Although it is about a week late in my opinion these are how the NHL playoffs 2010 will play out with an analysis of why each team will win and in how many games for the first round. Also includes my picks for how the rest of the playoffs will play out and who will eventually hoist the Stanley Cup this season.
This is my first ever article so enjoy it and take it for what it's worth. I am a sad, but hopeful Toronto Maple Leaf fans so my alliances lie with no current NHL playoff teams.
Feel free to leave comments on who you think will win or how many games or if you think I am crazy to predict something like that I would love to hear your opinions!
WASHINGTON in 5 games.
It seems the capitals have found the secret to beating Halak and exposed a weakness that many butterfly goaltenders have, shooting high.
Alexander Ovechkin will begin to impose his will in this series and I think it is clear that the ghosts of 2009 playoff pasts were still haunting Jose Theodore and his entire team. With the switch to Simeon Varlamov between the pipes the defense will feel a bit more confident and lets face it to beat Ovechkin and the Capitals you will need at least 5 goals.
For Montreal as a Leafs fan I hate to say it but boy oh boy does Hal Gill look pretty good for how bad he was in Toronto he has really proven with a little stability he can be a formidable shut down D-man. If they can solidify their goaltending situation as it seems as though competition isn't working in Montreal with Patrick Roy Jr. - Carey Price waiting in the wings they should be back next season fighting for a playoff spot.
PHILADELPHIA in 7 games.
I will admit this is an advantage to releasing the article late. I have changed my mind from thinking that New Jersey and Martin Brodeur would never be beaten by the Flyers. Ever since the Leafs (and yes I keep going back to the Leafs because they just happen to be the team I watch the most) beat the Devils and gave them a couple of very hard games about 2 weeks before the Olympics Brodeur has not been the same goalie he looks tired and warn down. Even after his couple Marty-like saves in the last Flyers game he looked nearly exhausted after without the same spunk we saw from him in years past.
The evolution of Mike Richards is simply amazing. To quote Pierre McGuire this guy is a monster. He is one of the best leaders in the NHL and literally can do it all, especially in clutch situations, he was made for playoff hockey. Also what D-man would you want heading into the playoffs for a long road through the Eastern Conference, Chris Pronger, again to steal my favourite G.M.s word, he has truckulence and a lot of it. Not only this but he has an offensive mind as well as a viscious defensive one.
Regardless of any goaltending problems the Philadelphia Flyers will win this one on Mike Richards back with a little help from a tired Martin Brodeur.
ps. Kovalchuk not helping his high salary demands, it seems like he is just trying to do too much instead of working with his teammates. Anyone hear the KHL knocking?
BUFFALO wins in 7 games.
In Buffalo experience wins against this one and as a Canadian watching Ryan Miller in the Olympics he will be the only reason that the Sabres win this series. In game 7 he will come up clutch and Rask inexperience will show. Buffalo seems to be around every year and with Ryan Miller they have enough to get them to the second round of the playoffs.
Chara simply put has been amazing but the injury to Marc Savard hurt this team and without that go to offensive threat they won't be able to get by Ryan Miller. Even if Savard comes back for the last couple of games he will not be the same player and may never be after that hit. I can only imagine it is so hard to come back from getting rocked like that and that it will be in the back of his mind every time he takes a shot for the next couple of years. But with the second pick in the upcoming draft and two in the first round, an upcoming trade involving Tim Thomas all but certain they should be able to restock their offense and start producing in the coming years.
PITTSBURGH in 5 games.
Sidney Crosby can not be stopped. Oh ya and just in case he can there is Malkin who shows up every couple games with a little support. There is nothing more one can say about Sidney Crosby determination and drive to be the greatest ever, at everything, every single year is unmatched. The only thing getting in Crosby's way is poor goaltending. The Flower has been shaky (an understatement) in the first few games. I know people can say he has a Stanley Cup ring and all that and I know he is a solid goaltender. But he is the reason that Ottawa is sticking around in this series letting in weak goals on weak chances.
Ottawa has a rookie goalie and missing two of there most crucial offensive threats, Kovalev and Michalek. Still they are hanging around keeping the games relatively close.
When Sidney Crosby wants to take over a game though he does and as bad as Fleury has played Ottawa doesn't have the fire power to keep up with Crosby and Malkin.
SAN JOSE in 6 games.
The Colorado Avalanche are a great story. With veterans like Adam Foote, Darcy Tucker, Craig Anderson basically going their to retire or just play out their careers the young exciting Matt Duchene breathed life into this franchise. They went from assuming they would be a bottom feeder in rebuilding mode to a legitimate playoff contender.
Having said that they are being badly outplayed by the Sharks and they can't rely on Anderson making 50 saves every other night for them and Dan Boyle putting the puck in his own net. You have to wonder what players like Joey T and Patrick Marleau were thinking after that, just how Dan Boyle is further ruining their playoff images. I just can't see the Avs getting bounces like that through the whole series.
If the Sharks don't make the conference finals this year I don't see Marleau sticking around and Joe Thornton's time might be coming to a close with the Sharks.
CHICAGO in 5 games.
Toews, very similar to Crosby is very driven and a phenomenal leader, but they both suffer from unsure goaltending. With a shutout in game 2 I believe Niemi will have the confidence to take this series and the Blackhawks are so solid defensively and just as solid offensively I believe they are poised for a long playoff run. This is the season where they may have the best chance. With salary cap issues and so many players playing well demanding raises next year the Hawks have the best chance of winning the cup that they might ever have. Of course the same was said of Pittsburgh after they lost to Detroit in the Finals and we all know how that story finished the next season.
For the Predators they are in a shaky market where the owner continues to lose money. They have continued to be a solid team though playing a unique style of trapping and keeping the games close but this won't help them get past the powerful Blackhawks.
VANCOUVER in 7 games.
Simply put Roberto Luongo and the Sedins will be touch for a really good LA Kings team to handle. The Sedin twins are superstars and their chemistry together and creative playmaking abilities are second to none. Plus the Olympic gold medal winning goalie, Luuuuuu in the net the Canucks are primed to be the only Canadian team to advance to the second round.
Jonathon Quick on the other hand is just to young and overall the Kings are just a little to young and inexperienced but this season is a step in the right direction no doubt, with the emergence of the 20 year old Doughty they will be major threats next season and left with a bitter taste in their mouth after the early round exit.
ps. Frolov welcome to the Leafs next year ? He is a top six guy Burke could go after just depends on how much he demands and if he has the right work ethic to be a Burkie guy.
DETROIT in 7 games.
Jimmy Howard is a solid goaltender. I just don't believe that he is ready to take his game to the next level that the demanding Stanly Cup playoffs entail. Chris Osgood although shaky at times throughout the season has taken the Wings to the Finals two years in a row. I predict after a Game 4 loss and going down 3-1 in the series Osgood will be put in and the Red Wings will storm back to win it in game 7. The Wings have all been there before two runs to the Finals will give you that experience as well as the ever composed Lidstrom on the back end. They won't panic and will upset the Coyotes, if you can call that an upset.
The Coyotes are a solid team. They are young with grit and drive and an all-star goalie in Bryzgalov. Hopefully their ownership can get sorted out so the players won't have to worry about the possibility of having to move their families and such and just focus on hockey. I predict they will be again battling for a playoff spot next season.
EAST: WASHINGTON vs. PHILADELPHIA
Washington in 5 games.
EAST: BUFFALO vs. PITTSBURGH (rematch of Olympic heroes)
Pittsburgh in 6 games.
WEST: SAN JOSE vs. DETROIT
Detroit in 6 games.
WEST: CHICAGO vs. VANCOUVER (rematch of last year's second round)
In an AMAZING series Chicago in 7 games.
EAST: WASHINGTON vs. PITTSBURGH (Ovi's revenge)
In an AMAZING series, Varlamov plays better than Fleury and makes the difference.
Washington in 7 games.
WEST: CHICAGO vs. DETROIT (Toew's revenge)
Chicago's high powered offense and strong defense is too much for Detroit to handle and also marks the third straight cup final for Marian Hossa.
Chicago in 6 games.
STANLEY CUP FINAL
WASHINGTON vs. CHICAGO
In a battle of two of the most popular teams and the most young teams in the league Ovechkin comes up short and the Blackhawks end the longest current drought in the NHL between Stanley Cups.
Chicago in 7.
This is my first post. I plan to do one for every round and maybe a little more in depth analysis.
Thanks for reading and look for future IMO articles for hockey, football and maybe even a little baseball.
And that is not me in the picture but I am looking forward to Dion becoming the next great Leaf captain.