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Posts Tagged ‘NHL’

Stanley Cup Finals 2011: Boston Bruins vs. Vancouver Canucks

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The eternity that has been the time between the NHL Stanley Cup semi-finals and the NHL Stanley Cup Finals has finally come to an end. Tonight starts the stretch-run to the Stanley Cup as the series opens up between the Boston Bruins and the Vancouver Canucks.

Recapping my prognostication for the 2011 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs, I was 7-for-8 in the first round. The Tampa Bay Lightning upset the perfect record. In round two, I was 3-for-4. The Tampa Bay Lightning upset the perfect record. In the semi-finals, I was obviously 2-for-2 as my pre-playoffs pick for the finals have actually arrived along with a 12-2 post-season picks record, though the Lightning tried their best to undermine me again. Not too shabby.

Boston Bruins vs. Vancouver Canucks

For the finals, everyone is in love with the aging goaltenders who have performed like stalwarts in the prime of their careers. Roberto Luongo has been clutch. Tim Thomas has been steady-as-she-goes this entire season and these two veterans are likely to be the focal point of what I anticipate being a long finals series.

Luongo is following up his 2010 Olympic Gold with a shot at having his name engraved on Lord Stanley’s Cup. Tim Thomas is a former Vezina Trophy winning goaltender with an eye on adding another to his mantle along with his name on The Cup. We’ve watched Roberto Luongo steadily improve throughout the playoffs. We also watched Tim Thomas struggle mightily (at times) against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Of course, several teams struggled against the Lightning. However, only one goalie pitched a shutout in a game 7 against them to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals – and that’s Tim Thomas.

It’s damn near impossible to pick between the two of these guys. If forced to give an edge to one team, I’d give it to the Vancouver Canucks and Roberto Luongo if only because I believe he’s given up fewer “bad goals” than Thomas, particularly in the semi-finals round. There is no shortage of firepower on either side, but I also watched the defense in front of Thomas falter at the most inopportune times, too.

For the Bruins, the embarrassment of the 2010 post-season is long behind them. In their semi-finals series against the Philadelphia Flyers, they embarked on a collapse of epic proportions, coughing up a 3-0 series lead, including a 3-0 goals advantage in game 7 to limp into the post-season. This year, gritty performances and a whole lot of hard work have landed them in the finals.

For the Canucks, well… they’ve come from a virtual no-man’s land to take the President’s Trophy for the best record during the regular season and, for the most part, cruise through the post-season much the way many so-called experts expected.

At even strength, both sides have plenty of star-power, fire-power, power-power, whatever it is you want to call it. Plenty of goal-scoring capability on multiple lines means that our two highly touted goaltenders will see their fair share of rubber blasted their way. Vancouver’s Sedin twins, Daniel and Henrik have certainly heated up after a lackluster start to the playoffs. Rookie, Ryan Kessler is among post-season scoring leaders. Alexandre Burrons and Christian Erhoff round out the top scorers for the Canucks. The Boston Bruins bring the likes of David Krejci and Nathan Horton, both Top 6 in scoring during the 2011 post-season to bear on Roberto Luongo. As if that wasn’t enough, four of the top 12 scoring post-season players include Bruins when you throw in Patrice Bergeron and Mighty Joe Thornton.

On the special teams, the Boston Bruins have made this far while having a pathetic power play scoring only 8.2% of the time. It’s truly a wonder that they’ve made it this far without a power play. They could literally double their power play output and still be very near the basement for the entire post-season. On the penalty kill, both teams are right around the 80% mark. What’s the difference-maker here? Vancouver Canucks sporting a lofty 28.3% power play scoring rate.

With things being so close in goaltending and equally close in offensive and even defensive prowess, I keep falling back to the special teams on this one. With both teams committing about the same number of penalties in the same number of games, I can’t help but take a look at the huge difference between the teams on the power play. It’s hard to imagine that the Boston Bruins are suddenly going to find the mark during the hot glare of the Stanley Cup Finals spotlights.

Therefore, I will anoint the Vancouver Canucks the 2011 Stanley Cup Champions and believe that they will do it in 6-games.

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


See Tony’s predictions after the jump >>

Eastern Conference Round 1: NHL Playoffs 2011

The Eastern Conference 1st-round of the NHL Playoffs offers me the opportunity to provide a quick-and-dirty review, preview, and prediction.  While a painfully long NHL regular season rolls into a painfully long NHL post-season, make no mistake about one thing – I’m a huge fan of all things hockey.  I can make it through a lot of hockey en route to the NHL Playoffs and then I’m hard pressed to miss a whole lot of it.

The Eastern Conference


#1 Seed Washington Capitals hosting the #8 Seed New York Rangers

The New York Rangers have enough fire power to hang with the Washington Capitals.  Don’t let the difference in seeding fool anyone here.  In terms of statistical comparisons, call it a draw.  The Rangers scored more goals during the regular season and the difference between them in goals against was exactly one.  Defense and goaltending rule the playoffs and these two teams have a near identical showing in each category.  Throw the seeds out the window in this contest because they simply confuse the issue.  These two teams are about as evenly matched as they get and a Rangers win would be the furthest thing from an “upset” as I will have witnessed in recent years.

Hot Spots: For the Rangers it has to be the 11-shutout goaltender, Henrik Lundqvist.  For the Capitals, it’s no surprise that it’s Alex Ovechkin that led the Caps to a sizzling close to the regular season as the Flyers fell back to the field.

I don’t see the Capitals choking two seasons in a row and pick them to win this series.

More on the Eastern Conference Round One after the jump >>

Western Conference Round 1: NHL Playoffs 2011

The Western Conference probably had the most exciting close to the regular season in terms of undecided NHL playoff implications. The field is tight. However, the field is led by this year’s runaway powerhouse – the Vancouver Canucks. Here’s the quick-and-dirty look at the Western Conference Round 1 match-ups for the 2011 NHL Playoffs.

Western Conference


#1 Seed Vancouver hosting the #8 Seed Chicago Blackhawks

While the defending Stanley Cup Champions from 2010, this team is a far cry from the Chicago Blackhawks from last year. And, they’re about to insert their collective heads into hockey’s equivalent of a wood chipper in the Vancouver Canucks. Wholesale changes have doomed the Blackhawks to a likely quick and embarrassing exit from this round of the playoffs. Long gone are Stanley Cup impact players including Annti Niemi, Dustin Byfuglien, and Andrew Ladd. You can’t jettison that many players from a Stanley Cup crew and expect to make your way back there the following year.

Vancouver was like a runaway freight train en route to the President’s Trophy for 2011 for the best record in the entire NHL with 56 wins. The Canucks don’t appear to have a single “chink” in their proverbial armor. Best in scoring, best in defense, best powerplay. They would have scored the “quadrifecta” if not for finishing a mere third in penalty-killing. If this isn’t an embarrassing broom-fest, I’ll be shocked.

Vancouver Canucks have already swept this series.

More on the Western Conference Round One after the jump >>