How the West Will Be Won

How the West Will Be Won

Western Conference predictions

Round 1:

(8) Chicago over (1) Vancouver

(7) Los Angeles over (2) San Jose

(3) Detroit over (6) Phoenix

(4) Anaheim over (5) Nashville

Round 2:

(8) Chicago over (3) Detroit

(4) Anaheim over (7) Los Angeles

Round 3:

(4) Anaheim over (8) Chicago

Vancouver (1)        vs. Chicago (8)

Last Cup Win: Vancouver (never), Chicago (2010)

Why the Canucks will win: The team won the President’s Trophy (117 points), Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider won the Jennings Trophy (185 goals-against) and Daniel Sedin won the Art Ross Trophy (104 points). This team is built to win now and this is probably the first of their two-year window of opportunity to do just that.

Why the Blackhawks will win: Their nucleus from last year’s championship is still in tact despite losing several key pieces; and Patrick Kane brought his playoff-mullet back.

Vancouver’s most important player: Whichever player replaces Manny Malhotra (eye injury) as the third-line center; his ability to win key face-offs and his lead-by-example attitude will be sorely missed.

Chicago’s most important player: Captain Jonathan Toews has led the Hawks’ playoff push in the second half and he will need to continue with that effort to help his team advance past the Canucks.

Vancouver’s biggest question mark: Can Luongo finally beat Chicago? Two years in a row the Canucks were sent packing for the summer by the ‘Hawks; if Vancouver does win the series will it be a stepping stone to bigger and brighter things?

Chicago’s biggest question mark: The Blackhawks will try for a second consecutive spring to win the Cup with a rookie goalie. Corey Crawford had a stellar season, but can he duplicate Antti Niemi’s 2010 success? If Crawford falters, Chicago can always send in Marty Turco.

Players with Stanley Cup Rings: Vancouver (Mikael Samuelsson), Chicago (Dave Bolland, Toews, Troy Brouwer, Marian Hossa, Kane, Tomas Kopecky, Patrick Sharp, Brian Campbell, Jassen Cullimore, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook).

PREDICTION: HAWKS IN 6 Luongo may be crying again after this one as the rejuvenated champs begin their defense of the Cup by eliminating the Canucks swiftly.

San Jose (2)            vs. Los Angeles (7)

Last Cup Win: San Jose (never), Los Angeles (never)

Why the Sharks will win: San Jose’s players have a lot of playoff experience, just not too many winning experiences though. The additions of Antti Niemi and Ben Eager (who won the Cup with Chicago last season) should help, but will it be enough for this underachieving bunch to finally make the Finals?

Why the Kings will win: Two words — Jarret Stoll. One of the NHL’s most underrated players is very important to LA’s success. He was a key cog in the Oilers’ run to the ’06 Finals and whether it’s winning a key face-off or scoring a clutch goal, you can expect to see Stoll’s name a lot if the Kings are to do some damage this spring.

San Jose’s most important player: Dany Heatley, He had a very un-Heatley like season this year (26g-38a), but he can make that a distant memory if he’s clutch in the postseason.

Los Angeles’ most important player: Jonathan Quick, He’s made the big saves all season long and is the rock solid foundation of the Kings’ stingy defense. With the offense hurting, he will have to steal a game or two for his squad to advance.

San Jose’s biggest question mark: Niemi, yes he won the Stanley Cup in the Windy City in 2010, but the ‘Hawks defense was and is a lot better than the Sharks’ blueline.

Los Angeles’ biggest question mark: Where will the Kings’ goal scoring come from with their top two scorers (Anze Kopitar and Justin Williams) sidelined? Paging Wayne Simmonds

Players with Stanley Cup Rings: San Jose (Dan Boyle, Eager, Kent Huskins, Niclas Wallin, Niemi), Los Angeles (Dustin Penner, Rob Scuderi, Williams)

PREDICTION: KINGS IN 7Quick will steal two games, including Game 7 in the Shark Tank.

Detroit (3)              vs. Phoenix (6)

Last Cup Win: Detroit (2008), Phoenix (never)

Why the Wings will win: Detroit has too many savvy and talented players to lose in the first round right? Look for Todd Bertuzzi and Mike Modano to have big impacts in this opening round series.

Why the Coyotes will win: For two consecutive seasons now Phoenix has hovered around the NHL’s elite with back-to-back stellar regular seasons. Obviously this is not a fluke and captain Shane Doan just might get out of the first round for the first time in his career.

Detroit’s most important player: Johan Franzen aka ‘The Mule’ is an absolute proven playoff beast — 69 points (35g-34a) in 75 career playoff games — and if Phoenix has any hopes of surviving this series they better find a way to corral the large Swede; he also has 11 playoff game-winning goals.

Phoenix’s most important player: Ilya Bryzgalov
is the backbone of the Coyotes and could be the biggest factor in knocking the Wings out. His 36 wins and seven shutouts this season place him among the NHL’s elite netminders going forward.

Detroit’s biggest question mark: How healthy is Henrik Zetterberg is the main question in the Motor City; if he is at less than 100% the Wings could be ripe for the taking against the hungry Desert Dogs. He will definitely miss Game 1 with a left leg injury.

Phoenix’s biggest question mark: Can they finally get past the big, bad Red Wings? They should be motivated and know what to do after being eliminated in seven games by Detroit in last year’s first round.

Players with Stanley Cup Rings: Detroit (Pavel Datsyuk (2), Zetterberg, Brian Rafalski (3), Franzen, Nicklas Lidstrom (4), Nicklas Kronwall, Dan Cleary, Valtteri Filppula, Tomas Holmstrom (4), Kris Draper (4), Brad Stuart, Drew Miller, Darren Helm, Chris Osgood (3), Modano), Phoenix (Bryzgalov, Ray Whitney)

PREDICTION: RED WINGS IN 7 Experience wins out for the Wings, but they will get another scare from the gritty Coyotes.

Anaheim (4)           vs. Nashville (5)

Last Cup Win: Anaheim (2007), Nashville (never)

Why the Ducks will win: Who on Nashville can stop Corey Perry? No one in the league has been able to contain the league’s leading goal scorer (50) in the 2nd half, so good luck Preds.

Why the Predators will win: Defense wins championships, and Nashville has two of the NHL’s premiere defensemen (Shea Weber, Ryan Suter) plus a Vezina Trophy candidate in Pekka Rinne.

Anaheim’s most important player: I think it will be Saku Koivu’s time to shine in the first round. With all of the defensive attention (and rightfully so) being paid to the Ducks’ top line, watch out for the Finnish dynamic duo of Koivu and Teemu Selanne to wreck havoc.

Nashville’s most important player: If Rinne can stand on his head (and get in his opponents’ head) the Ducks might be in trouble here. His numbers (2.12 GAA, 33 wins, .930 save %, six shutouts) speak for themselves, but his ability to take over a game can’t be measured in numbers. Nashville’s penalty killers (fifth overall) will be tested against Anaheim’s power play (third overall).

Anaheim’s biggest question mark: Who’s in goal for them? Is it All-Star Jonas Hiller, vagabond Dan Ellis or head case Ray Emery? If one of these tenders steps up the Ducks will be hard to eliminate and SoCal could be celebrating their second Stanley Cup in four seasons.

Nashville’s biggest question mark: Who the heck is going to score for this team? They have only two 20-goal scorers (Sergei Kostitsyn, Patric Hornqvist) and obviously rely on defense and scoring by committee. If Mike Fisher and JP Dumont find their scoring touches, the Predators could pull off the upset.

Players with Stanley Cup Rings: Anaheim (Ryan Getzlaf, George Parros, Perry, Selanne, Francois Beauchemin, Todd Marchant, Andreas Lilja), Nashville (none)

PREDICTION: DUCKS IN 5 The Ducks will be too powerful for the gutsy Preds; the series will only go five games, but each game will probably have a 2-1 final score.

Dan Rice can be reached at drdiablo321@yahoo.com.

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MacLean + Arnott = Devilicious

First off congrats to the Chicago Blackhawks and captain Jonathan Toews for winning the 2010 Stanley Cup; it looks like Toews and Patrick Kane are the next faces of the NHL — sorry Sidney Crosby, your time is up!

Earlier this week the Devils announced that the franchise leader in goals (347) John MacLean was named New Jersey’s new head coach. Johnny Mac was an assistant for several years until last season when he coached their AHL team (Lowell Devils) to their first playoff appearance in eons. Apparently that was enough seasoning for GM Lou Lamoriello, who was satisfied that MacLean is ready to take over the head coaching vacancy for the recently retired Jacques Lemaire. As far as I see it this is a safe move, but if the Devils struggle out of the gate I wouldn’t put it past Lamoriello that MacLean could get the axe by Thanksgiving. I doubt that will happen (you never know), but hopefully he can at least get the Devils out of the 1st round of the East in 2010-11. Also a nice touch that one of his assistants will be one of the classiest guys in the game, another old friend/coach, Larry Robinson.

Earlier this afternoon the Devils acquired an old friend in Jason Arnott from Nashville for young Matt Halischuk and a second round draft pick in 2011. Arnott is a hero in Devil-land, thanks in part to his double-overtime Cup-clinching goal in the 2000 Finals against Dallas. His presence gives New Jersey a bonafide no. 2 center behind Travis Zajac and should help to re-ignite Patrik Elias, who hasn’t been the same player he was before the lockout; it will also allow Elias to move back to his natural left wing position.

Could the other member of the high-scoring  ‘A-line’ (Petr Sykora) rejoin the Devils too? Highly unlikely, but again with Lamoriello, one never knows. Arnott is in the last year of a deal that will pay him $4.5 million this season, so if I had to guess I would say this could take the Devils out of the running to re-sign Ilya Kovalchuk. However, if Trader Lou can move around a few more bodies (i.e. Brian Rolston), maybe Kovalchuk could still stay in NJ and give the Devils the best trio of left wingers (Zach Parise, Elias, Kovalchuk) in the NHL.

Next up: the NHL schedule is released on Tuesday, the NHL awards are on Wednesday and the 2010 NHL Draft is on Friday and Saturday. On July 1 free agency begins!!

Stay tuned, it’s sure to be a busy summer!

Chicago vs. Philadelphia for the 2010 Stanley Cup

Here is the schedule for the 2010 Stanley Cup Finals between the Chicago Blackhawks and Philadelphia Flyers, beginning with Game 1 in Chicago on Saturday night:

Game 1 Saturday, May 29 at Chicago 8 p.m. ET NBC, CBC

Game 2 Monday, May 31 at Chicago 8 p.m. ET NBC, CBC

Game 3 Wednesday, June 2 at Philadelphia 8 p.m. ET VERSUS, CBC, RDS

Game 4 Friday, June 4 at Philadelphia 8 p.m. ET VERSUS, CBC, RDS

*Game 5 Sunday, June 6 at Chicago 8 p.m. ET NBC, CBC, RDS

*Game 6 Wednesday, June 9 at Philadelphia 8 p.m. ET NBC, CBC, RDS

*Game 7 Friday, June 11 at Chicago 8 p.m. ET NBC, CBC, RDS

*if necessary

Just think, there was a very realistic possibility that Philly wasn’t even going to qualify for the playoffs.
All the NY Rangers had to do was win the last regular season game at Wachovia Center.
Then again all Martin Brodeur and the Devils had to do was not fall flat on their faces in the opening round;
and all Boston had to do was not choke away a 3 games to none lead in round two;
and all Montreal had to do was not get shutout by a journeyman, neophyte  goalie in the Conference Finals.

One might think the Flyers are a team of destiny, but even with all of that I still think that Chicago will win the Cup in six games and end the NHL’s longest current championship drought. The ‘Hawks last won the Stanley Cup in 1961; Philly’s last championship was 1975.
Marian Hossa and Dustin Byfuglien will be the keys for the ‘Hawks in the series; sure Chris Pronger has looked dominating during their run through the East, but now he will have to pick on someone his own size in Byfuglien — so we’ll see what transpires. Hossa makes it back to the Finals for the 3rd year in a row — with his 3rd different team — and this time he will leave a winner, in fact, I predict he will net the Cup-clinching goal in Game 6 at Philadelphia.

Chicago enters the Finals having won its last seven  games on the road during this postseason, but they haven’t won a game in Philadelphia in their last eight trips; November 9, 1996 was the last Blackhawk victory.

This season in the only matchup between the Flyers and Blackhawks, Philadelphia won 3-2 on March 13 at Wachovia Center.

Both captains lead their teams in points scored during the playoffs and they rank 1 & 2 in the NHL postseason points race: Chicago’s Jonathan Toews has 26 points: 7g-19a (currently on a 13-game point streak) and Philadelphia’s Mike Richards has 21 points: 6g-15a.

Philadelphia (7-1) is the best home team in the playoffs; the ‘Hawks (7-1) are the best road team.

So yeah there’s no way I’m rooting for the Flyers, Go Blackhawks!

Devils-Blackhawks Postgame Quotes [04.02.10]

Here are some of the postgame quotes from the Devils 2-1 shootout loss to the Blackhawks:

Martin Brodeur:

Talking about the game…

“I thought it was a pretty good game; it’s just that the outcome was not what we liked.”

What did you see on the lone shootout goal?

“(Laughs) He skated, shot it and beat me. That’s exactly what I saw. He didn’t do anything, he just came in and fired it; below my glove.”

Are you worried about the late-game woes?

“Well, it’s three in a row now. Bad luck once, twice maybe, now its three games in our building with seconds left on the clock that we’re letting go of points. We need to play better in these situations; that’s the bottom line. We did it real well in Montreal, that was the last time. After that every time after that when it comes down to crunch (time), we got scored on.”

Can you talk about the goal at the end and what happened there?

“We just couldn’t clear it; we had the puck on the boards there for a while, and after that in the middle of the ice. It just squirted loose right to (Kris) Versteeg; he turned around and just shot it. Somebody was in front of me with my defenseman and it just went through.”

What kind of a letdown is that with 26 seconds left, missing out on the shutout?

“It’s hockey; things happen, that’s why you have to play the full 60 minutes. Sometimes things happen quickly.”

Usually you go first in the shootout, how come it was different tonight?

“Don’t ask me, I was surprised as you guys. It was the first time I think, when we’ve had the decision to pick that they don’t go first; so I was kind of taking my time and I heard Lipper (Jamie Langenbrunner) just go and was shocked. I turned around and I was surprised that it was Jamie out there.”

Ilya Kovalchuk:

Are there any positives that you can take out of a disappointing loss tonight?

“I think we played well defensively, Marty played a great game. In the last minute we have to get the puck out, any way we can.”

Talking about his goal…

(Vladimir) Zharkov battled along the boards hard and chipped the puck to Patty (Elias), and he made a great play; I was in the right time and the right place and put it in.”

Your 40th goal tonight, a nice milestone?

“It really doesn’t matter, you just want to play and help your team win every night.”

Did you get the shot you wanted during the shootout?

“Yeah, I wanted to go on my backhand, but I missed the net, so what are you going to do?”

Jonathan Toews:

Did this game have a playoff-feel to it?

“I wouldn’t say it had a playoff-feel yet, but the style with these games is getting tighter and tighter; and there’s less room to make little pretty plays. Like you saw we had to find a way to score an ugly one at the end there.”

Did you ever play in a game where there were no penalties?

“No, it hasn’t happened for a while; it was both ways. You could say there was a few calls that they let go but it went both ways. It was an even game I think; it was fun that there was a lot of flow and the game seemed to go by faster.”


Brent Seabrook:
Talking about a low-scoring game…

“They play that style of game; we both knew it was going to be a low-scoring game. Just not try to do anything too crazy or press anything, we did a good job of sticking to our game plan.”

Jacques Lemaire:
You were smiling before, how do you react to a game like this?

“Well it’s a tough loss, but on the other hand there are a lot of good things that we did during the game. Let’s face it, Chicago is a great team, a great offensive team and their defenseman are very offensive — they can score goals. Even though that Marty made some good saves there at different times, that goal, they just sent it at the net and it hit our skate and just found its way in. I thought we skated well with them; we played aggressive right from the start of the game. I felt all the guys played pretty good.”

What could’ve been different right before they scored?

“You have to know how to play when there’s only a few seconds left. When you see that nobody can control the puck, if you get the puck — it has to go down (the ice), it has to go down. Even if it’s an icing; the thing is its going to calm things around, but you can’t try to make plays after they have the puck for 20 seconds or 30 seconds.”

Was (Mike) Mottau in good position on the tying goal?

“He was fine. I looked at the replay to make sure — the puck was not flat on the ice, it hit the heel of his stick, hit his skate and went through Marty’s legs.”

What could have been done different during the shootout?

“The shootout is an individual thing. Jamie made a good move and had the goalie beat, but just lost the puck. Zach (Parise) made a good move, the goalie came back with his leg at the last second, which gave him a great save there. Kovy, he tried to go backhand and if he doesn’t miss the net he’s got a great chance to score. It’s the individual that believes in a certain move when they are going to go; sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.”

Why did you choose to go first instead of shooting second in the shootout?

“Because we haven’t had any luck going second, so let’s try to change it. Next time I’ll drink milk instead of water (smiles).”

What You Need to Know [11.10.09]

Here is the link to my latest ‘What You Need to Know’ on NYCSN:

http://nycsportsnews.com/articles/details.htm?id=1027

This week’s highlights:

Jonathan Toews is back in the Blackhawks lineup, ex-Ranger and current Flame Nigel Dawes burns his old squad, Patrik Elias makes his season debut for New Jersey, Washington’s Nicklas Backstrom gets his own website & Philly’s Ray Emery is ready to face Ottawa for the first time since they dumped him.