Stanley Cup Playoff Bracket: Western Conference Predictions

April 30th, 2010 No Comments

Vancouver Canucks (3)—103 points vs. Chicago Blackhawks (2)—112 points.

Where to Watch the Series:

(All times EDT)

Saturday, May 1 at Chicago, 8:00 p.m. CBC, VERSUS
Monday, May 3 at Chicago, 9:00 p.m. CBC, VERSUS
Wednesday, May 5 at Vancouver, 9:30 p.m. CBC, VERSUS
Friday, May 7 at Vancouver, 9:30 p.m. CBC, VERSUS
*Sunday, May 9 at Chicago, 8:00 p.m. CBC, VERSUS
*Tuesday, May 11 at Vancouver, 9:30 p.m. CBC, VERSUS
*Thursday, May 13 at Chicago, 8:00 p.m. CBC, VERSUS
* If necessary

Season Series: Tied 2-2

Oct. 21 – VAN 3 @ CHI 2
Nov. 22 – CHI 1 @ VAN 0
Jan. 23 – CHI 1 @ VAN 5
Mar. 05 – VAN 3 @ CHI 6

Regular Season Rankings:

Chicago Blackhawks:

Record: 52-22-8 (112 points)
Goals for per game: 3.20 (third overall)
Goals against per game: 2.48 (sixth overall)
Power play: 17.7 percent (16th overall)
Penalty Kill: 85.3 percent (fourth overall)

Playoff Rankings:

Record: 4-2
Goals For per game: 2.83 (10th overall)
Goals against per game: 2.50 (third overall)
Power Play: 17.4 percent (11th overall)
Penalty Kill: 96.3 percent (third overall)

Top Playoff Performers:

Player                               Goals        Assists        Points

Jonathan Toews               2               6                      8
Marian Hossa                    1              6                       7
Patrick Sharp                    3              4                        7
Patrick Kane                     4               3                       7
Brent Seabrook                0              4                        4

Last year’s playoff matchup between these two teams saw the Blackhawks prevail in their seven-game series by a 4-2 margin. The Hawks all but embarrassed the Canucks on the scoreboard by a finals score of 7-5 in Game Six to clinch the series.

Along with the series victory many suspected the Hawks crushed Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo’s confidence and spirit in the process—Luongo will be very motivated to erase these memories.

This year’s series sets up the revenge factor for the Canucks who would love to redeem themselves after last season’s less than stellar performance. These are two of the premier offensive teams in the entire NHL with both teams capable of end-to-end action for long spurts.

Needless to say this should be one of the most anticipated matchups of the 2010 playoffs and one of the most exciting ones at that.

The Hawks will have home ice advantage in the series—which may prove to be the deciding factor. Both of these teams are built to win today, both teams are capable of making a long run in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Keys To Victory For Chicago:

* Must continue to get solid goaltending from the streaky Antti Niemi who emerged from the Hawks series versus the offensively challenged Nashville Predators with a decent 2.15 goals against average and a .921 save percentage.
* Marian Hossa will need to be more effective, especially in the goal scoring department. This series has the potential to be high-scoring, the Hawks will need to be firing on all cylinders to be successful.
* Must get to Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo early. Luongo is starting to gain some confidence, you don’t want him getting into “the zone.”
* The Hawks will need to contain Mikael Samuelsson who had seven goals in the first round series versus the Los Angeles Kings.
* Nobody thinks for a second that the Hawks will keep the Sedin Twins off the scoreboard, limiting their chances (especially on the power play) will be paramount to their success.
* Dustin Byfuglien, Troy Brouwer and Kris Versteeg must have a better series. All three of these players were kept off the scoreboard in round one and they were victimized defensively, the Hawks can’t afford for them to have a repeat performance. Look for Byfuglien to get the call to clog up Luongo’s crease area, a job he did all too well in last season’s playoff series against the Canucks.

Vancouver Canucks:

Regular Season Rankings:

Record:  49-28-5 (103 points)
Goals for per game: 3.27 (second overall)
Goals against per game: 2.66 (12th overall)
Power play: 20.9 percent (sixth overall)
Penalty Kill: 81.9 percent (17th overall)

Playoff Rankings:

Record: 4-2
Goals For per game: 4.17 (first overall)
Goals against per game: 3.00 (tenth overall)
Power Play: 25.0 percent (sixth overall)
Penalty Kill: 61.5% (16th overall)

Top Playoff Performers:

Player                              Goals        Assists        Points

Mikael Samuelsson             7                 4            11
Daniel Sedin                        4                 6            10
Henrik Sedin                       1                  7            8
Ryan Kesler                         1                  5            6
Pavol Demitra                     2                  3            5

As I have already stated, the Vancouver Canucks are out for revenge in the form of a Blackhawks ousting.

Roberto Luongo emerged victorious from his round one duel with the Los Angeles Kings, but he has hardly silenced his critics in the process. Luongo’s lofty 2.92 goals against average and sub-par .893 save percentage are a little alarming to say the least.

Should Louongo continue his spotty goaltending the Canucks will fall to the mighty Hawks offense with ease.

Fortunately for Luongo, the Canucks’ offense is red-hot, scoring an average of 4.17 goals per game in the playoffs (tops in the League).

Keys To Victory For Vancouver:

* Luongo has to be consistently good between the pipes. He doesn’t have to be excellent, just keep the Canucks in the games.
* Alexandre Burrows must find a way to produce more offense without the help of the Sedin Twins. His one goal showing (an empty netter) was ugly to say the least, simply put, he needs to be better.
* The Canucks must do a better job on the penalty kill. Their 16th-ranked PK is pathetic, the Hawks will eat you up on the power play if given the chance, thus the Canucks must stay out of the box.
* The Sedin Twins must continue their dominance and Samuelsson must continue to be a money player against the Hawks. It would also be nice if Kyle Wellwood stepped up his game, but don’t count on it.
* Stay away from the taunting and retaliatory penalties. Everyone remembers when Canucks forward Ryan Kesler called Blackhawks forward Andrew Ladd a “coward.” Ladd later beat the heck out of Kesler, leaving his face looking a bit like hamburger. Both of these teams have their fair share of trash talkers, which means there is the potential for fireworks here. In the end, this is not exactly the Canucks game—they would be wise to avoid the Physical elements.

Prediction:

Both teams are capable of winning this series. In the end, I like the fact the Hawks have home ice advantage and the Hawks are proving to be the better special teams team.

Overall the Hawks match up nicely against the Canucks and, for whatever reason, just seem destined for the Cup Final.

Chicago Blackhawks in six games.

San Jose Sharks (1)—113 points vs. Detroit Red Wings (5)—102 points.

Where To Watch The Series:

Thursday, April 29 at San Jose, 9:00 p.m. TSN, VERSUS
Sunday, May 2 at San Jose, 8:00 p.m. TSN, VERSUS
Tuesday, May 4 at Detroit, 7:30 p.m. TSN, VERSUS
Thursday, May 6 at Detroit, 7:30 p.m. TSN, VERSUS
*Saturday, May 8 at San Jose, 10:30 p.m. TSN, VERSUS
*Monday, May 10 at Detroit, 7:30 p.m. TSN, VERSUS
*Wednesday, May 12 at San Jose, TBD TSN, VERSUS
* If Necessary

Season series:

San Jose: 1-2-1
Detroit: 3-0-1

Nov. 05 – SJS 1 @ 2 DET(SO)
Jan. 09 – DET 4 @ 1 SJS
Feb. 02 – DET 4 @ 2 SJS
Feb. 11 – SJS 3 @ 2 DET(SO)

San Jose Sharks:

Regular Season Rankings:

Goals for per game: 3.13 (fourth overall)
Goals against per game: 2.55 (eighth overall)
Power play: 21.0 percent (fourth overall)
Penalty Kill: 85 percent (fifth overall)

Playoff Rankings:

Record: 4-2
Goals For per game: 3.17 (fifth overall)
Goals against per game: 1.83 (second overall)
Power Play: 19.2 percent (ninth overall)
Penalty Kill: 86.7 percent (fifth overall)

Top Playoff Performers:

Player Goals Assists Points

Ryan Clowe                     1             7                 8
Joe Pavelski                    5             3                 8
Dan Boyle                       2              4                6
Devin Setoguchi             3              3                6
Douglas Murray              1             4                5

Of note: Joe Thornton—no goals, three assists, -4 rating. Dany Heatley—no goals, four assists, -1 rating. Patrick Marleau— one goal, two assists, -2 rating.

With the round one scare over and done with the San Jose Sharks can breathe again, but not for long. Staring them in the face is arch-nemesis Detroit Red Wings, a team that looks poised to make yet another long run in the playoffs.

The trio of Dany Heatley, Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton has, for the most part, been kept in check and off the scoreboard in this year’s playoffs. Once again Thornton is under immense pressure to perform in the playoffs and, thus far, has just been average (again).

Keys To Victory For San Jose:

* Evgeni Nabokov must continue his brilliance. The Red Wings will bring a much more veteran-laden, proven roster to the fold in this series, Nabby will have to be excellent if the Sharks are to have any chance of beating Detroit.
* Joe Thornton needs to be a pivotal player in this series. Not only does he need to continue to rack up assists, he must score and he must play a more physical game, avoiding just playing on the perimeter (which he often does).
* Joe Pavelski had a great first round. His goal scoring abilities will be needed, especially if the likes of Marleau and Heatley continue to struggle.
* The Sharks must get off to a fast start. A game one win would go a long way in giving the Sharks some measure of confidence against the Red Wings. If the Sharks find themselves down by two games at any point in the series one has to suspect they are done like dinner.

Detroit Red Wings:

Regular Season Rankings:

Goals for per game: 2.72 (14th overall)
Goals against per game: 2.52 (seventh overall)
Power play: 19.2 percent (ninth overall)
Penalty Kill: 83.9 percent (10th overall)

Playoff Rankings:

Record: 4-3
Goals For per game: 3.71 (third overall)
Goals against per game: 2.57 (fifth overall)
Power Play: 23.5 percent (seventh overall)
Penalty Kill: 81.8 percent (seventh overall)

Top Playoff Performers:

Player Goals Assists Points

Henrik Zetterberg               6                  5                    11
Pavol Datsyuk                     5                  3                     8
Valtteri Filppula                  3                  4                     7
Johan Franzen                    1                  6                     7
Nik Lidstrom                        3                   3                      6

Detroit has arguably been the best team in the NHL since the Olympic break. Coming into the series there were many questions to be answered about this team: were they too old? Would rookie goaltender Jimmy Howard be able to take the pressure? And, have the Red Wings played too much hockey over the past three seasons (back-to-back final appearances)?

Dany Heatley looks to be injured, if this continues to be the case the Red Wings will key in on him, making his life miserable.

Detroit’s overall roster is amongst the NHL’s best and let’s face it, this team knows how to win when the chips are down.

Keys To Victory For Detroit:

* Get in Nabokov’s crease, every goalie hates traffic, Nabokov has a temper and may draw a few penalties. Say hello to Mr. Holmstrom Nabby!
* Use their superior compete level and experience to frustrate and wear-down the Sharks fragile players and psyche.
* Jimmy Howard must continue to be good between the pipes. No matter how bad the Sharks have been in past playoffs you cannot dismiss their offense. As good as Howard has been, he is going to have to be better to get past the Sharks.
* Get to the Sharks early. Winning game one on the road would be a huge loss for the Sharks, if the Red Wings can do this they will be successful.

Prediction:

Detroit has been a fixture in the playoffs for eons. Its experience, depth and coaching is superior to that of the Sharks, which should give it a huge edge in this series.

Jimmy Howard, slowly, but surely, is starting to look like the real deal—poised, focused and getting it done when it counts.

San Jose has been a perpetual let-down in the playoffs. Thornton has still not emerged as a big playoff performer and with Heatley more than likely still on the mend, its one-two combination will be severely hampered.

Detroit Red Wings in six games.

For more NHL news and notes check out my website at www.theslapshot.com

***Also, check out Louis Pisano (fellow BR writer) and I, Mark “The Hard Hitter” Ritter) THIS SATURDAY NIGHT, MAY 31ST at 6:00 PM through 7:00 PM EST as we throw down our hockey podcast “GET THE PUCK OUT” at www.morencysports.com

We’ll be throwing out our pick’s for next weeks games, talking about the playoffs and venting all the rage we have built up!!! Bring your comments, questions and insight. Give us a call (toll free) at 1-866-964-5710—let’s talk some puck!

Until next time,

Peace!

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