Friday, May 02, 2014

Collision Course - Round Two West

It remains to be seen what will happen this round of course but the reality is that barring catastrophic injury three of the four conference seeds will be Chicago, LA and Boston. In a thirty team NHL with a salary cap there's no such thing as a dynasty but smart teams can get to the top and stay there for an extended period of time.

 If they make it that far it will mark three conference finals and at least two Cups in five years for Chicago. Boston will have a Cup, another trip to the Final and at least an appearance in the conference final in four years. And the Kings will have a Cup and at least two conference final appearances in three years.

 And next year none of these teams will have major roster upheaval, all of their key players are signed and so one would expect them to be in the mix again although of course in the west especially anything can happen.

 Pretty impressive but its important to note that while the cap levels the playing field it also makes it difficult for teams to make huge strides from year to year. Toronto may talk about adding Paul Stastny (or at least their fans do) but Clarkson's contract (among others) makes that a difficult proposition. So if you can build a nice core and keep it together you can have a nice run near the top of the league with some luck.

 I'm getting ahead of myself here because anything can happen, as we know, but I'm guessing in two weeks we are going to see the Kings and Hawks facing off in a rematch of last year's conference final.

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Hawks v Wild

Minnesota is a solid club. Lots of veterans up front, Ryan Suter. But the Hawks are the Hawks. Deep up front and on the blue and against a tough out in the Blues they got stronger and stronger until they blew their doors off in game six. The scary thing for Chicago's opponents is that the Hawks have more elite offensive talent than probably any other team - Kane, Toews, Hossa, Sharp. With those four gamebreakers they can have one or two guys get shut down for a series and still prevail. Sharp and Hossa were both very good against the Blues although they didn't get rewarded, the Wild might focus on Toews and Kane and have these two punish them instead.

 Put it this way, the Hawks wingers are so good that they won the Cup with Handzus as their second centre last year. Unreal. And Ben Smith was excellent in that role last round.

 The saving grace for any underdog is great goaltending. I love Bryzgalov but he's shown no indication that he can steal a series. I'm thinking Hawks in five in what is a great draw for them.

Ducks v Kings

All through the year I looked at the league as follows. The true contenders were Chicago, LA, San Jose, St Louis and Boston. Then you had the Ducks in the next tier.

 Anaheim isn't horrible, they're a solid team for sure but LA is the real deal and now they're rolling. They have great depth up front, I mean the Ducks are no slouches there either, but really they can't match the Kings in overall depth and also in top end talent. The Ducks can roll out Getzlaf and Perry but LA has Kopitar and Carter and Williams and Gaborik and Doughty and okay you get the picture. Plus LA has better goaltending. Plus they are possession monsters while Anaheim are ... not.

 Kudos to the Ducks for winning the division, I thought there was no way they'd hang in there, but this is it for them and it will be quick (HAHHAHAHHAHAHHAHAHHAH*gasps*HAHAHHAHHAHAHHAHHA) and painless.

Kings in five.

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