Tuesday, April 14, 2009

NHL Playoffs: Western Conference Edition

And so the time has come for the most exciting game: playoff hockey. Faster and more hard hitting than the regular season, the game gets a shot of adrenaline as everyone plays with an edge vying to be the ones lucky enough to raise Lord Stanley’s Cup above their heads in triumph. After a wild playoff race in both conferences the sixteen teams have been decided and the matchups set. Here are two of the Western Conference matchups you can look forward to.

San Jose Sharks (1) vs Anaheim Ducks (8)

The Sharks took the President’s Trophy for best record in the league this, but the bad news is that tends to work against teams as they often are not the ones who win the cup. Regardless San Jose is looking to get over that elusive hump (read as not choking) to claim their first title in franchise history. They have an extremely well balanced and experience team that they have no real weaknesses in their game. Anaheim scrapped into the playoffs after an up and down season, but the good news is they’ve been hot the past couple of weeks, and that’s always good to have.

Forwards- the Sharks are led by one of the best center tandems in the league in Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau. They have all the support they need on the wings, plus depth on the lower lines to grind things out, which now includes perennial playoff madman Claude Lemieux (though at 40 he may not do that well). Anaheim it top heavy with their scoring, with most the secondary scoring coming from the defense. While not bad depth, it is not the same level as their opponent. Advantage: Sharks

Defense- The Sharks made some moves this past offseason grabbing Dan Boyle from Tampa Bay and signing Rob Blake in free agency giving them some much needed leadership and stability on the blue line. Young blueliners Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Christian Erhoff are both still young and full of potential. Anaheim has Chris Pronger and Scott Niedermayer on the back end that were a big reason they won the cup two years ago. Unfortunately after that it thins out some, especially on the lower pairing. Advantage: Sharks

Goaltending- Evgeni Nabokov has been a stable net minder for years in San Jose and proven himself in many situations. After being robbed of the Vezina last year for the simple reason his name wasn’t Martin Brodeur he played a boatload of games this year that may see him tired some for the playoffs. His opposite Jean-Sebastian Giguere has two Stanley Cup appearances, one in which he won and the other where he lost but grabbed the Conn Smythe trophy. When it boils down to it though, Nabokov hasn’t been to finals yet. Advantage: Anaheim

Prediction- Anaheim isn’t a pushover, but they lack the depth needed to go for an extended run in the playoffs. Sharks in six.

Reason to Cheer for:
Sharks- never won the cup, they’re not Detroit
Anaheim- black and gold is a great color scheme, you like the underdog

Reason to Cheer against:
Sharks- NHL’s biggest douchebag Jeremy Roenick is on the team and still has no cup, Claude Lemieux
Anaheim- they won two years ago, the movies ruined Emilio Esteves’ career , SUS still hates Ryan Whitney

Chicago Blackhawks (4) vs Calgary Flames (5)


With their young talent starting to come into their own the Blackhawks made the post season for the first time in eight years. Young an energetic they are going to need it facing the much more experience Calgary roster. The Blackhawks are being compared to the ’07 Pens for good reason: young and inexperienced. Calgary squandered the division title to Vancouver and are nursing some injuries, but it won’t stop them from being a legitimate threat to anyone.

Forwards- The Blackhawks have two future superstars in Kane and Toews who are looking forward to their first playoff experience. This is in stark contrast to Jarome Iginla who is an experience rough and tumble captain supported by Olli Jokinen and the likes of Mike Cammalleri and Daymond Langkow. The Flames have the experience in this one, and I have no doubt it will give them an upper hand. Advantage: Flames

Defense- The Calgary defense is known for being tough as nails but also no slough in moving the puck either. Led by Dion Phaneuf he is surrounded by Robyn Regehr, Cory Sarich and Adrian Aucoin who all have deep playoff experience. Chicago is anchored by Brian Campbell, but after that much of their blue line is still young and rough around the edges. I don't want to keep harping on the experience thing, but even the players will tell you it makes a difference. Advantage- Calgary

Goalies- Do the names Nikolai Khabibulin and Mikka Kiprusoff sound familiar? They should, as they were the two goalies in the 2004 cup finals between the Flames and Lightning. Kipper is still with Calgary and still in top form while the Bulin Wall has struggled with injuries and inconsistency during his tenure with the Hawks. Fortunately he has Cristobal Huet right next to him, giving Chicago two starting goalies to use, a playoff tandem most teams would love. If one falters, you have another quality guy to put in. While at this point Kiprusoff is better than either of the Blackhawks goalies, having those two guys to lean on makes you feel pretty damn comfortable. Advantage- Blackhawks.

Prediction- Back to that “Penguins of two years ago” thing with the Blackhawks. The Pens lost in five games. Chances are some of their young guys will be running around like chickens with their heads cut off, which isn’t going to happen to the experienced Calgary team. Though the Blackhawks have a higher seed, I don't think it will be enough. Calgary in six.

Reason to Cheer for:
Blackhawks- to spite former owner Bill Wirtz despite his death, the Cubs sure as hell aren’t winning
Flames- cool color scheme, you hate the Edmonton Oilers

Reason to Cheer against:
Blackhawks- fuck wind it screws up your hair, New York style pizza all the way
Flames- Todd Bertuzzi is on the team, Mike Keenan jackass extraordinaire is the coach, you like Edmonton Oilers


Drew said...

The flames will crumble like flaming hot cheetohs in your mouth and then dissipate like the flaming hot fart that follows.

Not necessarily saying that the Hawks win here, but it would be a hell of a lot better than a Sawks win.

My prediction (coming from someone who actually has pride for his city and always picks them) is Blackhawks in 6. You want this - you want Hawks/Canucks.

The Yinzer said...

It's definitely possible the Flames will crash and burn the way they have played this year. But as a Pens fan the Blackhawks remind me too much of the Pens two years ago when they entered the plaoffs and their inexperience killed them. Still you never know what may happen.