Wednesday, April 27, 2011
Four and Oh in my western predictions although before I crow I'll note that I may be an Ofer in the east, pending tonight's game sevens.
A tremendous first round, really terrific, other than the Wings sweeping Phoenix every series has had plenty of drama.
So to the conference semifinals in the Campbell.
Canucks v. Predators
Few series I have witnessed can match the drama of the Canucks/Hawks matchup that just finished. The defending champions coming off of a desultory year facing the Cup favourites, two teams with a history, one franchise that erased a long history of losing last spring facing a franchise that has only a history of losing.
Game seven showed me why the Canucks still should be considered favourites or at least co-favourites. They used their size and speed to absolutely shut down Chicago for the most part. The Hawks had little room to move and while a few spoke of Luongo being redeemed I honestly thought he had to make few difficult saves, although the one on Sharp in OT was brilliant. Amazing stuff. The Canucks deserved the win last night but were inches away from losing it. That's hockey, as they say.
And imagine the fallout if they had lost? No matter now, they are through and we will see if, as has happened in the past with other champions, they will look back at the close call as how they made their bones to start their run. Or perhaps, as Toews noted, they are not who everyone thinks they are and they will be exposed as such in the next round or two.
The Hawks will be back next year I suspect. They have a new wave of kids coming and a long summer to recuperate and I would guess that next fall they come out of the gate strong. In Crawford they look to have a solid number one goalie (imo he's a better goalie than Niemi), they have a nice top four on the back end and of course they still have quite a bit of strength up front. They will be back. Probably for years to come.
As for the Canucks I know that a lot of folks figure they are going down now based on this epic speed wobble but my only concern if I were a Canucks' fan is the lack of production from the Sedins. Kesler sawed off Toews and that was well and good but the twins' failure to slap around Bolland, Frolik (a very good player btw) and Travis Bickell, bothers me a bit. I don't think it will be a big deal this round but in the conference final it will be either the Wings or Sharks and both clubs are deep up front. The twins have to be better. If they are I think the Canucks remain the team to beat.
For the Canucks it has played out quite well though when it comes to their second round matchup. While the Sharks and Wings pound each other Vancouver gets Nashville. The Preds are a solid club and they beat the Ducks which I expected but I don't think they have the talent to take down the Canucks. Depth goes a long long way and the Canucks have a ton of it. Rinne will make it difficult and it will be no walkover at all but I say Canucks in six.
Wings v. Sharks
Detroit looked like the class of the league in round one as they swept the Coyotes out of the playoffs and perhaps out of existence. And they did so without Zetterberg.
Pretty scary but not surprising. This is a club that would have won two straight cups prior to last year if it were not for injuries hobbling Datsyuk, Lidstrom and Hossa in 2009. They still came within a break or two of beating the Pens despite that.
They are deep and they are led by probably the best player in the game right now in Pavel Datsyuk. In San Jose they face a club that swept them aside last season, a four game blanking that was a lot closer than the scoreline.
San Jose did not impress in the first round but of course they rarely do come the spring. Facing a Kings' team whose number one centre was Jarret Stoll the Sharks needed three overtime victories, including one that finished off an epic collapse, to ease by LA. And Detroit is not LA.
Never mind the Sharks' history which everyone focuses on and surely will again if they fall short this round. Their goaltending is shaky, their D does not inspire confidence and too many of their forwards don't seem to score enough when faced with quality teams and tighter checking.
Wings in six but I can see it going even less.
Posted by Black Dog at 2:00 PM