Tuesday, April 28, 2009

What A Finish


That's what playoff hockey is all about.

There is nothing like a game 7, and we got two of them tonight.

I watched the entirety of the Rangers/Caps game. The Rangers were in control for the first two periods, and Sean Avery was playing a hell of a game. The puck seemed to be constantly in the Caps zone, and every time it went behind the net, it seemed that Avery was there to take it. He checked, and played hard. He made a beautiful play on the Rangers goal, winning a couple of battles against the boards to gain possession of the puck, and then made a nice pass to Dubinski, which led to Antropov's goal.

Through two, the Rangers controlled the play, and anytime the Caps got a shot on net, Lundqvist was there. Even the goal that the Caps scored was an ugly one (three deflections, two of them the most unlikely, could never do that again type).

Then the third period started, and the Caps suddenly remembered they were the better team, ultimately resulting in Fedorov's beauty of a snipe to make it 2-1.

I love Fedorov, by the way. The all time leading Russian playoff scorer scored most of those points while playing with a winged wheel on his chest. After time in Anaheim and Columbus, he fits so nicely on to this Capitals team with a bunch of young Russians around him to learn from his experience.

So thrilled that the Caps won.

Because of the half hour difference in start times, when the game in D.C. finished, there was a good 12 minutes left in the Canes/Devils game. Now, as I've stated before, I don't really care about either of these teams, except that I have Cam Ward in my hockey pool, and, well, it's playoff hockey, and a game 7 at that. It's worth watching no matter who it is.

It was 3-2 in favour of the Devils when I tuned in, and the game was pretty good. Fast paced, with chances going both ways. Finally, with under 1:30 left, the Canes tied it up, a nice goal from, well, I don't remember, and I'm too lazy to look it up. I feel like the name will come to me, but so far, nothing.

So then, I figure, we're heading for overtime, and overtime in a game 7 is the best part of any sporting even, (and perhaps the best part of anything ever), when Eric Stall breaks down the right side and rips a shot past Brodeur, putting the Canes ahead 4-3.

I cheered out loud.

That's right. I cheered out loud, in a game I really didn't care about, for a team I was rooting to win merely because their goalie is in my playoff pool.

But it was fucking exciting.

So, let's see how I did in my first round predictions.

I guessed Boston in 4, and Boston won in 4.

I guessed Washington in 7, and Washington won in 7.

I guessed Carolina in 6, and Carolina won in 7.

I guessed Pittsburgh in 7, and Pittsburgh won in 6.

I guessed San Jose in 7, and Anaheim won in 6.

I guessed Detroit in 5, and Detroit won in 4.

I guessed St. Louis in 6, and Vancouver won in 4.

I guessed Chicago in 6, and Chicago won in 6.

So that's a 6-2 record in the first round, and three of those six predictions actually did it in the amount of games I predicted.

I may be a semi-genius (the "may be" part of that sentence is where my modesty shines through).

I give myself a pass on the Sharks/Ducks series, because I thought that one was a toss up.

But I was way, way off on St. Louis. I just don't see the talent on Vancouver beyond the Sedins and Luongo. A strong team, for sure, but that's about it. And I thought The Blues could do it.

I was wrong. But it was close. 3 games decided by 1 goal, including the final game that went to overtime, and hard-fought games were they all.

Oh well, one glaring mistake in eight series. I'll take it.

So, let's get on to some round two predictions.

Eastern Conference

(1) Boston vs. (6) Carolina

Well, I just don't see Carolina going past this series, but I do think they will fight hard. Cam Ward is a good goalie, and will keep the Canes in any game just enough to give them a chance to win.

But Boston is just a bit too strong for them.

Besides that, the playoffs are grueling, and Boston has had a week and a half off. This series starts on Thursday (I believe), and that gives Carolina one day off to rest, and prepare for the East's top team.

I think Carolina will push the Bruins, but not hard enough.

Bruins in 6

(2) Washington vs. (4) Pittsburgh

I do believe that the two series that everyone was hoping for in these playoffs was Detroit vs. San Jose, and Pittsburgh vs. Washington.

Well, we got one of them.

Crosby vs. Ovechkin, and Malkin vs. Ovechkin - the sub-plots in this one are endless. I think Pittsburgh is the favourite in this series to win, but Washington having home ice is actually an advantage in this series.

The Caps will be pumped, not being in the second round in 11 years, and the obvious rivalry between the two teams will bring an intensity to this series that will only make for some of the best hockey these playoffs will see.

Again, the Penguins have a few extra days of rest, and that can only help them, after a hard hitting series with Philly.

Washington came back from down 3-1 in the Rangers series, and that puts some serious momentum in their corner, but Pittsburgh has experience on their side.

The talent is deep on both teams (and perhaps a bit deeper on Washington), but Pittsburgh's top players combined, are better than Washington's top players combined, and that, along with their trip to the finals last year will be the difference maker.

Pens in 6

Western Conference

(2) Detroit vs. (8) Anaheim

You know, I didn't watch much of that Ducks/Sharks series, but from what I did see, San Jose dominated. They controlled the play, attacked continuously, and really were the better team.

They just didn't score, and you can't win if you don't score.

That's where the difference lies in this series.

I truly believe that Datsyuk, Zetters, Hossa et al, will succeed where Thornton, Marleau and others didn't.

Hiller is playing phenomenally, and that's always a concern, but so was Steve Mason heading into the post season. The Wings scored 18 goals in 4 games on him, and from a very balanced attack. Every line the Wings have is lethal, and that's not something that San Jose can boast.

Sure, maybe our fourth liners don't score, but they can keep the puck out of the net. Can the same be said about Roenick, Grier, Lemieux, etc?

Anaheim's top line is scary. There's no doubt about it. But they can't be on the ice all of the time.

Detroit is a far better team, and while I do believe Anaheim will give them a challenge, I don't see it being much of one.

Wings in 5

(3) Vancouver vs. (4) Chicago

I just don't like Vancouver. I don't know why, but I've always had a dislike for them.

Which may account for my first round prediction of them losing, and it may account for my second round prediction of them losing.

They just aren't that deep of a team. They are talented, and when the Sedins aren't on the ice, they have Luongo who can bail them out of any trouble they may get into, and who could quite possibly steal a series for them.

Hell, he was probably the difference maker in the first round.

But I just don't see them making to the Conference finals.

Chicago is young, quick, talented, and has a roster full of future superstars.

Toews is playing like he's played in the league for 10 years, and they have one of the best defences in the league (shit, almost the entire corps could play for team Canada at the Olympics next year).

Vancouver has the rest, and the home ice advantage on their side. Chicago has everything else.

Hawks in 6

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