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Posts Tagged ‘Stanley Cup Playoffs’

2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs Preview Bonanza

In Hockey on April 16, 2014 at 6:35 pm

5281948Oh hey there, playoff hockey. Welcome back. Please, come in. Can I take your coat? Would you like a beer or are you more of a wine fan? Excellent, now please stay forever.

That’s right, we get playoff hockey back and I’m ready to actually do some writing for you loyal readers along with the binge drinking that comes with it. But as usual, work and video games got in the way of doing detailed breakdowns so I’m cramming everything into one post. I have avoided any preview material on the internet, so no one can alter my thoughts.

This is the part where I’m supposed to insert something funny before we get going, but I got nothing. I’m tired and the games are on, so let’s get this over with.

Eastern Conference

Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Columbus Blue Jackets
The fun and loveable Blue Jackets have a chance because Marc-Andre Fleury will be in the Pittsburgh net during the playoffs and damn it, it will make for an entertaining series at the very least. But too much Sidney Crosby and not enough support for Columbus’ Sergei Bobrovsky means the Pens move on. Don’t worry, their fans will still find plenty to complain about. Penguins in six.

New York Rangers vs. Philadelphia Flyers
I have bounced back and forth on this series several times. Henrik Lundqvist vs. Steve Mason feels like it should be enough for me pick the Rangers alone, but I can’t help myself. Claude Giroux has been nuts after the team got off to a terrible start and he carries it over to the playoffs. Flyers in seven.

Boston Bruins vs. Detroit Red Wings
If any team in the East might give the Bruins a scare in the opening round, Detroit is the one that could do just that. This is great for the game because it throws the Red Wings into a series with someone that they could develop an intense rivalry with. It should be deja vu for the Bruins as far as round one goes this year, but the result will be the same. Boston is too good. Bruins in seven.

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Montreal Canadiens
Everyone is sleeping on this series but I think it will be an entertaining slugfest featuring the game’s best goal scorer and Canada’s only hope. Early advantage goes to Montreal as they boast one of the best goalies in the world while the Bolts’ MVP (Ben Bishop) is out for at least game one. That’s enough for me to take the Habs. Montreal in six.

Western Conference

Colorado Avalanche vs. Minnesota Wild
Everyone in hockey has been waiting for the Avs to come crashing back to Earth based on their unsustainable fancy stats numbers and a goalie playing out of his mind. They’ll play former division foe Minnesota who would be primed for an upset if there wasn’t a giant question mark in the net. Avalanche in six.

St. Louis Blues vs. Chicago Blackhawks
Norris Division, we have missed thee. This series won’t be a throwback to the chaos that ensued during the Black and Blue Division’s heyday, but it’s going to be a war. St. Louis had the President’s Trophy in their sights before crapping the bed late in the year, giving us the matchup we all wanted one round early. St. Louis has been bad in every aspect of the game as of late and they’re going to need to get up for the Hawks before it’s too late. Chicago is too deep and the Blues have too many questions in net and on offense. Blackhawks in six.
Ed. Note: It was REALLY difficult to not rip on the Blues during that. Don’t worry, I’ll do plenty of that on Twitter.

Anaheim Ducks vs. Dallas Stars
Fire wagon hockey will be present in every single game of this series as both teams love to get up and down the ice. Dallas has been a blast to watch and they have the edge in net with Kari Lehtonen over, well, whoever the hell the Ducks decide to play in net. Both teams have a superstar duo and plenty of secondary scoring. But the Ducks have Cam Fowler. That’s enough for me to make my pick. Stars in six. #CamSucks

Want to read an actual preview of the series? Check out our buddy Pierre Canard’s in-depth preview.

San Jose Sharks vs. Los Angeles Kings
My preview for this series is that I drink a lot and wind up in the fetal position because Antti Niemi can’t keep the puck out of the net. Yeah, I’m not going into much detail. Let’s just say I’m not optimistic and I don’t wanna talk about it and JUST LEAVE ME ALONE. Shit. Kings in six.

That’s it. If you want something more in-depth, I’m sure you can find about 5,283 articles on each series. Want more of an in-depth answer from me on the series in the West? Follow me on Twitter and I’ll be sure to answer. Also, follow along for the retweets, especially if you don’t like the Blues.

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Stanley Cup Playoffs Preview: #1 Pittsburgh Penguins vs. #4 Boston Bruins

In Hockey on May 30, 2013 at 8:55 pm

As if the first two rounds of the playoffs weren’t awesome enough, now comes the matchup that everyone east of the Mississippi has been waiting for. Two teams that don’t like each other will meet with storylines dripping all over the series. I haven’t watched a whole lot of the Eastern Conference this playoff season, but you can bet I’ll be tuned into what should be a slugfest between the Penguins and Bruins.

After making the switch to Tomas Vokoun against the Islanders, the Penguins have been on cruise control, and it showed in a beating of the Senators in round two. Offense has been the story for the Penguins, especially on the power play where it looks like me playing NHL 13 against someone with no arms. The Pens have been lethal no matter who is on the ice, and for a sport that has been criticized as of late for a lack of offense, the Penguins have silenced those critics by lighting up the scoreboard. No question the talent offensively favors the Pens, with Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, James Neal, Chris Kunitz, Jarome Iginla, Kris Letang, etc. on board. My only knock is that Pittsburgh has played against some pretty miserable defensive teams on their way to hockey’s final four.

But don’t discount the work the Penguins’ defense did. They held a talented, yet depleted team in check in the win, and this team has been given a boost by Vokoun’s play in net. The Penguins trust the veteran netminder, and that stability in goal allowed everyone to do what they’re best at. Which is scoring a butt-load of goals.

But the Bruins should slow down the potent Penguins attack, with Crosby seeing a steady diet of Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron. Not that it matters, because Sid is at the top of his game and Malkin will have a chance to match up against the Bruins’ second line, which favors Geno.

After their first round scare with Toronto, the Bruins got their act together and throttled the New York Rangers, who had clearly given up on their coach. Yes, the Bruins defense was nasty in their five-game victory. But they were also up against a team with a major deficiency. In this case, that was the Rangers’ horrendous offense, which the B’s successfully shut down.

But what surprised me about the Bruins is that their offense finally came around. Milan Lucic rounded into the beast that the NHL should fear and the Bruins got a nice boost from young defensemen Matt Bartkowski, Dougie Hamilton and Torey Krug, with Krug lighting up the Ranger for four goals from the point. Tyler Seguin finally got on the board against the Rangers, and that needs to continue because of how important he is to any success tied to the Bruins’ offense. Also, if the newly crowned “Merlot Line” of Shawn Thornton, Greg Campbell and Dan Paille continues to cause havoc, that only helps the B’s.

That offense is going to need to take some of the pressure off of Tuukka Rask, who has the unenviable task of facing the Penguins’ shooters all series. Boston can’t try to turn this into a track meet, because they’ll get burned. Expect lots of clogging the neutral zone from the B’s who do that as well as any team in the league.

Pittsburgh Will Win If…
The offense continues to be balanced. Chara and Dennis Seidenberg can’t play against both Sid and Geno. But the Penguins’ depth with Brandon Sutter, Brenden Morrow, Pascal Dupuis, Beau Bennett, Tyler Kennedy and Matt Cooke all capable of scoring on the third and fourth lines. If those lines can cause problems for the Bruins’ bottom defensive pairing and neutralize the Merlot Line and Chris Kelly’s line, Pittsburgh is going to cause the Bruins headaches.

Boston Will Win If…
They can stay out of the penalty box. Pittsburgh dines out on the power play, and for a team that plays as physical as the Bruins, that means that power plays are going to happen. You can get away with that against a PP unit as bad as the Rangers. Not here. Yes, Tuukka Rask is the most important player for the Bruins in shutting down the Penguins. But his mates are going to have to help him out a little bit by staying the hell away from the sin bin. More play at even strength improves the Bruins’ chances to win.

Prediction
This series should be a blast. With another series putting a lot of focus on Matt Cooke (for ending Marc Savard’s career), not to mention what these two teams did at the deadline involving Iginla and Jaromir Jagr was captivating. Now it gets to play itself out on the ice. Speaking of Jagr, will someone please look for him at any of New England’s finest casinos? The guy has been a non-factor thus far in the playoffs, but he should be jacked up for this series given the way he performed against Pittsburgh last year as a Flyer.

Pittsburgh is better on offense. Boston has the edge on D and in goal. Something has to give, and I’ll take the two-headed monster of Crosby and Malkin. Penguins in 6.

I am Ryan Thomas, and I’m proud of myself for actually trying on an Eastern Conference preview. Follow me on Twitter @rthomas_22, and we can make fun of the NBA playoffs in unison.

Stanley Cup Playoffs Preview: #5 Los Angeles Kings vs. #6 San Jose Sharks

In Hockey on May 14, 2013 at 6:55 pm
Ah memories...

Ah memories…

UGHHH, I barely had enough time to recover from watching the Leafs crap all over themselves before I needed to get my series preview out for the Sharks and Kings. DAMN YOU, NHL SCHEDULERS.

OK now I’m done. Time to preview what might be the most stressful series I will ever watch. If you’ll excuse me, I need to take off my black and teal tinted glasses, wipe the remains of the Vancouver Canucks off my shoes and throw in a fat dip before I dive in.

Much better.

The last time these two clubs met in the playoffs in 2011, I was given wonderful memories that I will be able to cherish for a long time, smacking a pesky young Kings team that appeared to be two year away from being a major contender. Well I was right about the contender part, but a year off. Damn it all…

The defending champions did the entire hockey world a favor in ridding us all of the St. Louis Blues in the first round, even if their goalie made a couple of boneheaded plays to put the Kings down 0-2. The Kings aren’t flashy. They’re quick, skilled, but will beat teams down with their physicality. And the scary thing is, they’re playing as well as they did during last year’s playoff run.

LA is the only team left in the West that can match the Sharks’ depth down the middle with Anze Kopitar, Mike Richards and Jarret Stoll going against Joe Thornton, Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski. Defensively, the Kings should have the edge with Drew Doughty playing out of his mind once again and the rest of the D following suit. And the one spot where the Sharks should have had the edge, in goal, suddenly becomes a wash after Jonathan Quick found his game against the Blues. Well, at least he looks like he found his game because the Blues were horrendous offensively.

I’ve had a week to sit back and smile after watching the Sharks rid the Stanley Cup Playoffs of the Canucks. San Jose was better in every facet of the game en route to the first sweep in franchise history. But could the time off have spawned some rust on the Sharks express? It could have, but I have to think the Sharks used that time productively and they should be all over the Kings to open the game. My biggest worry for the Sharks is how they’ll respond to the Kings’ physical play. It’s no secret that the Canucks are soft, and outside of Raffi Torres and Brent Burns, the Sharks don’t exactly have a bunch of guys that can bang bodies.

With as much talk about how this is now Couture and Pavelski’s team, the old guard is still going to need to be very good for the Sharks to win. Yes, the Sharks’ power play dominated in round one. But the Kings aren’t sieves on the penalty kill the same way the Canucks were. Everyone is going to need to contribute offensively for the Sharks, as LA boasts four lines that can pitch in.

Oh, and Antti Niemi needs to be better this time around against the Kings after giving up 19 goals in that six-game series back in 2011. He’s a much better goalie now but he has to continue to keep his team in games like he did all year. This time, Nemo is going to need to be better than a former Conn Smythe winner. And damn it, he better be.

Los Angeles Will Win If…
Their bottom six forwards contribute each game. The top-six forwards are a wash in my opinion, but LA got contributions up and down the lineup en route to the Cup last year. In the first round, that was no exception. LA has guys that are not only bears to play against (or in Dustin Penner’s case, actual wild life), but they create chances with their forecheck. San Jose’s defense needs to be ready for that pressure and keep the puck away from the LA grinders.

San Jose Will Win If..
Antti Niemi wins the goaltending duel. Only two starting goalies left won rings as starters, and they’re matched up against each other in this series. While Quick was the biggest reason for LA winning last year, Niemi kept things steady for Chicago when they won the Cup in 2010. He needs to keep up his Vezina-worthy play in this series to down a red-hot team in the Kings

Prediction
Blood will be lost, tears will be shed and my liver will take an absolute beating. I’m sure at some point, you’ll find me in my apartment curled up in the fetal position after watching these games. I don’t know if I can handle another series like the Red Wings series in 2011, but I don’t have a choice.

This series is going to be awesome, but I give the edge to the only team left that can beat the Blackhawks. Kings in 7.

Time to start drinking…

I am Ryan Thomas, and I’m a bad fan for not picking my team. Follow me on Twitter @rthomas_22 to join in with the misery I’m sure this series will bring me.