Saturday, April 21, 2007

Moving On

Five series over quickly but three more are at least six and we could see all of them go seven.

Before the season I was figuring the Sharks as the team to beat and right now I'm thinking they are coming out of the West. They beat a damn good Preds team in five. They are big, fast and talented and have added some veterans and grit to the mix. We all know that if Roli doesn't stop Cheechoo in G3 last spring then that would have been it for the Oilers and then who knows what happens but its pretty possible these guys would be defending champions. Anyhow they moved Preissing in the summer and have added Mark Bell, Curtis Brown, Mike Grier, Craig Rivet and Bill Guerin. Add to that Carle, Vlasic, Clowe and Pavelski (who the hell scouts for these guys?) and you can see this team is going to be tough to beat.

The Preds, on the other hand, get knocked out first round again and if this was ten years ago and Nashville was a major market you'd look at it as just another bump on the way towards becoming a contender and likely champion. Instead the talk from Eric Duhatschek is that with money being an issue there will likely be some slashing going on. Timmonen, Kariya and Hartnell are all UFAs as is Forsberg of course and its highly likely that all of them will be gone. That's a lot of talent to lose and while they have a lot of very good young players as well as solid vets like Arnott and Dumont, its possible that this may have been their best chance. Think of that. Crazy? This franchise is cash poor as it is and with no long playoff run this year that means no money and no excitement and if they take a step back next year, well, this may be the high water mark of a team that is on its way down the highway.

Which brings us to the Thrashers. While Don Waddell trumpets a 97 point season (hey Don, teams used to finish out of the playoffs with 90 points before the shootout - big frigging deal!) the truth is this is another team in trouble. Unlike Nashville which at least has a decent pipeline of young talent, the Thrashers look a lot like the Blue Jackets. Not a lot there and they gave up a lot to just get into the playoffs. Kovalchuk is a bum and there's nobody there who cares and it doesn't look like a long run is in the offing for these guys anytime soon. I'd say move them but it would make far more sense to just fold them.

The Rangers are interesting. I still don't take them seriously but the reality is Ottawa or Buffalo had better - they have a topnotch goaltender and enough firepower to make things interesting. Sweet how they pounded Atlanta.

The Islanders deserve credit - they gave les Sabres all they could handle - but I also think les Sabres may have been believing those press clippings. That Sabres depth will kill you every time though. Tim Connolly and Drew Stafford on the fourth line - Jesus.

I think we have seen the one team that might be able to handle the Sabres in the East and that's the Ottawas. That's the one series that has ended that I picked wrong and I got grief for my reasoning - the old Sens playoff rep was why I picked the Pens. To me everything pointed to a Sens win but I went against it - oh well. Marty Turco is another who seems to be proving that that playoff rep can be dumped. Alfie too. And then you have Alexei Yashin ...

All kidding aside the Sens look like the real deal and I think they can handle the Devils if that's who they face next.

And finally there are the Ducks - with them it all rests on getting scoring from the kids and they did. I'm not a Ducks fan but I'm not sorry to see Wild on Jack Lemaire go out early. I respect Lemaire as a great player and a terrific coach but rightly or wrongly to me he is the guy who killed hockey for about ten years - when the Devils won it with that godawful system it just opened the door for all of the other geniuses to copy them and that was it. Funny how it goes - everyone picked this series as well as the Sharks/Preds and Pens/Sens to go 7 and they were all done in ten days.

82 games to get there and then you're done in a week and a half.


Anonymous said...

I agree with you on the Thrashers and Predators. Atlanta was hands down the worst division champ this year, and possibly in a while. It was between the Thrash and Lightning, and neither looked like they wanted it at the end of the season. Hell the Canes couldn't even earn a playoff spot in that shithole of a division.

I would almost call it unbelievable that the last 2 Cup champs come from that division, but TB did have far better goaltending and secondary scoring when they beat the Flames in 7. And the Canes, well I'm still bitter, but I'm sure it would have been a different outcome if we had our Conn Smythe goalie :(

The Preds messed up their chance at the Cup this year. Both Detroit and Nashville played .500 hockey to end the season. Nashville would have beaten the Flames if they had 1st overall seed, imo. I know Nashville had injuries and all, but I have no pity for Central division teams. I had them pegged to be the President's Trophy winner at the start of the season. I just knew SJ was gonna win that match-up, they're nearly identical to the Preds, but as a team they're much bigger and stronger. It was a good match-up, just a bit disappointing that Nashville couldn't stretch it to 6 or 7 games.

I find it funny that some Preds fans have been whining about the division winners getting top 3 seeds. Basically insinuating that if they got the 3 seed over Vancouver they would have owned the Stars (which I have little doubt of). But the fact remains that the NW was, and is, far superior to the Central. Playing Chicago, Columbus, and St. Louis is far easier than playing Vancouver, Calgary, Colorado, or Minnesota 8 times of the year. The Oil were a handful at times this year too (yes I am serious). Minny and the Flames burnt out (hee hee) but they were both dangerous in the regular season. Thats more than you can say about the Hawks, Jackets, or Blues.

I think the Rangers have a good shot against the Sabres. Lundqvist is just as good as Dipietro (stat wise, I rarely see either play), and if the Isles gave the Sabres that much trouble, I could easily see a better Rangers squad taking this 7 games and winning it.

I can't see the Devs beating the Sens, but I wouldn't be surprised if it went to a minimum of 6 games. And I think Ottawa has enough offense, better defense, and better goaltending than the Sabres. If they don't win the EC this year, well I don't know when they ever will. This year is their best shot, imo.

And depending on what happens tonight in the Stars/Nucks game, there is the possibility that SJ/Ana meet in the WC final (which would be an exciting match-up!).

Sharks and Sens in the SCF, I'm going with the Sharkies!


Kyle said...

I think the front office and coaching staff will be gone from Nashville by opening game next season. They gambled hard and lost.

You have to wonder how much of a difference Steve Sullivan would have made.

Steve said...

How do you reconcile the fact that you apparently think the Central division's second best team is better than the Northwest's best with your belief that the Northwest is the tougher division? You can say (accurately) that the Central's bottom two are worse than the Northwest's, but the whole idea of giving divisional leaders automatic top three placement is to make sure the conference's three best teams (as distinct from their three top point getters) are seeded top three. Conceding that Nashville's better than Vancouver looks a lot like conceding that the system doesn't work. To me, at least.

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