Archive

Archive for the ‘Analysis/Opinion’ Category

2012 Stanley Cup Finals Preview & Analysis

May 30, 2012 Leave a comment

(6) NEW JERSEY DEVILS (EAST)

VS.

(8) LOS ANGELES KINGS (WEST)

Los Angeles wins series 4-2

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________

SCHEDULE:

Game #

Road Team

Home Team

Date

Start Time (Eastern)

TV Channels

Final Score

1

Los Angeles

New Jersey

Wednesday, May 30

8:00

NBC, CBC, RDS

LA wins 2-1 in 1st OT

2

Los Angeles

New Jersey

Saturday, June 2

8:00

NBC, CBC, RDS

LA wins 2-1 in 1st OT

3

New Jersey

Los Angeles

Monday, June 4

8:00

NBCSN, CBC, RDS

LA wins 4-0 in regulation

4

New Jersey

Los Angeles

Wednesday, June 6

8:00

NBCSN, CBC, RDS

NJ wins 3-1 in regulation

5

Los Angeles

New Jersey

Saturday, June 9

8:00

NBC, CBC, RDS

NJ wins 2-1 in regulation

6

New Jersey

Los Angeles

Monday, June 11

8:00

NBC, CBC, RDS

LA wins 6-1 in regulation

7

Los Angeles

New Jersey

Wednesday, June 13

8:00

NBC, CBC, RDS

SEASON SERIES:

New Jersey won season series 2-0-0

OFFENSIVE STAT LEADERS:

Stat

New Jersey

Los Angeles

Goals

7- Ilya Kovalchuk, Zach Parise, Travis Zajac

7- Dustin Brown

Assists

11- Ilya Kovalchuk

9- Dustin Brown, Anze Kopitar, Justin Williams

Points

18- Ilya Kovalchuk

16- Dustin Brown

Plus-Minus

+10- Bryce Salvador

+13- Dustin Brown, Anze Kopitar

GOALTENDING MATCHUP:

Player

Record (Wins-Losses-Overtime Losses)

Goals Against Average

Save Percentage

Shutouts

Martin Brodeur (New Jersey)

 12-5-1

2.04

.923

 1

Jonathan Quick (Los Angeles)

12-2-0

 1.54

 .946

2

Jonathan Quick is certainly one of the favourites to win the Conn Smythe should he continue his stellar play.
PHOTO CREDITS: Jeff Gross/Getty Images

HOW THEY GOT HERE:

New Jersey (4-3 over Florida in round 1, 4-1 over Philadelphia in round 2, 4-2 over NY Rangers in round 3)

Round 1:

It all started with a first-round tilt against the surprise Florida Panthers, who pushed the Devils to a 7th and deciding game.  A combination of blown 2-0 and 3-0 leads and some inconsistent goaltending led up to this climax, which saw game 7 go into a second overtime.  It was early in that period where rookie Adam Henrique potted the series clincher, as they would move on to the second round.

Round 2:

It would be the first of two divisional rivalries, starting off with the Philadelphia Flyers in the second round.  Many penciled in the Flyers as the victors, considering the way they manhandled the Penguins coupled with the Devils’ poor play against the Panthers at times.  The Flyers would take the first game, but that would be the only game they would take in the series.  Ilya Bryzgalov would continue to struggle between the pipes, allowing at least three goals in games 2-5.  Martin Brodeur would settle down, making some timely saves en route to the series victory.  Ilya Kovalchuk would awaken, collecting 7 points in just 4 games.  This would then set up a date with the New York Rangers.

Round 3:

Once again, the Devils were seen as the underdogs as they took on the #1 seed in the Eastern Conference.  It was deja vu for the Rangers, as they continued to alternate wins and losses in a similar fashion against the Caps in the second round.  With the series tied at two games apiece, game 5 would be a crucial point in the series for both teams.  It looked like it was quickly over as the Devils jumped out to an early 3-0 lead, but the Rangers would erase that to draw even at 3-3.  However, a late tally by Ryan Carter would put the Devils back on top, with an empty netter by Zach Parise sealing the deal.  In game 6, the Rangers climbed back from another deficit, as they negated the 2-0 lead New Jersey built up in the second period.  It would take overtime to find a winner, where Adam Henrique played hero once again, sending the New Jersey Devils to the Stanley Cup finals for the first time since 2003.

Los Angeles (4-1 over Vancouver in round 1, 4-0 over St. Louis in round 2, 4-1 over Phoenix in round 3)

Round 1:

Despite being one of the hottest teams down the stretch, no one really gave the Kings much of a chance against the Vancouver Canucks, who captured their second Presidents’ Trophy in as many seasons.  Well, they sure proved their critics wrong.  They would shock the hockey world by taking the first two games in Vancouver by identical 4-2 scores, which would prompt Canucks coach Alain Vigneault to make a goaltending switch.  However, despite Cory Schneider’s brilliance in game 3, his one mistake would prove to be the difference maker as the Kings needed just one goal to win it.  The return of Daniel Sedin sparked the Canucks in game 4, helping them stave off elimination.  The Sedin twins got off to another quick start in game 5 by striking quickly on the PP, but the Kings would tie it late to send it to overtime.  A turnover by Dan Hamhuis in the OT session would lead to a 2-on-1, where Jarret Stoll would finish off the Canucks, as they eliminated one of the Cup favourites in shocking fashion.

Round 2:

Their next roadblock to the Cup finals would be the next highest seed in the West, the St. Louis Blues.  Despite missing Jaroslav Halak, they still had to deal with Brian Elliott, who had a monster year as he and Halak teamed up to create arguably the league’s best goaltending duo.  Well, that goaltending was soon forgotten, as Brian Elliott quickly fell down to earth as he struggled mightily.  The Kings would score early and score often, leading to a quick sweep of the Blues.  Jonathan Quick was superb in the series, allowing only six goals.  As you would imagine, the PK was just as effective, killing all 17 penalties in the series.  #1 seed in West- gone.  #2 seed in West- outta here.  Next up?  You guessed it, the #3 seed in the West – the Phoenix Coyotes.

Round 3:

If you predicted a Kings-Coyotes Western final, give yourself a pat on the back.  Or maybe you’re just extremely lucky, and should consider purchasing a lottery ticket.  The Kings would get off to another fast in the series once again, capturing both opening games on the road thanks to Jeff Carter’s game 2 hat trick and Dwight King’s three goals in games 1 and 2.  It was a much closer affair in game 3, despite the Kings having controlled much of the action.  It was none other than Dwight King who would score the clutch goal early in the third period to send the Kings within one game of the Stanley Cup finals.  The Coyotes would rally back in game 4, thanks to a brilliant performance from Mike Smith, who stopped all 36 shots he faced.  Shane Doan provided both of Phoenix’s goals, as they headed back to Glendale with another breath of life.  In game 5, the teams would go back and forth throughout the game.  They would remain tied after regulation, sending the game to overtime for the first time in the series.  Despite two PKs during the overtime session, the Kings were able to kill both off, before Dustin Penner’s marker late in the first overtime period sent the Kings onwards to the final round.

ANALYSIS:

Los Angeles in 6.  If the Devils’ run has been impressive, then I’m really not sure what to call the Kings’ run.  What it really comes down to in the end is goaltending, where the Kings definitely have the advantage.  No disrespect to the one of the greats in Martin Brodeur, but Jonathan Quick has by far been the more consistent goaltender in these playoffs, never missing a single beat.  As well, the Devils seem to find themselves either behind early or in front early, only to lose a lead.  They cannot let either happen against the Kings, or this series will be shorter than six games.  One area that could use some major work is their PP, which is operating at only 8.1% in these playoffs.  If the Devils can shut them down even strength, then they could stand a chance in these series.  However, they had better be ready for a physical series, because that is exactly how the Kings have gotten this far.  Either way, it should be an extremely fun series to watch, but only one of these Cinderella runs will end with a happy ending.

Once again, I’m pleased to be joined by Nik of The News of Sports who will be adding his own perspective on the final series of the 2012 NHL playoffs:

Well, this is it! The entire 2011-2012 season comes down to this. Kings vs. Devils. Boy, will this series be a doozy. These two teams are as different as different can be. The Devils have the old but still strong goaltender in Martin Brodeur, while the Kings have Jonathan Quick, the American hero, who’s an up and coming superstar. Even last year, Quick wasn’t thought of as the bona fide starter, playing alongside Jonathan Bernier. Now? You can forget about Quick going anywhere. However, Quick hasn’t been a one man show for the Kings. The two Dustins, Brown and Penner, have been instrumental in the Kings’ run. Drew Doughty has been awesome blueliner and Jeff Carter has provided a veteran leadership that the Kings sorely lacked before.

For the Devils, their defense has been good, but not anything all that special. However, the offense of the Devils is top notch. Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise have been great as left wingers, and at center the New Jersey has Patrik Elias and Travis Zajac, both of whom have been with the Devils for a long time.

Lastly, I can’t help but think about the rough schedule. New Jersey and Los Angeles are on polar opposites of the United States, and I’ve got to imagine that the players will be tired, even after flying first-class, from across the country every few days just to fly back again.

Anyway, I can’t wait to see how this series turns out, but momentum is on LA’s side, and I think the Kings have what it takes to win their first Stanley Cup and defeat the Devils. This run has been incredible and I don’t think it’ll stop short of the target.

My pick: Kings in 6 games

Could this be Martin Brodeur’s swan song, should he capture his fourth career Stanley Cup?
PHOTO CREDITS: Paul Bereswill/Getty Images

Advertisements
Categories: Analysis/Opinion

2012 Western & Eastern Conference Finals + Daily Score Updates

May 13, 2012 Leave a comment

Western Conference Finals

(3) PHOENIX COYOTES

VS.

(8) LOS ANGELES KINGS

Los Angeles wins series 4-1

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________

SCHEDULE:

Game #

Road Team

Home Team

Date

Start Time (Eastern)

TV Channels

Final Score

1

Los Angeles

Phoenix

Sunday, May 13

8:00

NBCSN, TSN, RDS

LA wins 4-2 in regulation

2

Los Angeles

Phoenix

Tuesday, May 15

9:00

NBCSN, TSN, RDS

LA wins 4-0 in regulation

3

Phoenix

Los Angeles

Thursday, May 17

9:00

NBCSN, TSN, RDS

LA wins 2-1 in regulation

4

Phoenix

Los Angeles

Sunday, May 20

3:00

NBC, CBC, RDS

PHX wins 2-0 in regulation

5*

Los Angeles

Phoenix

Tuesday, May 22

9:00

NBCSN, CBC, RDS

LA wins 4-3 in 1st OT

6*

Phoenix

Los Angeles

Thursday, May 24

9:00

NBCSN, CBC, RDS

7*

Los Angeles

Phoenix

Saturday, May 26

8:00

CBC, RDS

*- If necessary

SEASON SERIES:

Los Angeles won season series 3-1-2

OFFENSIVE STAT LEADERS:

Stat

Phoenix

Los Angeles

Goals

5- Antoine Vermette

6- Dustin Brown

Assists

7- Keith Yandle

7- Anze Kopitar

Points

9- Antoine Vermette

11- Dustin Brown

Plus-Minus

+6- Keith Yandle

+9- Dustin Brown

GOALTENDING MATCHUP:

Player

Record (Wins-Losses-Overtime Losses)

Goals Against Average

Save Percentage

Shutouts

Mike Smith (Phoenix)

8-3-2

 1.77

 .948

2

Jonathan Quick (Los Angeles)

 8-1-0

1.55

 .949

1

HOW THEY GOT HERE:

Phoenix (4-2 over Chicago in round 1, 4-1 over Nashville in round 2)

Round 1: Refer to post here.

Round 2: Game 1 started out with more goals than people expected, as the two teams went back and forth.  Martin Erat’s late goal was enough to send the game to OT, where veteran Ray Whitney notched the game-winner to give the Coyotes first blood in the series.  It was yet another high-scoring affair the next game, as the Coyotes used a three-goal 2nd period en route to a 5-3 win.  The Preds knew they had to win game 3, or they would face a potential sweep.  And that’s just what they did, as Pekka Rinne bounced back with a 32 save shutout.  Mike Smith responded with his own shutout in game 4, however, as Shane Doan’s first period tally stood up as the game-winner.  They would then seal the deal at home in game 5, as Mike Smith stood on his ahead once again, allowing only one goal on 33 shots as the Coyotes advanced to the third round for the first time in franchise history.

Antoine Vermette has been the surprise offense that the Coyotes have needed so far these playoffs.
PHOTO CREDITS: Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

Los Angeles (4-1 over Vancouver in round 1, 4-0 over St. Louis in round 2)

Round 1: Refer to post here.

Round 2: The Kings got the better of the Blues in the regular season, and they did it again when the two team squared off in the second round.  Jonathan Quick continued to stand on his head, although he got plenty of help this time from his D.  Speaking of LA’s defense, they played a vital role in their sweep over the Blues, with Matt Greene and Drew Doughty each recording four points in the series.  This led to an offensive explosion, something the Kings lacked in the regular season.  It’s especially not easy when you consider that they had to get pucks by Brian Elliott, but they found a way – many ways, in fact.  Finally, another part of their success was their outstanding PK, which held the Blues scoreless on 17 opportunities.

Mike Richards had his way against the Blues in round 2, picking up 5 points in 4 games.
PHOTO CREDITS: Harry How/Getty Images

ANALYSIS:

Los Angeles in 6.  What a story these two teams have been.  Unfortunately, one of these Cinderella runs will come to an end, and I believe that LA will be the team that comes out on top.  While Phoenix has been just as impressive, you cannot overlook how LA has simply manhandled the top two seeds in the West.  They’re showing the league why they were the best team after the All-Star break, with a combination of some superb goaltending from Jonathan Quick and the offense heating up at just the right time.  Every line has come up big for the Kings these playoffs, and Phoenix is going to have a hard time containing them – especially if they continue to allow Mike Smith to face the amount of rubber he has in the first two rounds combined (over 36+ shots per game).  Another factor that will determine the series is special teams.  Both teams have been excellent on the PK, but Phoenix holds a considerable edge when it comes to the powerplay.  If they are able to capitalize on their opportunities, then they just might have a chance.

Jonathan Quick will continue his impressive playoff run, making a serious case for the Conn Smythe.
PHOTO CREDITS: Harry How/Getty Images

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Eastern Conference Finals

(1) NEW YORK RANGERS

VS.

(6) NEW JERSEY DEVILS

Series tied 2-2

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

SCHEDULE:

Game #

Road Team

Home Team

Date

Start Time (Eastern)

TV Channels

Final Score

1

New Jersey

New York

 Monday, May 14

8:00

NBCSN, CBC, RDS

NYR wins 3-0 in regulation

2

New Jersey

New York

Wednesday, May 16

8:00

NBCSN, CBC, RDS

NJ wins 3-2 in regulation

3

New York

New Jersey

Saturday, May 19

1:00

NBC, CBC, RDS

NYR wins 3-0 in regulation

4

New York

New Jersey

Monday, May 21

8:00

NBCSN, CBC, RDS

NJ wins 4-1 in regulation

5*

New Jersey

New York

Wednesday, May 23

8:00

NBCSN, CBC, RDS

6*

New York

New Jersey

Friday, May 25

8:00

NBCSN, CBC, RDS

7*

New Jersey

New York

Sunday, May 27

8:00

NBCSN, CBC, RDS

*- If necessary

SEASON SERIES:

New York won season series 3-2-1

OFFENSIVE STAT LEADERS:

Stat

New York

New Jersey

Goals

6- Brad Richards

5- Travis Zajac, Ilya Kovalchuk

Assists

7- Derek Stepan

7- Ilya Kovalchuk

Points

11- Brad Richards

12- Ilya Kovalchuk

Plus-Minus

+3- Marc Staal

+8- Bryce Salvador

GOALTENDING MATCHUP:

Player

Record (Wins-Losses-Overtime Losses)

Goals Against Average

Save Percentage

Shutouts

Henrik Lundqvist (New York)

 8-4-2

 1.68

.937

 1

Martin Brodeur (New Jersey)

8-3-1

 2.05

 .920

1

HOW THEY GOT HERE:

New York (4-3 over Ottawa in round 1, 4-3 over Washington in round 2)

Round 1: Refer to post here.

Round 2: Once again, it took all seven games for the #1 seeded Rangers to eliminate one of the lower seeds in the East.  The two teams would alternate wins in the series, and this pattern would fortunately continue for the Rangers as they pulled out a 2-1 victory in game 7.  Like the Sens, the Caps gave the Rangers all they could handle, including a triple OT game that Marian Gaborik ended – the 21st longest game in NHL history.  Rookie Braden Holtby was outstanding for Washington, but his goaltending was matched by one of the best in Henrik Lundqvist.  Steady offensive contribution aided the Rangers’ success as well, as they exacted revenge for their loss to the Caps in 2009 and 2011.

New Jersey (4-3 over Florida in round 1, 4-1 over Philadelphia in round 2)

Round 1: Refer to post here.

Round 2: Many didn’t give the Devils much of a chance against the Flyers.  After Danny Briere’s OT marker in game 1, something changed.  They made a big statement in game 2, earning a split and riding on momentum as the series shifted back to Newark.  They would head to OT again in game 3, with Alexei Ponikarovsky doing the heroics for the Devils.  Ilya Bryzgalov continued to have a hard time in game 4, surrendering another 4 goals as the Devils erased a 2-0 deficit to put the Flyers on the brink of elimination.  The Flyers opened the score in game 5 quickly,but not before the Devils responded twice, before Ilya Kovalchuk added an insurance marker early in the third to send the Devils to the conference finals for the first time since 2003.

Ilya Kovalchuk broke through in round two with two goals and five assists against the Flyers.
PHOTO CREDITS: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

ANALYSIS:

New York in 6.  Once again, the Devils are the underdogs as they face off against another divisional rival.  This time, however, it’s a bit different.  No disrespect to Ilya Bryzgalov, but Henrik Lundqvist is most likely not going to be lit up like he was against the Devils (and Penguins).  The Rangers have some quality defensemen that will sacrifice every part of their body to block a shot, and their offense isn’t too shabby either.  Just like the Western series, however, I think that it all boils down to special teams once again.  The Devils absolutely must stay out of the box, for their PK% is only operating at 73.9%, the lowest of the four teams remaining.  Faceoffs will also be important, a stat that both teams have been struggling with through the first two rounds.  Sure, the Devils may have Parise, Zajac, Elias, and Kovalchuk, but I simply like the depth of the Rangers’ offense more (not to mention their D).  After a slow start, Marian Gaborik started to heat up in round two.  Brad Richards continues to pace the offense, while the D chips in from time to time with the likes of Dan Girardi, Anton Stralman, and Michael Del Zotto.  The Devils’ D will need to find a way to do something similar, or their Stanley Cup dreams will be shattered.

Henrik Lundqvist will do battle against one of the best goaltenders in NHL history: Martin Brodeur.
PHOTO CREDITS: Paul Bereswill/Getty Images

 
Categories: Analysis/Opinion

2012 Eastern Conference Semi-Finals + Daily Score Updates

April 28, 2012 2 comments

(1) NEW YORK RANGERS

VS.

(7) WASHINGTON CAPITALS

New York wins series 4-3

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________

SCHEDULE:

Game #

Road Team

Home Team

Date

Start Time (Eastern)

TV Channels

Final Score

1

Washington

New York

Saturday, April 28

3:00

NBC, CBC, RDS

NYR wins 3-1 in regulation

2

Washington

New York

Monday, April 30

7:30

NBCSN, CBC, RDS

WSH wins 3-2 in regulation

3

New York

Washington

Wednesday, May 2

7:30

NBCSN, CBC, RDS

NYR wins 2-1 in 3rd OT

4

New York

Washington

Saturday, May 5

12:30

NBC, CBC, RDS

WSH wins 3-2 in regulation

5*

Washington

New York

Monday, May 7

7:30

NBCSN, CBC, RDS

NYR wins 3-2 in 1st OT

6*

New York

Washington

Wednesday, May 9

7:30

CBC, RDS, NBCSN

WSH wins 2-1 in regulation

7*

Washington

New York

Saturday, May 12

7:30

CBC, RDSI, NBCSN

NYR wins 2-1 in regulation

*- If necessary

SEASON SERIES:

Season series tied 2-2

OFFENSIVE STAT LEADERS:

Stat

New York

Washington

Goals

3- Brian Boyle

3- Alexander Semin

Assists

3- Brad Richards, Dan Girardi, Derek Stepan, Artem Anisimov

3- Alex Ovechkin, Brooks Laich, Nicklas Backstrom, Roman Hamrlik

Points

5- Brad Richards

5- Alex Ovechkin

Plus-Minus

+3- Anton Stralman

+5- Roman Hamrlik, Mike Green

GOALTENDING MATCHUP:

Player

Record (Wins-Losses-Overtime Losses)

Goals Against Average

Save Percentage

Shutouts

Henrik Lundqvist (New York)

4-1-2

1.70

.945

1

Braden Holtby (Washington)

4-1-2

2.00

.940

0

Braden Holtby was one of the better stories in round 1 after his spectacular performance against the Bruins.
PHOTO CREDITS: Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

HOW THEY GOT HERE:

New York (4-3 over Ottawa in round 1): It took more games than everyone expected, but the Rangers were able to squeeze by the 8th seed Senators by the hair of their chins.  The two teams split the first two home series, with the Rangers taking the first game in each series.  However, Ottawa would turn the tables on New York by blanking the Rangers 2-0 in front of their home crowd.  The Rangers would even things out after a three-goals second period in game 6, setting the stage for a tight game 7, where goals by defensemen Marc Staal and Dan Girardi helped the Rangers advance to the second round.

Dan Girardi and the rest of the Rangers D only limited the Sens to 12 goals in 7 games.
PHOTO CREDITS: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Washington (4-3 over Boston in round 1): The two teams traded OT heroics in games 1 and 2, with Chris Kelly scoring the only goal in game 1 and Nicklas Backstrom responding in game 2.  Zdeno Chara’s late tally in game 3 gave the Bruins a 2-1 series advantage, but Braden Holtby put on a show in game 4, making 43 saves in the effort.  Troy Brouwer returned the late heroics in game 5, as his late tally put the defending champs on the verge of elimination.  The Bruins survived OT in game 6, but weren’t so lucky in game 7 as Joel Ward scored his first of the series in game 7 OT to complete the upset.

ANALYSIS:

Once again, I’m pleased to be joined by Nik from The News of Sports who will be giving his analysis of every series this round.  Click on the link below to visit his blog.

New York in 6.  Unlike the past two times these teams have met each other in the playoffs, the Rangers will get the better of the Caps this time around.  The only reason I have this series going to 6 is because of a certain goaltender by the name of Braden Holtby.  New York’s defense will frustrate the Caps snipers, and I believe that Marian Gaborik will start producing.  If the Rangers can continue supporting Henrik Lundqvist with their superb shot blocking ability, then Washington could have a hard time putting pucks by Lundqvist.  Braden Holtby could steal a couple games for the Caps, but the Rangers will rebound from a tough series and return to their form.

The News of Sports:

he Rangers come in against the Capitals as a shaky yet confident team after beating the Ottawa Senators in 7 hard fought games, behind the solid play from netminder Henrik Lundqvist. To continue in these playoffs, the battle-tested Rangers will need to retain their form at home- as well as Lundqvist’s at home and on the road. The Capitals will be no easy opponent.

The Capitals were underachievers in the regular season, but stunned the defending champions Bruins in the first round, also in seven games. Joel Ward sent off the Bruins in style, scoring an OT goal to keep Boston home (the Bruins were the home team). However, perhaps the breakout star of the playoffs, Braden Holtby, will need to shine in net against the Rangers, and continue his bafflingly-good performances for DC. Alex Ovechkin is heating up at the right time, and once again, the key to this series is how well the Caps do in getting the puck past Lundqvist.  Rangers in six games.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________

(5) PHILADELPHIA FLYERS

VS.

(6) NEW JERSEY DEVILS

New Jersey wins series 4-1

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

SCHEDULE:

Game #

Road Team

Home Team

Date

Start Time (Eastern)

TV Channels

Final Score

1

New Jersey

Philadelphia

Sunday, April 29

3:00

NBC, CBC, RDS

PHI wins 4-3 in 1st OT

2

New Jersey

Philadelphia

Tuesday, May 1

7:30

NBCSN, CBC, RDS

NJ wins 4-1 in regulation

3

Philadelphia

New Jersey

Thursday, May 3

7:30

NBCSN, CBC, RDS

NJ wins 4-3 in 1st OT

4

Philadelphia

New Jersey

Sunday, May 6

7:30

NBCSN, CBC, RDS

NJ wins 4-2 in regulation

5*

New Jersey

Philadelphia

Tuesday, May 8

N/A

NBCSN, CBC, RDS

NJ wins 3-1 in regulation

6*

Philadelphia

New Jersey

Thursday, May 10

N/A

CBC, RDS

7*

New Jersey

Philadelphia

Saturday, May 12

N/A

CBC, RDS

*- If necessary

SEASON SERIES:

Philadelphia won season series 3-2-1

OFFENSIVE STAT LEADERS:

Stat

Philadelphia

New Jersey

Goals

6- Claude Giroux

 3- Travis Zajac, Ilya Kovalchuk

Assists

8- Claude Giroux

 5- David Clarkson

Points

14- Claude Giroux

 6- Travis Zajac

Plus-Minus

+6- Claude Giroux

 +5- Stephen Gionta

GOALTENDING MATCHUP:

Ilya Bryzgalov (Philadelphia)

4-2-0

3.89

.871

0

Sergei Bobrovsky (Philadelphia)

0-0-0

8.11

.722

0

Martin Brodeur (New Jersey)

 4-2-0

 2.06  .922

1

Johan Hedberg (New Jersey)

0-1-0

1.67

.929

0

It could be an easy series, but Ilya Bryzgalov cannot afford to give up as many goals as he did to the Pens.
PHOTO CREDITS: Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

HOW THEY GOT HERE:

Philadelphia (4-2 over Pittsburgh in round 1): We all expected a high-scoring series, but definitely not at the absurd rate the Flyers and Penguins were at.  Flyers took a quick 3-0 series lead, as they simply outscored the Penguins.  Game 2 featured duo hat tricks by teammates Sean Couturier and Claude Giroux, the lattere who finished with a whopping 6 points.  The Penguins would come back in a big way in game 4, chasing Ilya Bryzgalov out of the nets en route to a 10-3 blowout victory.  The scoring was toned down a bit in game 5, but the Pens once again found themselves on top.  However, Marc-Andre Fleury struggled mightily once again, giving up 4 goals in game 6 as the Flyers would make it out alive at the expense of Ilya Bryzgalov’s stats.

Claude Giroux was undoubtedly the MVP of the series for the Flyers in round 1.
PHOTO CREDITS: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

New Jersey (4-3 over Florida in round 1): With the number of leads that New Jersey had, this series should not have extended all the way to the seventh and deciding game.  After splitting the first two games in Florida, the Devils started game 3 with a bang, building a quick 3-0 lead.  However, that lead quickly became a 4-3 deficit by the second period, spelling the end of Marty Brodeur’s last night.  He would make amends in game 4, stopping all 26 shots en route to a 4-0 shutout.  Jose Theodore posted a shutout of his own in game 5, putting the Devils on the verge of elimination.  In game 6, the Devils built up a 2-0 lead, only to see the Panthers come back in the second period, eventually sending it to OT where Travis Zajac’s game-winner would force a 7th game.  It was the same story once again, with the Devils up 2-0 once again, before Florida scored twice in the third period to force overtime.  In the second overtime session, rookie Adam Henrique snapped one by Jose Theodore, as all of New Jersey breathed a heavy sigh of relief.

ANALYSIS:

Philadelphia in 5.  The Devils are a great team and all, but they simply do not match up to the Flyers.  Especially after they barely sneaked by the Panthers.  Time after time, they found themselves in the driver’s seat, only to blow 2-0 and 3-0 leads with a short period of time.  You cannot do that against the Flyers, because they will make you pay.  Just ask the Penguins.  The firepower of the Flyers will simply be too much for Martin Brodeur and company to handle, and the Devils will ultimately bow out of the playoffs quickly.  The only way they will have any chance of winning this series if they can silence the likes of Claude Giroux and Danny Briere, which I don’t see happening at all.

The News of Sports:

The Devils eked out a series win against the 3rd seeded Florida Panthers behind some timely goals from their offense and great saves by the indomitable goaltender, Martin Brodeur. However, they should feel lucky that they’re still in the playoffs. The Panthers didn’t play all that well, and the Flyers should prove to be a much more difficult task. The Devils time and time again in their opening round series had a lead, gave it up, but fortunately, won the game in overtime. In Game 7, that’s exactly what happened, but Adam Henrique was there to seal the win with a double overtime goal to ensure New Jersey would remain in the Stanley Cup playoffs. The Devils will advance if Bryzagalov continues to be inconsistent in net for the Flyers and also to stop some of Philly’s explosive scorers.

The Flyers are on top of the world, as far as they’re concerned. They put away the talented Penguins in six games, and at one point, were up 3-0. However, Ilya Bryzagalov was extremely shaky, and gave up 5 goals before being pulled in Game 4, a 10-3 Pittsburgh victory. The key to this series is how well Bryzagalov plays, because the Flyers have one of the best offenses in the league. Claude Giroux was a force to be reckoned with against the Penguins, and was key in their comprehensive series win. He’ll have to continue to play well.

My pick: Flyers in 5 games

The Devils hope that this will be a common scene.
PHOTO CREDITS: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Categories: Analysis/Opinion

2012 Western Conference Semi-Finals + Daily Score Updates

April 26, 2012 2 comments

(2) ST. LOUIS BLUES

VS.

(8) LOS ANGELES KINGS

Los Angeles wins series 4-0

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________

SCHEDULE:

Game #

Road Team

Home Team

Date

Start Time (Eastern, PM)

TV Channels

Final Score

1

Los Angeles

St. Louis

Saturday, April 28

7:30

NBCSN, TSN, RDS

LA wins 3-1 in regulation

2

Los Angeles

St. Louis

Monday, April 30

9:00

CNBC, TSN, RDSI

LA wins 5-2 in regulation

3

St. Louis

Los Angeles

Thursday, May 3

10:00

NBCSN, TSN, RDS

LA wins 4-2 in regulation

4

St. Louis

Los Angeles

Sunday, May 6

3:00

NBC, TSN, RDS

LA wins 3-1 in regulation

5*

Los Angeles

St. Louis

Tuesday, May 8

N/A

CNBC, TSN, RDSI

N/A

6*

St. Louis

Los Angeles

Thursday, May 10

N/A

TSN, RDS

N/A

7*

Los Angeles

St. Louis

Saturday, May 12

N/A

TSN, RDS

N/A

*- If necessary

SEASON SERIES:

Los Angeles won season series 3-1-0

OFFENSIVE STAT LEADERS:

Stat

St. Louis

Los Angeles

Goals

4- Andy McDonald

4- Dustin Brown

Assists

4- Andy McDonald, Patrik Berglund

4- Justin Williams

Points

8- Andy McDonald

5- Dustin Brown

Plus-Minus

+4- Patrik Berglund

+4- Dustin Brown

GOALTENDING MATCHUP:

Player

Record (Wins-Losses-Overtime Losses)

Goals Against Average

Save Percentage

Shutouts

Brian Elliott (St. Louis)

3-0-0

1.37

.949

1

Jaroslav Halak (St. Louis)

1-0-1

1.73

.935

0

Jonathan Quick (Los Angeles)

4-1-0

1.59

.953

1

Jonathan Quick knows that he will have to match Brian Elliott if the Kings want to pull off another upset.
PHOTO CREDITS: Rich Lam/Getty Images

HOW THEY GOT HERE:

St. Louis (4-1 over San Jose in round 1): Despite the 4-1 series victory, the Sharks actually gave the Blues some pretty good competition.  The Sharks took their only game of the series in game 1, courtesy of Martin Havlat in double OT.  Jaroslav Halak went down to an injury in game 2, but luckily for the Blues their “backup” netminder is no slouch either.  Brian Elliott was steady in relief of Halak, and never looked back.  Andy McDonald and Patrik Berglund led the attack for the Blues, as they combined for 7 goals and 15 assists.  A potent special teams (33.3% PP, 88.2% PK) also contributed to a quick series victory over the San Jose Sharks.

The Blues hope Patrik Berglund can continue his scoring ways against the Kings.
PHOTO CREDITS: Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

Los Angeles (4-1 over Vancouver in round 1): The Kings shocked the entire league by downing the two-time President’s Trophy winners in rather convincing fashion.  The Kings would stun the Canucks by taking the first two games, which would spell the end of Roberto Luongo as Cory Schneider would go on to start the next three games.  In game 3, all it took was one bad rebound, as Dustin Brown’s goal third-period goal would hold up as the game-winner to put the Canucks on the verge of elimination.  Vancouver found themselves down once again in game 4, but the return of Daniel Sedin helped the Canucks comeback en route to a 3-1 victory.  Game 5 went into overtime, where a Hamhuis turnover led to a 2-on-1 rush, finished off by Jarret Stoll as “David” slayed “Goliath.”

ANALYSIS:

Once again, I’m pleased to be joined by Nik from The News of Sports who will be giving his analysis of every series this round.  Click on the link below to view his blog.

St. Louis in 6.  I definitely think that the Blues are the better team, but there’s something about the Kings (especially Jonathan Quick) that has me thinking that they will steal a couple of games.  It will definitely be a low-scoring series, but the Blues have clearly bought into Ken Hitchcock’s system, and there’s no looking back.  The Blues forwards are more consistent, and their defensemen are no slouches either.  Where the two teams are quite different, however, is special teams.  If the Kings are to have any say as to who advances, they will need to improve on their powerplay, which only operated at 11.5%.  Allowing 34.4 shot per game is also a recipe of disaster, no matter how good your goaltender is.  In the end, Brian Elliott will get the better of Jonathan Quick, and the Blues will move one step closer towards the holy grail of hockey.

The News of Sports:

The Los Angeles Kings might be playing the best they’ve ever had, “upsetting” the Vancouver Canucks 4 games to 1 in what might have been the most expected upset in recent years. Jonathan Quick was, for a lack of a better word, quick between the pipes, and Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown, and Co. were dominant, putting away the best regular season team with relative ease. If the Kings are going to continue their great play against a fantastic Blues team, Quick will have to continue putting up 35+ saves per night, and have his teammates put up numbers against either Jaroslav Halak or his more than capable replacement, Brian Elliot. Elliot was brilliant in relief for the injured Halak, who missed most of the first round series. It’ll be interesting to see who ends up starting more games in this series.

The Blues scored the goals that really counted and blew out the San Jose Sharks 4 games to 1 in their opening round series. The Blues were led by Elliot and won the final four games of the season after Patrik Berglund and others were stellar on offense to back up Elliot’s solid goaltending. Andy McDonald was huge as well, putting up 8 points in the series. If the Blues are going to win, which I think they will, Elliot/Halak as well as the blueliners will need to be big against a red-hot Kings offense, and also score some goals too against Quick. This could be a very, very interesting series.

My pick: Blues in 6 games

Alex Pietrangelo could be the X-Factor for the Blues.
PHOTO CREDITS: Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

(3) PHOENIX COYOTES

VS.

(4) NASHVILLE PREDATORS

Phoenix wins series 4-1

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________

SCHEDULE:

Game #

Road Team

Home Team

Date

Start Time (Eastern, PM)

TV Channels

Final Score

1

Nashville

Phoenix

Friday, April 27

9:00

NBCSN, TSN, RDS

PHX wins 4-3 in 1st OT

2

Nashville

Phoenix

Sunday, April 29

8:00

NBCSN, TSN, RDS

PHX wins 5-3 in regulation

3

Phoenix

Nashville

Wednesday, May 2

9:00

CNBC, TSN, RDSI

NSH wins 2-0 in regulation

4

Phoenix

Nashville

Friday, May 4

7:30

NBCSN, TSN, RDS

PHX wins 1-0 in regulation

5*

Nashville

Phoenix

Monday, May 7

10:00

NBCSN, TSN, RDS

PHX wins 2-1 in regulation

6*

Phoenix

Nashville

Wednesday, May 9

N/A

TSN, RDSI

N/A

7*

Nashville

Phoenix

Friday, May 11

N/A

TSN, RDS

N/A

*- If necesasry

SEASON SERIES:

Phoenix won season series 2-1-1

OFFENSIVE STAT LEADERS:

Stat

Phoenix

Nashville

Goals

4- Antoine Vermette

3- Gabriel Bourque

Assists

5- Keith Yandle

4- Alexander Radulov

Points

5- Antoine Vermette, Keith Yandle

5- Alexander Radulov

Plus-Minus

+5- Keith Yandle

+6- Francis Bouillon

GOALTENDING MATCHUP:

Player

Record (Wins-Losses-Overtime Losses)

Goals Against Average

Save Percentage

Shutouts

Mike Smith (Phoenix)

4-0-2

1.81

.950

1

Pekka Rinne (Nashville)

4-1-0

1.81

.944

0

Mike Smith wowed hockey fans with his spectacular goaltending performance in round 1.
PHOTO CREDITS: Christian Petersen/Getty Images

HOW THEY GOT HERE:

Phoenix (4-2 over Chicago in round 1):It only took six games, with the first five going into overtime, but Phoenix finally won its first playoff series in franchise history since 1987.  The teams split their first two games in Phoenix, before Mikkel Boedker scores back-to-back OT winners in games 3 and 4 to give the Coyotes a commanding 3-1 series lead.  The Coyotes were under two minutes from eliminating the ‘Hawks in game 5, but a common trend in the series occurred once again as they allowed Chicago to tie it up late, setting up OT heroics by captain Jonathan Toews.  Phoenix would step up their game in game 6, however, completely shutting down the Chicago offense en route to a 4-0 shutout victory, silencing the home crowd at the United Center and punching their ticket into the second round.

Nashville (4-1 over Detroit in round 1): With four of the five games being one-goal games, it certainly wasn’t as easy as it looked for the Preds.  Controversy swirled after Shea Weber’s WWE-esque move late in game 1, which gave the Red Wings energy as they would earn a split in Nashville after taking game 2.  Home ice wasn’t as sweet for Detroit, however, as Nashville’s defensive game frustrated them to no ends, limiting them to just three goals in games 3 and 4 combined.  They would go on to close out the series in game 5, as David Legwand’s third period goal 13 seconds in would end up being the game-winner, and the final nail in the coffin for the Red Wings.

Kevin Klein was the unsung hero for the Predators, scoring two important goals in the series.
PHOTO CREDITS: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

ANALYSIS:

Nashville in 6.  Sorry Phoenix fans, but the Cinderella story ends here.  While many consider their victory over the ‘Hawks an “upset,” I tend to disagree.  Regardless, this series will feature superb goaltending, much like the Blues/King series.  However, I do give the edge to the Predators simply because of their depth.  Of course, for the Coyotes, missing Raffi Torres to a 25-game suspension hurts their own depth.  If Hal Gill can make it back for the start of this series, the Coyotes will find goals even harder to come by, especially if their leading scorers (Ray Whitney, Shane Doan, etc.) do not step up after going relatively quiet against Chicago.  Like the Kings, the Coyotes will need to find a way to start blocking some shots after allowing 40 shots per game against Chicago.  Sure, Mike Smith played out of his mind, but Nashville is a better team, and will make them pay if the ‘Yotes continue to give them chances.

The News of Sports:

The Coyotes beat the Blackhawks in their opening round series 4 games to 2, but it was much closer than that. Time and time again, the Coyotes managed to eke out wins in overtime, and Mike Smith was excellent in the battle of the goaltenders. To be honest, it was more like Corey Crawford lost that battle than Smith won it. However, the Coyotes have to be very pleased that they’re here in the second round. If Shane Doan, Ray Whitney, and others can start scoring more, and in regulation time, not only overtime, as well as Smith continuing to stop the puck from going in the net.

The Predators hammered the experienced Red Wings in only 5 games, absolutely demolishing Mike Babcock’s team both at home and on the road. Their all-star defense frustrated Detroit to no end. However, the series was closer than the stats say; 80% of the games ended up with a one-goal win. The Preds will need Alexander Radulov to continue playing well if they want to advance to the Western Conference Finals.

My pick: Nashville in 6 games

Alexander Radulov will be a big part of the Preds’ success should they have their way against the Coyotes.
PHOTO CREDITS: Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

Categories: Analysis/Opinion

2012 Western Conference Quarter-Finals Preview & Live Updates

April 10, 2012 Leave a comment

(1) VANCOUVER CANUCKS

VS.

(8) LOS ANGELES KINGS

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Los Angeles wins series 4-1

SCHEDULE:
Game 1: Los Angeles 4 Vancouver 2 FINAL
Game 2: Los Angeles 4 Vancouver 2 FINAL
Game 3: Vancouver 0 Los Angeles 1 FINAL
Game 4: Vancouver 3 Los Angeles 1 FINAL
Game 5: Los Angeles 2 Vancouver 1 FINAL/1st OT

SEASON SERIES:
Vancouver won season series 2-1-1

OFFENSIVE TEAM LEADERS:

Stat

Vancouver

Los Angeles

Goals

D. Sedin (30)

Kopitar (25)

Assists

H. Sedin (67)

Kopitar (51)

Points

H. Sedin (81)

Kopitar (76)

Plus-Minus

Hamhuis (+29)

Mitchell (+20)

GOALTENDING MATCHUP:

Vancouver:
Roberto Luongo: 31-14-8, 2.41 GAA, .919 SV%, 5 shutouts

Roberto Luongo will most likely get the nod from Alain Vigneault, but any sputtering could lead to Cory Schneider getting the starts.
PHOTO CREDITS: Rich Lam/Getty Images

Cory Schneider: 20-8-1, 1.96 GAA, .937 SV%, 3 shutouts

Los Angeles:

Jonathan Quick: 35-21-13, 1.95 GAA, .929 SV%, 10 shutouts

ANALYSIS:
Vancouver in 5.  I think that Quick will steal a game, but LA’s dry offense will be the difference in this series.  You can have some of the best defense and goaltending in the league, but you can’t win games if you don’t score, and the Kings will be finding that out the hard way.  Roberto Luongo will most likely lead the way for the Canucks between the pipes, but should he stumble, Los Angeles will still have to answer to Cory Schneider, who posted some absurd numbers in the regular season.  Coupled with the return of Daniel Sedin to the lineup, and you pretty much have a mirror image of the same team that came within one game of winning it all last year.

The News of Sports:

Vancouver is once again coming into the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs as the number one seed in the Western Conference, with the Presidents’ Trophy again in hand, with 111 points during the regular season. However, the burning question is the same as last year and the year before that: Can the Canucks get it done on the big stage? Last year, they made their biggest strides yet towards lifting the Stanley Cup. However, the Boston Bruins and Tim Thomas rose up to steal away their championship in 7 thrilling games, and tore the hearts from the Canucks, who were at home, winning 4-0 in a game that sparked riots in the city afterwards. If the Canucks are going to win this series against the feisty Kings, they will need more of the same from Daniel and Henrik Sedin, and consistent goalkeeping from Roberto Luongo, which is never a guarantee.

The Kings, led by former Flyer Jeff Carter, have more than a few key pieces on their roster that just might be able to pull off the upset. Simon Gagne and Anze Kopitar have the ability to change games, and Jonathan Quick is…well…quick between the pipes. If the Kings will beat the Canucks, they’ll need a clinical performance from Quick against the high-flying Canucks offense and some sturdy D led by Drew Doughty.

My pick: Canucks in 6

Jeff Carter was brought in to aid the Kings' woeful offense, and now is the best time to show his worth.
PHOTO CREDITS: Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

(2) ST. LOUIS BLUES

VS.

(7) SAN JOSE SHARKS

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

St. Louis wins series 4-1

SCHEDULE:
Game 1: San Jose 2 St. Louis 1 FINAL/2nd OT
Game 2: San Jose 0 St. Louis 3 FINAL
Game 3: St. Louis 4 San Jose 3 FINAL
Game 4: St. Louis 2 San Jose 1 FINAL
Game 5: San Jose 1 St. Louis 3 FINAL

SEASON SERIES:
St. Louis won season series 4-0-0

OFFENSIVE TEAM LEADERS:

Stat

St. Louis

San Jose

Goals

Backes (24)

Couture/Pavelski (31)

Assists

Pietrangelo (39)

Thornton (59)

Points

Backes/Oshie (54)

Thornton (77)

Plus-Minus

Steen (+24)

Pavelski (+18)

Logan Couture will be counted on to provide some secondary scoring should the top line fail to contribute offensively.
PHOTO CREDITS: Christian Petersen/Getty Images

GOALTENDING MATCHUP:

St. Louis:
Jaroslav Halak: 26-12-7, 1.97 GAA, .926 SV%, 6 shutouts
Brian Elliott: 23-10-4, 1.56 GAA, .940 SV%, 9 shutouts

San Jose:

Antti Niemi: 34-22-9, 2.42 GAA, .915 SV%, 6 shutouts

ANALYSIS:
St. Louis in 6.  This series will be a bit closer than it may look on paper, but coach Ken Hitchock’s defensive system will frustrate the Sharks to no end.  The Sharks have some solid forwards up front, but don’t count out the depth that the Blues have.  They may not have players that put up the big points, but it’s a team effort, and they can get contribution from the blueline as well, mainly from Kevin Shattenkirk and Alex Pietrangelo.  Oh yeah, and let’s not forget about the duo tandem of Halak and Elliott, who combined for a whopping 15 shutouts during the regular season.  The Sharks barely made the regular season, and they’re going to have a long offseason to re-tool and become the elite team that they have been in past years.

The News of Sports:

Very much like the Washington-Boston series, this playoffs series is a clash between a very solid team all around (the Blues) against a typically overachieving team in the regular season that never succeeds in doing a whole lot come playoff time (the Sharks). In a year eerily similar to the Capitals, the Sharks, usually right up there at the top of the standings, fell to the seventh spot in the Western Conference, and will have to face one of the best young teams in the NHL. However, the Sharks did end the regular season on a high note, with a 4 game winning streak. Also, they always have quite the crowd at the HP Pavilion Center in San Jose, and were great on their ice, sporting a 26-12-3 record. That could be a determining point in this series which will be full of talking points.

While the Sharks were great at home, their road record is nothing to feel good about, at 17-17-7 during the regular season. The Blues, however, have nothing to worry about the setting, as they were incredible at home, sporting a 30-6-5 record, but weren’t all that bad on the road either, with a respectable 19-16-6 stat line. On first sight, the Blues don’t have all that much of great players, but rather a very good team, which is all that matters. Former Canadiens playoff hero Jaroslav Halak will be in net, and the Blues have a solid supporting cast in center Patrik Berglund, and wingers Jamie Langenbrunner and Andy McDonald. The Blues will, in my opinion, continue their torrid pace and beat the Sharks.

My pick: Blues in 6 games

Ken Hitchcock's defensive system will be too much for the Sharks to handle.
PHOTO CREDITS: Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

(3) PHOENIX COYOTES

VS.

(6) CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Phoenix wins series 4-2

SCHEDULE:
Game 1: Chicago 2 Phoenix 3 FINAL/1st OT
Game 2: Chicago 4 Phoenix 3 FINAL/1st OT
Game 3: Phoenix 3 Chicago 2 FINAL/1st OT
Game 4: Phoenix 3 Chicago 2 FINAL/1st OT
Game 5: Chicago 2 Phoenix 1 FINAL/1st OT
Game 6: Phoenix 4 Chicago 0 FINAL

SEASON SERIES:
Phoenix won season series 3-1-0

OFFENSIVE TEAM LEADERS:

Stat

Phoenix

Chicago

Goals

Vrbata (35)

Sharp (33)

Assists

Whitney (53)

Hossa (48)

Points

Whitney (77)

Hossa (77)

Plus-Minus

Whitney (+26)

Sharp (+28)

Ray Whitney will be one of the playoff vets that will be counted upon for the Phoenix Coyotes.
PHOTO CREDITS: Christian Petersen/Getty Images

GOALTENDING MATCHUP:

Phoenix:
Mike Smith: 38-18-10, 2.21 GAA, .930 SV%, 8 shutouts

Chicago:

Corey Crawford: 30-17-7, 2.72 GAA, .903 SV%, 0 shutouts

ANALYSIS:
Phoenix in 6.  The Coyotes are one of the most underappreciated teams in the league, but they quietly get the job done night in and night out.  This is the first real upset of the playoffs that I predict, and for good reason.  Mike Smith has been impressive in his first season for the ‘Yotes, while Corey Crawford really stumbled after impressing many fanslast season.  Whether Jonathan Toews is able to come back will definitely have an impact on the series, but I still think that Phoenix is the stronger team all around, though they will definitely have to work on their PP that was ranked 29th in the regular season.

The News of Sports:

OK, OK, I do have some bias in this particular matchup, as I’m a huge Blackhawks fan for those of those who didn’t know. So I’d be lying if I said that I wanted the Coyotes to win. While Phoenix finished in the #3 spot in the West, that number is inflated, as they only had 97 points, 4 less than the Blackhawks. The reason for this was a weak division. The Blackhawks were very inconsistent and their playoff hopes all rest on the shoulders of one man: goaltender Corey Crawford. The rest of the Blackhawks team is strong, with Patrick Sharp, Patrick Kane (my favorite hockey player), and others up front like scoring machine Marian Hossa, and who can forget about Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and others, such as Niklas Hjalmarsson. I left out the captain, Jonathan Toews, on purpose, as he missed the last chunk of the regular season, but fortunately for the Blackhawks, he’ll be back. The Blackhawks will desperately need Corey Crawford to pick up the pace if they want to advance.

The Coyotes overachieved to reach that #3 spot with a good dose of luck, like I said. However, they didn’t allow the huge loss of netminder Ilya Bryzgalov to let them down. Without him, they still nearly reached 100 points and have some dangerous players still, including Shane Doan and former Canuck Raffi Torres. They also still have star defenseman Keith Yandle at the blueline. To replace Bryzgalov, they have Mike Smith in net. Their chances at beating Chicago will be on the star players, especially the defense to keep the explosive Blackhawks offense shut down.

My pick: Blackhawks in 6 games (I promise, no favorite team bias here)

Whether Jonathan Toews is able to return for the start of the series will make a huge impact on the outcome.
PHOTO CREDITS: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

(4) NASHVILLE PREDATORS

VS.

(5) DETROIT RED WINGS

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Nashville wins series 4-1

SCHEDULE:
Game 1: Detroit 2 Nashville 3 FINAL
Game 2: Detroit 3 Nashville 2 FINAL
Game 3: Nashville 3 Detroit 2 FINAL
Game 4: Nashville 3 Detroit 1 FINAL
Game 5: Detroit 1 Nashville 2 FINAL

SEASON SERIES:
Season series tied 3-3

OFFENSIVE TEAM LEADERS:

Stat

Nashville

Detroit

Goals

Hornqvist (27)

Franzen (29)

Assists

Erat/Suter (39)

Datsyuk (48)

Points

Erat (58)

Zetterberg (69)

Plus-Minus

Weber (+21)

Franzen/Bertuzzi/White (+23)

GOALTENDING MATCHUP:

Nashville:
Pekka Rinne: 43-18-8, 2.39 GAA, .923 SV%, 5 shutouts

Detroit:

Jimmy Howard: 35-17-4, 2.13 GAA, .920 SV%, 6 shutouts

All hopes lie on Jimmy Howard between the pipes, who had an excellent season despite an injury late in the season.
PHOTO CREDITS: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

ANALYSIS:
Nashville in 6.  This is quite the possibly the strongest team that Barry Trotz has coached in the history of the franchise.  We all know about Pekka Rinne, as well as the duo tandem of Shea Weber and Ryan Sutter anchoring the blueline.  The Preds may not have any names that jump out at you when you look at their forward lines, but it’s a great balance of skilled players nonetheless.  Detroit is still one of the elite teams in the NHL, but they just don’t have the consistency of years past, though injuries did not help their cause either.  This year could truly be the year of the Predators.

The News of Sports:

The Detroit Red Wings, always a dark horse team to go all the way, are again in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but this time, they’re all the way down to #5. The experienced and playoff-ready team will be facing the relatively young Nashville Predators team. The two teams were 2 points apart, and there’s no real advantage for either side going in, as they tied in the season series, with a 3-3-0 record for each side. The key for the Red Wings will be experience and how well they play on the road, as they had a record winning streak at home this year (a whopping 23 straight wins) and still have many of their core veterans. Also, the presence of Nicklas Lidstrom at the blue line and Henrik Zetterberg up front will give the Red Wings confidence.

The young Predators are led by Mike Fisher, Patric Hornqvist, and former Shark Jordan Tootoo up front, and have an All-Star defense loaded with Ryan Suter and Shea Weber, two of the best in the business. If the Preds are to win this series, they’ll have to keep that calm approach that they possessed in the regular season to hold off the ever-tough Red Wings

My pick: Red Wings in 7 games

Ryan Suter and Shea Weber will be a force to be reckoned with.
PHOTO CREDITS: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Categories: Analysis/Opinion

2012 Eastern Conference Quarter-Finals Preview & Live Updates

April 10, 2012 Leave a comment

(1) NEW YORK RANGERS

VS.

(8) OTTAWA SENATORS

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________

New York wins series 4-3

SCHEDULE:
Game 1: Ottawa 2 New York 4 FINAL
Game 2: Ottawa 3 New York 2 FINAL/1st OT
Game 3: New York 1 Ottawa 0 FINAL
Game 4: New York 2 Ottawa 3 FINAL/1st OT
*Game 5: Ottawa 2 New York 0 FINAL
*Game 6: New York 3 Ottawa 1 FINAL
*Game 7: Ottawa 1 New York 2 FINAL

*- If necessary

SEASON SERIES:
Ottawa won season series 3-1-0

OFFENSIVE TEAM LEADERS:

Stat

New York

Ottawa

Goals

Gaborik (41)

Michalek (35)

Assists

Richards (41)

Karlsson (59)

Points

Gaborik (76)

Spezza (84)

Plus-Minus

McDonagh (+26)

Kuba (+26)

GOALTENDING MATCHUP:

New York:
Henrik Lundqvist: 39-18-5, 1.97 GAA, .930 SV%, 8 shutouts

Henrik Lundqvist's fantastic season has been a big reason as to how the Rangers got to where they are now.
PHOTO CREDITS: Christopher Pasatieri/Getty Images

Ottawa:

Craig Anderson: 33-22-6, 2.84 GAA, .914 SV%, 3 shutouts

ANALYSIS:
New York in 5 Ottawa has certainly come a long way, especially with most pegging them to finish the season towards the bottom of the standings.  The Rangers are easily the stronger team all around, and it all starts with arguably the best goaltender in the league: Henrik Lundqvist.  They also have four solid lines that coach John Tortorella can roll, and blueliners such as Michael Del Zotto, Ryan McDonagh, and Dan Girardi can also chip in offensively.  I think the Sens will take either game 3 or 4, but the Rangers will be too much for Craig Anderson & co. to handle.

The News of Sports:

The New York Rangers come into the playoffs with a 109-point regular season, tied for second in the entire league with the St. Louis Blues. They will face off against the Ottawa Senators, one of only two Canadian teams (The Vancouver Canucks are the other) in the playoffs this year. The Rangers have arguably the best goalie in the league, Henrik Lundqvist, who once again led the way for New York to reach the playoffs as the number one team in the Eastern Conference. If the Rangers are to advance, they’ll need more stellar goaltending from Lundqvist, as well as some offense from Marian Gaborik and off-season signing Brad Richards.

The Senators come in to this series as the relatively unknown. They had to fight to keep the 8th seed from the Buffalo Sabres, but have some aging yet still capable stars in Daniel Alfredsson and Sergei Gonchar, and younger stars like Jason Spezza at center. If the Senators are to win, they’ll need some great goaltending from Craig Anderson against the dangerously potent Rangers offense and they’ll need to get the puck past Lundqvist, and both are extremely difficult.

My pick: Rangers in 6 games

Jason Spezza leads the way for the Ottawa Senators. The question is, how much of a factor will he be against Henrik Lundqvist and co.?
PHOTO CREDITS: Robb Carr/Getty Images

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________

(2) BOSTON BRUINS

VS.

(7) WASHINGTON CAPITALS

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Washington wins series 4-3

SCHEDULE:
Game 1: Washington 0 Boston 1 FINAL/1st OT
Game 2: Washington 2 Boston 1 FINAL/2nd OT
Game 3: Boston 4 Washington 3 FINAL
Game 4: Boston 1 Washington 2 FINAL
Game 5: Washington 4 Boston 3 FINAL
Game 6: Boston 4 Washington 3 FINAL/1st OT
Game 7: Washington 2 Boston 2 FINAL/1st OT

SEASON SERIES:
Washington won season series 3-1-0

OFFENSIVE TEAM LEADERS:

Stat

Boston

Washington

Goals

Seguin (29)

Ovechkin (38)

Assists

Bergeron (42)

Wideman (35)

Points

Seguin (67)

Ovechkin (65)

Plus-Minus

Bergeron (+36)

Ward/Alzner (+12)

GOALTENDING MATCHUP:

Boston:
Tim Thomas: 35-19-1, 2.36 GAA, .920 SV, 5 shutouts

The reigning Conn Smythe winner will look to repeat his performance from last season's Cup run for the Bruins. PHOTO CREDITS: Elsa/Getty Images

Washington:

Tomas Vokoun: 25-17-7, 2.51 GAA, .917 SV%, 4 shutouts
Michal Neuvirth: 13-13-5, 2.82 GAA, .903 SV%, 3 shutouts
Braden Holtby: 4-2-1, 2.49 GAA, .922 SV%, 1 shutout

ANALYSIS:
Boston in 5.  Let’s face it, this is not the same Washington team that we are all accustomed to seeing.  Yes, Nicklas Backstrom is back, but can he really be the difference maker?  The ‘Caps goaltending is a big question mark with their health issues, and they really lack the depth that the Bruins have.  We all saw what Tim Thomas did in the playoffs last season, and there’s no doubt he will be nothing but a brick wall once again.  The additions of Greg Zanon and Brian Rolston at the trade deadline strengthened what is already a solid lineup for the Bruins, as GM Peter Chiarelli made a statement to the rest of the league that the Bruins want to repeat as Cup champs again.  Ovechkin’s line will be shut down, and the Caps will be looking at an early round exit.

The News of Sports:

The defending champions Boston Bruins avoided the championship hangover and had some stellar play from their key players during the season, topping 100 points again this year. They come into their first round series against the ultimate underachievers, the Washington Capitals, as favorites, but they have to be weary of Alexander Ovechkin and Co. nonetheless. The Bruins will survive against the dangerous Capitals behind continued brilliance from wunderkind Tim Thomas and a very good offense led by Milan Lucic, Tyler Seguin, Patrice Bergeron, fan favorite Brad Marchand, and others. Of course, you can’t forget about the wall behind them in Zdeno Chara, who you can bet on smashing a couple of Capitals into the boards hard.

The Capitals, previously known as a regular season overachiever who never experienced true playoff success, struggled mightily during the regular season and only a last minute surge could keep them in the playoff race. They tied with the Senators with 92 regular season points, and superstar Alexander Ovechkin and Mike Green also struggled. However, there is definitely hope for the Caps. Ovechkin only could manage a measly 65 points in 2011/2012, a career low in the NHL, but was starting to heat up at just the right time. The goaltending is an issue, but Michal Neuvirth will have to keep his nerve if the Capitals will want to survive. Even then, it’s a tough task, and I don’t see this series going all that far.

My pick: Bruins in 5 games

Nicklas Backstrom returned to the lineup late in the season, but can even he help what has been an underachieving squad in the first round?
PHOTO CREDITS: Greg Fiume/Getty Images

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

(3) FLORIDA PANTHERS

VS.

(6) NEW JERSEY DEVILS

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

New Jersey wins series 4-3

SCHEDULE:
Game 1: New Jersey 3 Florida 2 FINAL
Game 2: New Jersey 2 Florida 4 FINAL
Game 3: Florida 4 New Jersey 3 FINAL
Game 4: Florida 0 New Jersey 4 FINAL
*Game 5: New Jersey 0 Florida 3 FINAL
*Game 6: Florida 2 New Jersey 3 FINAL/1st OT
*Game 7: New Jersey 3 Florida 2 FINAL/2nd OT

*- If necessary

SEASON SERIES:
Florida won season series 2-1-1

OFFENSIVE TEAM LEADERS:

Stat

Florida

New Jersey

Goals

Fleischmann (27)

Kovalchuk (37)

Assists

Campbell (49)

Elias (52)

Points

Fleischmann (61)

Kovalchuk (83)

Plus-Minus

Garrison (+6)

Salvador (+18)

GOALTENDING MATCHUP:

Florida:
Jose Theodore: 22-16-11, 2.46 GAA, .917 SV%, 3 shutouts
Scott Clemmensen: 14-6-6, 2.57 GAA, .913 SV%, 1 shutout

New Jersey:

Martin Brodeur: 31-21-4, 2.41 GAA, .908 SV%, 3 shutouts

A veteran of the playoffs, Martin Brodeur will look to the shine when it matters the most.
PHOTO CREDITS: Paul Bereswill/Getty Images

ANALYSIS:
New Jersey in 5.  Slightly biased being a ‘Canes fan, but Florida is a bit overrated.  New Jersey is far and away the better team, and Florida’s going to have a rough time against one of the stingiest defensive teams in the East. Not to take anything away from the Devils’ offense as well, which includes the likes of Ilya Kovalchuk, Zach Parise, and Patrik Elias.  Jose Theodore and Scott Clemmensen are very solid goaltenders, but they are no Martin Brodeur, and the D in front of them will find it hard to contain the Devils snipers.

The News of Sports:

Ageless wonder Martin Brodeur and the New Jersey Devils face off against the surprising #3 seed in the Eastern Conference, the Florida Panthers. The question on Devils fans’ minds is whether Brodeur, who’s been slightly shaky during the regular season, will hold up. However, he has a lot of good players in front of him, like superstars Zach Parise, Travis Zajac, and of course Ilya Kovalchuk, coming off a great rebound season in New Jersey after an awful first year. The Devils will upset the Panthers if they can get past former Capitals goalie Jose Theodore and the Panthers D, but also if Brodeur plays well, which is usually a guarantee, but this year, it hasn’t been. Perhaps he’s finally realizing his age.

The Panthers are a bit of a surprise to be the #3 seed after finishing dead last with 72 points last year. They increased that points total by 24 this year, and their rebuilding certainly paid off. They have former Washington outcast Jose Theodore in net, and he’s been solid, with a career high save percentage. However, he is a bit weak, but the Panthers success on defense this year mainly is thanks to former Blackhawk Brian Campbell and others. Their offense isn’t bad either, with Campbell’s fellow Stanley Cup champion (with the Blackhawks) Kris Versteeg at Right Wing, Scottie Upshall, Tomas Kopecky, Tomas Fleischmann, John Madden, and others. Wow, there are a ton of former Blackhawks on this team, and the ones I noticed right away were Campbell, Kopecky, Versteeg, and Madden. The Panthers will win if their defense plays well and they get the puck past Brodeur.

My pick: Panthers in 6 games

Tomas Fleischmann surprised many in his first season as a Panther, but will he and his teammates be able to continue their Cinderella season?
PHOTO CREDITS: Al Bello/Getty Images

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

(4) PITTSBURGH PENGUINS

VS.

(5) PHILADELPHIA FLYERS

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Philadelphia wins series 4-2

SCHEDULE:
Game 1: Philadelphia 4 Pittsburgh 3  FINAL/1st OT
Game 2: Philadelphia 8 Pittsburgh 5 FINAL
Game 3: Pittsburgh 4 Philadelphia 8 FINAL
Game 4: Pittsburgh 10 Philadelphia 3 FINAL
Game 5: Philadelphia 2 Pittsburgh 3 FINAL
Game 6: Pittsburgh 1 Philadelphia 5 FINAL

SEASON SERIES:
Philadelphia won season series 4-2-0

OFFENSIVE TEAM LEADERS:

Stat

Pittsburgh

Philadelphia

Goals

Malkin (50)

Hartnell (37)

Assists

Malkin (59)

Giroux (65)

Points

Malkin (109)

Giroux (93)

Plus-Minus

Letang (+21)

Hartnell (+19)

GOALTENDING MATCHUP:

Pittsburgh:
Marc-Andre Fleury: 42-17-4, 2.36 GAA, .913 SV%, 3 shutouts

Philadelphia:

Ilya Bryzgalov: 33-16-7, 2.48 GAA, .909 SV%, 6 shutouts

Ilya Bryzgalov will look to silence his critics, after sputtering in his last two playoff appearances.
PHOTO CREDITS: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

ANALYSIS:
Pittsburgh in 7.  Quite possibly the most anticipated series in the first round, and for good reason.  This series will be full of bad blood, and it would not surprise me one bit if all seven games were close contests. However, not having Chris Pronger, who has been out for most of the season, will truly hurt the Flyers, and they will have a hard time dealing with the likes of Crosby, Malkin, Staal, and Neal.  Even if you shut them down, you still have to deal with the likes of Steve Sullivan and Pascal Dupuis, both who are anything but pushovers.  Regardless, it’ll be interesting to see how Ilya Bryzgalov performs in the playoffs, after his two recent poor performances with the Coyotes.

The News of Sports:

It’s the most awaited first round matchup of the first round, and possibly of the entire playoffs, especially by the fans of these two teams and anyone in the state of Pennsylvania. The rivalry that is something more comes to the first round. If the Flyers are going to win, they’ll have to limit Sid The Kid and Evgeni Malkin, as well as scoring against Marc-Andre Fleury, not an easy task, especially come playoff time. Also, Ilya Bryzgalov will be hungry to win a playoff series after repeatedly failing with the Coyotes.

The Penguins are thrilled to have Sidney Crosby back from concussion like symptoms after missing most of the regular season. In his absence, Evgeni Malkin played like a NHL MVP, amassing 109 points, leading the league. If the Penguins are going to win, they’ll need solid netminding from Bryzgalov and find a way to score against Penguins, and Fleury’s always at his best in the playoffs.

My pick: Penguins in 7 games

Should Crosby and Malkin go dry, you can bet that this man will step up his game.
PHOTO CREDITS: Justin K. Aller

Categories: Analysis/Opinion

Brendan Shanahan A Breath of Fresh Air for the NHL

September 27, 2011 1 comment

Let’s rewind back to March 8, 2011 in a game between the Montreal Canadiens and the Boston Bruins.  Your typical Montreal-Boston rivalry, filled with blood and hatred.  But it took a turn for the worse when Zdeno Chara drove Habs forward Max Pacioretty headfirst into a stanchion.  Thankfully, Pacioretty seems to have fully recovered from the incident since, but the main focus of the incident was how Zdeno Chara pretty much walked away with no consequences aside from a major penalty and a game misconduct.

This hit left Max Pacioretty with a severe concussion and a fractured vertebra.

Ever since Mike Richards’ headshot on David Booth, the NHL has been under fire for its lack of effort in protecting their players against plays such as this – especially those were the head is targeted.   Yes, the NHL has since come out with new rules to address this issue, but what point is it really when players who violate the head shot rule literally get a slap on the wrist for their actions?

The next two clips will show you two headshots during the past two seasons, where the targeted player suffered a lengthy concussion.  After watching them, take a guess as to the severity of the consequences that were handed out to both Joe Thornton and Matt Cooke.

You’d think that both players would be hit hard in order to send a message that the league was serious in terms of their stance on head shots & illegal hits, right?  Wrong.  Thornton received a mere two games, while Cooke got a whopping zero games.

Wait, what?  So the league comes up with these new rules, and THIS is what happens when you break them?  Doesn’t really send a great message now, does it?

Many thought that this would continue to be the trend, as long as Colin Campbell was in charge of handing out all the suspensions.  But times have changed, and now Brendan Shanahan is in charge.

Many including myself were excited when it was made official that he was named the head disciplinarian.  Maybe something would finally be done about all these illegal hits and headshots.

Lo and behold, the NHL regular season has not even started yet, and Brendan Shanahan is laying down the hammer.  To date, he has suspended a total of six players for such hits.

From what I’ve been reading on the Internet, it seems that many are pleased with Shanahan’s work as of late.  I could not agree any less.  What really separates Shanahan from Campbell is that he makes every effort to outline the suspension entirely.  For each suspension so far, he has released a video describing what rule was broken (and under what guidelines) as well as his reasoning behind the length of the suspension.  Everything is clear-cut, and there is no grey area that is left to be filled.

Of course, there will always be some who are highly critical of what Shanahan has done so far.  I’ve seen a fair share of fans complaining about how he has been too strict, and how the NHL is becoming women’s hockey.

I beg to differ.  I do not see how this is strict in any way, shape or form.  Every player was sent a video outlining the new rules, and it is the player’s responsibility that they abide to these rules.  Yes, accidents happen, but somebody’s recklessness can end another player’s career, as it could be in the case of Marc Savard.  As for the women’s hockey comment, there will always be an element of physicality, but the head should never be targeted under any circumstances.  If you cannot hit someone without making contact with the head, you do not belong in this league.  Plain and simple.

Dirty players beware - Brendan Shanahan is coming for you.

Bottom line is, Brendan Shanahan has been a breath of fresh air for the NHL thus far.  He is taking this job seriously, and is already earning more praise than Colin Campbell ever did during his tenure.  Whether this pace keeps up we will find out soon enough, but for now, all I can do is tip my hat to Mr. Brendan Shanahan for his fine work.

To see an archive of Brendan Shanahan’s suspension videos on NHL.com, click here.

Categories: Analysis/Opinion