Thursday, April 29, 2010

Rounding Off Round Two

The last blog posting filled you in on the Canucks but just for predictions sake, I'm saying the Luongos over the Mullets in six games.

The rest of the rest is shaking out maybe like this:

San Joe Chokers vs. Red-Hot Wings

San Jose's hump to get over is not round one despite what happened in the 2009 playoffs, it's this round where they have failed three out of the last four playoff years.
It's not looking all that good for 2010 either.
Now maybe you can get by with the other Joe (Pavleski) being your leading scorer vs. the Avs, but against the Red Wings, the No. 1 Joe (Thornton) is going to have to pick up his game.
With a hobbled Dany Heatley, I'm not betting on that.

Also, could we please get off Evgeni Nabokov's back. He may not be the second coming of Vladislav Tretiak, but he is not the most guilty party in San Jose's playoff flops.
His save percentage was .918 and .932 the last two second rounds (Vesa Toskala played in 2006's round two vs. Edmonton).

The Zetterburg Datsyuks in six games.

Champ Crosbys vs. Jarosaves

Is Jaroslav Halak set to lead the Habs on a Dwayne Roloson Oilers '06 type run to the Final? Betting against him right now might not be the way to go but here's some food for fodder.
The Habs are actually an 18th-placed team.
The only times a team lower than 16th-overall pulled off a first round upset, they subsequently lost in round two.
In 2002 the league MVP (he used to be good?) Jose Theodore helped the 18th-placed Habs (is this a pattern or what?) knock the East's number one seed Boston Bruins off in round one. They proceeded to lose to Arturs Irbe and the 16th-placed Carolina Hurricances in round two.
In 2009 the 17th-placed Anaheim Ducks of Orange County knocked off those Sharky Sharks in round one and lost in seven games in round two to Detroit.
In 1994 the 17th-placed San Jose Sharks upset the number one seed Red Wings and then lost in seven in round two vs. the Make Beliefs.

So let's get some perspective here. Halak was outstanding on a terrible team (face it, getting outshot 41 to 27 on average per 60 mins of play is not a sign of a competitive team...opportunistic maybe but the Halak won that series not the Montreal Habnadiens).

Even so you know Halak is going to give the Pens fits but I like the Pens' far more creative offensive skills over Alexnader Ovechkin's predictable "bomb down the wing, cut to the middle and try to fire a wrist shot through Hal Gill's legs" move.

Take the Pens in seven.

Tuuuuuukka vs. Bouuuuuuucher

If these teams were healthy, this might be a terrific series. It still might be but both teams are running on fumes. Philly lucked out in round one getting a New Jersey team that they dominated in the regular season which carried over into the playoffs.
Boston's victory over the Sabres was probably the bigger upset given the B's injury woes and not having their playmaker Marc Savard.

I'm calling it a tie. No team wins. Neither advances. We just send the Pens straight to the Final.

Otherwise, can you imagine Boston of all teams in the Conference Finals? How is that possible?

I'm going to say, despite no Jeff Carter's shot, Ian Laperriere's face and whomever else the Flyers don't have, they do have Mike Richards and Chris Pronger (as well as the vastly underrated Alexandre Giroux and Kimmo Timonen).

Flyboys in five again.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Beware the Mullet

Despite the crisis over the penalty killing, once again it's not exclusively how you do on special teams that determines a series winner. As it is never emphasized in the media, the majority of most hockey games are played at 5-on-5, and funnily enough that's where series are mainly won and lost.

So, bye bye, LA and the vaunted D-crew of Drew "-5" Doughty, Jack "-5" Johnson and Rob "-4" Scuderi. We enjoyed your appearance. Please come back next year and next time wear your retros.
Butchy Boy rockin' the original look

It's now a rematch of that 1982 Towel Power series . . . I mean, last year's horror show with the Chicago Blackhawks. We all remember that, don't we?

So as we head into the Blackhawks vs. Canucks playoff version post lockout 2.0, let's look at the big questions:

Which Roberto shows up?
Roberto Luongo (of the .893 save percentage vs. LA) must be able to outplay the rookie Antti Niemi (who despite giving up this wacky goal here) was very solid with a .921 save percentage vs. Nashville in rd. 1.

Will Alexandre Burrows ever score again?
Yes, it's fantastic Mikael Samulesson is currently leading the NHL playoffs in goal scoring and that Steve Bernier seems fresh after suffering through an injury-plagued season and bagged 4 goals in rd. 1, but this rd. the Canucks are going to need Burrows' goal scoring.

Is Duncan Keith alive?
In rd. 1 the best defenceman on Chicago was the shifty Niklas Hjarmalsson (pronounced Byfuglien style as Son of Sharmal). Keith who was the NHL's second leading point getter among d-men had a paltry 2 points in the series vs. Nashville and was a -4. Then post-Olympic hangover that Luongo suffered from seems to have affected the man with two first names (or two last names, if you prefer).

Will the Nux go to the rope-a-dope?
Last playoffs the Canucks had a chance to put Chicago away. The Vancouverites were up 2-1 in the series and in Game 4 decided to sit back and defend a 1-0 lead. It almost worked as Chicago tied the game up with less than three minutes left on the clock. The Blackhawks then won the game in OT.
Total shots on goal over almost 63 minutes of hockey by the locals--15.
The Canucks then proceeded to lose Games 5 and 6 and the series slipped through their fingers.
Jacques Lemaire retired. Enough with the rope-a-dope, Coach Yogi Bear!

Can the crowd make a difference?
It sure can as we saw from Game 3 in LA. This is where the rich folks and the freeloaders who snagged the corporate ducats have to bring it. You just know the Madhouse on Madison in Chicago will be rocking and making a difference a la the days of the old Chicago Stadium. It's up to Canuck fans to stop waiting for the scoreboard to tell them to "Make Some Noise" and to rachet and clank it up to get this team to attack, attack, attack!

If last year's Byfuglien of a series is anything to go by, hang on to your hockey helmets as this year's could be even better.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Whiteout the Whiteout

Last night saw Pens fans wearing white and their team subsequently lost in triple overtime to the Sens. The Phoenix Coyotes are another of these "Whiteout" teams continuing the Winnipeg Jets' tradition of the whiteout for reasons beyond me given the Jets never did anything in the playoffs.

The Sens whiteout the Pens and their fans in Game 5

On a similar yet better note, last night the Oklahoma City Thunder's first ever playoff game resulted in a win over the defending NBA Championship team, the L.A. Lakers. The crowd in Loud City was wearing all blue. This reverse take on the Whiteout began with the final home game of OKC's inaugural season and has been revived for this year's playoffs.

First of all, I'm confused. Back when the Whiteout was started in Winnipeg, the home teams in the NHL wore white uniforms at home. Now they don't.

In the NBA white is the predominant home uniform color (Laker and Noew Orleans Hornet yellow aside) yet the OKC fans chose not to wear white but went with blue . . . and won the game!

NHL fans take note.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

A Sedin Shows Emotion

The best thing to happen out of Game 4 was not that the Canucks managed to kill off two powerplays, but Henrik Sedin's reaction to scoring the winning goal. The playoffs do feed off emotion and when you see a reaction like that, it says something. It hopefully says Henrik has realized that to win you cannot be a milquetoast Joe Thornton and need to be a fired up Alexander Ovechkin.

After all, through four games we have Sidney Crosby with 11 points, Ovechkin with 8 points, Henrik Zetterberg with 7 points and the NHL's regular season scorer leader lies tied for 14th overall in playoff scoring.

Meaning in Game 5 and 6 it's Henrik's time to show the hockey world why he's the leading scorer in the NHL as Roberto Luongo (of the .871 save percentage through Game 4) is not exactly reminding anyone of a Patrick Roy despite a few highlight reel saves. Hey, Roberto, that glove on your left hand is for catching the puck!

Also, apparently I have heard that having a great powerplay is now so important to winning in the playoffs that it usurps how the majority of the game is played at 5-on-5. Please inform the 1 for 19 on the PP Washington Capitals that leading their series 3 games to 1 is not good enough.

I'll also call Pens Coach Dan Bylsma to tell him having the second-worst PK unit in the playoffs that the Pens are heading nowhere with their 3 games to 1 lead over the Sens.

Last I looked the game is primarily played 5-on-5 and it will still come down to that as far as winning the Cup. Sure, LA can win a series on the PP as the Dallas Stars did in upsetting the Ducks of the Mighty Anaheim in '08.

So, let's simplify, a good powerplay will win you a series if your team is lousy 5-on-5. Vancouver can survive this series even if LA's powerplay remains at this redhot .563 pace as long as the Canucks can dominate at 5-on-5.

Have a look at LA's powerplay game by game
Game 1
2 for 3 on the PP in a 3-2 OT loss

Game 2
2 for 6 on the PP in a 3-2 OT win

Game 3
3 for 3 on the PP in a 5-3 win

Game 4
2 for 4 on the PP in a 6-4 loss

Also, despite this mass panic over the number of penalties the Canucks are taking, they are taking no more than they did in the regular season where they were shorthanded an average of just under 4 per game.

So PK woes be damned. Just make sure Henrik brings it Crosby-style in Games 5 and 6.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Return of CuJuongo

Game 3 proves a few things. Kings fans were dying for eight non-playoff seasons because that crowd was the possible difference in the game. You can talk about the Canucks taking deserved penalties (or that that was no kicking motion on the goal disallowed) but don't tell me the refs were not influenced by the crowd. Hey, it's called home-ice advantage for a number of reasons.

Roberto Luongo is proving the curse of the gold medal winning Olympic goalie is not going to change. Make up any excuse you want for his mediocre play and I'm with you on that. The main problem I see is where Florida had him in his prime, the Canucks now are stuck with him CuJo-like where he'll be just good enough to tempt us but not enough to lift Lord Stanley's mug . . . and I'm talking 2011 and onwards. The Canucks may come back and take the Kings down but they aren't going to the Final based on the play of other goalies' (hello, Craig Anderson!) play in the 2010 playoff mix.

Which brings me to the current hot topic: Short overtimes and how great the playoffs have been.
The Hockey News has the story here and is all a twitter about this "great" start to the playoffs.
Were they watching tapes of the 1986 playoffs? The 1994 playoffs? Last year's Caps vs. Pens series? Because we are barely 3 games into the 2010 playoffs, and I've seen more snooze inducing games than jump out of you seat end-to-end stuff so far.

Through game 3s, I can only find two series really worth watching:
Caps vs. Habs
Mainly because the Jaroslavs (Halak in net and Spacek pokechecking Ovechkin into submission) stole Game 1 and Tomas Plekanec mouthed off about Jose Theodore (and he's been proven right given Semyon Varlamov for the second straight playoffs has come off the bench and is now the Caps #1) scored the OT winner.
Game 2 saw an unreal comeback thanks to the Caps' Nicklas Backstrom.
Then Alexander Ovechkin opened his mouth and shot back about Halak being nervous and the Caps proceeded to destroy the Habs 5-1 in Game 3 running Halak from the net.
So we've got both teams' #1 goalies being pulled in games, two overtimes, a superstar being shut down by a couple of Jaroslavs, a Backstrom proving that a sidekick can be a difference maker plus electric crowds in both arenas. That and the yin-yang of an offensive powerhouse playing a defensive team (albeit one with a small group of pretty good snipers).

Pens vs. Sens
This series has been fun because Ottawa stole Game 1 thanks to some wonky bounces. Then Sydney Crosby took over and has made some plays that'll remind us of how good the guy really is. I wouldn't rank it as nearly as fun to watch as the Caps vs. Habs sries as it's the Blandawa Senators but for Crosby and Malkin, tune in. Just flip to the Punjabi channel when it's broadcasting to avoid Bob Cole.

The rest of the series have been middling to dull. The Canucks vs. Kings series is not good hockey bar bits of Game 1 and its OT. The Sharks vs. Avs is a mismatch and the Avs are only leading thanks to goalie Craig Anderson. The Yotes vs. Wings has shown promise but as they're still the Yotes. (When Shane Doan is your most recognizable star, frankly, who cares?) Blackhawks vs. Preds--the big story is Patrick Kane's mullet and a funny bounced goal by JP Dumont that was spun into some goalie crisis that's non-existent as Patrick Niemi shut out the Preds the very next game.

In the East you can forget the Sabres vs. Bruins unless you like watching after-whistle scrums. The Devils vs. Flyers series has seen one team win a game (Flyers in Game 1) despite having only 14 shots on goal. The Devils show up for the first road game of the series and manage all of 19 shots in 63:35 of play. At least Mike Richards is playing well with 6 pts in 3 GP because that's about all there is to watch in this series so far.

So, yeah, OTs have been quick as thank the hockey gods as who wants to sit through more periods of nothingness in most series so far. Maybe the OTs have been quick not only because teams are going for it early and penalties are being called in OT but the goaltending in general has been inconsistent across all series (bar you, Mr. 51 Saves Anderson).

My advice to Canuck fans, save yourself some heartache. Stick to watching the Caps or Pens. Tune back into the Canucks if the series gets to a Game 6 or 7. Until then they'll just take more stupid penalties, give up more powerplay goals which throws the whole flow out of the line shifts. That more than anything has rendered the Sedins pretty much non-factors. It's not just the powerplay goals against, folks, that have done in the Canucks. The more the game is played 5-on-5 the better the Canucks chances period of swinging the momentum of the series. Flat out, the Kings cannot win this series at 5-on-5 no matter how great Drew Doughty is.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Bingo Bango . . . and Bozo

How to not take a stranglehold of a series:

1. Play a 6th string defenceman (Andrew Alberts) enough to take more dumb penalties.

2. Allow powerplay goals to a team who seem unable to play 5-on-5.

3. Score an own goal in overtime (hey, Roberto, the knob on the end of your stick is there for a reason).

Not that I'm whining as this will maybe reduce the hype over the Nux Cup hopes and these so-called fans will get a more realistic perspective as there are 15 other teams in the playoffs still.
One big worry is the Sedins were shut down and wasn't that the problem in the past? Keep an eye on the two road games because ultimately no matter how much secondary scoring the Nux get, it comes down to the Sedins as far as going on a Cup run let alone surviving rd. 1.

So onto more entertaining series ans issues. First off, tune in to TSN's pre-game show today as ex-Canuck, current-Yotes Taylor Pyatt opens up about last season's sudden death of his girlfriend. Pretty good preview here.

Then watch some real hockey as Detroit and Phoenix do battle. For my eyeballs, this has been the series with the most flow with no dreadfully dull stretches. Hard to believe with Dave Tippett coaching the Yotes but maybe the Wings just bring that skating out in other teams.

Throw in four other games and it's a hockey fan's day in heaven...albeit I have to get outside and play some tennis and let the DVR work OT or I'll become a real potato rather than just a couch one.

Friday, April 16, 2010


With Alexander Edler channeling Scott Stevens, it goes to show the best player on the ice does not have to collect points or make saves to have an impact on the game. If you wondered where those hits were all season long, I have a theory: Edler is smart.

Why waste energy hitting guys in 82 meaningless regular season games? Save all that energy up and release it when needed--in the playoffs.

Overall, a great effort even if Roberto Luongo looked like a fish out of water on the Anze Kopitar half-chance, he more than made up for it with his Hasek impersonation on the Jack Johnson shot earns him big Luuuuuu's!

Thank you, Mikael Samuelsson for scoring in the 1st overtime as I was having '07 5-OT vs. Dallas Stars flashbacks the way Jonathan Quick was playing the the Kings' net.

As far as the rest of the Game 1s, not a very good start to the NHL playoffs. The only watchable hockey was the Habs upset of the Caps and the Yotes-Wings game. The rest were comical (Ottawa-Pittsburgh and the bouncing pucks), farcical as well as boring (Philly get 12 shots on goal and beats New Jersey), too chippy after the whistles (Buffalo vs. Boston), a snoozefest (does San Jose realize the playoffs started?) and funny (the Harlem Globetrotters apparently showed up for Game 1 in Chicago. Needless to say the Washington Generals lost yet again).

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Bestern Playoff Preview

Team Choke vs. New Generation Avs
Obviously, the Sharks are under huge pressure to get to the Final after last year's playoff collapse in rd. 1 to Anaheim. The thing is San Jose tend to fumble over themselves in rd. 2 or 3. Not saying the Avs cannot pull an upset but looking at last year's mess the Sharks were beat by a team just two seasons removed from being crowned champions. But unlike '09 when they had to face the wiles of Teemu Selanne, Scott Niedermayer and Chris Pronger, the Avs no longer have Joe Sakic, Peter Forsberg or Patrick Roy. So let's cut the Sharks some slack in rd. 1.

After that it's up to Evgeni Nabokov and Joe Thornton to prove they are da men!

San Jose takes it in 5 1/3 games

Toews Kaners vs. Barry Trotz-kyites
Nashville are a funny team. Consistently overachievers in the regular season, they have yet to win a playoff series in four tries. They should be due, but then again they still do not have enough offence on paper. You can make a case for Pekka Rinne being good enough to steal a series but before him it was Dan Ellis (who was sensational in the '08 first rd. six-game series vs. the eventual Cup champion Detroit Red Wings), Chris Mason and Tomas Vokoun (also fantastic the first playoff series the Preds played back in '04 again vs. Detroit). All were good enough to keep the Preds in series but without help on offence, this team goes nowhere.

Thanks to the Buffalo Sabres' breaking the curse of the losing Conference Finalists (and not only getting past rd. 1 but going deep two playoffs in a row in '06 and '07). we seem to be in a new era. That bodes well for Chicago in '10.

Blackhawks in 6 2/3 games.

Hollywood North vs. Hollywood

It all falls on Roberto Luongo's shoulders now. The Canucks have the offence . . . finally, so no excuses. Also, Luongo (flameouts in NHL playoff elimination games aside) has been terrific in rd. 1 matchups. Whether he can crank his game up after an Olympic run is the big question and the post-Olympic break showed otherwise. Throw in the fact this team looks defensively suspect whenever one of their big three defencemen gets injured (currently Willie Mitchell; previously Sami Salo or Mathias Ohlund).

With so many question marks with the Canucks D and in net, the Kings are primed for an upset. Sure Jonathan Quick has been nearly as average as Luongo post-Olympics. Maybe sitting in the crowd as Team USA's third goalie at Vancouver 2010 wore him out mentally.
Throw in the fact LA led by Dustin Brown hit a ton the Vancouver D is going to get worn down. Add in the other fact that the LA D not only has all-star youth in Drew Doughty but Stanley Cup rings in Rob Scuderi and Sean O'Donnell, and I'm leaning upset.

Then again Coach Yogi Bear could do a ballsy Cam Ward '06 move and put Andrew Raycroft if Luongo continues letting in softies. Hey, backups sometimes do wonderful things come playoff time.

El Lay in 9 1/2 games

Phoenix Reinsdorfers vs. Winged Wheelers
Has there ever been a series where the higher seed was not the favorite? In this case it's based on how hot the Red Wings have been since the break, but take that with a grain of salt. New Jersey going into one playoff year was on an 11-game winning streak in '06 going in, extended that to 15 by sweeping the Rangers them promptly lost in rd. 2 in five games to the Hurricanes. So, yeah, pencil the Wings in to get through this round unscathed but any further, you're on your own there.

What you should pin your money on is the overtime/shootout record of the Yotes. They won a league record 19 games in OT or the shootout. Playoff teams that top this bizarre stat have lost [almost] every time in rd. 1 as they no longer can rely on a quick 4-on-4 OT or the shootout to chalk up easy wins.

Here's your OT/SO leaders and how they did in season with real OT:
'06 Dallas Stars 15 OT/SO wins were upset in five games by Jose Theodore and the Avycats.
'07 Minnesota Wild 17 OT/SO wins lost in five games to the Ducks.
'08 New Jersey Devils 15 So/OT wins were upset guessed it, 5 games by the Rangers.

Now I did cheat a little as in '07 the Canucks also had 17 OT/SO wins and managed to beat Dallas in about 9 games (yep, there were almost two full games of overtime in that low-scoring series) so let's just say the Yotes have a one in four chance of escaping rd. 1.

Old Wings in six.

Leastern Playoff Preview

Everyone on Planet Hockey has made their predictions and analyzed and reanalyzed each series so it's time to hopefully shed some new light (if that's possible) on each series. Remember, in the words of TMQ, "all predictions wrong or your money back."

Team Ovechkin vs. Steve Penney's Ghost
With Jaroslav Halak channeling Dominik Hasek (albeit from a Slovakian perspective) that is the only hope the Habs have of pulling off what would be an upset to at least match Dwayne Roloson's stoning of the Red Wings back in '06. Given it's an Olympic year again, it's possible.
The problem is unlike, say, the grainy images of a '71 Ken Dryden who, I might mention being a bitter B's fan at the time, had an all-star defence in J.C. Tremblay, Jacques Laperriere, Guy Lapointe and Terry Harper to help him out. The erudite one also had Jean Beliveau, Frank and Peter Mahovlich, Yvan Cournoyer, Jacques Lemaire and even the still spry enough Henri Richard to score enough goals to beat the Big Bad Bruins.
Halak has, well, Mike Camalleri, Tomas Plekanec, Scott Gomez and a now healthy Brian Gionta. I rest my case.

Capitals in 8 games (factoring in overborings)

Team Trap vs. Team Pronger
Philly signed the now slower Chris Pronger for one reason alone and that was to do playoff battle with the star forwards of the East. Ilya Kovalchuk better bring his wood chopping best to the rink. Now there is a lot of text online about how Martin Brodeur gives the Devils the edge. Maybe back when the two Scotts (Niedermayer and Stevens) were patroling the Cloven Hoofed Ones blueline, but Brodeur has not gotten to the Conference Finals let alone the Final since the dynamic defence duo no longer were together on Team Lou. I would also add that Jacques Lemaire-coached teams (we're talking Minnesota Wild) have not done much playoff damage of late (one lone Conference Finals appearance in '03).

Now you can argue all you want about Brian Boucher not being in Brodeur's league but he has played well in the second half, has beaten NJ (by a 5-1 score) and has actually gone deep in the playoffs but that was way back in '00 (Conference Finals where a returning from injury yet again Eric Lindros got TKO-ed by a Scott Stevens hit in Game 7).

Throw in the fact Philly took five of six off New Jersey and the fact when one team dominates another in the regular season, it's usually curtains for the other team (i.e., Habs 8W 0L in '08 vs. Bruins = 1st rd. loss for B's even if it took 7 games).

Philly in 6 1/2 games.

Buffy the Playoff Sabres vs. Boston Injureds
The only hope for the B's is Ryan Miller suffering from the post-Olympic curse. That and Tuukka Rask has to play as well as he did in the regular season. Without Marc Savard, though, the B's are up against it as winning four 2-1 games is a stretch but not beyond the realm of possibility. Having said that people are dismissing this series and saying it will be boring. Maybe these teams don't score enough but the games between the two feature plenty of scoring chances. Of their six regular season games, four of them had over 60 shots with each team firing 40+ in one of the games. The Sabres are a fast exciting team with plenty of firepower and, if (big IF) Tim Connolly is healthy, the Buffalonians should fire plenty of pucks at Rask.
I'd like the B's if Savard was playing but since he isn't, Sabres in 5 3/4 games.

Crosburgh Malkguins vs. Ottawa Centurions
First, let the record state that the Sens logo is not a Roman senator but a Roman centurion. Now onto the obvious logic: Stanley Cup champions do not lose in rd. 1. OK, aside from '04, '06 and '08 but details, details. In Pittsburgh's favor, unlike '04 Jersey, '06 Tampa and '08 Anaheim's is the fact that the Pens did not fall in the standings (plus not having a lockout year wipe out any good post-Cup season mojo as in the Bolts' case). They stayed right where they were last year--8th overall.
Throw in the fact Alexei Kovalev . . . oh, wait, never mind, subtracting him from the Sens' lineup would be a positive. OK, Filip Kuba being out hurts being a defenceman and having let the force we call Zdeno Chara go to Boston four years ago, well, the Sens are no longer the underachieving playoff flops they were known for (OK, they made the '07 Final, but it's not like they actually "competed" given how unmemorable they were vs. Anaheim).

Flightless Birds in 5.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Release the Kraken! Let The Real Season Begin!

Before the playoff party can get started let's have a look at a few things that'll maybe help you in your playoff pool.

The Olympic Effect
We curse your playoff chances!

This is a tough one. When the Olympics were held overseas (Nagano '98 and Torino '06) it had a HUGE effect.

In '98 five of the eight 1st rd. series were won by the team with fewer Olympians).
In '06 same story, five out of eight.

The previous time the Olympics were held in North America (Salt Lake City '02), four of the eight 1st round series were won by teams with fewer Olympians and all four were in the Eastern Conference.

(To the fact backcheckers: If the two teams matched up in any series had an equal number of Olympians I went with the higher seed as the "pick" which only happened twice and both in '98--Detroit vs. Phoenix in rd. 1 and Washington vs. Buffalo in rd. 3)

If we take this two steps further along the playoff trail, here're the results through round three (or Conference Finals) each Olympic year for the teams with fewer Olympians:
'98 10 of 14 series won
'02 5 of 14
'06 9 of 14

So use the following info as you like:
'06 Olympians per playoff team
Washington (5 players) vs. Montreal (6 players)
New Jersey (5 players) vs. Philadelphia (4 players)
Buffalo (5 players) vs. Boston (7 players)
Pittsburgh (5 players) vs. Ottawa (5 players)

San Jose (8 players) vs. Colorado (3 players)
Chicago (6 players) vs. Nashville (6 players)
Vancouver (7 players) vs. Los Angeles (6 players)
Phoenix (3 players) vs. Detroit (8 players)

I could go further and show you how the teams with fewer players in the Final Four of the Olympic tournament did, but there's virtually no difference statistically so let's move on.

So, how would you call it in '06? I think you have to look at '02 and figure the weaker conference will see the "fewer Olympians" theory hold true. In '02 that was the Eastern Conference and in '06, it's the same so I think we can all see the Capitals, the Flyers (who have beaten the Devils 5 of 6 this season), the Sabres (beating Boston without Marc Savard) and the Penguins going through, can't we?

Out West, well, will it mirror '02 and the teams with more Olympians reverse the fatigued Olympic roster curse? That's the '08 R.J. Umberger third-liner turned playoff goal scorer question.

Beating The Conference Final Curse
Commit to the Indian!

Teams that lose in rd. 3 usually follow up the next season by either missing the playoffs (say hello to the Carolina Hurricanes '09/10 season!) or lose in rd. 1.
Since '95, of the 28 teams who went to the Conference Finals, only 9 made it back there (or even went one better and made the Final or took the Cup). Fifteen teams missed the playoffs altogether or lost in rd. 1.

The glimmer of statistical hope for the Blackhawks is teams that improved (or at least did not drop in the league standings) from the previous season have a pretty terrific record:
'99 Dallas Stars finished 1st overall in '98 and again in '99 and went on to win the Cup that season.
'02 St. Louis Blues finished 6th in '01 and '02 and won their 1st rd. series before bowing out in rd. 2.
'07 Buffalo Sabres went from 5th to 1st overall and got back to the Conference Finals.
'07 Anaheim Ducks jumped from 12th to 4th and won the whole kit and kaboodle (1930s' translation: the Stanley Cup).
'08 Detroit Red Wings went from 2nd to 1st overall and took their fourth Cup in the Nicklas Lidstrom era.
'10 Chicago Blackhawks moved from 6th in '08/09 to 3rd overall this season so will they float down the Mississippi like St. Louis in '02 or will they follow the pattern of the vast majority of these other teams in question?

A Hat Trick of Curse Busting
The Crosby-era Penguins have become Cup champions without even having to go through the stupendous upset loss. Yes, even the Detroit Red Wings had to suffer not only one shocking upset (the '95 Devils sweep in the Final) but a few more both before and after as favorites before winning in '97. The Penguins may have lost the '08 Final, but they went in as underdogs so the loss as tough as it was could not have been unexpected.

Then the Pens destroyed the the losing Cup Finalist curse. You know the one where every losing Cup Finalist since 1994 has never made it back to the Final the next season. In fact 10 of the last 14 "losers" actually missed the playoffs or lost in the 1st round the season after.

Well, now the Crosburgh Malkguins are attempting to do what no team has done since '98, repeat as champions. Would you bet against them?

Wither Bingo Bango Bongo?
Is it too late to change Canuck colors to red?

Roberto Luongo has played extremely well (.930 career save percentage) in the playoffs but not well enough in elimination games ('09 Game 6 vs. Chicago and '07 Game 6 vs. Anaheim). We all know he has played well for Canada in a pinch hitting role subbing in the '04 World Cup semi-final and this past '06 Olympics.

This isn't international hockey though so there's the rub. I'll leave you to speculate on how you think Luongo will play in the '10 playoffs but reserve judgment even if the Canucks get past the Kings. It's winning two rounds of playoff hockey that puts you in at least the '06 and '07 Ryan Miller category.

Are You Experienced?
I didn't need no stinkin' long playoff resume!

Why year after year do you hear the media go on about this? Isn't it their job to follow hockey year after year? Do they not notice how little it matters that a goalie has any playoff experience? Did they not grow up in the rookie Patrick Roy wins Cup in '86 or sophomore Martin Brodeur wins Cup in '95 eras?

Aaaargh! I'm tired of hearing this.

You do not need an experienced playoff goalie to go deep in the playoffs.
Prior to Marc-Andre Fleury helping the Penguins get to their first Final in '08, he had a grand total of 5 NHL playoff games.
Cam Ward who led the 'Canes to the Cup in '06 had zero playoff games under his belt given he was a rookie . . . and a backup behind Martin Gerber going in to that year's playoffs!

I could go on and on but, if you want to go deep in the playoffs, more times than not, you're better off with a fresher, healthier, less mileage on the goal pads goaltender.

Plus forget looking at regular season save percentage otherwise no one would ever think Jose Theodore could consistently win at least one round year after year.

So take all that for what you will and make your picks.
Tomorrow a look at the scorers to take in your playoff pools.

Why am I not invited to this year's playoff party?