Between the Pipes – 2nd Round Stanley Cup Playoff Preview
The second round begins with a few surprises and I’m not sure if you noticed but each of the eight seeds are represented. 4,6,7,8 in the East and 1,2,3,5 in the West. I’m mostly annoyed that I was robbed of many fine game sevens and I had to settle for just two. I was really looking forward to Vancouver vs. Los Angeles for one more go. That emerged as my favorite series with probably Pittsburgh vs. Ottawa creeping in at number 2. San Jose vs. Colorado fell down in my book because the Avalanche just didn’t get many shots off or make the final games very competitive. Boston vs. Buffalo came on strong in the end to make two of the last three games quite entertaining. Looking back on the 1st round only one series ended in less than six games and every series in the West was tied 2-2 at some point, proving how competitive the West was this year.
As for the two game sevens we did get, I didn’t care for the Coyotes vs. Red Wings. I guess the Coyotes, despite being at home, never really had a chance especially without Shane Doan. They just couldn’t get any offense going despite Bryzgalov’s best efforts. In the end an amazing journey for the Phoenix Coyotes and their season has come to an end. As for the other game…
I have to say I’m a little stunned at the outcome of the Capitals vs. Canadiens series. Now the Capitals have underachieved before and have had problems closing out opponents in other series but this was a little different. They played really well all season except for down the stretch when they had nothing to play for. It may have hurt them because they probably got a little too used to playing for nothing. The Canadiens were just lucky to be in the playoffs. Varlamov played well and probably played a lot better than most people thought he would. Unfortunately he didn’t get much offensive or defensive help at certain times. The real story was Jaroslav Halak pulling his best Patrick Roy circa 1986 impression. Halak faced 134 shots in the final three games and he only allowed three goals. This equates to a mind numbing .977 SV%. Ovechkin’s disappointing year continues. No league leading goals or points trophy, no gold medal or any medal and now no Stanley Cup. The great number eight will defiantly have better seasons ahead. Regardless of the outcome the last five minutes of the game were phenomenal. A truly remarkable first round and one of the best first rounds I can remember. Of course this could also be attributed to the fact that I saw basically all the games since I watched them all online. I didn’t have to just watch whatever limited games were broadcasted on TV. One thing that bothered me was on the Fox Sports Red Wings and Predators broadcasts, both of them mentioned Pittsburgh as the 5th seed. No, they are the 4th seed how hard is it to look that up? Also the announcing team on the Predators broadcasts sure don’t look like hockey announcers, not that you have a certain look per say but you can defiantly tell they are from the south.
The young teams in the West with little to no playoff experience (Los Angeles Kings, Colorado Avalanche and Phoenix Coyotes) all made great strides this year. Prolonging a series to six or seven games against more playoff savvy teams is a great accomplishment. All should be a force to reckon in next year’s playoff. I particularly like the Kings upside assuming Jonathan Quick continues to develop into the top goalie he is projected to become.
4 Pittsburgh Penguins vs. 8 Montreal Canadiens
Season Series: split 3-1 Penguins
Playoff History: 1-0 Canadiens. The only time they met was in 1998 in the 1st round. Sidney Crosby was ten then.
Star to Watch: Sidney Crosby to see if he can continue his epic scoring pace against the hottest goalie around in Jaroslav Halak.
X-Factor: Michael Cammalleri came on strong against the Capitals and he leads the team with 10 points. He single handedly beat the Caps in game six. The Canadiens will need him to continue to produce if they are to pull off another shocker.
Goalie Problem: Well Halak is not a problem so that leaves Fleury in the hot seat. Fleury’s current SV% is .890 but he usually comes up big when necessary. He will need to come up a big a little more often if Halak is able to stymie Pittsburgh’s big guns.
Fun Fact: Since the 1994 playoff format switch, only nine 8th seeds have beaten the 1st seed out of 32 possible tries, the Canadiens being the ninth.
Prediction: Well I said the Capitals would sweep the Candiens, oops though I should have written five or six games I never would have thought Candiens in seven. I’m going to have to go with Penguins in six just because there isn’t much difference with this Penguins team and the two that made the Finals.
6 Boston Bruins vs. 7 Philadelphia Flyers
Season Series: 2-2 split
Playoff History: 2-2 split. Not since 1978 have these two met in the post season. Starting in 1974 they met in four of the five following post seasons.
Star to Watch: Mike Richards because with Jeff Carter out this is Richards’ team. Richards has played well so far, as he is 8th in scoring and leads the Flyers in scoring this post season. He will have to kick it up a notch to best Rask and advance the Flyers to the next round.
X-Factor: Can Satan continue to dominate? Miroslav Satan delivered game winners in Game 4 and Game 6 and his patented Satan Shuffle. In fact those were the only two goals he scored. The magic of Satan, the Bruins hope he has a little left in him.
Goalie Problem: The Bruins never had a problem in net and considering they usurped the best goalie this season in Ryan Miller I say they’re doing good. Boucher has become the top goalie with Halak this postseason, so none for the Flyers either.
Fun Fact: In the two post seasons the Bruins beat the Flyers in the 2nd round and then they lost in the conference finals to the Canadiens. That could happen again this year and wouldn’t it be something if it did?
Prediction: Well this is a really tough one to call. I could never have envisioned this pairing and I’m sure the Bruins never envisioned a scenario that they would get home ice in. While the Bruins have found a little scoring depth and Rask is playing well, I think the Flyers are the more complete team. They are built for the playoffs. Unless of course Boucher returns to normal, then advantage Bruins if not Flyers in six.
1 San Jose Sharks vs. 4 Detroit Red Wings
Season Series: 3-1 Red Wings
Playoff History: 2-1 Red Wings. The last two times the teams met in the 2nd round and the Wings won both. The most recent meeting was in 2007.
Star to Watch: Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton. I wrote about Marleau in last round’s preview about how he always disappears in the playoffs, well he hasn’t been found yet. Thornton has also joined him and he has no goals in six games, yikes. Both of them will need to bring their A game to have a chance at beating the Red Wings.
X-Factor: The Sharks made it out of the 1st round, hooray. However their real problem is getting out of the 2nd round as before their ouster in the 1st round last year, they couldn’t get past the 2nd round in the three post seasons following their Conference Finals lost in 2004. Now is when the true test for the Sharks begins.
Goalie Problem: Evgeni Nabokov played alright in the 1st round but he also wasn’t tested. He faced the least amount of shots of the twelve goalies who played six games. Howard is a rookie so he is just gaining experience. The game seven Coyotes win was huge for him. Still his game is not complete and the Sharks should be able to pepper him with enough shots and exploit his game. Let’s face it Jimmy Howard is not Craig Anderson circa this year or Jonas Hiller circa last year and the Sharks will be much relieved of this.
Fun Fact: The Red Wings don’t lose in the 2nd round very often. In the past 18 post seasons they have only done so four times. The Sharks on the other hand have lost in the 2nd round 7 of 12 times.
Prediction: Well I’m hoping for San Jose but also I think they are the better team. Detroit struggled to make the playoffs until the last month and they struggled at times to beat the Coyotes. I think the Sharks have finally put it all together, let’s face it they have had plenty of time to, Sharks in seven.
2 Chicago Blackhawks vs. 3 Vancouver Canucks
Season Series: Split 2-2
Playoff History: 2-1 Blackhawks. The last two times they met in the conference semifinals and the Blackhawks won both of them. The most recent meeting was of course last year when Luongo gave up seven goals in the decisive game six.
Star to Watch: The Twinkie twins I mean the Sedin twins, thanks Panger. Neither has averaged over a point a game in any post season. They both currently are and they will need to continue to in order to beat the upper crust Western Conference teams.
X-Factor: Dustin Byfuglien hasn’t done much of anything yet. He has no points so far and even more surprising he has only two penalty minutes. Last year he was tied for 3rd in PIM in the playoffs. Granted he has been playing out of position as a defenseman but he is moving back to forward in this series. He will need to get involved in the game more if he is to provide that pesky spark that he did so well in providing last year.
Goalie Problem: Roberto Luongo and Antti Niemi are very similar in that sometimes they have great games and other times you’re left scratching your head. Luongo has more of an upside but Niemi had way better numbers in the 1st round, though numbers aren’t everything. If Luongo plays like he did in game six against the Kings advantage Canucks.
Fun Fact: These two teams were the 2nd (Vancouver) and 3rd (Chicago) highest scoring teams in the regular season. Chicago had the most shots on goal and the 10th highest shooting percentage. Vancouver had the 10th most shots on goal and the 2nd highest shooting percentage.
Prediction: Both teams looked beatable in the 1st round but I don’t think Chicago has peaked yet, while I think Vancouver has. I also don’t think Luongo can play consistently well the whole series. Chicago in seven.
Goat of the Week
Pekka Rinne – Nashville Predators
Poor Pekka he played his heart out and almost helped the Predators upset the Blackhawks. Alas it was not to be and his gaffe in the sixth game sealed that fate. Many Blackhawks say he played the puck correctly, as a former goalie I say no he did not. He reacted way too early to a puck that was far away. Even if the puck did what he thought it was going to do, he would have had plenty of time to play it.
Mathieu Schneider – Phoenix Coyotes
It wasn’t the greatest pass from Lee Stempniak but Schneider’s poor handling of the pass coupled with Brad Stuart leaving the penalty box at around the same time, led to the goal that essentially broke the Coyotes back.
1 – of 33 on the power play for the Washington Capitals the top scoring team for a PP% of 3
0 – of 19 on the power play for the Buffalo Sabres
10 – of 26 on the power play for the Los Angeles Kings for a PP% of 38.5 tops in the post season
.940 – Brian Boucher’s SV% in six playoff games started
.939 – Jaroslav Halak’s SV% in six playoff games started
2.33 – Sidney Crosby’s PPG in the playoffs
1.83 – Mikael Samuelsson PPG in the playoffs the next closet player
This Week in Hockey History
Special thanks to the Hockey Hall of Fame site for making this section a little easier to do.
April 22, 1993 Yuri Khmylev scored twice, including a power play goal at 1:05 of overtime, and added an assist to lead the Sabres to a 4-3 playoff win over the Bruins at the Aud. Buffalo took a 3-0 lead in the Adams Division Semi-Final series.
April 23, 1991 Pittsburgh’s Kevin Stevens became just the third player in NHL history to get three straight game winning goals in one playoff series, in a 3-1 win at Washington, in Game 4 of the Patrick Division Finals. Mark Recchi added a goal and two assists.
April 24, 1994 Gary Suter scored a hat trick and Jeremy Roenick scored the winning goal at 1:23 of overtime and added three assists to lead the Blackhawks to a 4-3 win over Toronto in Chicago, in Game 4 of the Western Conference Quarter-Finals.
April 25, 1994 Claude Lemieux scored twice and added two assists to lead the Devils to a 5-3 win over the Sabres in New Jersey, in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Quarter-Finals. New Jersey took a 3-2 lead in the series.
April 26, 1997 Rod Brind’Amour scored two shorthanded goals within a span of :54 (to tie an NHL record for most SHG in one game) and added an assist in the Flyers 6-3 win over the visiting Pittsburgh Penguins, in Game 5 of the Eastern Conf. Quarter-Finals.
April 27, 1992 Rookie goalie Tom Draper recorded his only career playoff shutout, and Petr Svoboda picked up two assists as the Sabres won 2-0, at Boston in Game 5 of their Adams Division Semi-Finals series.
April 28, 1984 Minnesota and Edmonton combined to set a Stanley Cup playoff record for most power play goals in one game, with seven. North Stars had four and Oilers had three as Edmonton won 8-5, in Game 3 of the Campbell Conference Finals.
Based on the likelihood of winning the Stanley Cup
4. San Jose