Tag Archives: playoffs

Upsetting: Who’s Ripe for the Picking?

It sure can get lonely back there.

Two days ago we featured an article written by Roy Herron about “Elimination Day”, which, it turns out, was poorly titled. So now we ask:

Who’s more likely to pull off the unthinkable, Pittsburgh or Vancouver?

The unthinkable here, in case you’re just tuning into the playoffs, is coming back from a 3-0 series deficit. Or, in other words, going on a four game winning streak in the playoffs, which is no easy task.

The sheer volatility of the Pittsburgh/Philadelphia makes either team an uneasy pick right now. Whose proline picked Pittsburg by 7 goals last game I wonder? Did anyone pencil in Jordan Stall for a hat trick? This has been the most unpredictable series in recent memory, and I’d be lying if I said I knew how tonight’s game was going to play out.

However, I do have a theory. I think Pittsburgh will win IF Marc Andre Fluery gets it together and has, at the very least, a solid game. For some reason, call it a hunch, I feel he is more prepared to do this than Ilya Bryzgalov.

Moreover, I expect that if the Penguins tone down the after

-whistle-antics, like they did last game, they can play a more controlled, defensively sound game. If they support Fluery, and he plays decent, I think they win.

Of the two teams in need of semi-historic comebacks (how historic can it really be if it was done two years ago) I think Pittsburgh is in better shape to do so. Or, at any rate, they appear to be better suited for such a comeback purely by virtue of the fact that their series as a whole has been so unpredictable. And, true toform, they could just as easily go down tonight, though I doubt it.

Which brings me to “Canada’s Team”. I will spare Canucks fans the mean spirited denial that they are specifically not Canada’s Team, in the place of the more accurate account of no team being Canada’s Team;  not the Habs, not even the Leafs. That being said, I do not think there will be a miraculous comeback for “A Canadian Team”, the Vancouver Canucks.

The Canucks saw some improved play with two important additions. No one should be surprised by the team inserting Daniel Sedin, head be damned, with their backs up against the wall; no more than they should be surprised by the team’s improved play with him in the lineup. However, many of us were surprised by their other addition, or was it addition by subtraction?

I am, of course, talking about Cory Schneider. The long term implications of Alain Vigneault’s decision to switch Luongo for Schneider will have catch-22-like future implications. If they pull off the near-impossible and come back I don’t see how they can go back to Luongo. If they lose and are eliminated, I don’t see how they can keep both of them. Either way a decision will be made about Vancouver’s “goalie problem” (the best goalie problem in the league) this summer. Or maybe it has already been made.

One would assume that Vigneault will go back to Schneider, who played great, on Saturday, however, his knee has been a little jerky already. If he decides to reinsert Luongo and they lose, he might lose his job.

What seemed only a week ago as a bit of a flippant decision, to start Schneider hoping to temporarily spark his team, especially considering how well Luongo played, has now turned into “Vigneault’s Choice”, and the team will live or die by it.

They lived by it here (great use of inception soundtrack):

Nevertheless, even with Daniel Sedin and Cory Schneider playing their best, Jonathan Quick looks fairly impenetrable right now, and I expect he will steal at least one more game from the Canucks.

So, in the end, and as is typically the case for the NHL playoffs, it will come down to goaltending on all fronts. May the worst one lose.

Written by Jesse Borg.

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Eastern Conference 1st Round Preview: And So It Begins…

With the playoffs starting today, it’s time to take a look at the first round matchups in the Eastern Conference. To be honest, discussion of this half of the bracket basically starts and ends with the Philly-Pittsburgh series, which by all accounts could (read: will) be a bloodbath and is in my opinion destined to be a classic. That being said, the Boston-Washington series possesses some intrigue (how long until Tim “Boston Tea Party” Thomas goes on a racist diatribe and rips into the left wing media?), and the New York-Ottawa series does feature a Canadian team (albeit the one that nobody really cares about). I tried to think of something positive to say about the Florida-Jersey series but I couldn’t; that series is going to blow. There’s really no two ways around that one (I’d apologize to the combined five Panthers and Devils fans but I doubt they’re going to read this anyway- kidding!).

So, without any further ado, onto the in-depth analysis.

(1) New York Rangers vs. (8) Ottawa Senators

For the Rangers, it’s all about Henrik Lundqvist. The Swedish netminder has been fantastic this season, leading the Rangers to the third best goals against mark in the league. To be honest, this is going to be a steeply uphill battle for the Senators as it is, and if Lundqvist brings his A-game I doubt Ottawa has much of a chance. I can’t completely write them off though: the Senators have a high powered offence (4th in the league) which gives them a puncher’s chance. Again though, the goaltending of Lundqvist and the Rangers’ fifth-ranked penalty kill should nullify any advantages the Sens may have. Sens’ fans shouldn’t hang their heads though: nobody thought they would be here anyway, and they still have the rest of Erik Karlsson’s career to look forward to (which, as of now, seems like it’s going to be pretty awesome)

Prediction: Rangers grind out the victory in 6 games

(2) Boston Bruins vs. (7) Washington Capitals

I’m hoping this one goes the distance, if only to see the progression of Tim Thomas’ rage as he is peppered with questions regarding his snubbing of Obama for a steady two weeks (note: if the Caps don’t offer the Prez first row seats behind Thomas’ net for at least one of their home games, they’ve missed their chance for comedic gold. Gold, I tell you!). All kidding aside, this is a pretty interesting series. The chronically playoff-hapless Capitals have disappointed all season and come into this series as the massive underdog; but I have a feeling that this psychological role-reversal could actually play in their favour, as they will have nothing to lose. Despite critics ragging on him all season, Alex Ovechkin still notched 38 goals on the year and seemed to be picking it up to finish things off. With Nicklas Backstrom back in the fold, and the ever-present possibility that Mike Green might get his act together, the Capitals might have the skill level to pull off the upset here (particularly if the aforementioned Tim Thomas starts getting a little wild in his net). The Bruins won’t make it easy though – these guys are just built for the playoffs (see: last year). Their tough, balanced attack up front, along with the Herculean Zdeno Chara on defence promise to make life difficult for Ovi & Crew. Somehow I doubt that Mr. Ovechkin will rise to the occasion.

Prediction: Bruins in 6, and the CBC’s Satellite Hotstove segment discusses Tim Thomas’ political leanings EVERY GAME

(3) Florida Panthers vs. (6) New Jersey Devils

Perhaps I was slightly disingenuous in describing this series earlier: just because it appears to be a snooze-fest doesn’t mean that one of these teams can’t make serious noise in the playoffs (hint: it’s not Florida). New Jersey seems like a pretty legit squad to me. The emergence of David Clarkson and Adam Henrique as big-time point producers to go along with Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise gives the Devils a lot of depth up front. And one can’t forget about the venerable Martin Brodeur, who is still a solid (albeit unspectacular) option between the pipes.

Conversely, if you lined up all 16 playoff teams in a row, and asked “which one of these is not like the others?” Florida would clearly be the answer. Due to the wacky seeding associated with division champions, the Panthers limp into the playoffs as the 3rd seed (and let’s face it, they only got that because Washington has been comatose much of the year). Florida boasts the only negative goal differential of the playoff teams (for shame!), and as nice a story as it is for them to have finally made the playoffs for the first time since the lockout, the carousel ride ends here. Their 10% chance (I made up those odds) of taking this series is completely reliant on the Versteeg-Weiss-Fleischmann line returning to the electric form they exhibited to start the season, and I doubt that will happen. The smart money’s on Jersey here.

Prediction: Devils in 5

(4) Pittsburgh Penguins vs. (5) Philadelphia Flyers

Ah, the pièce de résitance! After last week’s ridiculous brawl, the result of a massive hit on Danny Briere, we were all reminded of one fact: while there might be love amongst brothers in Philadelphia, there is none amongst compatriots. All hyperbole aside (and believe me, there is a LOT of hyperbole being thrown around), this promises to be an exciting series between two teams who share a mutual disliking for one another. The Pens have been flying high (how ironic) since getting Sid the Kid back off the IR, and boast a seemingly unfair dearth of talent (how are Malkin, Crosby, Staal, James Neal, Kris Letang, and Marc-Andre Fleury on the same team?).

Philly are no slouches, however. Breakout star Claude Giroux, along with the ever pesky Scott Hartnell, power forward Wayne Simmonds, and the Jaromir Jagr Reclamation Project provide Philly with a scoring punch matched by few around the league.

With Pittsburgh’s potent offense, a lot will be riding on the shoulders of prized free agent acquisition Ilya Bryzgalov. While Bryz has largely been a disappointment in Philly (I’m being fairly nice here), a series win over the despised Penguins would erase any memory of previous failures. His play will probably determine the series, as most of the rest of the participants are known entities. While this is going to be a close series, I feel that the Pens’ possession of home ice advantage will be just enough to get them past the Flyers (barring an injury to one of their main guys, which is a distinct possibility).

Prediction: Penguins in 7, and there will be blood

So that concludes my primer for the first round of the NHL’s Eastern Conference playoffs. The action kicks off Wednesday night at 7:30 with Game 1 of the Philly-Pittsburgh series, which promises to exhilarate anybody with a pulse (and maybe some without). Here’s hoping for an exciting, well-played first round of hockey and I’ll see you back here for the second round!

Article by Matthew Davie.

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