Western Conference Round 2: 2011 NHL Playoffs
Announcement: I was 4-for-4 in my NHL Playoffs Western Conference predictions. The teams that have moved on include the Vancouver Canucks, Nashville Predators, Detroit Red Wings, and San Jose Sharks.
After the whirlwind of excitement that was the NHL Playoffs Western Conference quarterfinals round, which included an unbelievable game 7 between the Vancouver Canucks and the Chicago Blackhawks, we’re set with the semi-finals match-ups beginning tonight with…
THE WESTERN CONFERENCE
The #1 seed Vancouver Canucks against the #5 seed Nashville Predators
The Chicago Blackhawks deserve some kudos for making my Canucks “sweep” prediction look foolish. Perhaps this is one of those examples of how the regular season doesn’t matter and professional sports players rise to a higher level of play in the NHL Playoffs.
In any event, the regular season meetings between the Vancouver Canucks and Nashville Predators resulted in a 2-2 split. Like most teams during the regular season, the Canucks top line dominated the Predators. However, don’t be surprised if that fails to occur during tonight’s game 1. The full 7-game stint with the Chicago Blackhawks was physically intense and emotionally draining. With the Nashville Predators being more rested, ready, and a very good team in their own right, I would not be shocked to see the Predators go up 1-game to none in this series. We’ll soon see if the stellar play of Roberto Luongo in these NHL Playoffs can hold off the Nashville Predators.
The Nashville Predators notched their first NHL Playoffs post-season series victory in franchise history after defeating the Anaheim Ducks in six games. The Nashville Predators didn’t surprise me as I expected them to win, mostly due to the shaky goaltending situation in Anaheim. They don’t have the luxury of a shaky goaltender situation with the Vancouver Canucks. Expect this to be a showdown between the Canucks offensive prowess against the Nashville Predators defensive system. Even if the solid play of Ryan Suter and Shea Weber should backslide, the Canucks still have to beat the young and very talented Pekka Rinne.
Despite my fondness for what the Nashville Predators have done this year, I’m going with the Vancouver Canucks again here in round 2. Expect this one to go at least six games.
The #2 seed San Jose Sharks against the #3 seed Detroit Red Wings
While hockey fans everywhere were bathing in the excitement of long, physical series’ – four of which went 7-games, the Detroit Red Wings quietly dispatched the Phoenix Coyotes with broom-swept efficiency. Conversely, the San Jose Sharks took six games to send the Los Angeles Kings packing. During the regular season, the San Jose Sharks defeated the Detroit Red Wings three times out of four.
What does all that mean? Nothing to the rabid fans in “Hockeytown.” The Red Wings looked like the team that completely dominated the league for a very long time. Granted, the Coyotes may have offered a mere warm-up to round two, but the Wings were simply deadly efficient as they walked over them. With Henrik Zetterberg set to return from his knee sprain for this series against the San Jose Sharks, they’re even more threatening.
Don’t let the Red Wings dominant history lull you into a sense that the outcome of this series of already decided. After all, I made that mistake in my first round prediction of a Canucks sweep over the Blackhawks! Let’s also not forget that the Sharks turn aside the Red Wings NHL Playoffs post-season hopes last year in convincing 5-game fashion.
The San Jose Sharks with the likes of Joe Thornton, Dan Heatley, and Patrick Marleau may not be as well-rested as the Red Wings, having taken six games to put down the Los Angeles Kings – but they aren’t as old, either! The Sharks have offensive depth and should keep Wings goaltender, Jimmy Howard, quite busy. Oh, and don’t look now, but the much maligned Antti Niemi is in round two while the team that unceremoniously discarded him after the 2010 Stanley Cup win are home polishing their golf clubs.
Sorry, Hockeytown – I’m going with the San Jose Sharks in another series that should last at least six games.