Archive for April, 2012

2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs: Conference Semifinal Predictions

EASTERN CONFERENCE

1) New York Rangers vs. 7) Washington Capitals

“Can you hear us?!”…”We are louder!”…

The animosity from last year’s playoff series between the Rangers and the Capitals will be on display in this series. From the crowds at both the Verizon Center and Madison Square Garden to both ornery bench bosses, expect this series to get playoff ugly. But when you look at recent history between these two teams in the playoffs, the Capitals beat the Rangers in their last two playoff meetings.

Prediction: WSH in 6

5) Philadelphia Flyers vs. 6) New Jersey Devils

Both teams earned their way to this series. The Flyers beat their in-state rival Pittsburgh Penguins in a high-scoring 6-game series, and the Devils survived Game 7 in double OT against the Florida Panthers. But like the Rangers/Capitals series, the Flyers beat the Devils in their last two playoff meetings. 

Prediction: PHI in 5

WESTERN CONFERENCE

2) St. Louis Blues vs. 8) Los Angeles Kings

These two teams are mirror images of each other. An aggressive forechecking team with a solid goaltending. If there was a time these two teams’ offense wakes up, now is definitely the time. If you thought this series is going to be low-scoring, think again.

Prediction: LA in 6

3) Phoenix Coyotes vs. 4) Nashville Predators

Like the Blues/Kings series, both the Coyotes and the Predators are mirror images of each other. Both teams are defense-based, they don’t score much, and both each have a solid goaltender in net. Now you could add that these two earned their way here by completely shutting down two offensive, puck-possesion, run-and-gun Stanley Cup favorites. (You know who you are.) This series will be low-scoring. But I also expect it to be very, very close. I wouldn’t expect the series to go to overtime in the first 5 games, just like Phoenix went through, but who knows? In the Stanley Cup Playoffs, you never know what’s gonna happen. 

Prediction: NSH in 6

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2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs: Conference Quarterfinal Predictions

EASTERN CONFERENCE

1) New York Rangers vs. 8) Ottawa Senators

Ottawa may have taken 3 out of 4 from the Broadway Blueshirts in the regular season, but it’s highly unlikely that the Senators will take a best-of-7 playoff series against the best team in the Eastern Conference.

Prediction: NYR in 5

2) Boston Bruins vs. 7) Washington Capitals

The defending Stanley Cup champions may have lost 3 out of 4 from the Capitals, but without Tomas Vokoun and Michal Neuvirth, the Caps now have to rely on third-string goaltender Braden Holtby to play like a number one. For the Capitals to dethrone the defending Stanley Cup champions, their offense needs to be the offense that was once feared across the NHL.

Prediction: BOS in 7

3) Florida Panthers vs. 6) New Jersey Devils

The Florida Panthers were a big surprise this season. Thanks to a career year by Kris Versteeg and the emergence of Jason Garrison as an offensive defenseman, the Cats earned their first division championship in franchise history. However, the New Jersey Devils have more playoff experience, and that could be the difference in this series. 

Prediction: NJ in 6

4) Pittsburgh Penguins vs. 5) Philadelphia Flyers

This series is a virtual coin-flip. “The Battle of Pennsylvania” is built on intensity. Look at the last two meetings between these two teams in the regular season. With that intensity, this playoff series feels like a best-of-9 than a best-of-7. The key to this series is can Philadelphia’s physical play outwork and shut down the high-octane offense of the Penguins; an offense that produced a league-high 282 goals this season? Can Ilya Bryzgalov remain solid in net? Either way, only one Cup contender will be out at the end of this series.

Prediction: PIT in 7

WESTERN CONFERENCE

1) Vancouver Canucks vs. 8) Los Angeles Kings

For the second straight year, the Canucks won the President’s Trophy. However, facing the Los Angeles Kings is no easy task. Potential Vezina Trophy finalist Jonathan Quick led the league in shutouts with 10, finished second in GAA, and 5th in save percentage. If the Kings find a way to score goals in this series, they might have a shot to pull off the upset.

Prediction: VAN in 6

2) St. Louis Blues vs. 7) San Jose Sharks

The story of the St. Louis Blues’ 2011-12 season is one you couldn’t even write. Back in October, they were the worst team in the NHL. Insert Ken Hitchcock in the picture as the new head coach, and the Bluenotes pulled off a complete 180 to their season, earning their first division title since 2000. In the playoffs that year, they were upset by the Sharks in the first round. I don’t see history repeat itself this time around, because the Sharks had to play desperate in the last two months of the regular season just to earn a playoff spot. Also, with the recent injury to Brian Elliott, Jaroslav Halak has to bring back the magic he had when he backstopped the Montréal Canadiens to an appearance un the Eastern Conference Final run in 2010 to give the Blues the same chance he gave the Habs not too long ago.

Prediction: STL in 5

3) Phoenix Coyotes vs. 6) Chicago Blackhawks

Like the Florida Panthers, the Phoenix Coyotes earned their first division championship in franchise history this season. And they did it on the heels of the hottest goaltender in the NHL right now, Mike Smith. Yet this series is a virtual coin-flip. The Blackhawks come in with one of the worst power play and penalty kill efficiency rates this season, and for the last 22 games, their best player, Jonathan Toews, was sidelined with a concussion. If “Captain Serious” returns in this series, and their goaltending becomes consistent, the Hawks can pull off the upset. Personally, without bias, I believe they will. 

Prediction: CHI in 6

4) Nashville Predators vs. 5) Detroit Red Wings

The Predators and the Red Wings meet in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the third time. In the previous two meetings, the Wings defeated the Preds in 6 games.  This time, Nashville has home ice, and the Red Wings don’t seem that imposing as they once were. Both teams have good goaltending, but the Preds are a better team than they were back in 2004 or 2008. But like the Flyers-Penguins series and the Coyotes-Blackhawks series, it’s a virtual coin-flip

Prediction: NSH in 7

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Chicago Blackhawks Ice Crew Photos from the 2011-2012 Season

In the 2011-2012 NHL season, the Chicago Blackhawks were looking to rebound after a sub-par season. However, the fans in Chicago didn’t know that this team was in a division of death. Simply put, they were in the toughest division in the NHL. With teams like the Detroit Red Wings, the Nashville Predators, and the St. Louis Blues in the same division as you, it’s like being in a horse race AND a shark tank at the same time. When the competition is as tight as this, you needed support; not just from the team itself, but the 21,000+ fans that pack the U.C. for 41 games, too. The Ice Crew expanded to its biggest lineup yet this season: 16 women, 7 of them were first-year rookies. Throughout this season, they witnessed memorable moments. They experienced the fourth-best home record in the NHL (27-8-6). They experienced a franchise record 190th straight sold-out game at the United Center (and counting).  They even experienced Viktor Stalberg’s first career NHL hat trick. With a 100+ point season for the third time in four years. and a 4th straight playoff appearance in tow, it went all for naught as the Phoenix Coyotes ousted the Hawks in 6 games. Alas, such a great season ended in a disappointing fashion. And now, here’s some photos from the 2011-2012 regular season.

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Coach’s Corner Rewind: April 7, 2012

And now, for the last time in the 2011-2012 NHL regular season, here’s Coach’s Corner with Ron MacLean and Don Cherry

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March to the Playoffs: A Frenetic Finish in the Pacific Division

With 6 days remaining in the NHL Regular Season, the race to the Stanley Sup Playoffs in the Pacific Division is as tight as putting on a pair of skinny jeans. 4 teams are separated by 2 points and each has 3 games left in their schedule. Here’s the breakdown:

Dallas Stars

  • 4/3 vs. San Jose
  • 4/5 @ Nashville
  • 4/7 vs. St. Louis

Los Angeles Kings

  • 4/2 vs. Edmonton
  • 4/5 vs. San Jose
  • 4/7 @ San Jose

Phoenix Coyotes

  • 4/3 vs. Columbus
  • 4/6 @ St. Louis
  • 4/7 @ Minnesota

San Jose Sharks

  • 4/3 @ Dallas
  • 4/5 @ Los Angeles
  • 4/7 vs. Los Angeles

After a 3-0 shutout in San Jose Saturday night, the 6th and final meeting between the Sharks and the Stars is important to both teams. However, the Sharks are have garnered a point in the 5 previous meetings against the Stars this season (4-0-1). If the Stars don’t manage to get points against San Jose, their season is likely over, because it’s gonna be extremely tough to get points against both the Predators and the Blues. For the Coyotes, they might get in as long as Mike Smith stays red-hot in net. However, the Blue Jackets bested the Coyotes in the 3 previous meetings during this season; one of the few positive notes for the worst team in the NHL. If the Coyotes finish in 7th or 8th in the Western Conference, the game Friday night in St. Louis will be a primer for a potential 7-game playoff series against the Blues. Most likely, the Pacific Division title will be decided between the Los Angeles Kings and the San Jose Sharks. These two teams finish the season with a home-and-home series against each other, and as well as these two teams have been doing, the final two games will make the difference on who faces either the Chicago Blackhawks or the Vancouver Canucks/St. Louis Blues in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

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Coach’s Corner Rewind: March 31, 2012

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