Chizzy here.I must say that this has been an extremely exciting Round 1 for the NHL Playoffs.Here’s Schwendy, our resident NHL Guru, back with his Conference Semi picks.And yes, to make him feel inadequate, I would like to point out that Schwendy went a subpar at best 4-4 with his first round picks.
Without further ado, here he is:
Wow! Now that was an exciting first round of hockey action.I really didn’t think Detroit would lay the smack-down on Phoenix.I was shocked by the LA Kings epic Game 3 collapse, along with Vancouver finally exercising the playoff demons and eliminating Chicago. Stupid Roberto Luongo actually decided to show up in Game 7, but give Chicago some credit; they were able to find some heart and fought back from a 3-0 deficit to force Game 7.
In the East, for once Washington was able to do what everyone thought they should do - beat an 8 seed.Philly’s nice OT win in Game 6 was impressive, almost as much as their drubbing of Ryan Miller in Game 7 to capture the series.Nathan Horton’s OT winner in Game 7 pushed the Bruins past the Habs in a thrilling series. And will someone please tell me who was in goal for Tampa Bay in Game 7? There is no possible way that 41 year old Dwayne Roloson posted a shut-out to upset the Pens.
Wow, did I really just realize that there were FOUR Game 7’s in round one?!?!Anyway, let’s move on to the conference semi-finals matchups.Side note: after each round the NHL reseeds each team. Let’s start in the Eastern Conference this time.
(4) Tampa Bay Lightning vs. (1) Washington Capitals: After battling back from a 3-1 deficit, Tampa Bay received an out of body performance from 41 years young netminder Dwayne Roloson in Game 7 to win the series.Washington cruised past the Rangers.I like this match-up, which could be an offensive spectacle.Will Dwanye Roloson play half his age again and lead the young Lightning to a upset win, or will rookie Michal Neuvirth continue his incredible play and lead Washington to the Conference Finals for the first time since 1998.
For Washington:Uh-oh! The Caps learned to play defense.For a minute I really didn’t believe I was actually seeing this Capitals team do that, but they did, and they played D very well.As long as Michal Neuvirth plays at the same level he did in round 1, Tampa doesn’t have a shot!One player who I would love to see step up is Alexander Semin.Hehe.His last name is Semin.Yeah he scored the game winner in Game 1, but he went on vacation the rest of the series. He needs to be more involved; he’s too talented to go missing.
For Tampa: Let Dwayne Roloson bathe in the fountain of youth before every game.He has to play every game as if its Game 7. Steven Stamkos and Vinny Lecavalier need to turn on the lights and start putting points on the board.Combined in round one they had 10 points.If these two can put up 10 each, with Martin St. Louis and Simon Gagne playing at a high level, this young Tampa team might just have all the ingredients needed for an epic upset.
Prediction:Tampa has exceeded expectations all season long, but can’t catch lightning in a bottle this time.Their season ends here.I think Washington gets pushed to the limit, but buckles down and wins in 7.
(3) Boston Bruins vs. (2) Philadelphia Flyers:A rematch of the series last season when Boston pulled one of the most epic collapses in NHL history.Both teams are coming off emotional and hard fought series.Which team has enough left in the gas tank to move on to the Conference Finals? Will the Bruins continued stupidity on the ice cost them the series? Or will Philly continue to ride their hot offense and make a return trip to the Conference finals?Let’s find out!
For Philadelphia: Ride the Lighting! Danny Briere had a nice 6 goals, Claude Giroux led the team in scoring with 9 points.With the return of big D-man Chris Pronger, it just adds another weapon to an already powerful offense. The big factor here is how Philly will capitalize on the power-play: in round one, the Flyers were just 2/26 - an embarrassing 7%!Boston is going to take stupid penalties; if Philly can take advantage and put pucks in the net they should have no problem advancing. If they continue to struggle, it’s only going to open the door for Boston.
For Boston: Milian Lucic needs to play smarter hockey and get more offensively involved.He alone almost cost the Bruins the series against Montreal with his idiotic face smash of Jaroslav Spacek. Pair that with a measly 2 points and he would have been your whipping boy had Boston lost game 7.If Lucic can add an offensive spark to a Bruins team that desperately needs it, it might just be enough to help them win the series and erase their memories of last season.
Prediction:Philly plays smart hockey, Boston doesn’t. Plain and simple.It doesn’t matter who’s in goal for Philly because they’ll win.Flyers in 6.
In the Western Conference we have:
(4) Nashville Predators vs. (1) Vancouver Canucks:Both teams are coming off emotional series.Nashville advances to the 2nd round for the first time in franchise history; Alex Burrows is king of Canada after saving the Canucks in OT of Game 7.Will Vancouver have enough left after a tough seven games with Chicago? Or will Nashville pull the upset and send Canada to sulk in the corner?
For Vancouver: All of Canada is watching and rooting for the Canucks now.A little history lesson. Canada has not won a Stanley Cup since Montreal won ALL THE WAY back in 1993.They’ve come close, sending teams to the Stanley Cup finals in 04, 06, and 07.But let’s get back on track shall we? The Canucks got the type of production out of the top three (Sedin X2 and Kessler) that was needed, between 4-7 points (in my round 1 preview I said between 5-10).If this type of production and the surprisingly stellar play of Alex Burrows continues, Vancouver should have enough to slip past the Preds and into the Conference Finals.
For Nashville:Remember these two names: Ryan Suter and Shea Weber.When the Sedin twins are on the ice I’m willing to bet my paycheck that 95% of the time these two will be out there. If Suter and Weber are able to contain the production of the Vancouver Super Line, Nashville shocks the world and Canada watches as ‘Merica (F*#& YEAH!) again will own Lord Stanley. Nashville will also need Pekka Rinne to improve. His 3.29 goals against in round 1 was good enough to advance once. It won’t be again.
Prediction: Last time I picked against Vancouver they proved me wrong, so I’ll take Vancouver to win this series in 7 and wear themselves out for the Conference finals.(Editor’s note: So he can pick the Red Wings to beat them.HOMER.)
(3) Detroit Red Wings vs. (2) San Jose Sharks: What do you know? Another rematch of last season’s playoffs.Last year the Sharks took care of my Wings in 5 games.This year should be much different.Will the impending return of Henrik Zetterberg put the Wings offense over the top?For San Jose will they have enough offense to sustain they’re goaltending woes?Let’s find out. HERE WE GO!!!!!
For San Jose: I feel like I’m beating a dead horse when it comes to goaltending, but it’s a huge factor.Niemi was pulled twice in the series against the Kings; fortunately the Sharks’ offense was able to bail out his poor play.Niemi needs to find a way to bring his “A” game back or he’ll get a sunburn from the red light continuously going off behind him.The Sharks offense has the potential to bail him out if it needs to.Look for Devin Setoguchi to step up and be the offensive catalyst for the Sharks.In their playoff match-up last season, Setoguchi single handily ended the Wings season (tear).For San Jose to move on to the Conference Finals, they have to be the team that closed the regular season on fire. If not, they’ll be planning tee times instead of game planning for their next opponent.
For Detroit: The talking heads at ESPN will probably say the return of Henrik Zetterberg will be a huge boost.It will be, but the biggest factor for this veteran team was having nine days off between rounds.Those nine days gave players like Zetterberg and Franzen time to heal their injuries and rest.Don’t forget people. This is the oldest team in hockey so any type of extended time off between rounds is huge.With the return of Zetterberg and Franzen this team just became extremely dangerous.But I like Darren Helm to be the “energy” in this series.He’s not going to wow you with offense, but he has heart and never takes a shift off.He give 100% all the time.
Prediction:This series can go either way, but I think the return of Zetterberg and a fully healthy Franzen puts this Red Wings team over the top.I’ll take the Wings in 6.