NHL 2011 Playoffs: Third Round Matchup Projections
The third round is underway, after an interesting second round.
In the Eastern Conference, we saw two sweeps, one by the Boston Bruins on the Philadelphia Flyers, and another by the Tampa Bay Lightning on the Washington Capitals.
Both sweeps were unlikely, as you thought both series would've been much closer.
However, in the Western Conference, things were a little more tight.
The Vancouver Canucks beat the Nashville Predators in six games, and the Sharks were able to hold off the Red Wings three game winning streak with a Game 7 victory.
So, in the Eastern Conference, the matchup is the Boston Bruins against the Tampa Bay Lightning, winner will head to the Stanley Cup Finals.
Both teams were impressive in the scoring, and netminding categories, as both completed sweeps as mentioned earlier.
The Lightnings top goal scorer has surprisingly been Sean Bergenheim, with seven goals heading into the series, who has been very good these playoffs. He'll look to keep it up.
The Bruins best player has been Brad Marchand with five goals and six assists.
Normally, I'd give the goaltending edge to Boston with Tim Thomas in net, however, the Tampa Bay's Dwayne Roloson has been extremely sharp in net, and has been the best netminder of the postseason so far. Goaltending is even.
If the Lightning want to win, they'll need their solid scorers Stamkos, St. Louis and Lecavalier to keep up their fine scoring, as well as Bergenheim to stay hot.
The Bruins will need support from Marchand, Horton, Bergeron, and Ryder.
The series may come down to goaltending, and both netminders, Thomas and Roloson are sure to be very good.
Prediction: Lightning win series 4-3
The Lightning have a better offense than the Bruins, and if Roloson keeps up his outstanding play, the Bruins could get shut down, but it won't be easy with Tim Thomas in net for the Bruins. However, I believe the likes of Tampa's Big 3 will prevail.
In the Western Conference, we will see the Vancouver Canucks take on the San Jose Sharks. The Canucks were able to handle Nashville in six games.
As for the Sharks, after bounding out to a three-game lead early on, the Red Wings were able to battle back and tie up the series and force a Game 7. The Sharks were able to prevail on a game winning goal by Patrick Marleau.
For the Sharks offense, Devin Setoguchi will try to stay hot who scored five goals in the series with Detroit. Joe Thornton should keep up his stellar play, along with Pavelski and Ryane Clowe.
Before Patrick Marleau scored the winner in Game 7, he was held off the score sheet in the series with Detroit otherwise. Look for Marleau to ride a hot streak into the Canucks series, which could help the Sharks greatly.
As for the Canucks offense, Daniel Sedin and Ryan Kesler have led, Kesler notching fifteen points thus far, Daniel with 10.
Henrik Sedin has been a bit cold, with only one goal and seven assists. Keep an eye on the three of them. Alexandre Burrows has played hero a bit for Vancouver as well.
Goaltending is even in this round as well. Very even. Both the Canucks netminder, Roberto Luongo, and Sharks masked man, Antti Niemi had less than stellar first rounds. But they both made up for it with really strong play in the second round.
You have to ask yourself, which Roberto Luongo will show up? Will he be amazing, or will he be cold?
You would tend to think Niemi, defending cup winning goaltender, with the Blackhawks, will play strong this round.
Last year, he shut down the Sharks in the Western Conference finals. Niemi has been getting better and better as the playoffs progressed, both this year and last.
Prediction: Sharks win series 4-3
Very close matchup, but San Jose can pull it off in seven games or maybe less if a bunch of their players can remain consistent.
Niemi should be solid, and look for Marleau to heat up, and Logan Couture and Devin Setoguchi to stay hot. The Sharks scorers should be able to contain the Sedin twins and Kesler.
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