Wednesday

4-15-09: 2009 NHL Playoffs Predictions

Hello again everybody...

Mid-week and we're reveling in the warm weather here in the Upper Midwest. It was damned near perfect as I walked into work this afternoon, and the forecast keeps it around til the weekend anyway. High's in the upper-60's to low 70's... sunny skies... perfect weather for an outdoor ballgame.

Woops. Gotta wait til next year for that!

One quick baseball note before we get to the hockey. Yesterday was the first time since August of 1951 that there were more extra-inning games than 9-inning games. Just a fluke I guess, but you know how I love me some baseball history!

Moving on.

Today is the final column in the series of NHL Playoff posts. Allow me to take this opportunity to thank the Hammer for all his hard work putting this stuff together. It's certainly made my week easier and slightly more interesting. Thanks Craig! Today's column is Hammer's 2009 Playoff Predictions.

Let's hop the boards and get after it!

Often it does seem a pity that Noah and his party did not miss the boat.
- Mark Twain (1835-1910), American author and humorist


This is pretty much Mr. Clemens' version of one of my favorite sayings, "I just don't like people that much."

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No reason to fool around. Here are Hammer's predictions for the 2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs:

NHL Playoff Predictions

Round 1

Eastern Conference:

1. Boston vs. 8. Montreal:

This is a complete flip-flop of last year’s 1st round series where Montreal was the number one seed and Boston was number eight. Boston had 116 points to lead the Eastern Conference this season and it looked like everything went right for them. Tim Thomas emerged as a number one goaltender and Zdeno Chara is a favorite to win the Norris Trophy. Meanwhile everything went wrong for Montreal around January. Goaltender Carey Price went into a slump. Alexei Kovalev was sent home for two games to refocus and injuries to Robert Lang and Andrei Markov have been tough to overcome. This has the makings of a Boston rout. That being said I am picking Montreal because historically they have owned the Bruins in the post-season going 24-7 lifetime in playoff series. I have seen Montreal teams that are worse than this team beat Boston in the playoffs twice this decade. I won’t believe in the Bruins until I see them do it

Montreal in seven games

2. Washington vs. 7. NY Rangers:

This is a match-up between teams with high expectations going into the season. Washington lived up to those expectations winning the Southeast Division for the 2nd year in a row; the Rangers did not as they struggled to make the post-season. I love the Capitals in this series. They are deeper and have better scoring than the Rangers. The one thing New York has in their favor is Henrik Lundqvist in goal. Unless he can win a lot of games 2-1 it won’t be enough.

Washington in five games

3. New Jersey vs. 6. Carolina:

These two teams have met in the post-season three times this decade and each time the winner of this series has gone on to the Stanley Cup Finals.

Back in March I was ready to pick New Jersey to go to the Finals after watching how they played this season with Martin Brodeur being out with a bicep injury. When Brodeur returned the Devils didn’t miss a beat for the first few games. Then they went 5-7-1 in their final 13 games, which cost the Devils a number two seed in the Eastern Conference. Carolina on the other hand was the hottest team in the Eastern Conference losing only three times in regulation in their last 18 games. I think if someone is going to get the Devils in the playoffs they better do it in the 1st round. I think the Canes get it done.

Carolina in six games.

4. Pittsburgh vs. 5. Philadelphia:

This is a rematch of last years Eastern Conference Finals. Pittsburgh like Montreal, Carolina, and the Rangers had their struggles during the middle of the season resulting in a coaching change. The difference is the Penguins were able to play their way out of a tailspin and clinch home ice in the 1st round. They have the best 1-2 scoring punch in the league in Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. There are two reasons I’m picking the Penguins here. 1. I hate the Flyers and 2. I don’t like Philly’s goaltending. I have a hard time believing the Martin Biron is the man in net for the Flyers when he had three years in Buffalo to succeed Dominik Hasek and failed to do so.

Penguins in six games.


Western Conference

Round 1

1. San Jose vs. 8. Anaheim Ducks:

The San Jose Sharks had 117 points this season and won the President’s Trophy for the 1st time in team history. That’s all fine and dandy but the Sharks will be judged by what they do in the post-season. They have lost in the 2nd round for the last three seasons resulting in changes being made where it is Stanley Cup or bust in the Silicon Valley. Two seasons ago Anaheim was where San Jose wants to be this season and that is Stanley Cup champions. This Ducks team is different than that Stanley Cup team from two years ago but the nucleus remains the same. This should be a great series but I feel this Sharks team is more complete than previous teams.

Sharks in seven games

2. Detroit vs. 7. Columbus:

Congratulations Columbus, you have made the post-season for the 1st time in team history. Your reward, the defending Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings in the 1st round. Honestly, I liked Columbus' chances going into the post-season as long as they could avoid Detroit or San Jose. Well that didn’t happen and because of that I think it will be a short stay for the Blue Jackets.

Detroit in five games

3. Vancouver vs. 6. St Louis

St. Louis was the hottest team in the Western Conference, overcoming numerous injuries to make the post-season as a number six seed no less. It’s been a great run, but I think it ends here against the Canucks. I think their goaltending is better and I think the Canucks have better scoring depth. The future looks bright for St. Louis but the Canucks win this series.

Vancouver in five games

4. Chicago vs. 5 Calgary

All year I have been down on the Flames. I think they have three great players in Jarome Iginla, Dion Phaneuf, and Mikka Kiprusoff and not much else after that. Their stumble from the top of the Northwest Division to the number five seed in the West in the last month all but confirms that the Flames are in trouble. Now they go up against a Chicago team who swept the Flames in the regular season. I really wished I lived in Vegas so I could bet against Calgary.

Chicago in six games


Eastern Conference Semifinals:

2. Washington vs. 8. Montreal:

While I think Montreal finds someway to eliminate the Bruins in the 1st round I think they are in trouble against Washington in the 2nd round. With Andrei Markov hurt and Mattheiu Schneider banged up I don’t see how they can contain Alex Ovechkin. Plus I think Washington goalie Jose Theodore will be pumped up to play his former team.

Washington in five games

4. Pittsburgh vs. 6. Carolina:

The best 1-2 scoring punch in the Eastern Conference vs. the hottest team in the Eastern Conference. Carolina goalie Cam Ward has been brilliant this season but I don’t think he and the Canes can shut down the Penguins offense.

Penguins in six games


Western Conference Semifinals:

1. San Jose vs. 4. Chicago

After surviving the Ducks in the 1st round the next opponent for the Sharks are the resurgent Chicago Blackhawks. While it has been a great run by the Hawks this season to become relevant once again it ends here, as the Sharks are too deep and too good for the Blackhawks.

Sharks in five games

2. Detroit vs. 3. Vancouver

A lot of people are high on the Canucks going into the post-season. They are the popular dark horse pick to win the Stanley Cup. I don’t buy it. While their goaltending may be better than Detroit the Wings have a better line-up from top to bottom. While this match-up does concern me because of Roberto Luongo’s ability to steal a game I think the Wings are too talented to let that happen.

Detroit in six games.


Eastern Conference Finals:

2. Washington vs. 4 Pittsburgh

You know the NHL is praying for this match-up. Crosby & Malkin vs. Alex Ovechkin. I only hope this goes seven games. If it does Washington wins.

Capitals in seven games


Western Conference Finals

1. San Jose vs. 2. Detroit

The two best teams in the West. The President’s trophy winner vs. the defending Stanley Cup Champions. These two teams split the season series 2-2 both winning on home ice. Something has to give here. I said earlier that this is the most complete Sharks team I have see. I think this will be a great series and it pains me to right this but I think this is where Detroit’s goaltending gets exposed.

San Jose in seven games


Stanley Cup Finals:

San Jose vs. Washington

Last year it was Sidney Crosby making is 1st appearance in the Stanley Cup Finals. This year it is Alex Ovechkin’s turn. That being said I think it will be a short stay for the Capitals. This Sharks team reminds me of the '94 Rangers, '01 Avalanche, and '02 Red Wings, teams that were built to win the Stanley Cup now. Plus I think the team with the better goaltending wins in the finals. I like Nabokov more than Theodore and I like the Sharks to deliver the cup to Northern California.

Sharks in five games.

There you have it. The Hammer says the San Jose Sharks will be the 2009 Stanley Cup Champions. Keep and eye on your favorite sports media source over the next few weeks and we'll see how he does!

That wraps it up for today. Check back on Friday when I bring back the segment to end all segments... the DFTU!!!

Until then, thanks for reading!

2 comments:

  1. Your predictions are looking pretty bad already! sharks? did you say sharks?
    eliminated game six first round!
    haha
    GO
    REDWINGS!!

    ReplyDelete
  2. The predictions were made by a Red Wings fan.

    I assume he'll welcome your comments.

    ReplyDelete