For the conference finals, I did as well as a coin would have done, so not that great. I did get the western conference correct, since the Canucks are going to be in the Stanley Cup Finals and the Sharks will again miss their first trip to the Finals. The Bruins just barely beat the Lightning in 7 games, but they did make it to the Finals this year.
Now, it’s time for my Stanley Cup Final predictions…
Stanley Cup Finals
Canucks vs. Bruins
Canucks in 7 – Before the season started, I predicted that the Vancouver Canucks would win the Stanley Cup. Once it became clear they were winning the Presidents’ Trophy for the best record of the regular season, I questioned this pick and thought they’d be knocked out before they got to the Finals. At this point, I’ve gone back to thinking they’ll pull it off and win their first Stanley Cup this year.
The Sedin twins have hit their stride and Tim Thomas is the best goaltender heading to the Finals. It should be quite the showdown.
The Canucks looked shaky against the Blackhawks in round one and Predators in round two. Both times it looked like the Canucks might be eliminated, but they fought back. Vancouver was a lot stronger against the Sharks and perhaps they were given a gift by the Sharks managing to take the Red Wings out of the competition before the conference finals, but the Canucks have made it to the Stanley Cup Finals for the third time in their history. Perhaps the third time will be the charm. It is the first time the Canucks have been in the Finals against a non-New York City based team (they lost to the Rangers in 1994 and the Islanders in 1982).
The Bruins looked shaky in their first round, great against the Flyers, and just barely beat the Lightning. I think the Bruins are having trouble again when they need to be on top of their game to win the Finals, but the Canucks have pulled things together in time to get past Tim Thomas and win the Stanley Cup for the first time.
Enjoy the Finals!
Tags: Bruins, Canucks, Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin, Hockey, Lightning, NHL, Presidents' Trophy, Sharks, Stanley Cup, Stanley Cup Finals, Tim Thomas
Last round, I definitely thought most of the series’ would go the other way. The only one I predicted correctly was the Lightning/Capitals series, though I thought the Caps would win a couple games. Both of the eastern conference teams swept their last series and both of the western conference teams struggled. This round should be interesting.
Now, it’s time for my conference final predictions…
Bruins vs. Lightning
Lightning in 6 – The Lightning have looked good consistently this playoff season. The Bruins have been hit or miss. The first round, it looked like the Bruins were going to get knocked out. They came back, advanced, and then swept the Flyers, but both of these teams depend heavily on their goal tending and Roloson of Tampa Bay has been the better goalie this post season. Boston’s Tim Thomas was the best in the regular season, without a doubt. However, the regular season doesn’t matter any more and Roloson has looked great in the playoffs. When you add that to their superior playoff offense (St. Louis, Lecavalier, & Downie are all in the top ten, while the Bruins only have one player in the top ten) and I think the Lightning will advance to the Stanley Cup Finals. It won’t be an easy battle, but this round should be more interesting than the last round in the eastern conference. No one at this level should sweep.
Canucks vs. Sharks
Canucks in 6 – I think the Canucks were given the gift of being able to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals when the Sharks won game seven against the Red Wings last night. The Canucks and Sharks both struggled in the first two rounds of the playoffs, but I think in their most recent games the Canucks have looked more prepared. Nabokov was blamed for years when the Sharks lost in the playoffs. They’ve never made it to the Stanley Cup Finals, but I don’t think they’ll make it with Niemi this year, either. Perhaps if that happens, Thornton will finally get a bit of the blame.
A lot of emphasis has been placed on how little the Sedin twins have done in the post season compared to the regular season. I think that could actually be dangerous for the Sharks, though. If the Sedins both get hot, think of how much better the Canucks would look at that point. Before the season, the Canucks were my pick to win the Cup this year. I changed that when they won the Presidents’ Trophy, since a small percentage of teams best in the regular season take the Cup home. I’m not sure if I think the Canucks can win it all yet, but I do think they’ll make it to the Stanley Cup Finals this year.
Enjoy the playoffs!
Tags: Antti Niemi, Bruins, Canucks, Daniel Sedin, Dwayne Roloson, Evgeni Nabokov, Henrik Sedin, Hockey, Joe Thornton, Lightning, Martin St. Louis, NHL, playoffs, Presidents' Trophy, Sharks, Stanley Cup Finals, Steve Downie, Tim Thomas, Vincent Lecavalier
The Tampa Bay Lightning were the first to advance to conference finals tonight. I expected them to beat the Capitals, but I thought it would be a fairly close series and it would take them six games. The teams I wanted to win most in the first round didn’t do well, but at least the team I’ve decided will be my backup’s backup team for the playoffs swept the Capitals and await the outcome of the Bruins/Flyers series. Right now, the Bruins lead that series 3-0. Who would have thought after a few game sevens in round one that round two would be so boring in the eastern conference? One team swept and the Bruins have a chance to do the same Friday night.
The Sharks are leading their series 2-0 against Detroit and are playing the Red Wings in the first game of the series in Detroit now. At least the Predators/Canucks series has been interesting. It’s had two games end in overtime (one in the second OT) and has actually had both teams in the series win at least one game (Vancouver’s leading the series 2-1).
Hopefully, this round will get a bit more interesting soon. Some of the individual games have been pretty interesting, but sweeps are never very entertaining overall.
Tags: Bruins, Canucks, Capitals, Flyers, Hockey, Lightning, NHL, overtime, playoffs, Predators, Red Wings, Sharks, sweep
The First round of the playoffs, I was much better with my eastern conference predictions. Sadly, the only prediction I got wrong was the one for my favorite team, the Penguins, who lost in 7. The Pens were the only home team to lose game 7 and the only eastern conference home team to lose in the first round. The only prediction I had exactly right was the Capitals and the only western conference prediction I had correct was the Canucks. Of course, I thought they’d win in 5 (or perhaps 4) and they just barely won in 7 games.
Now, it’s time for my second round predictions…
Capitals vs. Lightning
Lightning in 6 – Both teams have had great post season goaltending, but I think Roloson is more likely to be able to sustain that performance. Unlike Washington’s offense, the Lightning offense doesn’t center around one player. Alex Ovechkin is only 10th in the playoffs when going by points per game, so if he really hits his stride in this round it might make the difference for the Caps, but I think the Lightning will still win this one.
Flyers vs. Bruins
Flyers in 6 – Both teams looked shaky in round one, but managed to pull through in game seven. Tim Thomas has not been the number one goalie of the playoffs (or even in the top five) and he was the reason I thought Boston would be unbeatable in the first round. Now that they have to face the Flyers, I can’t see them surviving this round.
Canucks vs. Predators
Predators in 6 – The Canucks just barely managed to win game seven in overtime after allowing Chicago to tie the series at three. Luongo looked better in game seven than he had his previous few games, but I still think he’s shaky and the team seems to look to him a bit too much. When Luongo is shaky, the rest of the Canucks follow suit. Daniel Sedin is the Canucks’ only player in the top 10 for playoff scoring and that’s only because they’ve played 7 games. When you sort by points per game, Daniel Sedin is tied for 16th. Mike Fisher of the Predators is tied at 16th with D. Sedin in points per game and the Predators are known more for their defense and Pekka Rinne’s goaltending. Rinne was not the top notch goaltender of the regular season in the first round, but I think he’ll be more solid in round two of the playoffs.
I also think the Predators want it more. They’ve never made it to round two of the playoffs before, so they’ll be very motivated to advance to their first conference finals.
Sharks vs. Red Wings
Red Wings in 5 – The Sharks did not look very strong in round one and the Red Wings have had a week to rest up for round two. Resting can be bad for teams in the playoffs, but generally benefits the older teams and the Red Wings should be well rested and ready to face the Sharks. San Jose’s number one goaltender (Antti Niemi) has been horrible. He’s ranked near the bottom in goals against average and save percentage. Detroit’s Jimmy Howard is just middle of the pack, but that should be enough to hold off San Jose.
The Sharks looked horrible in the first round of the playoffs (I believe if the Kings had worked a bit harder they would have been able to capitalize on San Jose’s shaky performance and eliminate them from the playoffs). In contrast, the Red Wings were dominant. The Coyotes never knew what hit them as Detroit swept them out of the playoffs in four games. The Red Wings had the only sweep in round one and I can’t imagine the Sharks pulling themselves together enough to eliminate Detroit from the playoffs. I hope the series goes longer, and could see it perhaps going to 6 games, but I think Detroit will continue to dominate and the Sharks will go home.
Enjoy the playoffs!
Tags: Alex Ovechkin, Bruins, Canucks, Capitals, Flyers, Hockey, Jimmy Howard, Lightning, NHL, Pekka Rinne, Penguins, Predators, Red Wings, Sharks
This year was the first time the Kings and Ducks made the playoffs in the same year. Unfortunately for fans of both SoCal teams, the Sharks and Predators knocked out the southern California teams in six games each. Before tonight’s game, I felt pretty strongly that if the Kings weren’t going to win a game in front of their fans and play well in a home game they should have had the decency to lose the series against the Sharks in San Jose. I have to say that after tonight’s performance by the Kings I think it’s good that the Kings gave their fans this game to remember. Their previous playoff games at home in 2011 were horrible performances. The Kings looked terrible in games 3 & 4 once the Sharks pulled Niemi when the Kings started with a 4-0 lead in game three. Tonight, the Kings didn’t win, so clearly their fans didn’t leave happy. However, the Kings played really well and fans were able to leave tonight knowing that their favorite team tried to win the game and closed out the post season playing pretty well.
The performance of the home team at Staples Center in the playoffs so far this year didn’t keep the Kings from selling out Staples Center tonight, but the game was only sold out to the normal capacity (18,118) with no standing room sales. The fans in attendance did see the best home playoff performance the Kings had this year, so it was definitely worth the expense.
Should the Kings have scored on their 5 minute power play? No question. However, the Kings scored two power play goals in the game, which definitely wasn’t common for them. Their power play needs work and it was terrible last year, too. If the Kings don’t think about reorganizing their special teams coaching during the off season, I’ll be pretty stunned. Their penalty kill remained great in the playoffs (perfect on the road and strong at home), but the Kings’ power play was horrible in the regular season and post season.
The Kings had chances to take over this series and beat the Sharks, but didn’t seize their opportunities to succeed. A lot of that is surely due to the mostly young team. They got more playoff experience this year and hopefully that and a reorganization of their power play will help them in 2012. Not capitalizing on the five minute power play is just one time the LA team passed on chances to survive this round of the playoffs. Not scoring on that power play definitely cost the Kings the game, but if they’d scored on many other chances or taken shots on many of their other opportunities, it may not have come down to an overtime situation. Drew Doughty explained that “No one in here wanted to lose today, obviously, and we fully believe we could have won it, that’s why we’re so disappointed.” That’s certainly the most frustrating thing for the Kings’ fans, too. They see the potential of the Kings and wish the team could get to the point where they reach it. Even without Kopitar in the lineup, the Kings matched up well against the Sharks. Maybe that’s a sign that they can really build on what they learned this year and make it farther in the 2012 playoffs. Time will tell… For now, the only California team moving to the next round is the northern California team – the San Jose Sharks.
Tags: Anze Kopitar, Drew Doughty, fans, Hockey, Kings, NHL, penalty kill, playoffs, potential, power play, sellout, Sharks, special teams, Staples Center
Tonight’s game at the Honda Center in Anaheim was definitely exciting at times. Ducks fans got to see Bobby Ryan score one of the most amazing goals, but at the end of the first period their team was behind, they were tied after two periods, gave up the lead with just 36 seconds to go in the third period (with Shea Weber’s goal), and lose just only 1:57 into the first (and only) overtime period. Clearly, it would have been worse for the home fans if they’d had to wait until double overtime like the Lightning and Rangers fans (who lost to the Penguins and Capitals respectively). I’m sure that’s little comfort to the announced SRO sellout crowd of 17,385 (definitely the most full I’ve seen Honda Center this year). They were surely feeling good about their team with under a minute to go in the third period and then had to see their team collapse before their eyes.
Instead of being proud of a goal that will surely be played even on sports broadcasts that normally ignore the NHL, Bobby Ryan was upset by the heartbreaking loss. When asked about his amazing goal, Ryan explained “he had no stick, so he was a little vulnerable” and how Ryan himself didn’t have a lot of speed, so he tried to cut back as many times as possible and was a little lucky that he got it up over his pad, but “it’s kind of a moot point now.” Bobby also said you don’t have time to sulk at this time of year, since you have to prepare for the next game.
Good news for Ducks fans is that their team has won every other game so far of the post season, so it seems odds are pretty good that their team will be back at Honda Center for game seven Tuesday night. The down side is that the Ducks have been winning the even games and if they continue to only win even numbered games, they’ll lose the series to the Predators in seven games. In order to move on to the next round, the Ducks must win two games in a row. They need to win in Nashville Sunday (3pm Pacific) and then win again at home Tuesday. Like all hockey fans with teams still in the playoffs, all Ducks fans can do is hope and wait to see what will happen to their team.
Tags: Bobby Ryan, Capitals, Ducks, fans, highlights, Hockey, Honda Center, Lightning, NHL, Penguins, playoffs, Predators, Rangers, sellout, Shea Weber
After starting out okay, going down 3-0, and coming back to end the second period 3-2 after using their timeout to their advantage and seeming to turn things around, the Kings appeared to completely give up in the third period tonight at Staples Center in LA against the Sharks. Kings fans are surely still hoping to see their team again on Monday, but most fans I talked to were saying goodbye to their friends around them and their team for the season. They know the odds of the Kings turning things around are pretty slim at this point. They’re down 3-1 in the series and played horribly in their two games at home. Now, San Jose gets to host Saturday night’s game and the odds of them allowing the Kings to win there are slim.
When breaking down tonight’s game, Coach Terry Murray was able to make most of the game sound better than it looked. Positive spin is clearly his job – especially with the media. He pointed out that they killed off a 5 on 3 and “really liked our competition to make it a 3-2 game.” Murray did go on to say, “And then whatever happened in the third with giveaways, turnovers, lost face offs- that’s sometimes a hard thing to explain.” Hard to explain is probably an understatement for the announced standing room only crowd of 18,234 and the Kings fans at home.
Every home crowd deserves to see their team win in person during the playoffs. Unfortunately, it seems like Kings fans might have to wait until 2012 to see the Kings win a playoff game at Staples Center.
Tags: fans, Hockey, Kings, NHL, playoffs, sellout, Sharks, Staples Center, Terry Murray
Tonight’s game in LA was beyond disappointing for the Kings fans (18,216 sellout crowd with standing room only announced and unlike the Honda Center for the first two Ducks playoff games, Staples Center was packed). The Kings lost game one to the Sharks 3-2 after coming back from the very early Sharks goal. They bounced back from that to shut out the Sharks in San Jose Saturday night winning 4-0. They scored 2:26 & 2:39 into the first period tonight, ended the first period up 3-0, and even scored 44 seconds into the second period. The Kings scored eight unanswered goals after losing in overtime in game one. Then… they collapsed, hit the wall, stopped playing hard enough, … whatever you want to call it, the Kings had an embarrassing loss at home and many fans are (rightfully) upset with their team.
After the fourth goal in tonight’s game, the Sharks pulled goaltender Antti Niemi and apparently he took the Kings’ mojo and will with him. The Kings scored only one goal against Antero Nittymaki, who got his first win of the series, and allowed 5 goals in regulation to end the second period tied at 5 goals each. The Kings seemed to stop the bleeding when they answered the Sharks’ third goal with their fifth, but they allowed two more goals before that period ended and were quite simply outplayed. The Sharks looked like they had extended power plays. Though coach Terry Murray was happy with the way the Kings pulled themselves together for the third period, the only really good thing that can be said of the period is that the Kings allowed no goals against.
Unlike the regular season, where the Kings could do their best to survive five minutes of four on four overtime to win in the shootout (where goaltender Jonathan Quick was undefeated, 10-0), the playoffs don’t have a skills competition. Playoff hockey is 5 on 5 in 20 minute periods that become sudden death starting with the first overtime. TV timeouts are eliminated and intermissions get a bit shorter, but the game remains a real hockey game until a goal is scored. Devin Setoguchi scored the game winning overtime goal just 3:09 into the first overtime. On the bright side, since their team lost, at least the Kings fans were spared an agonizing 3 overtime game that ends with the same disappointment, but includes decreased sleep and a lot more disappointment.
Coach Terry Murray said you had to give the Sharks credit for their power play goal in the second period, “but outside of that, we did this to ourselves… we get caught out for extended shifts… you’re exhausted, you’re getting rattled…” It’s good that Murray acknowledged that the Kings brought the loss on themselves, since perhaps that means he’ll be able to address that problem with the Kings tomorrow, so they can come back from this demoralizing loss at home to win game four Thursday at Staples Center and re-tie the series.
There are a ton of stats (mostly not favorable) about teams (and the Kings specifically) who lose game three of a seven game NHL playoff series and go down two games to one. I’ve always thought those stats (even if they include the same teams from the year before, since there are always some changes from year to year) are as useless as knowing what numbers have hit recently in roulette or the recent coin flip stats. How the team performed when Wayne Gretzky was in the lineup is irrelevant. This team is a completely different team and only they can decide how they’ll play Thursday.
Regardless of what happens in the series, it was nice to see a southern California team properly celebrating the playoffs. The Kings do more for the first round of the playoffs than the Ducks did during the Stanley Cup Finals the year they won the Cup. The Kings had a DJ, live pep band, temporary tattoos, a beer garden, and other booths set up outside. They had The Briggs (who sing their theme song “This is LA”) perform inside before the game to get the fans into the game and after the second goal of the night, I can’t remember hearing Staples Center so loud before. I’m sure the “Frenzy on Figueroa” comeback win against the Red Wings in 2001 was louder and I was there, but it’s hard to remember the arena being that loud before. Kings fans are hoping their faithfulness and support will be rewarded Thursday and they’re sure to fill Staples Center with another SRO sellout crowd. Perhaps this time, the home crowd will be happier when they leave.
Tags: Antero Nittymaki, Antti Niemi, fans, Frenzy on Figueroa, Holiday, Honda Center, Jonathan Quick, Kings, NHL, playoffs, sellout, Sharks, standing room, Stanley Cup, Staples Center, Terry Murray, Wayne Gretzky
The Anaheim Ducks didn’t really have much playoff intensity when the 2011 playoffs opened for them on Wednesday. Their fans were certainly wondering what happened to their league leading scorers and even what happened to the Nashville Predators – known more for their defense than offense. Friday night, the Ducks showed their fans that they DO remember how to show up for the playoffs and started with two power play goals (one 5 on 3, one 5 on 4) at 5:24 and 6:02 of the first period. They were the only goals scored that period, but at least Ducks fans had seen their team score a goal against the Predators in the post season without a two man advantage. I’m sure they were hoping their team would work up to an even strength goal at some point. The Ducks’ first even strength goal of the 2011 playoffs came almost halfway through their second game when Bobby Ryan scored his first goal of this year’s playoffs. His second of the playoffs was the empty net goal securing the win for the Ducks.
Ducks fans breathed a sigh of relief as their team proved they were capable of scoring even strength goals against Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne. For some reason, the Ducks like to keep things interesting for their fans and let the Predators get a bit too close for comfort a couple times in the game, but they pulled out the win and managed to keep most of their fans in the arena until the end of the game. The announced sellout crowd, definitely much closer to the 17,174 capacity than Wednesday’s announced sellout, got to celebrate their team’s first playoff win of the year and know they will see their team at least once more at Honda Center this year (for game 5 on Friday, April 22).
In order to move past the Predators and on to the next round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Ducks have to win at least one game in Nashville. They’ll play in Nashville tomorrow at 3pm and Wednesday at 5:30pm, Pacific. Ducks fans are hoping the team they saw Friday is the team that will travel to Nashville.
Tags: Bobby Ryan, Ducks, even strength, Hockey, Honda Center, NHL, Pekka Rinne, playoffs, power play, Predators, sellout
In the first day of the 2011 NHL playoffs, the Ducks were the only home team to lose. The Capitals had to get near the end of the first overtime period to win their game, but the Ducks lost 4-1 to the typically defensive Predators. Nashville was expected to be a good team defensively – especially with Pekka Rinne, one of the best goalies in the NHL, in goal. I don’t think many expected them to score four goals against the Ducks, though. Ellis hasn’t been the best goalie this season. In fact, he’s near the bottom in save percentage, but even if he’d played really well tonight it would have been rough for the Ducks. You can’t win without scoring and the only time the Ducks scored against Rinne was in a 5 on 3 power play. Teemu Selanne scored the Ducks’ only goal.
The only real good thin the Ducks can take out of this is (as Getzlaf pointed out) scoring the one goal means “we know we can get it past him.” The Ducks clearly realize that they don’t just need more traffic in front of the net to score on Rinne. Getzlaf explained that it’s, “not only traffic in front, we’ve gotta get good quality shots to the net… it’s not good enough just to throw them there, we’ve got to put them there with some enthusiasm and get there after the rebounds.
Though a sellout crowd of 17,174 was announced for Honda Center tonight, there were a lot of empty seats and I find it hard to believe the top corner seats were sold – especially since there were even tickets available on Goldstar. One of these days, I’d like to figure out what percentage of the tickets have to be sold before they can donate the rest of the tickets or give them to employees or whatever they do to ensure that they can announce a sellout at a sporting event.
Clearly, the Ducks are ready to move on from the first game and come back ready to take on Rinne and the Predators again on Friday. Hopefully, Honda Center will be more packed on a Friday night, in spite of it being more of a true hockey fan’s matchup.
The Predators were naturally happy about winning the first game away from home and essentially removing the Ducks’ home ice advantage from the equation, but they realize it’s a long series. They’ve just won one of the four games they’d need to win to advance to the next round and the series is far from over.
Tags: attendance, Ducks, fans, Hockey, home ice, Honda Center, NHL, Pekka Rinne, playoffs, power play, Predators, Ryan Getzlaf, sellout, Stanley Cup, Teemu Selanne