Tuesday, April 11, 2017
The time of the West being the home of the six or seven best teams in the league has passed, the balance of power is shifting east with the California teams and Chicago aging and St. Louis in transition and Dallas falling apart. With Kris Letang hurt though I think we have one team that is head and shoulders above the rest in the Caps, then Chicago and then the rest of the pack. If Washington and the Hawks fall then I think the tournament is wide open. That's parity for you and based on the last few years the days of 'great' champions may be at an end. The Pens won last year with a D that consisted of Kris Letang and five guys named Moe as well as a rookie goalie. The Hawks were once very high quality (that 2010 team - wow!) but they basically won the 2015 Cup with four D and then three when Oduya went down briefly. Gone are the days where to win the Cup you needed the proven star goaltender, the deep quality D, led by a man who could play thirty minutes in a pinch and run both ends of the rink, the incomparable depth up the middle. Not so much any more.
Hawks v Preds
I had the Preds as my preseason Cup runnerup (to Tampa!) so while everyone (in the MSM at least) is picking the Hawks to win this, and in many cases, to go all the way, I think the chances are there for an upset. Of course the Preds, like the Wild and the Blues, (until last year anyhow) have a sad playoff history facing the Hawks over the past while. It's always the same script, Preds jump out to a series' lead, have the Hawks reeling and then get run out of the rink.
Will this year be any different? The Preds have a great top four on the blue and a nice set of forwards including a couple of game breakers. The problem is Rinne is not a guy I believe in, certainly not against Chicago. I thought Chicago was going to be like the Kings, with last year being the start of the fade but kudos to Bowman and their drafting, suddenly the lineup is sprinkled with kids, cheap and quality. The D is a bit grey but better than last year and probably better then 2015. And while Crawford isn't elite he is very good and his backup is ready to step in if he falters. (Some say the Preds might be better served by starting their own backup).
Early this year the Hawks got by on percentages and a hot goalie but as the year wore on they were the real deal and they began to look like the team of old. That said the GD for these teams is pretty close.
I think the Preds get closer this year and that next year we see them take that final step but I can't bet against Chicago. Too much depth up front, again. They take it in 7.
Wild v Blues
Is it just me or is this year's playoffs blah to start? There is the excitement of the return of the Oilers and the Leafs, sure, but the matchups in the first round really lack oomph and the injury to Letang even takes the shine off a possible Caps/Pens showdown. A Caps' run to that elusive Cup might cure the blahs or maybe a run by a real underdog but a Habs/Leafs showdown or Battle of Alberta or Battle of Ontario or Pens/Flyers would have gone a long way to adding some excitement. Instead we have eight generic series. Oh well.
Minnesota had that big run mid season and so, like the BJs lol, I am a bit loathe to give them credit. They are better than the Blues though. What happened to the Blues? Well they were right to not give big money to Backes and Brouwer but losing two top nine Fs and then moving Shattenkirk out as well ... it hurt them.
Yeo, well, I don't know a lot about him but he's not a guy who I worry about outcoaching Boudreau.
(I love the little fat man but there has to be something there, no? Year after year his teams fall short and while a lot of that comes down to luck man oh man at some point that luck would run the other way, no? Sure the dice have no memory but come on. Anyhow that is my theory, I don't know if it's true or not but maybe he's not so good at those little adjustments over a series.)
In any case the Wild have eight forwards at 42 points or more and a ninth, Handzal, at 39 and he played for the Coyotes most of the season. In other words these guys are loaded for bear and I don't see the Blues stopping them. Dubnyk is one of those guys that is a bit worrisome for me in the playoffs until the point he is not but Jake Allen isn't a guy I see stealing a series so whatever, I think it's a wash in net.
That goal differential though. Wow.
Wild in 6, maybe 5.
Ducks (spits) v Falmes (spits)
This one may actually be the most fun first round series, the bad blood is already there and one suspects that at the end of it whoever survives may be easy pickings in the second round.
The Falmes got really really hot but that GD is pretty poor. Of course Anaheim's isn't much to look at either.
But here is a fun fact. From January on the Falmes had a total of 4, count them, 4, regulation wins against playoff teams.
In 43 games.
So chew on that for a bit.
(Actually it's pretty amazing, I went through the Oilers for comparison, they had 9 over the same stretch. Chicago, 13. Washington? Well Washington had as many regulation wins over playoff teams last week as the Falmes did in 43 games. But even they only had 15 total in 43 games.)
Anyhow ... 4.
As always the Ducks have nice depth up front and one suspects they can do some damage with their bottom six or at least their third line. Fowler being out hurts them and I certainly like the Falmes' D or at least their top 3 who bring a lot of offence as well.
It's going to come down to goaltending I think and I like Gibson a bit more. Ducks in 6.
Tomorrow ... yer Oilers.
Posted by Black Dog at 4:21 PM