Sports by Randy Charles Morin.
Copyright 2005-10 Randy Charles Morin
Owned by Rapid Spiral Development Inc.
A series by series predictions for the 1st round of the Stanley Cup playoffs and a glimpse into the next 3 rounds. The NHL playoffs since the 2004-05 lockout has been a unpredictable beast. You make the playoffs on the last day of the regular season and you find your way to the Stanley Cup finals. What makes a good regular season team is clearly not what makes a good playoff team. Here's my sense of what might happen this playoff season.
The Minnesota Wild have badly underperformed and scratched their way into a playoff spot. That said, a hot goalie and some timely scoring might give them a chance. But goaltending and scoring have not been their forte this season. They do have some grit with Cal Clutterbuck, but on the whole this team is soft. Not a recipe for winning the Lord Stanley's mug. An underdog to win a series and a longshot to win it all.
And the Wild are playing the recent Stanley Cup winning Chicago Blackhawks. The Hawks are loaded with talent; Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane. Their was the question of goaltending at the start of the season, but Corey Crawford has been great. The consensus is that the Hawks are the team to beat in the West.
This isn't the Red Wings we knew in years past. There's no Nicklas Lidstrom. End of story. It's just not the same team.
The Ducks have been an off-and-on team for years with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. They even won a Stanley Cup a few years back. I don't think this team has the depth to make it far in the playoffs, but I do think they have enough to handle the Wings. Saku Koivu and Teemu Selanne are getting older by the day.
For the 1st time in a long while, the Sharks aren't expected to do anything this playoff. They're suppose to boy out to the much better Canucks. And with perenial non-playoff performers like Joe Thornton, they have every excuse. But remember, they are very deep in talent and someday, if Joe is willing, they might surprise in the playoffs. And don't forget, that's a Cup winning goalie between the pipes; Anti Niemi.
The Canucks are very much like the Sharks of a few years ago. Some playoff success, but everybody expected so much more. And because of injury, they'll be starting the playoffs with long-time playoff disappointment Roberto Luongo in net. Whichever team loses this series, will cement their reputation as playoff losers.
An extremely talented team that should have little problem taking care of the Blues. But I'm not sure a team led by the party boys (Jeff Carter and Mike Richards) can make it two years in a row. I'm thinking the hangover from last summer hasn't quite warn off yet.
The Blues are... well... a blue colar team. No stars and a lot of names even I don't recognize. Just a lot of hard work. Their goaltending load was split between three goalies. It's very rare that teams with no talent advance in the playoffs.
The worst run organization in the NHL made the playoffs on the back of their one superstar John Tavares. That's about as far as they'll get. I doubt they could handle an injury riddled Penguins lineup in a seven game series. And the Pens are getting healthy.
The Canadiens are looking back between the pipes and putting their faith in Carey Price. A career 8-15 playoff record. This might be Price's last chance. If he falters again, then the fans in Montreal might start calling for a change.
I really liked the makeup of the Rangers at the start of the season. Things didn't go as expect and the team was rebuilt mid-season. Mid-season of an already short season. Henrik Lundqvist could put the team on his back lead them thru a few playoff rounds, but I doubt it. Teams rebuilt mid-season rarely go anywhere in the playoffs.
Alex Ovechkin is on fire and we're heading into the playoffs. This team is gonna live and die on his stick. I don't see much problem dispensing the Rangers. Then... in the 2nd round, it's OV time or bust.
As a long-time Leafs fan, what a relief. Playoff games. Everything sits on James Reimer's shoulders. They're a tough and fast team that can score. Can they keep the puck out of the net? Reimer did it all year.
The Bruins are either the toughest team in the playoffs or the 2nd toughest. And the Leafs are either the toughest or 2nd. Expect a lot of hitting. Fighting. Injuries. Whomever wins is likely gonna get beat the next round anyway. This is war.
Bruins v Habs (0-2)
The biggest surprise of the playoffs is the Bruins complete lack of offense; one goal in two games. This is due to three reasons; solid play from the Canadians defense (Gill, Subban, Sopel, Spacek, Hamrlik, Wisniewski and forwards Moen, Plekanec), good goaltending from Carey Price and weak shoots from the Bruins. As much as Carey Price has made the saves, the shot difficult is making Price look even better. Down 2-0 and going to Montreal, this series could be over quickly.
Pens v Lightning (1-1)
Not a surprise, without Crosby and Malkin, the Pens will be hard pressed to win this series. One great goaltending performance by Fleury has kept this team in the series. Interesting side note; Craig Adams has 6 goals in the last 3 regular seasons (207 games) and 6 goals in the last 3 playoffs (39 games). If Crosby comes back, then they still have a chance, but I see the Lightning taking this now that they have home ice advantage.
Caps v Rangers (2-0)
I didn't expect the Rangers to be able to keep up with the Capitals and they haven't. Only Matt Gilroy has scored for the Rangers. Lundqvist is gonna have to steal a game or two to get this team back in the series. Looks like a Capitals sweep is possible.
Flyers v Sabres (1-1)
Miller stole game one but the Flyers offense was too much in game two. With Miller injured, I didn't think the Sabres had much of a chance, but stole home ice advantage. The biggest difference in this series may turn out to be the lack of Chris Pronger. Normally, Pronger would be wearing down the Sabres forwards. Add something redundant about Flyers goaltending here. This looks like a 7 gamer. Then flip a coin.
Wings v Yotes (2-0)
It's called the Pavel Datsyuk show. Even without Henrik Zetterberg, the Wings are simply too much for the Yotes. Bryzgalov hasn't been at his best. He really needs to step it up at home and steal both games for his team or it's over. I doubt the Wings will sweep and that's all I got for the Coyotes' fans.
Sharks v Kings (1-1)
There's no reason the Kopitar-less Kings should be in this series. Well, except that Joe Thornton is up to his playoff disappearing act once again. In game 2 on the power play, Big Joe was fed the puck in the slot. He didn't even try to shoot. He skated behind the net, then out to the half boards and shot from there. Going the other way, Drew Doughty scored 4 pts giving him 11 points in 8 career playoff games. I see this going 7 games.
Canucks v Hawks (2-0)
Kane, Toews, Sharp and Hossa have combined for 1 assist in the 1st two games of this series. It might simply be fatigue. All four players have played an enormous amounts of hockey over the last 2-3 yrs. The Canucks look like he team to beat. Three lines are contributing and six d-men. And they have a pretty good goalie. Unless the Hawks win both at home, they could be done in 5.
Ducks v Preds (1-1)
Mike Fisher stole game 1 for the Preds and now they have home ice advantage in this series. The Ducks Big 4 (Selanne, Ryan, Perry and Getzlaf) showed up big time in game 2, each scoring a goal. This series is gonna be a showdown between the big 4 and Pekka Rinne. The series should go 6 or 7 games.
We have some race this year. I can identify 7 legit candidates; 3 of which scored 30 goals.
One year ago, Skinner wasn't on anybody's NHL radar. He wasn't drafted and wasn't even projected in the 1st round of the draft. He scored 20 goals in 20 games during last years OHL playoff and he became a 7th overall pick. Twelve months later, he has 30+ goals in the NHL and is the choice of many to win the Calder Trophy.
Nineth overall pic in 2007, he stagnated for the next 3 years. Out of nowhere, he's regained his top prospect form and put 30 pucks in the net. Unlikely to win, as he doesn't have the most goals, nor the most points for a rookie, which is the prime criteria for a forward.
Grabner was the 14 overall pick back in 2006. Like Couture, he struggled after his draft year. He played the last 3 years almost entirely in the AHL. A brief 20 game tryout at the end of last season was successful, potting 5 goals. The Canucks traded him to the Panthers, who then waived him before the season started. He was claimed by the Islanders and the rest is history; 30 goal rookie campaign.
Drafted 27th overall in 2008. Note that all these rookies to date have been drafted in the 1st round. Somebody might wanna inform Brian Burke of these facts. Played half a season in the AHL and he's an NHLer. Fits in well, on a very talented Capitals team. Unlike to win.
Tell Burke that Fowler was drafted 12th overall in 2010. Ya, that's last year. And he scored 40 points this year as a defenseman. His -26 plus-minus rating is gonna keep him away from the Calder Trophy.
Drafted in the 2nd round of 2007. I have to think his skin color and mouth kept him out of the 1st round. How many defensemen score 56 points in their OHL draft year and don't get picked in the 1st round? He's improved every year since, is now a household name for every hockey fan and a twitter fad (#blamesubban). PK's stats might not get him the Calder, but I watch a lot of hockey and from what I see, this guy is already a leader on the Canadians. He's my Calder pick, but I doubt many will agree. They'd rather blame him for something.
I always hate it when a goalie qualifies as a rookie, yet he played games in 4 NHL seasons. This is actually his 5th season playing in the NHL. The numbers are there and he resurrected the Hawks season. He'll get votes, but he was drafted in 2003. Hardly a rookie.
We just updated all the NHL rosters.
I really hate, even it up reffing. Last night, the Calgary Flame's Rene Bourque got a deserved 9-minute penalty, leading to a 9-minute power play for the Washington Capitals. The next 8 penalties and 16 minutes were called against the Capitals in one of the most blatantly obvious attempts to even up the penalties that I've ever seen. The refs Chris Lee and Bill McCreary are official idiots, although we've long known Bill to be. BTW, I'd like to thank Bill once again for all the homer calls in international hockey. I can't believe he hasn't been fired yet. The announcers are just as stupid as they actually tried to justify the 8 penalties in-a-row. A great victory for the Flames, except that they needed massive help from the refs.
Southeast Preseason Preview
As we all know, the Toronto Maple Leafs can't draft players. So, I wondered, which teams can? As this is the year of the rookie (caused by a double crop of rookies), let's go thru the top 10 rookie scorers and find out who drafted them and when.
As we all know, the Leafs media are dumb. Next time you hear on 590 or 640 AM radio or read in the Toronto newspapers that the Leafs can't draft, remember the truth.
CP: The Washington Capitals signed goaltender Olaf Kolzig to a $10.9 million US, two-year contract extension Saturday.
Randy: I was really hoping the Leafs would trade Belfour and something for Kolzig. Oh well, maybe Theodore is the cheaper prize now.
The difference between Sunday's game against the Capitals and Tuesday game against the Capitals can be summarized as "Belfour stopped letting in bad goals after the 1st period." In both games, the Capitals had a lot of low quality shots on goal that evaded Tellqvist all game.
The reffing was somewhat better except that they continue to call it hooking when a players stick lightly touches another player. If you wanna create a new rule banning touching other players with your stick. Calling it hooking, when the stick isn't impeding the player at all, is kinda dumb.
You can point your finger at two players who won this game for the Capitals; Tellqvist and McCabe. McCabe has turned into the best scoring defenseman in the game, unfortunately they are only counting the goals he's scoring on the oppositions net. He scored the winning goal tonight on a shot by Ovechkin, a beautiful 100% intentional tip that left Tellqvist helpless. Mind you, had McCabe not deflected the puck, then the 60-ft shot may have evaded Tellqvist anyways, who let a few softies get past him tonight.