Wednesday, April 15, 2009
My Picks In The West
THE WESTERN CONFERENCE
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!)...you 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.