Thursday, May 30, 2013

Second Round Review and Conference Championship Predictions

We are now down to the final four teams competing for the right to play for Lord Stanley's Cup. Let's take a look at the View's second round predictions as well as a look ahead. at the Conference championship round.

Western Conference

LA Kings vs San Jose Sharks

Prediction: Kings in 7

Reality:       Kings in 7

It would be easy to say that home ice was the deciding factor in this series, and it certainly helped the Kings. For me, though, the play of Jonathan Quick, the Kings stellar netminder, was the difference. Quick just got stronger as the series went along and was able to give the Kings the edge on home ice in game 7. This entire series was an absolute war, as both teams took the physical approach to every game. Antii Niemi was very good for the Sharks, but the Kings had just enough firepower to get past the challenge the Sharks presented.

Chicago Blackhawks vs Detroit Red Wings

Prediction: Chicago in 7

Reality:       Chicago in 7

Although I called the series and number of games correctly, I certainly didn't see the series unfolding the way it did. After capturing the first game, the Blackhawks were throttled over the next 3 as the Wings had a stranglehold on the series. Jimmy Howard played exceptionally well and stymied the explosive Hawks scoring machine. The Hawks, facing an embarrassing elimination, clawed their way back into the series, and after their win in Detroit to knot the series at 3 one had to feel that all the momentum was on their side heading back to the United Center for the decisive game 7. The Hawks, behind solid goaltending from Corey Crawford and the energy of their home crowd, prevailed in OT to capture the series, and the collective sigh of relief from the Blackhawk faithful  was of near tornadic proportions.

Eastern Conference

Pittsburgh Penguins vs Ottawa Senators

Prediction: Penguins in 6

Reality:       Penguins in 5

The offensive horsepower of the Penguins overwhelmed Senators netminder Craig Anderson, who got very little help up front. While the Penguins are formidable offensively, their defense managed to shut down the Ottawa forwards and give Tomas Vokoun lots of help out front. Vokoun, a former Nashville Predator, has turned in to a feel good story since supplanting Marc-Andre Fleury in the first round of the playoffs. This is Vokoun's chance to get his name on the Stanley Cup, and he is playing excellent, confident hockey in goal. Couple that with the talent of the Penguins skaters, and the Senators were completely overmatched in this series.

Boston Bruins vs. New York Rangers

Prediction: Bruins in 7

Reality:       Bruins in 5

The Bruins completely overwhelmed the Rangers, building a 3-0 series lead before prevailing in 5 games. The Bruins are relentless, playing a punishing physical game that takes their opponent off theirs. The fact that the B's can play that style of hockey and have a deft scoring touch is a deadly combination, and it was too much for the Rangers to handle. To me, the Rangers looked like an emotionally spent team that could not match the intensity of the Bruins. That is evidenced by their quick dispatch in 5 games.

So the view was a perfect 100% in his second round predictions, which only proves that blind hogs occasionally do find acorns.

Now on to the Conference finals and my fearless predictions...

Western Conference

Chicago Blackhawks vs Los Angeles Kings

The Red Wings demonstrated effectively that if you can get physical with the Hawks, you can take them off their game. In the form of the Kings, the Hawks are going to find a team that loves a physical, grind it out series. The Kings will bring more offensive prowess to this series than the hawks faced in the second round, so the Chicago D, especially the second and third pairs, are going to be tested. The Kings will face an opponent that will, as did San Jose in the second round, bring a lot of speed and the ability to forecheck effectively. Unlike the Sharks, the Hawks have much more offensive talent and will test the Kings D and netminder Jonathan Quick. This series could come down to the play of the goalies, and if that is the case, the edge goes to the Kings. While the Hawks have just gotten off a tougher than expected series with Detroit, the intensity and physicality of this series is going to several magnitudes greater. Because of that, I give the edge to L.A.

Prediction: Los Angeles in 7

Eastern Conference

Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Boston Bruins

After each team had a bit of a tussle in the first round, they cruised through the second round to set up what should be a very interesting matchup. The Penguins noted offense will be tested by the Bruins D and their physical play. The Bruins are going to have to keep the Penguins forwards from gaining the zone with speed and they will have to give Tuuka Rask help out front. Fail to do this and this series will be over quickly. The Penguins, by contrast, are going to have to be ready to play a physical series and not let the physical play throw them off their game. The Bruins will need to continue to get timely scoring from all their lines, while the Penguins will look to have their big guns up front of Crosby, Malkin, Neal, et al, heat up early and force the B's to play from behind. There is big pressure on Rask to show he can win the high pressure series. I think he handles the pressure, but that the Penguins have too much offense for the B's to overcome.

Prediction:  Penguins in 7

So there you have it. Settle in for some exciting and intense playoff hockey.

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