Saturday, May 16, 2009

Round Three Predictions

You know, I don't think these Detroit Red Wings have been very nice to me.

All I do is bleed Red and White, and they see fit to wait until three minutes left in game 7 against Anaheim to score the winning goal.

I mean, I have a weak heart. I can't handle these tense games. Had that game gone to overtime, I might not be here today. The first time Anaheim carried the puck over the blue line, I would have had a heart attack. If it was Getzlaf, I would have skipped the heart attack and gone straight to death.

Thank god the boys pulled it out (that's what she said).

Yes, Cleary did the job. No one mentions how beautifully he deflected Zetterberg's pass to the front of the net out of mid-air to even put the puck into scoring position. The puck was moving quite fast, about two feet off the ice, and Cleary, standing where he should be, deftly tapped the puck into Hiller's pads, then had the common sense to whack at the puck while Getzlaf was all over him.

I know a lot of people will argue that the goal should have been called off, that it was goalie interference. I suppose they have an argument, but in my opinion, it was a good goal. The puck was at no time frozen, Cleary was going for the puck, and I think Hiller would have knocked the puck in even if Cleary had never touched him.

Well, it's all a moo point now. The Wings won, and have moved on to the Western Conference Finals.

Exciting.

So, how did I do in the second round?

I guessed Bruins in six, and the Hurricanes won in seven.

I guessed the Penguins in six, and the Pens won in seven.

I guessed the Wings in five, and the Wings won in seven.

I guessed the Hawks in six, and the Hawks won in six.

That's a 3-1 record in the second round, and a 9-3 record overall. Of course, I only got the games prediction right in one of these series. Oh well.

So, we're down to four. Let's make some round 3 predictions.

The Eastern Conference

(4) Pittsburgh vs. (6) Carolina

Well, Carolina has proved me wrong twice, and they're going to have to try and do it a third time, as I'm picking the Pens here again.

While Carolina has impressed me so far this post-season, I just can't see them keeping up with the Pens speed and constant offence.

Crosby is playing like the superstar that he is, leading the league in points (21) and goals (12), and is showing no signs of slowing down. Malkin (third in points) is playing inspired hockey, and Guerin looks rejuvenated playing on this team.

Goaltending may be where the Canes could steal this series. Fleury has been spectacular, making the flashy saves that he has become famous for. But his puck control, while improved, is still nothing to write home about. Big rebounds in front of the net could be his undoing, and Fleury can be rattled. If the Canes can get under his skin, they need to capitalize there.

Cam Ward has been fantastic in these playoffs, and has the ability to shut down Crosby et al, and he will without a doubt need to steal a game or two in order to give his team a chance to win.

Also, Gonchar may be playing hurt, and that will most definitely play into Carolina's favour.

It's a long shot for Carolina to win, but of course it was a long shot for them to beat the Devils and the Bruins, too.

Pens in seven

The Western Conference

(2) Detroit vs. (4) Chicago

This could be as exciting as that Pens/Caps series in round two. Two skilled, fast, puck possession teams. Youth vs. experience. The present vs. the future.

I read somewhere today that the Hawks hope to become what the Wings are. I like that. And I think it's true.

The Hawks have played extremely well against two tough teams, and have scored at a torrid pace, against two of the greatest goalies in the league. They have a defence that will soon be the greatest in the league, and a goalie that won a cup not all that long ago. Up front, they have a one-two punch in Kane and Toews that someday may rival that of Crosby and Malkin, and Ovechkin and Semin.

One recurring theme there. One day. But not this day.

The Hawks have had a wonderful run, and have made it further than anyone could have hoped. But they just don't possess the experience that the Wings do for a late playoffs push. They play a run and gun game that doesn't match up well with the Wings strict defensive style. Their forwards may be able to match the Wings forwards offensively, but no one in the league has more complete players than Detroit.

I've said it before, and I've said it again. Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg are the two best players in the league. (Crosby and Ovechkin will better, but for now, it's Paul and Henry). And what makes them so great is their defensive responsibility. If those two fellas decided to concentrate solely on scoring, they would lead the league by leaps and bounds. I know people disagree with me. That's fine. I know what I know.

And it doesn't just stop with those two guys. Top to bottom, Detroit forwards are defensive machines. Hossa may be as good as Pav and Zetters, Franzen never stops, Filpula is all over the ice, Draper and Maltby have made careers of it, and the list goes on.

And that will be the big difference in this series. Kane, Toews, Havlat, and so on will simply be shut down by Zetterberg, Datsyuk, Hossa, etc. And should (should) they make it through those guys, then they have Lidstrom, Rafalski, Stuart, Kronwall etc. to deal with.

It's mere experience.

This is not a team that I'd like to see the Wings play again next year. This year's experience might just give them that added edge in 2010. (This is much how I feel about possibly facing Pittsburgh in this year's finals).

But this year, it's still the Wings.

What the Wings have going for them in this series that they didn't have against Anaheim (who I still believe wasn't that great, and didn't deserve to make it to a game seven) or even against Columbus is not facing a hot goalie.

Khabibulin is great, don't get me wrong, but he hasn't been stopping the puck like Hiller and Mason did, and there's no reason to believe that that will change.

Of course, Ozzie hasn't faced an offence like this yet, either. It will be interesting to see how he holds up.

Wings in six


***

Everyone is talking about a rematch of last years finals, but I haven't heard anyone mention that should Carolina and Detroit make it to the finals, it would be a rematch of the 2002 finals, the last time before last year that we made it to the finals, and won.

***

How about those Jays? Cecil and Ray have looked just fantastic, and Tallet is throwing up zeros all over the scoreboard, not just in runs, but in hits too.

Meanwhile, the offense just clips along.

Keep it going, boys.

***

Stat not mentioned enough for my liking: Zetterberg has points in all but one of the Red Wing's playoff games this year. Surprisingly, the one game where he didn't register a point this year was in the Wing's six goal performance during game four of the first round.

Zetters is performing perhaps even better this post season than he did last year when he won the Conn Smythe. His defence is incredible. Watch the two 5 on 3's during last year's game six of the finals, and the 5 on 3 in this year's game seven against Anaheim. Just small (tiny, wee) sample sizes of what Zetters does for this team.

He is, by far, the most complete player in the league.

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