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Thursday, April 28, 2011

2011 NHL Playoffs: Round Two Matchups and Predictions

#1 Washington Capitals vs. #5 Tampa Bay Lightning
This is a fun one for many reasons.  We picked both of these teams to be eliminated in Round One.  Nice job, we know!

Both of these clubs play a stifling defensive system, with the optional capability of sending their top talent out to light up the scoreboard.

Both goaltenders Roloson and Neuvirth were exceptional in Round One, so this series will boil down to the team that executes their chances best.

Conventional wisdom says go with the Capitals who were 4-1-1 against Tampa in the regular season, but we are terrible at this, so we are inclined to take the Lightning here.  In an effort to reverse the trend, we will go against our pick and pick the obvious.  Confused?  Don't worry, we are more so.

Hockey Plumber Prediction: Capitals in seven.

#2 Philadelphia Flyers vs. #3 Boston Bruins
Last season Philly was responsible for an epic series comeback on these same Bruins after spotting them a 0-3 game lead.  Will Beantown get it's revenge?

Danny Briere and Claude Giroux were amazing against Buffalo, but their three-headed goaltending trio was hit and miss.  The Bruins found a different offensive hero in every victory against hated rival Montreal, as Tim Thomas was a stalwart in net every game.

We were not impressed by the overall play of Philly against an inferior Buffalo team.  they will have to tighten up defensively or the Bruins will expose them badly in this round.  Boston will have to strike on the power play if they have any hope of moving on.

Even if the games aren't good (very unlikely) just imagine the pregame rants by Jack Edwards on what Mike Richards said to the media the night before!  

Hockey Plumber Prediction: Bruins in six.

The West features the same seed pairings as the East.  Strange?

#1 Vancouver Canucks vs. #5 Nashville Predators
We nearly witnessed a total collapse by the Canucks in Round One.  The defending Cup champion Chicago roared back, forcing a Game Seven OT with less than two minutes on the clock.  Although Vancouver punched in a winner, you may expect a bit of a letdown to start the series with Nashville, right?


Considering how dominant they were at the beginning of the last round, Vancouver will come out blazing.  Nashville found a way past Anaheim, despite a lackluster performance by goaltender Pekka Rinne.  We just can't see it happening, since Vancouver has more firepower, and the Predators benefited from playing against the Ducks backup netminders.

Hockey Plumber Prediction: Canucks in five.

#2 San Jose Sharks vs. #3 Detroit Red Wings
Another rematch from last spring, when the Sharks whizzed past Detroit in five games.  Early round exits seem a thing of the past for San Jose.

Looking back at Round One: The Wings trounced Phoenix every way possible, and we didn't like the way that San Jose seemed to labor unnecessarily against the Kings.

The goaltending matchup could be interesting as you can't always count on Niemi or Howard to steal games.

We were much more impressed with Datsyuk and Co., than Thornton's crew.  Add Zetterberg back into the lineup and we like them that much more.

Hockey Plumber Prediction: Wings in six.

2011 NHL Playoffs: Round One Heroes and Zeros

Washington Capitals/New York Rangers

Hero: Michal Neuvirth
The Caps came into these playoffs with too many questions in net.  Who will start?  How will they handle the extra pressure?  Well, Neuvirth answered all questions with a stellar 1.36 GAA, .946 save percentage, a shutout and a pair of OT wins.

Neuvirth's gaudy stat line is testament to the team's overall dedication to defensive play, but make no mistake, he played exceptionally well throughout.  There will be no questions heading into Round Two.

Honorable mention to The Gr8 Ovi.

Zero: Derek Stepan
It's tough to blame any one individual on the Rangers in the series.  They played well overall, and kept things close in nearly every game they lost.

However, Stepan was a team worst minus-5, and was on the ice too many times when the Caps scored big goals. He failed to score a single point in the five games, despite averaging more than twenty minutes of ice time per game.  Even worse, he managed to only fire of four, that's right, four shots during the entire first round.  Not impressive.

Dishonorable mention to Marc Staal and Marian Gaborik.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Mike Richards Doth Protest Too Much, Methinks

Often misquoted, Shakespeare's Hamlet, Act III, scene II quotation: "The lady doth protest too much, methinks" is also commonly misinterpreted, just as it will be misinterpreted here. 

Make no mistake, we are not calling Richards a "lady," but he is becoming more and more inclined to whine a bit when things don't seem to go his way.

When the wheels were falling off the wagon, after a rough start to last season, we came to his defense, as Chris Pronger and GM Paul Holmgren seemed all to willing to throw Mike Richards under the bus, undermining his status as team captain. Despite this, we expect that what we have to say here will not be popular sentiment amongst Flyers fans.

Although he is rightfully lauded for his rugged style and two-way capabilities, Richards has too often used the media to air his grievances to not be considered a bona fide complainer.  Neither specious nor counterfeit, he's become a genuine whiner.

Want evidence?  We got it.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

2011 NHL Playoff Matchups and Predictions

Just as it did last season, it took all 82 regular season games to determine the participants.  Sorry Dallas and Carolina fans.

The East will get nasty early:

#1 Washington Capitals vs. #8 New York Rangers
Gone is the fun and gun offense of the Caps.  They are a defensive first club this year, which will have prepared them well for the grind of the playoffs.  Unfortunately for the Rangers, gone is the heart and soul of the team, Ryan Callahan. Gone also are all the goal from Marian Gaborik's stick. What happened?

Nevertheless an upset here can very well happen. The Rangers gave the Caps fits at times during the regular season.  New York is a physical and nasty team.  Washington just doesn't have that playoff magic. This series will twist and turn enough to make both fanbases sick.

Hockey Plumber Prediction: Rangers in seven

#2 Philadelphia Flyers vs. #7 Buffalo Sabres
The Flyers faded down the stretch, while Buffalo played some of their best games when it mattered most.  The teams split the season series, and the Sabres clinched their playoff birth in dramatic fashion in OT against these same Flyers.

Ryan Miller certainly has it within his power to steal this one, especially if Philly's Chris Pronger cannot play or is not up to the challenge coming back from injury. However, we just cannot see the Flyers going out so easily.  Buffalo just will not be able to keep up with the firepower of Philadelphia.

Hockey Plumber Prediction: Flyers in six

#3 Boston Bruins vs. #6 Montreal Canadiens
This one is special.  Counted in the score somewhere will be the gallons of blood spilled in this series.  Something like, "Bruins 2 goals, 4 pints of blood to the Canadiens 2 goals, 3 pints of blood."  Who won the game?  Easy.  The Bruins with the extra pint!

Forget the Original Six stuff, the storied rivalry, etc... this is about pure ill will between these two rosters.  Both teams will downplay the hype verbally, but there will be some loud talking out on the ice.  The Bruins are flat out better everywhere.  They will find a way nearly each night.

Hockey Plumber Prediction: Bruins in five

#4 Pittsburgh Penguins vs. #5 Tampa Bay Lightning
Sadly this won't be a tandem battle of Sid and Geno vs. Stamkos and St. Louis, in this first ever post-season matchup between these two clubs.  It is possible that Sidney Crosby will be cleared to play again while this series is still in doubt, but don't count on it.

Pittsburgh has had to make due with the blue collar types for the entire second half.  That fact only enhances their chances in round one, facing a rather inexperienced Lightning squad.  Look for dirty goals to pinball past Tampa defenders, as Pittsburgh grinds this one out.

Hockey Plumber Prediction: Penguins in six

The West will have some matchups of familiar foes:

#1 Vancouver Canucks vs. #8 Chicago Blackhawks
Vancouver hopes that the third time really will be a charm.  Knocked out the previous two years by Chicago, the Canucks dominated all season, winning the President's Trophy.  The Hawks struggled all season to stay in it, and actually needed a little help from Dallas to get in.

Should be a slam dunk, no?  Maybe not so fast... well, ok, it's a slam dunk.  Vancouver would have to have an epic collapse to blow this.

Hockey Plumber Prediction: Canucks in five

#2 San Jose Sharks vs. #7 Los Angeles Kings
The battle of California.  In the West, this is the series that reeks of upset.  The Sharks were very solid down the stretch. The Kings were too, but no one really noticed.  They lost two of their top scorers, but battled to the finish.  Regardless of their long run last season, we are talking about the Sharks... and the playoffs.  Big expectations, little follow through.

Although we don't want to, we will buy the Sharks in round one. The Kings start this round shorthanded and just won't be able to find the extra gear.

Hockey Plumber Prediction: Sharks in five

#3 Detroit Red Wings vs. #6 Phoenix Coyotes
Same matchup as last year, different seeds.  The Wings were favored last year, despite being the lower seed.  The 'Yotes gave them all they could handle, but Detroit prevailed.

This time, Detroit rides in high, in spite of some recent injury issues. Phoenix just doesn't have the mystery power from last season's surprise run.  Detroit will do what they do.

Hockey Plumber Prediction: Red Wings in five

#4 Anaheim Ducks vs. #5 Nashville Predators
Corey Perry willed the Ducks to the post-season with some goal scoring brilliance.  Nashville took the Pekka Renne train all the way to another uneventful, even-paced ride.

It doesn't matter how many time Barry Trotz steers his Predators into the playoffs, Nashville just gets no respect from fans or the media.  This space is no different.

Hockey Plumber Prediction: Ducks in seven

Monday, April 11, 2011

Pittsburgh Penguins' Mike Rupp Holds Fundraiser Event To Help Devastated Local Family

Pittsburgh Penguins' forward Mike Rupp and his wife Christi will play host to a special event tonight for the Cleland family of South Park, a suburb of Pittsburgh.

Story by Ron Cook of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

A kind gesture and an excellent example of the community reach of the organization.