Just a couple quick notes before we get to the match ups:
To check out my feelings on the Eastern Conference playoffs go here.
Last night was the NHL Draft Lottery and the Edmonton Oilers got the right to choose #1 overall for the third year in a row. The poor Columbus Blue Jackets can’t even win a lottery at 88% odds… at least the have the All-Star game next year.
Vancouver Canucks (51-22-9) vs. Los Angeles Kings (40-27-15)
Yawn! The Vancouver Canucks again dominate the regular season garnering the best overall record in the NHL and will soon enough be Canadian residents only rooting interest in the playoffs. Daniel Sedin, the Canucks leading goalscorer, has been sidelined with a concussion since March 21st. He has been skating lately so it is still to be determined whether or not Wonder-Twin Powers will be activated anytime soon in Vancouver. The bigger controversy in Vancouver surrounds goaltending. Roberto Luongo is notoriously soft in pressure situations and his backup Corey Schneider has been seeing a larger load this year and dominating in that role. It will be interesting to see how long a leash the Canucks apply to Luongo or even if they have enough cajones to start Schneider outright. Either way, I still think Vancouver has enough guns and talent to get by the Kings in the first round. As short as a week ago LA was sitting in control of the 3rd playoff spot but after a wild and wooly finish to the season LA has been leapfrogged by San Jose and Phoenix to be left with the unhappy task of facing the Canucks in the first round. At least they’re in for a short flight home and LA residents can refocus on the Lakers.
So the NHL awards took place tonight, finally putting the 2010-2011 to bed. Let’s take a look at those who won, and those that should have been winners:
Norris Trophy (Best Defenseman)
Nominees:Zdeno Chara – Boston Bruins, Nicklas Lidstrom – Detroit Red Wings, and Shea Weber – Nashville Predators.
Winner:Nicholas Lidstrom, Detroit Should’ve Been:Shea Weber, Nashville
While the Lidstrom win, his 7th, is not surprising, I think Weber was the correct choice. Weber finished The season with 16 goals, 32 assists, +7, and 211 hits. Weber, along with Pekka Rinne, is the reason behind Nashville’s successful season and playoff run.
When trying to come up with the words to describe the play of the Vancouver Canucks, after games one of two, all that comes to mind is the words from one of the greatest Detroit Lions coaches of all time – Bobby Ross.
What the hell happened to the heavy favorites? Sure you can put some of the blame on Luongo. He certainly deserves it giving up 15 goals, and being chased out of the net twice in 4 games, but everyone knew how easily rattled he can get when things start to fall apart.
No, most of the blame has to put squarely on the highly touted offense/power play that has disappeared for the majority of these finals, scoring only 4 goals in the past four games, and on the coaching staff for not doing enough line adjustments in time to generate a spark. Rather than focus on the pitiful play of the Canucks, lets pay tribute to the efforts of the underdogs…
Finally, after 82 regular season games and 14 playoff series we have finally reached the promised land. THE STANLEY CUP FINALS BITCHES!! Whose pumped besides this guy?!?!? …and Canada??? This year we have the pleasure of watching the ‘President’s Trophy’ winning Vancouver Canucks vs. the defensive minded Boston Bruins battle for Lord Stanley’s Cup.
Looking at how the two teams arrived to the promised land, it’s hard to make an argument for the Boston Bruins to win this series. With the exception of their round 2 series (which is more telling of the Flyers than the Bruins), Boston has just been lucky enough to survive seven game series against far less talented teams in Montreal and Tampa Bay when compared to Vancouver. Their offense has been anemic at best and their special teams are just flat-out terrible. Boston’s power play unit is about as useful as nipples on the Bat-suit. Thanks Joel Schumacher!!
Anyways, Boston’s only saving grace is that they have two of the best at their positions protecting the net, big bad Zdeno Chara and Tim Thomas. I know the plus/minus stat is garbage in the grand scheme of things, but I’ll go ahead and inform you Chara is boasting a +11 in the playoffs. Tim Thomas is certainly doing his fair share in carrying the team with a 2.29 GAA and .929 save percent average. If Boston is going to have a shot at this, they are going to need to have Tim Thomas stand on his head and get a shut-out or two.
So, with that all said, I’m going with Vancouver in 5 for their first Stanley Cup win. The Sedin twins are just unstoppable and showed it in the conference finals against San Jose. Ryan Kesler appeared to find his game at the end of the series, so I would expect for him to carry that over to the finals. Not to be forgotten is Roberto Luongo, who will be the toughest goaltender the Bruins have faced in the playoffs. Sorry Boston, maybe next year it will be your turn……… after 40 years of coming up short.
So Canucks in 5, and Henrik Sedin wins the Conn Smythe.
Looking at this series it should not be a surprise to anyone that the Canucks are up on the Sharks 3 games to 1. While I can’t deny that the four games have been interesting to watch, I do have to say they have been interesting for all the wrong reasons. Looking at the series on paper one would expect to see exciting, fast paced and well executed hockey games coming from both ends of the ice, but that’s not what we’ve seen.
What we have gotten in four games is wonderful opportunity to watch both teams decide to take turns parading players in and out of the penalty box, and watch the other team capitalize on the bone-head plays. San Jose started this cycle in game 2 when they decided to try to combat Vancouver’s high-powered offense with over the top physical play, and earn 51 penalty minutes led by Ben Eager. By the way, congratulations to Mr. Eager for earning my coveted ‘Douchebag of the Conference Finals’ award with the celebration of his goal, and follow-up taunting of Luongo when his team was still down by 4 GOALS!! Stay classy Eager.
In game 3 it was Vancouver’s turn to try to show how physical they could be. Needless to say this led to 32 penalty minutes, and allowing 2 power goals in the first 10 minutes of the game. And then there was second period of game 4 – San Jose decided to do what they do best and ‘Go San Jose’, for lack of a better term. Three ‘five-on-three’ situations and allowing Vancouver to score 3 power play goals in 1:55. All I could say was “Woooooooow” and feel bad for Melanie Wilcox. Sorry Mel.
So that brings us to tonight’s game 5 in Vancouver. Whose going to win?? What team is going to show up at each end? I’d place my bets on the Canucks to finish the Sharkies off tonight. The Sedin twins are pretty much having their way with the Sharks defense combining for 34 points in the playoffs, and Kesler seems to finally be coming alive in the series.
To make matters worse for the Sharks, they’ll be taking the ice with hurt Joe Thornton. With so much of their offense in these playoffs coming thru the play of Captain Joe. It will be interesting to see what, if anything, he brings tonight. If San Jose is going to have a chance looks for Clowe and Marleau to step up and fill Jumbo Joe’s shortcomings, and Neimi will need to stand on his head.
Prediction: Vancouver for the series win tonight. And boom goes the dynamite!