Here is Part 2 of the Playoff Preview, if you missed Part 1 read it here:
So here’s Part 2 of your Playoff Preview!
No. 3 Vancouver Canucks vs. No. 6 Los Angeles Kings
Team Breakdown: Vancouver Canucks
The Vancouver Canucks go into the playoffs as once again, Canada’s only hope of having a Canadian squad win the Stanley Cup. I really like what Vancouver bring to the table this year especially. They have the dangerous pairing of the Sedin twins, which has only gotten more powerful with Henrik Sedin stepping up his game in a big way. They have a good defense too and one of the best goaltenders in the world. Eh, Oh, Canada, Go!
Team Breakdown: Los Angeles Kings
The Kings aren’t too shabby themselves this year. With a good offense and defense, plus a legit goaltender between the pipes for them, they could prove to be a great underdog this year. With guys like Anze Kopitar, who broke out of his shell, the Kings are to be feared. Still, they got to get past a tough test first.
Goaltending: Vancouver vs. Los Angeles
Oh won’t this be something intriguing. Two great goalies from this season face off in an epic 7 game series with a chance to move closer to Lord Stanley’s Cup as the prize.
On one side of things you have an Olympic Gold winning goalie, Roberto Luongo. Luongo took over for Team Canada after Martin Brodeur stepped down and he never looked back. Luongo got the ball and he ran with it. He guided Canada to the gold and to the right of saying, “Ha, Canadains smoked the US once more.”
Speaking of the US, you have an American goaltender, Jonathan Quick on the other side of things. Quick has had a great season with the Los Angeles Kings this year, despite being overworked by the club. Reminds me of another one of my favourite goalies. I think he plays for the Calgary Flames, maybe. Quick has stepped up and proven he can be a franchise goaltender for the squad, he’ll have a chance to continue to back that statement up in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Advantage: Vancouver Canucks
Roberto Luongo is the goalie with the playoff experience here, plus this year all around he has been stronger than Quick. Vancouver gets the nod in this one.
Defense: Vancouver vs. Los Angeles
Not exactly two role models for defending here, but it could be worse.
The Los Angeles Kings definitely have one very promising defender on their team! Drew Doughty who is still getting use to this league has already shown that he can be dominant and step up for the Los Angeles Kings. He is only getting better and will continue to get better until he has reached his full potential. Other key players on the defensive lines will be guys like Matt Greene, Jack Johnson, Sean O’ Donnell, etc.
The Vancouver defense will be led by one, Willie Mitchell. Mitchell will have to guide the Vancouver defense through the series and show them exactly how the Canucks do things defensively. The Los Angeles offense isn’t too weak, so Vancouver better hope they can step up to the plate and not strike out.
Advantage: Los Angeles Kings
I like more of what their defense has to offer. I just think they’ll give a better performance in the series, with Drew Doughty continuing to evolve in his play.
Offense: Vancouver vs. Los Angeles
The Canucks have an offense that has to be feared this playoff season. With the Sedin brothers on their side, the opposing teams have to be afraid that these guys are going to get behind them and put the pucks in the net. This will be the case in this series, if the Los Angeles Kings cannot shut them down properly. Guys like Alexandre Burrows, Mikael Samuelsson, Mason Raymond, etc. will also have an impact on the series.
When it comes to Los Angeles you have the obvious. Anze Kopitar, Ryan Smyth, Dustin Brown, Alexander Frolov, etc. will be the big scorers for the Kings. They will move the puck up and put it in the back of the net. Both offenses are dangerous, but one will get the nod eventually.
I like both teams offenses in this one, although some of you may disagree with me not giving the nod to the Canucks because they have this season’s top point scorer. I think both offenses will play with a fire in their eyes with one breaking eventually.
Final Prediction: Los Angeles Kings win series 4-3
Initially I was more on the side of Vancouver when it came to this one, but I’m really liking Los Angeles as an underdog this year. With Quick in net, Doughty on defense and Kopitar on offense, that’s a great triple threat. They have some great guys on the team which I think will eventually help them beat Canada’s best bet for a Canadian hockey team to come home with the cup. And yes I do realize this is the third matchup I have called to end in 7 games.
No. 3 Buffalo Sabres vs. No. 6 Boston Bruins
Team Breakdown: Buffalo Sabres
The Buffalo Sabres head into the playoffs, hopeful for a Stanley Cup. They finished third in the Eastern Conference this season, with them being the Northeast Division leaders. In the first round they’ll get another team from the Northwest in Boston. The Sabres, led by goaltender, Ryan Miller are ready to make their run for the cup and it all starts now.
Team Breakdown: Boston Bruins
At the end of the regular season, the Bruins were fighting to get a playoff spot. Eventually they would lock up the 6th playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. With a good goaltender in Tuuka Rask and some great players like captain, Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron, Michael Ryder, etc. the Bruins want to be that underdog no one sees coming this season.
Goaltending: Buffalo vs. Boston
The Buffalo Sabres are more than ready for any other team’s offense. They’ve got arguably the best goaltender this year playing between the pipes for them. Ryan Miller has been phenomenal all year, posting some great stats, guiding the Americans to a second place finish (something no one expected them to have) and so much more. It’s play like this that is the reason why everyone is calling on him to win the Vezina Trophy this season.
On the other end of things you have, Tuuka Rask. A young, talented, goaltender who is ready to make an impact for Boston. He finished this season with the best GAA in the entire league for goaltenders. Not only did he have the best GAA, but the he also had the best Save Percentage in the entire hockey league as well. This guy is ready to break out and it might just be time.
Advantage: Buffalo Sabres
I like both goalies in this one. I think Miller will have a small edge over Tuuka Rask. I also like that if Rask were to die under the playoff pressure, then Tim Thomas could easily step in and take over for the Boston Bruins. Still in the end Miller gets the nod in this one.
Defense: Boston vs. Buffalo
The Boston defense looks good going into this playoff series with the Buffalo Sabres. Led by their captain, Zdeno Chara, the defense should be a big reason for Boston’s success. Chara will be the most feared when it comes to the Boston defense. He can throw around the body, take the big slap shot (which would find a way into the back of the net) and so much more. Dennis Wideman, Dennis Seidenberg, Andrew Ference, Mark Stuart, etc. will also play big roles for the team.
The Buffalo defense isn’t terrible either. They’ve got some good guys on the team like Craig Rivet, Toni Lydman, Henrik Tallinder, Steve Montador and others. Captain, Craig Rivet will have to carry the Buffalo defense into this series. He’s obviously a great leader on the team and is dedicated to the franchise. Well now he should be dedicated to helping his team beat the Boston Bruins.
Advantage: Boston Bruins
The Bruins have the better defense out of the two clubs and the defense will have to be very effective at stopping the puck this playoff season.
Offense: Boston vs. Buffalo
To be honest with you guys, neither of these teams are exactly the best offensive team out there. They do have their key players though.
When it comes to offense and the Boston Bruins, the absence of one, Mark Savard will be a problem for them. Savard is their top offensive player and missing him in the playoffs won’t do them any good. Patrice Bergeron will have to play a big role for the Boston Bruins in this one. He’s going to have to step up as a leader on offense. He’ll need some help from guys like Michael Ryder, Miroslav Satan, Marco Sturm, Blake Wheeler, etc. Hey, they always got Lucic to scare the other guys to death.
When you think of Buffalo’s key players you think of one man, Thomas Vanek. Vanek is without a doubt, Buffalo’s most lethal offensive weapon. The guy can score with the best of them and will be feared by Boston. Jason Pominville will be another big player in these Stanley Cup Playoffs. He needs to step up his play and release all that hidden potential. Other key players should be Derek Roy, Tim Connolly, Raffi Torres, Drew Stafford, etc.
Two decent offenses that need are equally matched in my mind.
Final Prediction: Buffalo Sabres win series 4-2
Although I have it called pretty close, I think the performance of Ryan Miller will be the difference in this one. Remember when the US beat Canada 5-3 in the Vancouver 2010 Olympics? That was thanks to the excellent performance of Ryan Miller. So if anything he will be the deciding factor in this one.
No. 4 Phoenix Coyotes vs. No. 5 Detroit Red Wings
Team Breakdown: Phoenix Coyotes
The Phoenix Coyotes were a team no one expected a 4th place finish from. Hell, many of them didn’t even consider them a playoff team. Well they have certainly surprised us this season and want to continue on doing so come playoff time. The Coyotes are ready to make their run for Lord Stanley’s Cup.
Team Breakdown: Detroit Red Wings
They are the hottest team since the Olympic break. The Detroit Red Wings, who were at one point all the way at 9th, go into the playoffs as the 5th placed team in the west. They are favoured by many to make a run for Lord Stanley once more. I can’t say I disagree with them, the Red Wings look great. Good balanced team with a young, talented goaltender in Jimmy Howard, the Red Wings could very well find themselves fighting for the cup again.
Goaltending: Detroit vs. Phoenix
A great goaltending battle in this one. On one side of things you have a young goaltender who took over the starting position once the opportunity came and never looked back. Jimmy Howard has been looking to fully establish himself in the National Hockey League for a while now and this season was it. He stepped out of the shadows and into the spotlight. He’s been terrific ever since and now he’s ready for the new task at hand, the playoffs.
On the other end of things, you have a goalie that has been there for Phoenix all season long in Ilya Bryzgalov. He had a terrific season with the Coyotes and is going to try and carry over that momentum into the Stanley Cup Playoffs. He had always shown potential to be a great starter since his years in Anaheim. Now he’s got that position locked up and he’s rolling with it.
Two great goaltenders in this one. Look for Howard to further secure his starting job for the Red Wings and for some great saves.
Defense: Detroit vs. Phoenix
When it comes to defensive squads, Detroit’s is very solid. The centerpiece of their defensive team is the captain, Nicklas Lidstrom. Lidstrom has been one of the league’s best defenders for years. He’s a great leader and will have to do his part to keep Detroit in the series. Besides for Lidstrom they have some other terrific players at the blue line like Andreas Lilja, Niklas Kronwall, Brett Lebda, Brain Rafalski, Brad Stuart. Sounds pretty solid to me, how about you?
Phoenix has their stars too. Ed Jovanovski is going to be the leader of this defensive crop. The man will have to lead the way with the defensive players and get them to play some great defense to shut down a strong Detroit Red Wings’ offense. Other players to look out for are Adrian Aucoin, Zbynek Michalek, Derek Morris, Mathieu Schneider, James Vandermeer.
Advantage: Detroit Red Wings
The Red Wings obviously have a stronger defense than the Phoenix Coyotes and it should help them out in this series.
Offense: Detroit vs. Phoenix
Detroit has an offense that will tear you apart, so unless you shut it down, you’re doomed. I mean just look at some of the players on the Red Wings roster: Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk, Todd Bertuzzi, Dan Cleary, Kris Draper, Valtteri Filppula, Johan Franzen, Tomas Holmstrom to name a few of Detroit’s great players. Detroit’s offense will be very dangerous so unless you’re in the mood for a high scoring game, learn some good defensive skills.
The Coyotes have some guys that can step up to the challenge too. Guys like Martin Hanzal, Robert Lang, Matthew Lombardi, Lee Stempniak and Wojtek Wolski have to contribute for Phoenix to get some success. This offense will obviously be led by captain, Shane Doan. He’s got to be in there fighting for the puck, setting up the plays and scoring those goals.
Advantage: Detroit Red Wings
The obvious edge goes to the Wings.
Final Prediction: Detroit Red Wings win series 4-2
I think Detroit will take the series, but Phoenix will fight for it. Which is exactly why I call for a Game 6 finish to this series with the Wings winning it.
No. 4 Pittsburgh Penguins vs. No. 5 Ottawa Senators
Team Breakdown: Pittsburgh Penguins
The defending Stanley Cup Champions go into the playoffs, once again favoured by many to win the Stanley Cup. Led by young captain, Sidney Crosby th Penguins are ready to fight to the finish to capture their second straight Stanley Cup.
Team Breakdown: Ottawa Senators
A very balanced team in Ottawa goes into the playoffs with the Stanley Cup on their minds. They came close a few seasons ago and this season they’re ready to go at it again. They’ve got a great squad with some good scorers, defenders and a decent starting netminder that could take them far in the playoffs. First they have to focus on the big task at hand, Pittsburgh. The two have met in the playoffs before in recent years with Ottawa and Pittsburgh splitting things 1 series a piece.
Goaltending: Pittsburgh vs. Ottawa
Marc-Andre Fleury will go into this series hoping to carry Pittsburgh past the Senators and into the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Fleury is very capable of beating the Senators and guiding the Penguins through this thing. He is a terrific, young netminder with Stanley Cup winning experience that can take his team far.
On the other end of things you have rookie goaltender, Brian Elliot. Elliot too is quite young and is sometimes inconsistent with his play. He can go in one night and post a great performance then come back the next game and play a terrible game. Still, the Senators have no choice, but to start him. Lots of pressure will be on this young man, the way he handles it will define him.
Advantage: Pittsburgh Penguins
Fleury is obviously the better goalie in this one, no question about it.
Defense: Pittsburgh vs. Ottawa
The Pittsburgh Penguins have a pretty good defensive crop, in my opinion. Led by assistant captain, Sergei Gonchar, the Penguins defense will both score on the offensive and stop you on the defensive. Another guy I really like is Kristopher Letang. I believe he has so much potential in him and if he could let it all out this playoff season then the Penguins could very well repeat the Stanley Cup win.
Ottawa’s defense shouldn’t be taken lightly either. They’ve got some great players on that squad like Anton Volchenkov, Chris Phillips, Chris Campoli, etc. who can put up a good fight with the Pittsburgh defense and potentially shut down the Pittsburgh offense.
Advantage: Pittsburgh Penguins
With guys like Gonchar, Letang, Orpik, Leopold, etc. the nod goes to the Penguins.
Offense: Pittsburgh vs. Ottawa
Well I think it’s obvious that the Pittsburgh offense is really strong. Led by the duo of Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby the Pittsburgh Penguins offense will go into this one an devour their opposition if not handled right. Other key players are Pascal Dupuis, Ruslan Fedotenko, Bill Guerin, Chris Kunitz, Jordan Staal, Maxime Talbot and Alexei Ponikarovsky.
The Ottawa offense have their players too. Jason Spezza, Daniel Alfredsson, Mike Fisher, Nick Foligno, etc. will all be big players in the series if Ottawa wants to have any chances of beating the Pittsburgh Penguins. So let’s hope Ottawa brings their “A” game against the Penguins or they’ll be down and out fast.
Advantage: Pittsburgh Penguins
Again, Pittsburgh has the nod. So all three decisions go to Pittsburgh, ouch. I think I know who gets the win in this one.
Final Prediction: Pittsburgh Penguins win the series 4-1
One game will go to the Senators, but besides for that the Penguins will destroy the Senators in this one.
Recap of the 1st Round Predictions
San Jose Sharks def. Colorado Avalanche 4-2
Washington Capitals def. Montreal Canadiens 4-0
Chicago Blackhawks def. Nashville Predators 4-3
New Jersey Devils def. Philadelphia Flyers 4-3
Los Angeles Kings def. Vancouver Canucks 4-3
Buffalo Sabres def. Boston Bruins 4-2
Detroit Red Wings def. Phoenix Coyotes 4-2
Pittsburgh Penguins def. Ottawa Senators 4-1
Predicted Second Round Clashes
(1) Washington vs. (4) Pittsburgh
(2) New Jersey vs. (3) Buffalo
(1) San Jose vs. (6) Los Angeles
(2) Chicago vs. (5) Detroit
This article was originally posted on The Sports Dossier under the name "Playoff Time: A 1st Round Preview of the Stanley Cup Playoffs (Part 2)."Check out more great pieces from our talented staff of writers.
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