The NHL may finally be on the right track after this first round of the 2010 playoffs. From sure-bets to upsets, we had it all. The crowds were into it, and the electricity was pumping through every spectator.
Although I am going to stick by my original prediction of Red Wings and Penguins for the Stanley Cup Finals, because I was not perfect in all my picks (six out of eight is not bad), I am going to give my second round ones here. It really makes me laugh to look at my Capitals-Canadiens prediction, as I ripped on Montreal and did not give them much of a chance. But I got one thing right, and that is that Capitals not going to the finals like a lot of people though.
Because I was correct in all my western conference picks, I will give them first, and I will not change a thing.
San Jose Sharks vs Detroit Red Wings: Red Wings in five
The San Jose Sharks shut all of us up by actually getting out of the first round this season. The youthful and inexperienced Colorado Avalanche did give them some trouble, though, taking them to six games. The Red Wings are coming off a hard fought seven game series against the Coyotes, who I think are faster than San Jose. If Detroit could handle their opponent last round, I see them beating the Sharks easily in this round.
In a conversation with my former radio show co-host last night, Alan Bass, I asked him who he think would win the series. He responded, “Wings in three.” I got a good laugh out of that, but I’ll give the Sharks a small benefit of the doubt, and say they will lose in five.
Chicago Blackhawks vs Vancouver Canucks: Canucks in seven
Well, there it is. My two western picks are both upsets. The Blackhawks are an exciting, young team, but I am still not sold on their goaltending. They were also highly superior in skill to the Nashville Predators, and had a tough time beating them. The Canucks on the other hand are coming off a nice victory against the Los Angeles Kings. This is Roberto Luongo’s chance to prove he can be a big game goaltender, and I think he can out-duel whoever Chicago puts in net, bet it Niemi or Huet.
The Hawks play such an up-tempo style that I think will play right into the Canucks defensive system. This should be an exciting, hard-fought series from beginning to end, and I see the Canucks coming out on top.
Pittsburgh Penguins vs Montreal Canadiens: Penguins in six
I did not give the Canadiens a chance in round one, and they proved me wrong. It was funny because I wanted them to win, because I can’t stand certain parties on the Capitals, but picked against them because I did not think they had it in them. The series that ended last night could possibly be the biggest hockey upset in the last decade. That said, people are going to be picking the Canadiens hot and heavy for the second round, which will be a mistake.
This situation reminds me of a something once told to me by someone whose name escapes me. It was about the Rangers and Islanders battle in what would be known as the conference finals by today’s standards, back in 1979. The Islanders were on of the best teams, and the Rangers barely got in. They did not have a chance. But it just so happens that through the course of that series, the Rangers would end up winning, and they partied like they had already won the Cup.
They went into the Stanley Cup finals unable to focus, and the person who told this to me said, “They had already won their Cup.” Needless to say, they did not stand a chance, and lost to the Canadiens in five. I feel the same will happen with this series between the Canadiens and Penguins. Montreal players can appear as confident as they want, but none of them thought before the first round that they would make it. Mentally, they have already achieved greatness, and for that, they will be in for a wake-up call against the Penguins.
As much as I would like to see Sidney Crosby lose, I just do not think the Canadiens can play Anne Sullivan any longer. Penguins in six is my prediction.
Boston Bruins vs Philadelphia Flyers: Flyers in six
The Flyers upset the New Jersey Devils in the last round, and with injuries to top players Mike Richards and Simon Gagne, being the first team to win their playoff series worked to their advantage, as they now had extra time to rest. It is unsure if those players will make it back in the lineup, but even with them gone, I think the Flyers have better depth than the Bruins.
They play a style where a team does not need to be the best, because of how tough they are. They can so easily wear that opponent down. Unfortunately for them, it only lasts two or three rounds, so this will be the Flyers’ last hurrah.
The Bruins goaltending is phenomenally better with Tuuka Rask, over Brian Boucher. But the Flyers defense is tougher, and that could make up for it. These two teams will play a gritty, hard-hitting series, and I see the Flyers coming out on top yet again.