Monday, April 18, 2011
Early days, early days but fuck you Boston you jerks.
There go both of my pools. I figured the Bruins to at least go to the conference finals and here we are two games in and other than Chicago nobody is in worse shape. Skunked at home and Zdeno Chara suffering from karma if you believe in that sort of thing. I don't but the Bruins are in a daze and their margin for error is gone.
I always find the opening round of the playoffs to be the most interesting. This is where the upsets happen, where supposed heavyweights are often exposed or, quite simply, beaten by a lot of bad luck or a hot goalie. And the hysteria that accompanies the first few games, especially that first game, when a result is held up as an example of a trend. A heavy favourite loses and they are done for. A club wins one game and they are on their way. Narratives spring up, storylines that will be turned on their head two nights later.
What do they say in baseball? Its not momentum that matters but rather starting pitching? Something like that. Win that big extra inning game but face Cliff Lee next game and all of that rah rah stuff and emotion isn't going to help you hit him if he's got his stuff. Now I do think that you can talk about momentum in hockey to a certain extent. Call it momentum or confidence or whatever you want. If a club runs into a hot goalie and they struggle to beat him for a couple of games or as a club they have a tough time over a couple of games then I think that their confidence will waver. Not sure if you call that momentum. With all of that said every year its proven to us that a two game lead does not a series make so while we can look at what has happened so far and guess as to what come next you really can't write anyone off. Except for Chicago.
Here are my deep thoughts so far.
I picked the Canucks in six but this one is over, maybe is a sweep. The Hawks deserve better but not much really. Its similar to the Wings/Sharks and Hawks/Sharks series from last season. A break or two here or there and Chicago could be up but the reality is they deserve to be down. Last season's club had a great top nine and Madden, Brouwer and Eager as their fourth line. On this year's club the third and fourth lines are interchangeable and the majority of their forwards would fit in with the Oilers. They're running out a bunch of kids = Ben Smith, Bickell, Dowell, Kruger - and while some of these guys may be part of the next wave of Hawks' kids who will supplement their stars they are ntot there yet. They certainly can't beat this veteran Canucks' team running out these guys, Fernando Pisani and John Scott. The Hawks came out of the gate slowly and have been fighting for a playoff spot pretty well all year. With Kopecky and Bolland out the holdovers from last season, Hossa, Toews, Kane and Sharp, look gassed. And Keith and Seabrook look exhausted as well.
This sounds like I am taking away from the Canucks. I am not. When the playoffs began I thought they were the team to beat and I still do. Knocking the Hawks off quickly will give them some rest and their next opponent will either be LA or Anaheim or Nashville. Can you see any of these clubs giving Vancouver a run? Not me. They are deep at every position and unless they have a serious run of injuries I think they are good to go all the way. First serious challenge looks to be in round three by my eye
San Jose sure looked like San Jose on Saturday night huh? One wonders if last year may have been their best chance before their window closes. Seriously though, they could be down two to nothing to a club whose number one centre is, who? Handzus? Lewis? And they can't fall back on the fact that they are dominating their opponent. This isn't Craig Anderson and a ton of luck. This is a big club loaded with a lot of veterans guys who know how to play. Drew Doughty looked like Drew Doughty on Saturday night while Heatley, Thornton and Marleau looked like, well themselves but not in a good way. Now the Sharks could come back and win the next three but these guys never make it easy on themselves and the Kings' special teams are very good and they have enough guys who can play at evens as well. Its early to call an upset here but LA certainly looks up to the task.
The Wings are cheering for the Kings, you can bet on that. If LA wins then like the Canucks their second round matchup will be a relatively easy one. The Yotes aren't dead yet but they're pretty damn close to it. Detroit just needs a split in Phoenix really and I would not be surprised if they swept this thing. Phoenix is a good club but they are not good enough. And this is a Wings' club without Henrik Z. They're a machine. And Pavel Datsyuk may very well be the best player in the league.
I called Nashville to beat the Ducks and I still think its going to happen. These clubs are pretty evenly matched. The Ducks have the high end talent up front, the Preds have it on the back end but the difference, as I said, is goaltending. Rinne is going to outplay whomever the Ducks throw in there now and that will be the difference. The Preds remind me so much of the Oilers' little teams that could and its easy to cheer for these guys. They're going to be fodder in the second round most likely but it looks like finally they are going to see some playoff success. Good on them.
The Rangers could be in better shape (it would help if Gaborik did something) and the reality is that Washington is probably going to move along but they are not out of the woods yet, the Caps that is. They have looked pretty good though and if they get the goaltending its easy to see them going to the final. Philadelphia has issues and Boston is dead in the water and I can't really see anybody else staying with the Caps. Early days though. A win in game four and they can probably move on quickly which will be a big help.
The Flyers are dangerous because of all of that depth up front and on the blue but with Pronger out they're vulnerable. At best this series is going to go a long way and at worst they could be gone in the first round, which I called. Even if they do get out of round one does anybody really take them seriously with that goaltending? Of course they almost went all the way last season with similar tending so we'll see.
Oh Boston you stupid fuckers. If Chara is out then they could very well be done already and even if he returns its hard to like their chances. Montreal, well I never would have figured it with the injuries but fair play to them. And this isn't like last year, they're sticking with Boston, its not all Price. Funny thing I read though - folks falling over themselves giving credit to Jack Martin, the same guy who coached all of those Ottawa clubs who failed so miserably. Goaltending can make a coach look damn good or damn bad eh?
Its not over for Boston but Claude Julien is a dead man walking and you have to figure this club gets dismantled if this does not end well for them.
Finally I watched some of the Penguins and Tampa the other night and I forgot half of Tampa's roster. They have a long list of veteran guys who have been through the wars, haven't they? A lot of solid players up and down the roster, in a lot of ways they mirror Pittsburgh. The problem for the Pens is that with Crosby and Malkin out they are short on the high end guys to play with Kunitz and Dupuis and Kennedy and Talbot. Meanwhile while Stamkos struggles the Bolts can always turn to St. Louis. I see no reason to think that Tampa won't win this unless Fleury wins it on his own. He may but I doubt it.
Posted by Black Dog at 1:40 PM