I love Game 7s. Except when the team I pick to win a series loses three out of four.
Somehow, I picked three series perfectly and only got four right altogether. One of those was a total brain cramp (Really? Phoenix?), but the rest were such total crapshoots. Two were one-goal games, one in OT. Ah, well, enough of the excuses. Time to make up ground in round two. Somehow.
Clarence Campbell Conference Semifinals
(1) Vancouver vs. (5) Nashville
Playoff History: None. Nashville continues to add variety to their meagre playoff resume.
Season Series: Tied 2-2, all in regulation. No game had more that four total goals scored, nor a margin of victory greater than three.
Doogie Says: One of the more curious factoids to come out of the first round is the fact that the Predators finished second in goals per game (3.67), behind only Detroit (4.50). Yes, the same Predators who scored just 2.60 goals per game during the regular season, tied with Toronto and Montreal at 8th-worst in the League. Now, you could believe that the bottom end of Nashville’s roster has suddenly morphed into actual scoring depth, or you could believe that Anaheim was running on 1.5 NHL-calibre defencemen (Lubo had a busted shoulder and was, by his own admission, at about 50%) and got what they deserved. I’m going with the latter. As for Vancouver, even with two no-shows, they outplayed the Blackhawks, who got an outstanding performance from young Corey Crawford, especially in Games 6 and 7. I’m not personally inclined to believe that the Blackhawks got into their heads, so much as they got cocky, let their foot off the gas for a couple of games, then had to scramble to get back in it, and very nearly got smote by the hockey gods for their hubris. Whether they’ve learned their lesson is a matter for debate — their post-G7 quotes were all about how they kicked Chicago’s ass for five of those games and should’ve ended the series sooner, which could be taken as either arrogance or an acknowledgment that they let it get away in Games 4 and 5 — but I’m inclined to believe that that little bit of adversity might have gotten their heads screwed back on right. (Anecdotally, last year’s WHL-leading Calgary Hitmen went down 1-3 to Moose Jaw before storming back to win the series in seven, and go all the way to the Memorial Cup semi-final. Make of that what you will.) Plus, if you’d rather go with advanced stats, they murdered the Blackhawks in even-strength, score-tied possession, which is generally a good strategy in trying to win hockey games. Pekka Rinne, while he has been on and off this playoff so far, is capable of stealing a couple of games here, but the Canucks are still too deep to be too concerned about here. Whomever they get out of the Sharks-Wings series is going to give them trouble, no doubt, but the Preds just aren’t there yet. Vancouver in six.
Hoop Says: That was the biggest goal that Alex Burrows has ever scored in game seven since his days with the Montreal Red Light (look it up). With his goal, the Canucks barely escaped with their lives. The Nashville Predators also managed to break on through to the other side thanks in large part to Jordan Tootoo and his emergence as a playoff performer. The Canucks have some serious questions in net with Roberto Luongo despite his gutty performance in Game 7 and I have to give the Preds and Pekka Rinne the edge in net. Up front and on the blue line it’s tough for anyone to match up with Vancouver. I really think Nashville is going to catch the Canucks off guard in Game 1 and possibly steal that game, but in the end Vancouver has the depth that Nashville won’t be able to handle. Vancouver in six.
Matt Says: If they can do this, maybe I’ll start believe its their year. Vancouver in six.
Gerard Says: Nashville in five.
(2) San Jose vs. (3) Detroit
Playoff History: These two teams have met twice since the lockout, splitting the two series. Before that, we have the legendary ’94 upset by the Sharks, and Detroit’s revenge the following year en route to the Cup Finals.
|1994 CQF||1995 CSF||2007 CSF||2010 CSF|
Season Series: San Jose won 3-1, all in regulation. Only one game was decided by less than two goals.
Doogie Says: In looking back at Detroit’s late-season results, it turns out their spring swoon lines up rather neatly with Pavel Datsyuk’s seven-game injury: during that stretch, they went 1-3-3, including a 10-3 shellacking by the St. Louis Blues. After he returned, they finished the year 2-2, with losses against surging Carolina and better-than-they-looked Chicago. So maybe I shouldn’t have written them off in the first round. Yes, I’m covering my ass a little because they swept my pick in that series, but it also turns out that in making that pick, I violated my own rule of not reading too much into late-season streaks one way or the other. And now that they have Zetterberg back, they’re looking very strong again. San Jose had a surprising amount of trouble with LA in their first-round series: while they outchanced the Kings pretty badly on the whole, when the score was tied, anyway, possession was about even, which is kind of interesting in a small-sample sort of way. Antti Niemi had all kinds of trouble in that last series, and while his Round 1 stats (3.99/.863) are obviously not indicative of his true talent, it remains a valid question whether he can right the ship before the Wings have made him look bad a couple of times and Niittymaki (0.66/0.967 in 91.5 minutes of relief time) gets the net for good. All that being said, I think Niemi can make the turnaround, and with San Jose being one of the top outshooting teams in the League, both regular season and playoffs, and Jimmy Howard being merely adequate, it adds up to San Jose in seven.
Hoop Says: Ho hum, just another Detroit and San Jose match up. The Wings made short work of Phoenix in four straight, while the San Jose Sharks barely hung on to avoid being shocked by the LA Kings. Starting in net, these teams match up evenly: Howard and Niemi are pretty much a wash. Up front, San Jose can come at you in waves and have more depth than even the Wings do. On the back end, Detroit has the edge. Anyone with Nicklas Lidstrom always has an edge on the blue line! I’ve waffled a couple times on this series and want to lean towards the Sharks but I just don’t trust that team. I’ll take the Wings in a bit of an upset. Detroit in seven.
Matt Says: Deep down, I want to say the Sharks, but it’ll be a fight. Detroit in six.
Gerard Says: San Jose in five.
Prince of Wales Conference Semifinals
(1) Washington vs. (5) Tampa Bay
Playoff History: They’ve played once before, back when Jagr was still a Cap, and the nucleus of the Cup-winning team was still growing together.
Season Series: 4-2 Washington, with one of their wins coming in OT. Both of Tampa’s wins were Roloson shutouts, shortly after his arrival, while Washington’s three non-SO wins came by a combined goal differential of +12.
Doogie Says: Yes, Dwayne Roloson has an absurdly high save percentage through Round 1, and yes, hot goalies can get you far in the playoffs. On the other hand…man, that Pens offence is pretty popgun without Crosby and Malkin, isn’t it? I mean, 1/35 on the man advantage? Really? Now, the Caps may be without Mike Green for a while — I don’t know if he’s over blocking that snapshot with his melon yet — they did just fine without him down the stretch, and more importantly, the stars are finally buying into Boudreau’s system. Ovechkin is, according to his coach, playing the most complete hockey of his career right now. Semin is scoring in the playoffs. Jason Arnott, Stanley Cup Champion (™), seems to have the attention and respect of the room and is helping reinforce the message. And so on. The Caps have the star power and offence the Pens lacked, and I can’t help but feel like the Bolts are time bomb, and that at some point they’re going to play the way we know they can, and get shelled 7-0, and all will be right with the world. Roli may steal a game or two, but the clock’s gotta strike midnight for this bunch soon. Washington in six.
Hoop Says: The Capitals finally got some stable goaltending and were able to dispatch the Rangers in short order, while the Tampa Bay Lightning barely got by the Penguins in seven. I’m going to give the edge to the Lightning in net, but that is it in this series. While the Penguins were missing Crosby and Malkin, the Capitals look to be in good shape and Tampa will have all they can handle across the board. I don’t see a scenario where Tampa wins unless the Caps’ goaltending collapses, which I don’t think happens yet. Washington in five.
Matt Says: I believe in lightning striking twice (see what I did there?). Tampa Bay in five.
Gerard Says: Tampa Bay in six.
(2) Philadelphia vs. (3) Boston
Playoff History: Ah ha ha ha ha ha…oh, man. Spending upwards of seven games talking about how the Broons screwed the pooch last year is a pretty solid consolation prize for three overtime losses.
|1974 SCF||1976 SF||1977 SF||1978 SF||2010 CSF|
Season Series: 3-0-1 Boston. Philly’s only win came in OT.
Doogie Says: I’m sorry, I have no rational analysis here. Fuck Boston in their stupid faces. I don’t care if the Lazy Susan of Sieves is manning the crease for the Flyers (though Boucher’s actually been pretty good on the whole — 2.10/.934 in 285.5 minutes). Pronger’s back, the Bruins got rolled by the Habs at even strength, and I want to see a frown under Tim Thomas’s stupid 70s-detective moustache. Philadelphia in six. Suck on it, Broons.
Hoop Says: Two of the better first round series happened with the Flyers getting by Buffalo in seven, while the Bruins got a Nathan Horton Game 7 OT winner to beat the Canadiens in quite possible the best first round series ever. In net, there is no question that the Bruins have the edge with Tim (yes I still have a goalie crush on him) Thomas ahead of anyone the Flyers throw between the pipes. Up front, Philly has a clear edge in talent; on the back end, it is very close. A key could be how healthy Chris Pronger is, because you know the Bruin forwards are going to be taking runs at him every chance they get. Zdeno Chara will be a rock for the Bruins as well, so call it a wash. I’m not sure how the Bruins are going to score enough, but I think they will just squeak through. Boston in seven.
Matt Says: Why did my two Eastern favourites have to come up against each other? Umm…ahh…Philadelphia in six.
Gerard Says: Boston in six.