Posts Tagged ‘Stanley Cup playoffs’
The first question: Will the San Jose Sharks ever reach the Stanley Cup Final? After the thrashing they gave Vancouver in the first round, I figured maybe this would be the year. Then they lost in seven games to the Kings and their star goalie, Jonathan Quick. San Jose was stacked offensively with Joe Thornton, Logan Couture and Patrick Marleau, and finally had a truly sharp goalie in Antti Niemi, but for reasons I’ve yet to figure out they can’t seem to get past that final barrier. I’ve asked fans of all sports which is worse, having a team that never makes it far in the playoffs, or one that is consistently right there but comes agonizingly short every time? The consensus was that they both are terrible, but the latter is a lot more painful. It must suck to be a Sharks fan right now.
In the first round, we predicted six of the eight series correctly. The two we were most unsure about were the two incorrect picks – no surprise at all that New York or Los Angeles won.
Now that the second round is here, the picture becomes a little more clear. Only one of the four series will go the full seven games. Which will it be, and who will move on?
The playoffs have been interesting so far. Some teams have surprised me. Others haven’t at all.
The biggest surprise was the play of the New York Islanders. I thought Pittsburgh would wipe the floor with the Isles and that they should feel lucky if they pick up one game in the series. New York ended up staying with the Penguins in almost every game, and lost two heartbreakers at home in overtime. I never thought I’d say this, but the Islanders look as if they are finally turning things around. (Just in time for their move to Brooklyn!)
Another surprise was the performance of the Minnesota Wild. I’m not surprised that they lost to Chicago, but because they got bounced in only five games. Losing their top goaltender didn’t help, but Minnesota’s offense was stagnant the whole series. The Wild also looked terrible in Game 4 as they got shut out at home and handed the Blackhawks all the momentum in the series. Nevertheless, Minnesota looks stable and if they can add another scorer and fix their inconsistency in the net, they should be a force next season.
Speaking of net consistency, here’s Vancouver. The Canucks’ first-round sweep didn’t surprise me at all. They looked flat-out awful against the Sharks. Roberto Luongo started the first two games in net and didn’t look that bad, but then he was pulled for Cory Schneider, who wasn’t an improvement. Vancouver needs to fix its goaltending problem next season, or else they can kiss their fading Stanley Cup hopes goodbye.
Anyway, we’ve said goodbye to eight teams and are now off to the Conference Semifinals. Here are my predictions for the second round.
That’s a reach … or is it?
Frankly, I didn’t know what to make of Vancouver Canucks defenseman Kevin Bieksa’s comments criticizing San Jose Sharks forwards Joe Thornton and Logan Couture of “embellishing” contact in order to draw penalties in Game 3 of their Western Conference quarterfinal series. Here’s exactly what he told the media after the Canucks lost the game 5-2:
Where I live, beards are fashionable. A record store, restaurant, grocery store and boutique knickknack shop that sells bearded garden gnomes were among the local businesses that recently donated a trove of prizes for a moustache/beard contest at my library. Among the contest winners was an international beard-growing champion1. The reality TV series “Whisker Wars” paid attention. By the way, there’s a reality TV series called “Whisker Wars.”
Don’t be fooled by the playoff seedings after a 48-game regular season. There are no shoo-ins here.
Think the short season wasn’t long enough to shake things up? The Maple Leafs are playoff upstarts and the Red Wings are fading. Jarome Iginla is in Pittsburgh and Jaromir Jagr is in Boston. The defending champions brought nearly their entire Stanley Cup-winning roster back into the regular season, yet aren’t favored to get out of the first round.
And yet, amidst the craziness, the best hockey teams on the planet are seeded first in each conference, on a collision course to a memorable Stanley Cup Finals.
Somewhere in the Warner Home Video hard drives are unused clips from 43 seasons of NHL hockey in Los Angeles. The chosen footage comprises the first eight minutes of Warner’s “Stanley Cup Champions 2012: Los Angeles Kings.”
Eight minutes to sum up the first 43 years of the Los Angeles Kings’ existence and it doesn’t seem like they missed much.
When NHL commissioner Gary Bettman handed a heavy favorite to the heavy favorites of these playoffs — the Stanley Cup changing hands to the Los Angeles Kings — all I could wonder is, what just happened?
It took a mere 20 games to crown the Kings champions. Aren’t the playoffs supposed to take longer? Aren’t number-eight seeds supposed to be done in the first round? Aren’t teams from Los Angeles only supposed to win championships in basketball and baseball and college football? Aren’t the fans supposed to riot in the streets afterward? Isn’t Terry Murray the head coach? Isn’t Jack Johnson on the roster? Aren’t championship hockey teams supposed to employ the dominant superstars of their day — a Crosby, a Gretzky, an Orr, a Richard (Rocket) or Richard (Pocket Rocket)?
The first time I ever tried to predict the Frozen Four, I got every game correct. I said Ferris State would beat Union in a close game and they did. I even got the score correct, 3-1.
I also said Boston College would defeat Minnesota and they did. It ended up being more of a blowout than I thought, although based on the Eagles’ track record in the tournament, it doesn’t surprise me.
Finally, I said that even though Ferris State would play well, the Eagles would be just flat-out better, and they were, beating the Bulldogs 4-1 in the final last Saturday.
Now that I’m done patting myself on the back, I’m going to try to do something a lot more difficult: Predict the first round of the NHL playoffs. This will probably end up being a drastically different conclusion than my college hockey predictions.
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