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2010 NHL Playoffs – The Leastern Conference

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Washington Capitals (1)

vs.

Montreal Canadiens (8)

For whatever reason, I don’t like many teams that wear red.  For example, there’s just about nothing I want to watch less than a New Jersey/Carolina series, as attested by my coverage of said series in last year’s playoffs (blatant refusal).  To make those games worse, I feel like there’s just something grinding about watching the actual colour red play red.  Anyone feel me on that? (Mmm, aesthetically soothing Canucks colours…)

First round bye, weee!

For some reason, this red vs. red battle doesn’t bother me quite so much.  Like most hockey fans, I love to watch Washington.  And Montreal, though a puny little excuse for a Washington challenger, is kinda fun to watch this year too (fun like those tiny toy cars “Hot Wheels” were as a kid).

The only way Washington’s round one series had any hope of being interesting this year was if Philly had the eight seed.  It would’ve been awesome watching Carter and Richards going buck-crazy, being playoff performers out there, scoring goals….. and still losing by football scores, like 21-14.  Thatta been great.

Not much to say here, except the obvious: Washington just has way too much firepower to lose.  If the Canadiens give them so much as a scare, I fear for Washington when they play a better team.  I rate Montreal’s chances, as a percentage, at beat-it-dont-even-try.4%

PREDICTION: CAPITALS in THREE

*****

New Jersey Devils (2)

vs.

Philadelphia Flyers (7)

I think this was a tough card for New Jersey to pull, simply because I can’t believe how badly the Flyers have underachieved this year.  I mean, 88 points, in the East?  How is that possible, with their roster?  Before the season, I noticed that their back end had good transition/powerplay guys such as Pronger, Timmonen and Carle, and I remember thinking “crap, they’re gonna score a ton of goals this year.”

Combine that with with some of the games best forwards: Jeff Carter, Mike Richards, Simon Gagne, Danny Briere and crew (Claude Giroux is no slouch. Hell, Van Riemsdyk is sick too.), and Philly has a wonderful hockey team.

So what the hell is going on there?

Dollar says he scored.

Riiiighht, goaltending, right.  I’ve seen this play before.

On the other side of the coin, I was completely surprised by New Jersey’s record this year.  Any time you have Brodeur in net, your team can’t be bad – but past him, I didn’t see a reason for them to have much success.  I knew Parise and Zajac were great, but then what? (That, and I kinda figured Elias and Langenbrunner were past their best-before dates…. guess not).  I kept waiting for this team to trip, but it never happened.

With the addition of Ilya Kovalchuk, the Devils finally have that dynamic offensive punch you always felt that they lacked in the past.  It gives them two really solid lines (though they admit they can’t find a spot for Kovy that clicks), and combined with Brodeur, it’s become pretty clear that their season wasn’t a fluke.

{I have to point this out for the millionth time – can you BELIEVE that Kovalchuk is 230 pounds?  I’d have been off by 60 if you had made me guess two months ago.}

But looking at their D -  Andy Greene, Mike Mottau, Bryce Salvador, Colin White, Paul Martin, Mark Fraser, Martin Skoula and Anssi Salmela.  I dunno… it doesn’t feel very Cup contender-y.  They have, however, done a great job at keeping pucks out of their net this year (y’know, first-in-the-league-good, at 191 over 82 games – 2.32 per), but something about them makes me nervous.  ….And it probably has something to with NJ’s (okay, Marty’s) meltdown in the final minute of game seven against Carolina last year.

If you put the leagues most average goalie in the Flyers net - say, Dwayne Roloson – I think I’d pick them to win this series.  I like their roster that much more.  But Parise, Zajac and Kovalchuk shooting on Boucher makes it a dicey situation.

In the end, New Jersey has done too good of a job defensively to lose their first playoff series, where defense and goaltending are emphasized.  I think they’ll see round two, but barely.

PREDICTION: DEVILS in SEVEN

*****

Buffalo Sabres (3)

vs.

Boston Bruins (6)

If I were the Buffalo Sabres, I would be pissed at how the final playoff seeds ended up falling.  They (like New Jersey) were so close to getting to play an obviously worse team like the Rangers or Thrashers.  But noooo, Boston and Philly had to get their shit together at the last second, and squeak in.

Shot! Save. Shot! Save. Shot! F**K!

This sucks, you see, because Boston and Philly aren’t as horrible as they desperately tried to convince us all they were this year.

One of the few guys pushing Ryan Miller for the Vezina this year is Boston’s Tuuka Rask.  Combine that solid goaltending with Buffalo’s Phoenix-like offense (three lines of second line forwards = good team/not great), and we may see some low scoring games – especially when you consider that Buffalo has the league’s best goaltender, and Boston can’t score (206 goals all year, good for second-to-dead-last).

But, every time you think a series is going to be a defensive suck-fest, it ends up amazing.  Using that logic, this could be a thrilling, high-scoring series.  The only people I care to see play are the goalies.  I’m not saying Derek Roy and David Krejci aren’t exceptional hockey players, I’m saying that nobody is circling dates on their calendar to see them when they come to town.

I see Boston being the better team in this series, bringing the play to Buffalo, shooting, skating, hitting, exhausting themselves, and Ryan Miller chucking up the frustrating stone wall.  Then I see the Sabres working hard and smart, capitalizing on a few nice plays, (maybe a powerplay or two?), and winning games by scores like 3-2 and 2-1.  They probably win a couple of the - oh, let’s say three – games that go to overtime.

I really wanted to pick an upset here – and the Sabres and Devils are definitely both on my “upset watch” list.  But Ryan Miller is the best goalie in the world today, and that counts for something in playoffs.  I’m siding with him.

PREDICTION: SABRES IN SEVEN

*****

Pittsburgh Penguins (4)

vs.

Ottawa Senators (5)

Congratulations, Ottawa.  You finished ahead of the slovenly pack of droolers in the East.  You stayed out of the “who’s gonna make playoffs” fracas.  And in the process, you convinced me that you’re actually a good team.  I was wrong about you.

Strike a pose

The bad news is, you’re basically about as lucky as the Coyotes in the West.

Had Pittsburgh caught New Jersey, as they should have, you’d be playing Jersey instead.  And I like your odds there.

What I don’t like, for you, is going up against the defending Stanley Cup champs, who are healthy, and about to flip it into “game on” mode.  You’re toast.

The Penguins probably slow-played their hand a little bit too much this year.  Didn’t do enough to grab the really high seed that guarantees they get to coast through round one.  Over the long haul of playoffs, having to play a good Senators team to start things off is really going to grind on them physically.

But as far as this series goes, Pittsburgh is still Pittsburgh.  Between last years Cup champion team and this year, they cut off a couple guys that were acting as anchors, and picked up depth assets in guys like Jordan Leopold and Alexi Ponikarovsky.  You take a team that’s won the cup and make them better?  They don’t lose round one.

PREDICTION: PENGUINS in FIVE

*****

So that’s all she wrote for round one, folks!  I’ll keep a running total of how my predictions went as we go (though I won’t follow how many games it took to get it done – that’s really just there to demonstrate how confident I am in the winner I picked). 

GAME ONE OF M***********G PLAYOFFS STARTS TONIGHT!

THROW.    THE.    SNAKE.

Comments

18 Responses to “2010 NHL Playoffs – The Leastern Conference”
  1. Char says:

    “But Ryan Miller is the best goalie in the world today not named Tuukka Rask.”

    Fixed.

    http://www.nhl.com/ice/app?component=completeSavePercentageLeaderList&page=statshome&service=direct

  2. Nebraska Hockey Nut says:

    “PREDICTION: CAPITALS in THREE”

    Sooo…this is a best of 7 series right? You have the Caps winning in 3? Is Montreal going to completely forfeit game 4? Not show up in their own arena? I dont get it. How do they win in 3? Ovechkin’s not THAT good.

    (okay he might be, but I really dont want to admit that. GO PENS!)

  3. djimass says:

    Caps in 3? I’m a die-hard Habs fan, but you’re a bit generous. I had the Habs forfeiting the series in a written statement early tomorrow morning… :-)

    Seriously, we have a fighting chance if Cammaleri (I hope) and Gomez (unlikely) start scoring again; and if we get a few power plays. Halak is not a bad goalie… He could steal a game or two. But it’s a longshot…

  4. jtbourne says:

    Char: Really, we judge players strictly by stats? Someone go tell Crosby and Ovechkin that Henrik is the new best player in the world!

    djimass – you’re right, actually, Halak is more than decent. But c’mon…. now all you need is those guys that haven’t played well to do the opposite, and wwwamo!

  5. Hooks Orpik says:

    Hey Bourney, I haven’t seen this much chalk since grade school. :)

  6. jtbourne says:

    Nebraska Hockey Nut – see, that’s why I’m so hilarious.

    Hooks – I should put a warning disclaimer at the top. Too much coffee this a.m.

  7. Hooks Orpik says:

    Wait a sec, just checked my own picks and they’re 8 for 8 identical to yours.

    This will end well, huh?

  8. jtbourne says:

    Fuck.

    The worst part is picking 8 for 8 when we didn’t really take any upsets. Like, my fiancee could’ve done the same thing. It’s like how I fill out a March Madness bracket, actually. Well, I mean, if that number says they’re the better team, they’ll probably win…. right?

  9. ms.conduct says:

    Ugh. Senators. Does anybody actually give a crap about them? Even in Canada? Apart from them setting my team’s gear on fire and keeping tabs on my boy Chris Holt down in their minor system, I don’t think I saw them or thought about them even one time this season. Whenever I have to think through all the NHL teams for some reason, they’re the team I can’t remember. Them and… uh… whosit… I dunno. Can’t remember.

  10. jtbourne says:

    As far as I can tell, there actually are a number of readers on this site that like the Sens. They usually get well defended. But I’m with ya… something forgettable about them this year, even though I usually like them. Yet the Maple Leafs lose a million games, and manage to be ten times more interesting with worse players.

  11. mikeB says:

    I don’t expect us to beat Pittsburgh, but 6 or 7 isn’t out of the question. You know Poni was a Leaf right? and scored as many goals in Pittsburgh as he had games suspended? I wouldn’t count him as a bonus.

    Other then that… its pretty damn right. BOS doesn’t stand a chance w/o Savard in the lineup, MTL is in trouble unless there is some magic and Tomas Pleckanc turns into Guy Lafleur and Jean Beliveau all rolled into one, and Kovy is 230? Thats bigger then Getzlaf.

  12. mikeB says:

    ^ I think it is one reader…

  13. JC says:

    mikeB take heart – there are more of us out there… All in. All red. Praise Alfie.

    ms.conduct we Sens fans feel the exact same way about the Minnesota Nor-, oops I mean Wild. ;)

  14. jtbourne says:

    The great part about your comment, JC, is that I feel the same way. I pay equally as much attention to the Wild as I do the Sens.

  15. ms.conduct says:

    Yeah, that’s why I felt okay writing that. Wild are the American version of Ottawa. Huge hockey market locally but nobody outside the area even remembers they have a team or gives a damn when they do remember. Mediocrity year after year. Blah blah blah. Oh well. Love the one you’re with, right?

  16. Erasmus says:

    @Nebraska Hockey Nut – It’s a joke! You know, funny. Hrmmm, must be a closet Montreal fan, they have no humor :)

    It’s OK JT, I got it. I thought that and your comeback to JC farther down were hilarious! It’s why I cme to read your blog. I’ve laughed so hard on three seperate occasions over the last week at things you’ve said that had I been one to drink Pepsi (I much prefer Coke and wouldn’t give Pepsi to a friend dying of thirst in the desert) I’d have been blowing out my nose. Thanks!

  17. crushasaurus says:

    8 for sodding 8 Justin. I’m gonna get to work on my playoff cliche bingo card, do you want one?

  18. Char says:

    //Char: Really, we judge players strictly by stats? Someone go tell Crosby and Ovechkin that Henrik is the new best player in the world!//

    No, not at all. But I don’t think I can get you on a plane and fly you to New England, can I?

    But for the record, I’ve been watching Rask play since he joined the Bruins organization, and believe me, he’s the real deal. He’s developed from an extreme but very raw talent into a world-class goalie. He’s not going to be our little secret here for much longer.

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