Looking back on my first round NHL predictions, I got five out of the eight series correct in terms of the teams advancing (the Predators, Coyotes, Blues, Rangers and Devils). Out of those predictions, I only hit one on the head (Blues in 5) while I was barely off on the other four except maybe the Rangers, who I had winning in five but needed seven games. I was completely wrong on the Kings/Canucks, Flyers/Penguins and Capitals/Bruins.
But now looking at the second round match-ups, I can honestly say that I am still pleased with the outcomes. Not necessarily because of the games that will be provided, but because looking at the remaining teams gives me great joy because it upsets the established order that has come to define professional hockey in recent years. There are no Red Wings, no Blackhawks, no Penguins, no Bruins and no Canucks. Instead, viewers will get a nice, heavy dose of what people are not used to seeing, for the most part.
Heartbreak has come to define the Phoenix Coyotes in recent years. They have been plagued by ongoing ownership issues, tepid fan support and playoff disappointments. Just about when they seem ready to turn the page and start a new chapter in their history, they shut down the engine.
Well, its time to pick up the pen again as the Desert Dogs have advanced to the next round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs with a 4-0 win against the Chicago Blackhawks in Game Six of their series, winning the set 4-2. They now face-off with the Nashville Predators, which eliminated the Detroit Red Wings in five games. The Coyotes series win was the first since the team moved from Winnipeg in 1996, the first time in franchise history since 1987.
This is a team devoid of top talent, relying heavily on their goaltending and team defensive structure. There are no Sidney Crosbys or Alex Ovechkins on this club. No Zdeno Charas or Shea Webers (who Phoenix will meet in the next series). No Henrik Lundqvists or Pekka Rinnes (another Predator). Nobody could’ve ever guessed that a team with Mike Smith as its net minder, 39-year-old Ray Whitney as its best offensive weapon and 20-year-old Oliver Ekman-Larsson leading the defensive corps would get to the playoffs, let alone win their division. But they did it, and have overachieved more than any team in the NHL this season.
Its been said that the playoffs are the real season, when the men are separated from the boys and the regular season means nothing. Well, it is that time of the year for the NHL and after a grueling 82-game schedule, 16 teams are in and ready to battle for one of sports’ most recognizable trophies — the Stanley Cup. The following is a breakdown of the Western Conference first-round match-ups, with predictions provided below each series.
(1) Vancouver Canucks vs. (8) Los Angeles Kings
Last year’s Western Conference champs, the Canucks, were a dominant force from top to bottom and appear to be at least 95% of their selves from 2010-11. They are a high-powered offensive club who prides themselves on their name and location, providing an intimidating factor. They blew through the Northwest Division and are the only team from the division to make the playoffs.
The Kings on the other hand blew their chance at the Pacific Division crown but played well enough down the stretch to be considered an upset special. They have a Vezina Trophy caliber goaltender in Jonathan Quick and nice offensive weapons in Anze Kopitar and Mike Richards, but their defense is suspect.
All in all, this should be the most entertaining series to watch with the abundance of offensive talent but the Canucks are rolling into the postseason. They are the more physical team and should wear down LA on both ends.
Canucks in 5