Sunday, April 28, 2013

Dave's Stanley Cup First Round Predictions! ...of the Week.

Even more than last year, I'm looking forward to all the Stanley Cup Playoffs in the NHL!   The Eastern Conference should have some excitement, but even more-so, I really like what I see in the West.  I gave it a look this year, and quite honestly, all eight teams in the Western Conference have a legit shot to make the Cup final.  

  • Chicago, you get 4-5 excellent goal scorers and a stifling defense, plus Crawford's good goaltending.
  • Anaheim, a rolodex of scoring threats, from Perry on down to the ageless Teemu Selanne, though Teemu slowed down somewhat this week.
  • Minnesota, a team that's made good strides each year now looks like a tough out thanks to Parise's enormous effort this year.
  • LA, the defending champs, got off to a brutal start but are on a roll thanks to Quick's tremendous goaltending, Carter's many goals, Kopitar's all-star effort, and some unsung heroes like Kyle Clifford, Jake Muzzin, and others.
  • San Jose, Antti Niemi is putting it together for a pretty darn good offense with great forward depth -- Thornton, Pavelski, Marleu, Couture, and others.
  • St. Louis, fewer big names, but once again, their defense comes to play, and Goalie Brian Elliott is red hot.
  • Detroit, fun team to watch, good offense, really turned it around, and who can't enjoy watching Pavel Datsyuk?
  • Vancouver, weaker season than usual, but the switch to Schneider helped them throughout the year, although now he's hurt.  Most of that offense, Sedin & Sedin, Hamius, Raymond, and the rest, is still aboard.
We'll get to the East Predictions in a moment but first, the West Predictions! 

Wild vs Blackhawks: I don't know if the Wild will have enough offense to take down the Blackhawks, and while the Hawks saw their unprecedented point streaks end, their tenacity defensively hasn't wavered.  This is a damn good hockey team and I have -- Blackhawks in 6.

Red Wings vs Ducks:  The Ducks have some amazing offensive players, but also an inexperienced goaltender w/ Viktor Fasth.   Coinflip series but usually the better defense/goalie win out so I've got Detroit in this one but it takes the whole 7.  Red Wings in 7. 

Sharks vs Canucks:  Most of these predictions I can't put much confidence in, but THIS ONE is a layup.  Can you imagine how fired up Vancouver will be after getting punked in back to back years during the playoffs?  They lost at home in Game 7 of the Cup Final, followed by the shock heard round the rink administered by LA the next year.   The Sharks wobbled to the finish line as well -- this is easy, Canucks in 5.

Kings vs Blues:  The Blues are many great things, but they're also pretty inexperienced.  Nonetheless, this should be a good one.   I'll take the Kings in 6 toughly fought games.

Now to the Eastern Conference matchups.  I don't have nearly as good a beat on these teams so take most of these East predictions with a grain of salt.  Here we go!

Islanders vs Penguins:  I'm really happy to see the Isles back in the playoffs, but this should be a very short playoff run for the Isles.   As long as Crosby's healthy for the Pens, this ends quickly.  Penguins in 5.

Senators vs Canadiens:   Honestly, who cares?   I'll go Canadiens, on the simple fact that the Senators just aren't that good AND they're injury riddled.  Canadiens in 6.

Capitals vs Rangers:  Tough call.   I honestly haven't paid much attention to the Capitals this year, but despite their usual foibles it's hard to select a team like New York that normally struggles to score goals.  The Ryane Clowe trade helped NYR but it's still an offensively lacking group.   With about 2 points on the ten point confidence meter I'll peg the Caps to win it.  Capitals in 7.

Leafs vs Bruins:  Boston in 7.  I don't want to pretend I know much about either of these teams, but as usual, Boston does very well in close games and shootouts.  Neither team finished the season well, incidentally.

That's the Stanley Cup Quarterfinal round in a nutshell.  Time to check out all the games!   Enjoy them, hockey fans.

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