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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 >>
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 >>
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.
#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 >>
Now that the Green Bay Packers have won the Super Bowl and brought home the Lombardi Trophy home (the actual shiny one), I can’t help wondering if they can repeat. Yes, folks, it is never too early to speculate about next year.
It’s difficult for a team to go back to the Super Bowl year after year. That’s a good thing because it keeps things interesting for teams and fans alike. But teams have done it, and since the Green Bay Packers are a strong, young team, I can’t help wondering if they can return.
Here are some reasons why they will make it back.
The Packers were saddled with injuries this year, but it turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Extra playing time for second string players helped secure a Super Bowl win after veterans Charles Woodson and Donald Driver got injured, and will help them next year as well. While you never want your key players on the sidelines, at least the Packers still have guys that can take up the slack.
More on the Packers return after the jump >>
For those who don’t believe that being the pretty-boy all-star quarterback can create reality out of that which is fiction, look no further than Tom Brady and the mirage that is his post-season greatness.
Before anyone starts bellyaching about Tom Brady being a terrible quarterback, that’s not the case. He’s an outstanding quarterback. He’s the offensive leader of a team that has won 3 Superbowls in the last 10-years. He was (ridiculously) awarded the Most Valuable Player in two of them when other people were probably far more deserving. Further, the New England Patriots Superbowl wins had less to do with his performances as they did with defense and clutch field goal kicking. Lately, Tom Brady has been a choke artist.
Superbowl XXXVI vs. St. Louis Rams (20-17 win)
Tom Brady was awarded the most valuable player award for his 16-for-27-145 yards, 1 touchdown performance. This is probably the game where the MVP award in the Superbowl was rendered a joke (the first that allowed fan voting to influence the outcome). While Brady certainly took the team into field goal range on the final drive, it was the real MVP of that game, Adam Vinateri, whose clutch kick won the game for the team on the final play of the game. Combine that with an outstanding performance by the Patriots defense, which forced then super-QB, Kurt Warner into two interceptions and numerous fumbles. Tom Brady was barely a game manager in his first Superbowl and walked away with an MVP over a few other deserving players – namely Adam Vinateri and Ty Law.
More history of Tom Brady choking on everything after the jump >>