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 Lightning may have only won 13 games this season (fewer than any team in the Western Conference) and be ranked 12th in the Eastern Conference, but they’ve done well in southern California. They beat the Ducks 4-3 Friday night and beat the Kings 3-1 last night. In last night’s game, the Lightning scored two goals in 41 seconds at the end of the 1st period to give them a 2-0 lead. They went ahead 3-0 at 5:48 when Vincent Lecavalier scored his 17th goal of the season. At that point, Murray did what I would have done at the beginning of the 2nd period – he put Jonathan Quick in goal. Though Quick stopped all 15 shots he faced, the damage had been done and the Kings only scored one goal against Lightning goaltender Mike Smith.
Ryan Malone scored goals 98 and 99 of his NHL career on Friday in Anaheim, but didn’t get the hat trick in Anaheim or a goal in LA, so he’s still in search of his 100th goal. Maybe he’ll get that in San Jose on Wednesday.
This was only the second game I’ve seen Stamkos play live. I’ve watched the Lightning quite a bit on TV (to see Stamkos, the ex-Penguins on the roster, and to see if they’re going to perform pretty much as I expected this year – horribly), but I’ve only seen Stamkos play in two games live. Unfortunately, he did not play against Anaheim (he was benched due to the new conditioning program he’s doing). From what I’ve seen, it really doesn’t seem like he was ready for the NHL yet. It seems that he was rushed and pushed to be ready, since he was the number one draft pick. Perhaps they should have done what the Ducks did with Bobby Ryan (selected 2nd behind Sidney Crosby in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft). Ryan had played in a couple NHL games, but was essentially kept in the minor leagues until November 16, 2008. Since then, Ryan has had a couple games where he didn’t look great, but has been amazing overall. Ryan’s got 26 points in 26 games (putting him in 4th place for all NHL rookies in points, though he’s played 10+ games fewer than the top 3 rookies). He’s also scored a hat trick, has a +/- rating of 11, & has 32 hits. Stamkos (who has played in 41 of the Lightning’s 42 games) has only 15 points (tying him for 14th among rookies).
Clearly, the Ducks are a better team than the Lightning, which many will argue helps Ryan. Stamkos doesn’t measure up when compared with comparable team. The Blues have one fewer point than the Lightning (and have played one less game). Patrick Berglund of the Blues is tied for 2nd among rookies with 27 points in 36 of the Blues’ 41 games. Though I haven’t seen Stamkos play enough in person and television coverage can’t show you everyone on the ice most of the time, I still think it’s possible that he was rushed into the NHL and might have done better as a rookie in the 2009-10 season.
Oddly enough, I’ve seen the Lightning play in 3 games live (against the Penguins in December and their two games in southern California this month). They’ve got a perfect record when I’m in the building. Perhaps I should ask them if they’d like to take me to some of the arenas around the league I haven’t seen yet.
Tags: Blues, Bobby Ryan, Ducks, Hockey, Jonathan Quick, Kings, Lightning, Mike Smith, NHL, Patrick Berglund, Penguins, rookies, Ryan Malone, Sidney Crosby, Steven Stamkos, Terry Murray, Vincent Lecavalier