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Posts Tagged ‘Stanley Cup’

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.

Conference Finals: 2011 Stanley Cup NHL Playoffs

NHL Playoffs Conference Finals, the east offers hockey fans a showdown between the Boston Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning. The west offers a battle between the Vancouver Canucks and the San Jose Sharks. After going 7-for-8 with my round one predictions, I managed a fair 3-for-4 to close out round two.  My NHL Playoffs 2nd-round predictions faltered only on the game between the Washington Capitals and Tampa Bay Lightning.

The NHL Playoffs Eastern Conference round two games were a completely clean sweep, with the Boston Bruins brushing the hapless Philadelphia Flyers out the door in four games. The Tampa Bay Lightning similarly swept the Washington Capitifuls into a dust pan and unceremoniously dumped them into the off-season without a Stanley Cup bid. These games were hardly competitive, but I suppose that both of them resulting in sweeps were a merciful ending to a round that didn’t live up to the excitement of previous one in the 2011 NHL Playoffs.

The NHL Western Conference, on the other hand, lived up to my expectations. It took to Vancouver Canucks six games to dispatch the Nashville Predators. While Nashville faltered at home, losing all three of their games, they managed to put up a fight in Vancouver where they were 2-1. The Detroit Red Wings looked like they were going to be cut loose by the San Jose Sharks in short order before they surged back to tie the series at three games each before the Sharks knock-out punch in game 7.

The #3 seed Boston Bruins against the #5 seed Tampa Bay Lightning

These two teams have been waiting more than a week to get back to playing the NHL playoffs. If there is an advantage or disadvantage to a long layoff – well neither team has the upper hand in this contest.

Tim Thomas has continued to carry over his outstanding excellent regular season play into the post-season and is a sure to receive the Vezina Trophy for these NHL playoffs from what I’ve seen. Hopefully, my thoughts don’t become a kiss of death for his receiving that award. While Dwayne Roloson is no slouch, I’m giving the edge to Boston.

The Boston Bruins craptastic power play unit is going up against a formidable post-season penalty killing unit in the Tampa Bay Lightning, who are shutting down opponents at a shade over 94%. With Boston’s power play performing at a 5% success rate combined with the loss of Patrice Bergeron – means the special teams play favors the Lightning.

At even strength, I come down on the side of the Boston Bruins. The Tampa Bay Lightning were generally outscored at even strength in both previous series’. Yes, the Bruins did play against the goalie carousel in Philadelphia, but they do have talent and depth. On top of that – they’re tough. Tampa Bay shouldn’t be overlooked, with the likes of Stamkos, LeCavalier, and St. Louis. With Sean Bergenheim and Martin St. Louis in the NHL playoffs top 5 for goal scoring, they’re sure to test Thomas early and often in this one. Boston’s goal scoring has been spread around quite nicely and Roloson will have to have his head on a swivel as the shots come from Nathan Horton, David Krejci, Chris Kelly, and Brad Marchand.

The Boston Bruins are going to the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals in 6-games.

The #1 seed Vancouver Canucks against the #2 seed San Jose Sharks

Don’t look now but there is some very good goaltending going on way out west. Vancouver’s Roberto Luongo and – shocker – there’s that Antti Niemi of the San Jose Sharks on the brink of another chance to get his name etched on the Stanley Cup in his second consecutive NHL playoffs appearance. Luongo’s goals-against is nearly a full point better than Niemi’s while their save percentages are nearly identical at just over .900. While I’m one of the few who don’t disrespect Antti Niemi, I still am giving the edge to the Vancouver Canucks.

The special teams are a virtual deadlock. Both teams have demonstrated outstanding penalty killing skills. Further, the Vancouver Canucks never seem to take many penalties, either of the necessary or unnecessary kind.

At even strength, Joe Thornton, Dan Heatley, and Patrick Marleau lead the charge for the San Jose Sharks. Throw in Joe Pavelski and Logan Couture and the Vancouver Canucks are going to have their toughest tests of the 2011 post-season. For Vancouver, the spotlight seems to be shining brightly now on Ryan Kesler. In the mix are the Sedin twins, Daniel and Henrik. While Henrik hasn’t been producing as much as the Canucks fans would like, Daniel Sedin has put up six goal and four assists. Defensively, they need to play much better as both are a -8 to go with their 10-points each. I’m going to side with the San Jose Sharks here.

The play of both of these teams has been stellar which is why they are the top two seeds in the Western Conference. Still, I continue to believe that the Vancouver are on a Stanley Cup Finals mission this year and will manage to get there in six games.

Eastern Conference Round 2: 2011 NHL Playoffs

As far as my NHL Playoffs Eastern Conference Round 1 predictions go, I was 3-for-4. The Pittsburgh Penguins let me down and I finished the entire first round with an overall record of 7-1. The NHL Playoffs Eastern Conference quarterfinals didn’t lack for intensity and excitement, either. The Boston Bruins – Montreal Canadiens series was a 7-game thriller. The Philadelphia Flyers – Buffalo Sabres series was a 7-game thriller. Oh, and yes, the series between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Tampa Bay Lightning went the full 7-games, too. The Washington Capitals dispatched the New York Rangers in 5-games. Onward we skate to the NHL Playoffs Round 2!

THE EASTERN CONFERENCE


See Tony’s predictions after the jump >>

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 >>

Don’t Heckle Hockey Players


Yeah, I know our NHL coverage has been, well, sparse, to put it mildly, but that doesn’t mean the NHL Playoffs aren’t always enjoyable sports-watching, especially in overtime situations. No, I suppose I fall onto the “out of sight, out of mind” side of the fence, and yes, that’s meant as an indictment of Versus. Sure, they broadcast in hi-def and their coverage does get viewers, but I’ve allowed myself to be brainwashed by ESPN. Maybe my response to NHL Playoffs will change if the two entities partner up again.

Mea culpas aside, one thing’s pretty clear: If you are a fan of the about-to-be-bounced-out-of-the-playoff Nashville Predators and your are near the Chicago Blackhawks’ penalty box with Duncan Keith inside, leave the enemy combatants alone, or else you might wind up getting sprayed. Granted, the penalty box is surrounded by glass, but that didn’t stop the fan in the video from flinching so severely, his arm would’ve been covered with black-and-blue bruises if he was playing the “two for flinching” game.

Unfortunately, Mr Heckler’s efforts didn’t help his team either. The Blackhawks closed out the Predators by winning last night’s game, 5-3.

H/t to 670 The Score for the video.

Stanley Cup Makes the Rounds

Stanley Cup

So who had the better weekend? The Lakers or the Penguins? An unexpected Game 7 win over the team that beat you last year or the league’s best player silencing whatever “you can’t win without Shaq” critics there were? If I had to make a call, I’d say the Penguins and their Stanley Cup victory was probably more satisfying, seeing how it wasn’t really expected. The Lakers, on the other hand, expected a championship, especially after going up 3-1.

With that in mind, try telling the Lakers the Penguins are the happier bunch.

More in Pittsburgh’s Stanley Cup tour after the jump >>

A Little Less Obvious, Please (ESPN)

Penguins March

I guess because the Penguins/Capitals Game 7 was kind of a bust — unless you are Pens fan — ESPN’s headline writers decided they’d phone it in on their image caption for the game. March of the Penguins? Is that the best you can offer? Surely you jest? Granted, there aren’t a great deal of pop culture references that fit Pittsburgh’s hockey team, but does that mean you have to force one on your website-viewing public? Hell, “Crosby, Skates and Smash” would’ve been better — provided you are aware of the Crosby, Stills and Nash reference.

OK, maybe not; but then again, I’m not responsible for creating these snappy headlines. Maybe my expectations are too high…

Jeresy Girls Don’t Like the Hurricanes

Jersey Girl Finger

And after that stirring comeback with about 80 seconds left in the game, can you blame them, really? Granted, she could’ve aimed her fingered response at Martin Brodeur for allowing what Barry Melrose referred to as two “soft goals” by, but seeing how she had to endure the Hurricanes celebrating right in front of her face, her response is understandable.

And it was found on ESPN’s flagship morning show, no less.

H/t to Observation Bubble for the find.

Bigger image.