosby and Malkin, as after their top two lines the rest of the forwards are as interchangable as minor-leaguers.
The defence is suspect and if wasn't for the return on Gonchar from a major injury, there would be little offence contribution from the back end. The Flyers have a much more balanced attack with six players scoring 25 or more goals. The return of Daniel Briere only gives the Flyers more options and a solid top 3 lines.
The key could be goaltending. The Penguin's Fleury has found his game after dealing with inconsistancy early in the season and has been confident and solid when the team needed him most. For the Flyer's to reach the next round, Biron has to be their best player or at least be the difference in the series.
Pittsburgh in 7

Tomorrow: The Western Conference

Welcome To Winnipeg!

No, that's not more snow on the ground.

Waited for the bus on Easter day and this what was left of the bus shelter at my stop at Grant and Stafford. I've seen many shelters smashed in front of my work on Pembina, but these vandals did a real good number on this one. Not only did they break the front and back walls of glass (with supposeably the metal chair laying inside), they also toppled the stone garbage can and the bus bench...ooow watch out, some "original" tough-guys roaming our streets. Such sense-less pathetic acts like this don't surprise me anymore and it's becoming a pretty typical Winnipeg sight nowadays. I noticed the mess wasn't cleaned up until late Monday afternoon, at least a day and a half after it was destroyed. I'm sure the city was paying triple time to the clean-up crew as yesterday was Easter Monday, a holiday for city and government workers.

Hope everyone had a happy Easter! Now back to my chocolate eating.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

It's (S)no Joke!

Seriously, if you're a true Winnipegger it's no big deal to see some snow in April, but this is bordering on annoying. Every time we experience another meltdown and forecasts of potential flooding, we receive another dump of the white stuff. Come on, the NHL playoffs start in a couple of weeks! I always feel somewhat guilty during the playoffs because I really should be outside enjoying the seasonal weather (Spring), but instead I hole myself in my man-cave (if I had one...actually it's my living room) for at least the first two rounds almost every night watching the playoffs. Despite it all, Spring is my favourite time of year after the long winter it's finally a relief to shed a layer or two. Like the typical Winnipegger I am, I promise every year, "that's it, I'm moving somewhere warm", ha! I'll still be here another 40 years annually complaining about the weather.

Now go out and build a snowman!
Season's greetings!!