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Stanley Cup Playoffs Preview: #1 Chicago Blackhawks vs. #5 Los Angeles Kings

In Hockey on June 1, 2013 at 11:38 am

All right, kids. I’m really hung over and need to hit the road soon. So this won’t take long.

The Western Conference final comes down to the two best teams in the conference. The Presidents’ Trophy winners and the defending champs get their hands on each other for what should be an awesome series.

Chicago nearly pulled off one of the biggest choke jobs in recent memory, but rallied from a 3-1 deficit to beat Detroit in a thrilling game seven that was nearly taken away from them. The Hawks are at their best when they roll four lines and when Corey Crawford isn’t letting soft goals past him. My biggest concern for Chicago remains the absence of Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane from the score sheet. Yes, the two superstars were frustrated by Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk. Trouble is the matchup this time around doesn’t get any easier with Anze Kopitar and Mike Richards waiting. Toews and Kane are going to need to start finding the net or the Hawks are going to be in serious trouble.

L.A. is coming off a game seven win of their own, and they appear to be hitting their stride at the right time. At times against the Sharks, the Kings looked just like the scary Kings that rolled over everyone one year ago. Of course, that means that Jonathan Quick is pissing shooter everywhere off again with his play in net and his antics. Say what you will about the guy, but one stat stands out for me in Quick’s current run of disgusting play. Last year in the playoffs, Quick’s save percentage at even strength was .946. This year? An eye-popping .960. Freaking .960!!! That’s ridiculous! So if Jimmy Howard gave Chicago shooters fits last round, Quick is going to drive them mental this round.

Chicago Will Win If…
All four lines continue to produce. What the Blackhawks possess that San Jose did not is scoring coming from the bottom six forwards. That’s critical to a team’s success when Toews and Kane are having trouble hitting the twine.

Los Angeles Will Win If…
They win the physical game. We saw in the last round from Detroit that if you punish the Hawks, they tend to lose focus and get off of their game. Every single member of the Kings contributes by throwing their body around, and they’ll look to turn the Hawks black and blue.

LA pushes the Hawks around in the physical game and Jon Quick keeps the dream alive for the defending champs. I would elaborate a little more, but this LA team is a nightmare for anyone to play right now. Also, I need a Gatorade. Kings in 6.

I am Ryan Thomas, and I’m never drinking again. Follow me on Twitter @rthomas_22, because I said so damn it.


I Can’t Believe I Let This Guy Back In…

In Hockey on May 14, 2013 at 4:39 pm

Just kidding. But seriously. Once again I take a quick step aside in favor of Pierre Canard, who has had some time to pull himself together after the Ducks’ loss in game seven to the Red Wings, only to grace this brilliant blog with his outlook on the second round. I haven’t proofread any of this (just like all the other posts!), so bare with this poor guy as he dives into round two.

Take it away, Pierre!

Before anyone asks me to dissect the Wings-Ducks series, I have only one thing to say- I hope that this is not the way that Teemu Selanne, one of the classiest guys in the history of professional sports, ends his career. I am still not ready to do a post mortem on my beloved Ducks just yet. (I still need to digest this loss).

Now that I have no horse in the race, I am going to give a quick prediction on each series, so, I present you with my round one predictions…

PIT wins in 5 /WAS wins in 5/MTL wins in 6/TOR wins in 7
CHI wins in 4/ ANA wins in 6/SJS wins in 5/STL wins in 7

As you can see, I have a spectacularly poor 3/8 record.
On to round 2…

In the East, we see:

(1)   Pittsburgh Penguins vs (7) Ottawa Senators

There’s no real history to this matchup… (They’ve only met four times out of the last eight years, and then there’s that Cooke-Karlsson thing, but who remembers that?). Ottawa is the team that won’t die, is peaking at the right time, and basically ground out Montreal in the 1st round. They have a talented youth core, and a good, playoff tested leadership group in Chris Neil, Jason Spezza (who may be close to returning) and Daniel Alfredsson as well.

The Penguins on the other hand, suffer from a lack of depth issues, with guys like Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, James Neal, Kris Letang, Jarome Iginla and Brendan Morrow, and a resurgent Chris Kunitz, who is a proven winner in playoff series, the Penguins seem like a sure thing. However goalie Marc-Andre Fleury had a total collapse in his game, and the Penguins are now relying on the under-rated yet dependable Thomas Vokoun. Vokoun has shown some great play in the past, but a team questioning its goaltending in the playoffs is always a bad sign.

Penguins win in 7, outlasting the Senators.

(4) Boston Bruins vs (6) New York Rangers

Original Six matchup, part one.

Both teams stumbled to get where they are- Boston just about made my Toronto pick famous by barely surviving that series. New York has failed to live up to expectations all year, an atrocious season start and guys like Brad Richards and Rick Nash proving inconsistent in the playoffs. Both teams see their goalies streaking at the right time.

Boston, to me has the depth to win this series. This is probably the most battle tested team in the playoffs, (and we all have a soft spot for the city of Boston after the marathon tragedy).  This is almost exactly the same team that won the cup a few years ago, and is poised to do some real damage in the playoffs.

New York on the other hand, has great talent up front but cannot seem to get it all firing at once. In my mind, John Torterella might have his job on the line if the Rangers bow out early again. The team however lacks defensive depth in my mind, and cannot match the Bruins size.

This series going to feature a great goaltending duel, and will make for great TV, but I see the Boston Bruins winning in 6. Boston out muscles the Rangers, plain and simple.

Onto the West, where we see,

(1)   Chicago Blackhawks vs (7) Detroit Red Wings

Original Six matchup, part two.

Chicago has been the team out of the west to beat all season. From opening day, this team has been very formidable, and waltzed into the playoffs. Detriot on the other hand, is still Detroit. Despite the losses of names like Stuart, Lidstrom and Holmstrom, they remain a constant threat as the Ducks discovered.

Chicago has the obvious edge in roster depth, and steam rolled Detroit in the regular season winning all 4 meetings. The Hawks have excellent leadership (and talent) in proven playoff names like Patrick Kane, Jonathan Towes, Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa, Brent Seabrook, Duncan Keith and Daniel Carcillo, with a resurgent Ray Emery proving a capable backup to Corey Crawford.

Detroit has done well so far with Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, and Justin Abdelkader leading the charge, and the defensive core, while the young defensive lineup led by the always physical Nik Kronwall has performed well thus far. Goaltender Jimmy Howard played a lights out great first round, but the team has to be worn down from a long series with a lot of travel.

I think this series should be a good battle, Chicago faces a great test, but I don’t think Detroit has the energy left to compete in a drawn out series. Chicago wins in 6.

(5)   Los Angeles Kings vs (6) San Jose Sharks

Ahh, the battle of California,  “non-traditional “ markets that (including Anaheim) seem to always ice great teams. Obviously, I would have loved my team in it, but here we go…

Los Angeles wins games and series by pounding the other team into submission, and has a compliment of scorers that can do damage. This team is almost identical to the team that won the cup last year, with the most noticeable addition being Robin Regher, a defensive rock that allows guys like Drew Doughty to jump into the rush. The Kings have a great goalie in Jonathan Quick. The team must be at least a little bit banged up from the series with St. Louis, where the teams were hitting each other at a terrifying rate. (The kings stormed back from a 2-0 series deficit, to win it in 6).

San Jose on the other hand, has been relying on great goaltending from Niemi, with excellent scoring from young talent in Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski, evened out with experienced veterans like Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton. The leadership is complemented by guys who might not playing but will be in the locker room in Marty Havlat and Scott Gomez. Good blue line talent in Danny Boyle, Scott Hannan, Brad Staurt and Brent Burns keeps the team competitive. Raffi Torres has been on his best behavior and gives the Sharks a nice weapon that can be used to at least partly counter the Kings grinding strategy. The Sharks also swept the perennial “challenger that chokes” Vancouver Canucks. The team is rested, which might lead to a bit of rust, but will benefit them in the long run.

This series goes long, and the Sharks outlast the Kings in 7. The Kings, in my mind, are going to be drained out by the end of this series.

I am Pierre Canard. Thanks for reading my incoherent ramblings on round two. Feel free to disagree with me on twitter @SargeTheDuck. Now excuse me, I think I am going to be sick… I just spent half a page complimenting California hockey teams that are not from Anaheim.

Hopefully you’ve got someone to hold your hair on this one, buddy. And you also get to shave, which has become a problem for yours truly.


I am Ryan Thomas, and I approve this post. Follow me on Twitter @rthomas_22 and beg me to let you write for this blog. I can be bought for the right price.

Stanley Cup Playoffs Preview: #1 Chicago Blackhawks vs. #8 Minnesota Wild

In Hockey on April 29, 2013 at 10:34 pm

I for one have a hard time putting into words just how good the Chicago Blackhawks have been all year, but damn it I’m gonna give it a try. The season started with a ridiculous point streak that put a dim spotlight on the NHL after a ridiculous lockout. The Hawks showed the streak was a taste of things to come, as they continue to throttle everyone in front of them en route to the Presidents Trophy.

This year’s team has finally allowed Blackhawks fans circa 2009 to move on from the 2010 Cup squad. And while the core players from that team are still intact (not to mention how big of a badass Jonathan Toews has been), the supporting cast from this year’s team has been critical. The emergence of players like Brandon Saad and Marcus Kruger, who have been great on both sides of the puck, are capable of stepping up when the stars may not be at the top of their game. Which is hardly ever. Oof.

Throw in the fact that the Chicago defense has been unreal and the steadiness of Corey Crawford and Ray Emery in net, and there’s no question who the Cup favorite is heading into the playoffs.

I have always said that the NHL is a better place when the Minnesota Wild are good. Despite spending nearly 200 million dollars last offseason, this is still a team in transition. Zach Parise has made a huge impact on this team and Ryan Suter has given the Wild a stable force on the blue line that the team has never had. Don’t believe me? Look at what he has done for Jonas Brodin, who is my pick to win the Calder Trophy.

But the Wild shot themselves in the foot down the stretch, no-showing for a critical game against Edmonton that would have kept them out of this matchup. Niklas Backstrom has been great in a walk year for the Wild, but he has looked tired down the stretch. Oh yeah, Dany Heatley is also out for the series, an offensive weapon the Wild could really use. In order for the Wild to have any shot of winning this series, Backstrom is going to need to be better than he was when he was nominated for the Vezina back in 2008-09. Uh-oh…

Chicago will win if:

They show up to the rink. The Hawks are the more talented team by a long-shot and given how much the Wild still struggle to score, this series should be a short one.

Minnesota will win if:

Nicklas Backstrom records four shutouts. I hate to sit back and hammer the Wild and say they have no chance in this series, but it’s going to be a tough battle. Backstrom is going to have to channel J.S. Giguere in 2003 or Patrick Lalime in the 2002 Ottawa-Philadelphia series to give the Wild a chance.


This one won’t take long. A sweep is expected, but I think the Wild steal one in St. Paul. Blackhawks in 5.

I am Ryan Thomas, and I approve this post. Follow me on Twitter @rthomas_22 and tell me what I left out of this preview.