Wednesday, April 14, 2010

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.

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