Posts Tagged ‘San Jose Sharks’

Dany Heatley’s Decline Reminds Us We’re All Human

July 4th, 2011

Michael Russo from the Star Tribune wrote a terrific article earlier concerning Dany Heatley, his trade to the Minnesota Wild, and his time with the San Jose Sharks.

As fans it’s easy to get caught up in liking/disliking athletes. Dany Heatley’s “heal turn” in the summer of 2009 represents that better than virtually any other example I can think of.  His departure from Ottawa was well documented here, and by pretty much every other blog and sports outlet in North America.

As Russo points out, Heatley’s time in San Jose will largely be viewed as failure. The Sharks didn’t win any Stanley Cups and twice lost in the Western Conference finals (both times fairly convincingly too). Heatley’s playoff numbers aren’t amazing either. In fact, the former 50-goal scorer managed just 22 points in 32 games over his two post-seasons with the Sharks. Frankly, those stats are somewhat flattering too. Only five of Heatley’s 22 points were goals.

Disappointing stats? Absolutely, but it’s not that simple. While it’s clear the new NHL – the way the game is played, the younger and faster players, and the new rules – don’t bode well for Heatley and his style, he’s still an elite goal scorer at this level. Consecutive injury plagued seasons have certainly played a significant role in Heatley’s decline. From torn groins to broken hands, Heatley has probably seen more trainers and medical rooms in the last two years than most nurses.

» Read more: Dany Heatley’s Decline Reminds Us We’re All Human

2011 Stanley Cup Final Predications

June 1st, 2011

As we get ready for the start of game one of the Stanley Cup finals, I thought it’d be wise to drop in my predictions. I know I haven’t done any predictions for the 2011 playoffs like I have for previous years, mostly because it’s been a crapshoot this year, but I’m weighing in now. Here we go.

2011 Stanley Cup Finals logoWhile these two teams are closer than a lot of people are willing to admit, I think there are two key areas (that everyone else hasn’t already mentioned) that separate the Vancouver Canucks from the Boston Bruins.

Top Lines
There’s no doubt that the Bruins have some terrific offensive depth. It’s a large reason why they are in the Stanley Cup finals. However, their top line of Lucic – Krejci – Horton isn’t quite a top line. It’s more of a strong second line and it pales in comparison to the D. Sedin – H. Sedin – Burrows line of Vancouver. It’s not even a debate. When you break down the Bruins second line of Marchand – Bergeron – Recchi, it’s solid, but no better than the Canucks second line of Raymond – Kesler – Higgins. Boston are rocking a 2a and 2b type set up for lines. Sure, it’s good enough to get you through the East, but not the Western Conference champs in Vancouver.

» Read more: 2011 Stanley Cup Final Predications

Super Playoff Weigh-In

May 10th, 2011

It’s about time I weigh in with some playoff thoughts. But first one quick thing to mention:

OK. These playoffs have been great. The first round was absolutely killer. Easily the best first round I can recall. For me, some highlights included watching game seven of the Blackhawks-Canucks series in a downtown Chicago bar. You could hear a pin drop in that packed bar for the majority of the third period. That is, until Jonathan Toews did something amazing. Then things got nuts. Unfortunately for the Hawks, Chris Campoli made the biggest error of his career by assisting on Alex Burrows series winning goal.

» Read more: Super Playoff Weigh-In

Epic Story: How San Jose drafted Logan Couture

December 9th, 2010

You might have recently thought “Hey, that Logan Couture guy is pretty good. The Sharks are lucky to have him.” I know I’ve thought this on many occasions over the last few weeks.

Logan Couture - San Jose Sharks

Then for some reason, you get this bizarre urge to find out Couture’s draft year. You eventually determine he was the ninth overall selection during the 2007 NHL Entry Draft in Columbus. In an effort to look smart (read: not stupid), you nod your head in approval thinking ninth overall sounds about right.

But hold on for one second!

You recall the San Jose Sharks being a very good team during the 2007 NHL season. Your brain reaches a logical conclusion that there’s no way the Sharks could have had a draft pick that high that year.

Suddenly you are very confused. A team who finished with the fifth most points in the league during the 2007 season ended up drafting a player ninth overall later that summer.

Wait. Come again. What just happened?

It all started on draft day, June 22, when the San Jose Sharks traded forward Mark Bell and goalie Vesa Toskala to the Toronto Maple Leafs (sorry for the reminder Leafs fans) in exchange for Toronto’s first and second round picks (Lars Eller, 13th overall and Aaron Palushaj, 44th overall, respectively) in the 2007 draft, and a fourth round draft pick in 2009 (Craig Smith).

Hey – Maybe this is still one of those “wait and see” kinds of trades. Nevermind. Neither player has suited up for the Leafs in some time. Maybe John Ferguson, Jr. was desperate to acquire a starting goalie to make up for trading Tuukka Rask to Boston a year earlier for Andrew Raycroft. And he was adding a power forward in Bell at the same time too. Sounds reasonable enough, right? Nevermind that too. Maybe JFJ lost faith in the draft system after taking Jiri Tlusty 13th overall in the 2006 draft when Claude Giroux ended up going 22nd overall. Anyways…

Following the deal with the Leafs, the Sharks promptly traded those first and second round picks (Eller and Palushaj) to the St. Louis Blues for their ninth overall pick in the 2007 draft. Of course, that pick ended up being Logan Couture from the Ottawa 67’s.

Ouch.

For those keeping track, the Sharks managed to rid themselves of Mark Bell and Vesa Toskala for Logan Couture, a serious 2010-2011 Calder trophy candidate, and all it cost them was a fourth round pick in the 2009 draft.

Did you hear that noise just now? I think that was the sound of several thousand Leafs fans smashing their face into their keyboards.

There are some teams that flat out rob others during draft weekends. While most of the hockey world was busy watching the Chicago Blackhawks pick Patrick Kane first overall, the Sharks quietly stole one of the best talents available in the 2007 draft for close to nothing… unless you consider Craig Smith something of a big deal.

- – -

Some interesting notes from the 2007 draft:

  • 2007 was the first time two American-born players were selected first and second overall in NHL draft history (Kane picked by Chicago and James van Riemsdyk picked by Philadelphia).
  • The Colorado Avalanche selected Kevin Shattenkirk, one of the more promising rookies this year, 14th overall.
  • Whether the accompanying pressure is fair or not, Lars Eller ended up being a key piece of the Jaroslav Halak trade to the Blues last summer.
  • The Toronto Maple Leafs did not make a first or second round selection in this draft (sounds familiar… where have I heard this story before?). In fact, their first selection of that weekend came when they took Dale Mitchell 74th overall in the third round. Yeah…
  • Montreal selected P.K. Subban 43rd overall, one pick ahead of Palushaj.
  • With the 97th overall pick, the Edmonton Oilers drafted a Swedish-born forward who would later become a YouTube shootout sensation and one of the top players in the American Hockey League in the 2010-2011 season. That player, Linus Omark, makes his NHL debut on Friday night against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

 

Stay classy, Logan Couture.

Thoughts on the recent NHL activity

August 2nd, 2010

I’ve noticed a lot of bloggers apologizing for the lack of updates recently citing “a lack of hockey news” as their primary reason. It’s not that I disagree, I just refuse to apologize. Mostly because I’m a jerk. But a pro tip I’ve come to discover: the less you post, the more there is to talk about. It requires less work and minimizes how much of me you – the good reader – have to put up with! So win-win, right?

OK here’s some actual hockey thoughts from recent NHL activity. Things got pretty interesting today!

Who does arbitration hurt more?

Marty Turco - Chicago Blackhawks | Stayclassy.netWhen talking about arbitration, typically it’s looked at in terms of how much it damages a player’s ego. Many have suggested teams taking their players to arbitration fractures the team-player relationship in the eyes of the player. It basically represents the team saying they don’t believe the player is worth what he think’s he’s worth and that gets ugly fast. If we’ve learned anything from the Antti Niemi fiasco, it’s that it can be the other way around too. Niemi rejecting a multi-year deal prior to arbitration forced Stan Bowman’s hand, made such a process a reality and probably pissed off the Hawks enough to ensure a standing contract was made with Marty Turco prior to Niemi’s hearing even starting.

Price with Niemi

I’m so clever. You don’t actually think I meant dollars did you? Of course not! Obviously I meant Carey Price. Contract talks between he and the Montreal Canadiens don’t seem to be going anywhere. Makes you wonder why Montreal would trade Jaroslav Halak without signing Price first. I don’t think Bob Gainey is still running the show in Montreal anymore…  Anyways, with a better and slightly more proven goalie on the market, one has to wonder if Carey get’s his act together and signs with the Canadiens sooner than later. Although if the Habs can swoop in on Niemi, I’d pay big bucks to hear him say (with Finnish accent and all) “The price is wrong bitch” to Carey Price.

Still on Niemi…

It should be interesting to see where Niemi lands. Like everyone else I’m guessing San Jose. Touche Doug Wilson. That was a pretty sly move signing Niklas Hjalmarsson to a slightly high offer sheet last month. Wilson knew this offer sheet would make resigning Hjalmarsson and Niemi nearly impossible for Bowman and the Hawks. It’s my understanding that the Sharks have wanted Niemi all along. I reserve the right to retract that statement if Niemi ends up somewhere else.

Tim Kennedy on waivers… Huh?

Earlier on Monday, the Buffalo Sabres placed Tim Kennedy on waivers with the intention of buying out his $1 Million arbitrator awarded contract. The confusion comes for two reasons. One: why are the Sabres buying him out if they just signed him to the contract awarded by an arbitrator? That answer can be found here (in short, they have no choice). Two: The Sabres have a problem with paying $1 Million/year for a 24 year old hometown kid who scored 26 points in 78 games last season? I’m thinking someone claims him in the next 24 hours.

Marty Turco’s $1.3 Million salary

Congrats to Turco on landing a gig with the Chicago Blackhawks this coming season. I guess turning down the Flyers a few weeks ago wasn’t such a bad decision after all. But it’s not all roses for Turco – New York Rangers star Derek Boogaard makes $350,000 more than him. For three additional years. Ouch. On the plus side, Turco’s name hasn’t been discussed this much since well, ever. Oh and speaking of which, can the Blackhawks drama finally be over soon? I’m kind of sick of talking about them.

Stay classy, slow NHL news stories.

A closer look at the NHL’s trade market

June 18th, 2010

The 2010 NHL Entry Draft is just one week away! Stay calm and collected my friends, this is the best news I’ve heard since the Blackhawks ended the season last week. As with every year, the Draft is always the start of some significant roster moves around the league.

In light of yesterdays blockbuster Canadiens-Blues trade (clarification: would-be blockbuster deal, provided Montreal actually got something in exchange for Halak), I had several teams complete a quick “need and available” survey. Let’s look at the needs of a few teams who’s names have been in the rumor mill in recent weeks:

Montreal Canadiens
Needs: A number one goalie, someone who can actually keep up with PK Subban and a good knee brace for Andrei Markov.
Available: Potential franchise goalie and whoever the current coach of our AHL team is.

Chicago Blackhawks
Needs: To shed salary without damanging the core of the team.
Available: Marian Hossa and Cristobal Huet. Any takers? No? OK. How about this: Huet was a mentor to Halak… still nothing? How about this: Hossa managed to score some nice goals in 22 playoff games… (Stayclassy.net: Good luck Stan Bowman!)

Philadelphia Flyers
Needs: To rip off a team with a great available goalie like the St. Louis Blues did.
Available: Daniel Briere and his no movement clause. Apparently that clause applies to local highways too.

Ottawa Senators
Needs: To acquire a point per game center/playmaker. Also needed are elite goal scorer(s), a shutdown defenseman and number one goalie.
Available: A point per game center/playmaker and a bunch of players no one wants.

Toronto Maple Leafs
Needs: Another assistant General Manager and another roster shake up (It’s been like, a few weeks since the last one…).
Available: Pretty much everyone except Dave Nonis. He’s probably the most untouchable person in the organization. And if you do somehow get him, I (Burkie) will pull him right back!

San Jose Sharks
Needs: Veteran leadership, proven playoff performers and a new team captain (just like every off-season in San Jose).
Available: All of our good players except Dan Boyle and the grinders like Manny Malholtra.

Minnesota Wild
Needs: … uhhh actually, what/who do we have???
Available: N/A.

St. Louis Blues
Needs: A veteran forward and some young prospects.
Available: The negotiation rights for goalie Chris Mason. Our asking price? Free or best offer. Did you see what we got Halak for???

Stay classy, NHL teams looking to make trades.

Burgundy’s 2nd round NHL playoff predictions

April 29th, 2010

Stayclassy.net's NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs

With no real break between rounds, tonight marks the beginning of the Stanley Cup Conference Semi-Finals! The 1st round was a blast and featured the elimination of the top 3 seeded teams in the Eastern Conference. The way the Washington Capitals were eliminated was surprising to many, while the defeats of the Buffalo Sabres and New Jersey Devils was predicted by a number of people. The Western Conference saw some interesting developments – the Phoenix Coyotes and Los Angeles Kings gave the Red Wings and Canucks a few scares but ultimately couldn’t hold on. And oh yeah, the San Jose Sharks are through to the next round, no thanks to Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau.

For those of you wondering, I went 5 for 8 in my 1st round predictions. Here are my 2nd round predictions:

Pittsburgh Penguins (4) vs Montreal Canadiens (8)
The Montreal Canadiens shocked the entire hockey world with their amazing series come-back against the Washington Capitals. I don’t care what the truest of Habs fans say: no one saw them coming back after going down 3-1. Having said that, and as well as Jaroslav Halak has played, there’s no way the Pittsburgh Penguins will fall victim to the Canadiens the way the Capitals did. The Penguins are proven winners and have Russian stars that actually know how to show up in the post-season. Sidney Crosby is on another level in this year’s Playoffs and I don’t think the Hal Gill-Josh Gorges tandem will be able to contain him, despite their tremendous play so far. Pittsburgh will figure out within minutes of the first game how to not shoot directly at the two or three Habs defencemen who are trying to block shots…
Verdict: Pittsburgh in 6 games.

Boston Bruins (6) vs Philadelphia Flyers (7)
I’m not sure how many of us figured we’d see the Boston Bruins playing the Philadelphia Flyers in the 2nd round of the Playoffs, but this should be an interesting series. I really liked how Tuukka Rask played in the 1st round and I felt like the Bruins got stronger as their series with Buffalo went on. Milan Lucic seemed to wake up towards the end of the series and key players like Michael Ryder, Miroslav Satan and Mark Recchi stepped up in the big moments of each game. The highly anticipated return of Marc Savard should provide the Bruins with a nice emotional boost and perhaps a bit of additional scoring. Looking at the Flyers, although they are rested, they will be without the services of three very valuable players: Simon Gagne, Jeff Carter and Ian Laperriere. I’m not convinced Brian Boucher is for real, nor do I believe he can outplay Rask. It’s a shame we can’t see each game of this series played at Fenway Park… or can we? No, nevermind. We can’t.
Verdict: Boston in 6 games.

San Jose Sharks (1) vs Detroit Red Wings (5)
The San Jose Sharks are now at the critical point of their season. Let’s be honest: the 1st round was a formality. While the Colorado Avalanche gave them a quick scare, it was a foregone conclusion the Sharks would/should easily win that round. For the most part, the Avalanche were badly outplayed. Evgeni Nabokov played very well too – something we can’t say has always been the case in the post-season for the Sharks. Devin Setoguchi and Joe Pavelski really elevated their play in the 1st round, and yet again, Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau continue to fight the Playoff pressure. Meanwhile, the Detroit Red Wings enjoyed a scare of their own from the Phoenix Coyotes. Detroit’s leaders got stronger as the series wore on and stepped it up when it mattered most. I really liked Jimmy Howard’s play and attitude (for the most part) against the Coyotes too. My gut feeling lies with the experience of the Wings and I’m still not sold San Jose are the real deal. Still.
Verdict: Detroit in 6 games.

Chicago Blackhawks (2) vs Vancouver Canucks (3)
This is easily the best series of the 2nd round. A rematch from last year’s Conference Semi-Finals, with a slight reversal. Last year, I’d say the Chicago Blackhawks were the stronger team. This year, I’d have to say the Vancouver Canucks are the stronger team. I believe the Canucks may have the most complete forward roster of any team in the Playoffs. All the lines are firing well and appear to be healthy. While the Blackhawks offense is more lethal and battle-tested than the young Los Angeles Kings, I still give the advantage to the Canucks. Both team’s have some injuries on defence, but I think this is a series that will see Roberto Luongo will steal a game or two for Vancouver. And of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention how much I’m looking forward to Byfuglien & Luongo’s battle royale rematch. I can’t wait for this series to start!
Verdict: Vancouver in 7 games.

There you have it. These are my 2nd round predictions. What are your predictions?

Stay classy, NHL Conference Semi-Finals.

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Choking on bullshit

April 25th, 2010

Following series clinching losses on Saturday night, the Colorado Avalanche and Ottawa Senators join the New Jersey Devils in 2010 Playoff disappointment. Apparently.

Detractors of the Avalanche and Senators (mostly the Senators… Honestly, who hates the young, up-and-coming Avs?) say the Playoffs were busts for each club. Some have already claimed the Senators choked in this year’s Playoffs.

Let’s pretend for a second that a Playoff series consists of more than a single game (or period). Let’s take a slightly more intelligent perspective on the Avalanche and Senators series. The opponents in each series – the Sharks and Penguins, respectively – are heavy favorites to play for the Stanley Cup in June. They are considered among the elite NHL teams.

In the case of the Avs and Sens, it’s pretty impressive both teams qualified for the Playoffs. Virtually no one thought Colorado had any chance of being in the post-season. And only a few more of the ‘experts’ thought Ottawa would qualify for the Playoffs. That’s the difference between the Avs and Sens and the New Jersey Devils – a team with larger expectations and a team that should have gone farther than the 1st round.

The Devils choked big time. Consider the blockbuster deal they pulled off to acquire star Ilya Kovalchuk in February. Consider the strong regular season they had and their series opponent, the Philadelphia Flyers. Consider the fact that expectations were higher for the Devils than they were for the Avalanche and Senators combined. And don’t forget last year’s 1st round meltdown against the Carolina Hurricanes. Neither Colorado or Ottawa even made the 2009 Playoffs.

Exactly how can a team (or teams) and their Playoff elimination be considered a choke when they weren’t expected to make the post-season and ended up playing superior opponents? To me, it’s about realistic expectations. You can’t “choke” when you live up to expectations. Many didn’t expect the Avalanche or Senators to advance beyond the 1st round of the Playoffs. Most figured the Devils would be a 2nd or 3rd round team, or better.

Excuse me for getting a little bent out of shape on this, but I’m choking on this bullshit.

Stay classy, Avalanche and Senators. Neither team choked.

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1st round Playoff impressions (so far)

April 16th, 2010

Aside from the Chicago-Nashville series (which gets underway tonight), we’re one game into each Conference Quarter-Final series. And so far, I’ve enjoyed every minute of the games I’ve managed to watch. Anyways, I don’t want to waste any more of your time. I’ll get straight to some of my initial thoughts. I’d love to hear some of your Playoff thoughts too.

It Feels Fresh
One thing I’m really happy about this year is some of the refreshing series match-ups. Seeing series like Detroit-Phoenix, Los Angeles-Vancouver and Montreal-Washington is fun. I like the new rivalries that are already starting up (especially in the Kings-Canucks series). The intensity of the Boston-Buffalo series surprised me too. I wasn’t sure to be impressed or concerned with Raffi Torres going after Zdeno Chara last night. Note to the Sabres: it’s probably not wise to start a fight with the Bruins when Chara and Milan Lucic are on the ice.

Not So Fresh
The San Jose Sharks losing the first game of a series in which they have home ice advantage. In the last three seasons, the Sharks have had home ice advantage in the 1st round. They’ve lost all three of those first games. I know it’s early in the series, but that sinking “I thought this was finally the year San Jose would figure it out” feeling came back like a bad STD. Feel free to continue the comparison.

Guaranteed In Life
It seems there are two things as guaranteed as taxes and death in every Playoff year: San Jose struggling and reports of Alex Ovechkin playing hurt. Of course, a speculated Ovechkin injury is often followed up with “he flew his personal trainer from Russia into town… he only does this for injuries…”. Good thing it’s his personal trainer and not that steroid trainer who works in the same building as the Capitals practice rink…

Starting Slow
Speaking of the Capitals, does anyone else think it’s strange that the Capitals Playoffs always start off slow? Last night, most of their forwards (expect Nickolas Backstrom, who was phenomenal) were terrible. Very few of the Caps forwards wanted to get their noses dirty. I’d have played David Steckle and Matt Bradley more than Ovechkin last night, but that’s just me. Although Montreal played very well last night, Washington need to force their speed on the Canadiens defence. Montreal’s big three really came through last night. I expected that from Brian Gionta, but not necessarily from Scott Gomez or Mike Cammalleri. Props to them.

Burrows Is Annoying
Man, was Alex Burrow 50% more annoying last night than most regular season games? It seemed he was trying too hard to start post-season intensity. I liked the dramatic retaliation slash to Drew Doughty at the end of the 2nd period. Other than Burrows, Mikael Samuelsson really stood out to me in last night’s game. Here’s a player who’s learned how to play in the Playoffs and is leading by example in Vancouver. He was terrific in forechecking, hitting and scoring. Considering the contract he signed in July of 2009 and his impact to the Canucks, Samuelsson might be the best UFA signing of last summer. Kudos, Mike Gillis.

Wreckless
Greg “Puck Daddy” Wyshnyski once told me all the headshot/wreckless play nonsense would end come Playoff time. Last night’s Andrew Alberts hit on Brad Richardson might beg to differ. I hope this is an anomaly or I fear I may have to call Greg a liar. You should remind him on Twitter. Just saying. (Note: I have mad respect for Greg. This is a joke. But you should still harass him on Twitter).

What caught your eye? I’m looking forward to a great weekend of hockey! Also, it’s my birthday (and Fantana’s) on Sunday. Email me for instructions and ideas on what kind of gifts I’d like.

Stay classy, NHL Playoffs. I’m hooked so far!

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Burgundy’s 1st round NHL playoff predictions

April 14th, 2010

Stayclassy.net's NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs

Tonight marks the beginning of the NHL’s 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Like everyone else, I’d like to make my predictions for the 1st round. Before breaking down each series, I have two things to say. Firstly, I don’t hate any of the Canadian teams, however, I don’t like Vancouver, Montreal, or Ottawa’s chances. Secondly, I’m far more interested in the Western Conference series than the Eastern Conference series. This means two things. 1- I won’t be getting much sleep for the next few weeks. 2- I’ll be on Twitter a lot and look forward to talking Playoffs with all of you!

Washington Capitals (1) vs Montreal Canadiens (8)
I read about Tomas Plekanec’s quotes from the other day. I don’t understand why he’s playing these silly games, but whatever. He better bury a few goals on Washington or egg will be on his face, goatee and turtleneck. Sure, Montreal probably has the edge in goaltending, but Theordore’s play this year has been pretty good. Honestly, I don’t think Montreal has any chance in this series. Even if Jaroslav Halak plays like he did at the Olympics, Washington will be too much for Montreal’s slow defence. Alex Ovechkin has something to prove and Nickolas Backstrom is fresh off his best season in his young NHL career.
Verdict: Washington in 5 games.

New Jersey Devils (2) vs Philadelphia Flyers (7)
This series could go either way. On one hand, you have a legendary goalie in Marty Brodeur versus 3rd-stringer Brian Boucher (advantage Devils). On the other hand, you have Ilya Kovalchuk/Zach Parise versus Danny Briere/Jeff Carter/Mike Richards/Simon Gagne and more (advantage Flyers). I like Philadelphia’s defence a little more than New Jersey’s, too. And because Chris Pronger has a strong reputation for helping teams over the hump in Playoffs, I have to side with the Flyers as my upset team in the East.
Verdict: Philadelphia in 7 games.

Buffalo Sabres (3) vs Boston Bruins (6)
Boston’s well documented  scoring troubles and Buffalo’s all-star goalie Ryan Miller combine for a tough challenge for the Bruins. In addition, the Bruins announced the possibility of Marc Savard’s return to the team no earlier than in the 2nd round of the playoffs. Given the challenges Boston has faced this year (off years for certain players and injuries), making the Playoffs is a considerable feat. I don’t think they have any chance against the well oiled machine that is the Buffalo Sabres. On a slightly different note, it should be interesting to see which rookie proves most valuable to their respective teams between Tyler Myers and Tuukka Rask.
Verdict: Buffalo in 5 games.

Pittsburgh Penguins (4) vs Ottawa Senators (5)
This is a tough match-up for the Ottawa Senators when you consider a 6th place finish would have put them up against the Sabres, a team they’ve dominated for years. The obvious storyline for this series is goaltending: Brian Elliott versus Marc-Andre Fleury. As a fan of the Senators, I’m under no illusions, Pittsburgh will win this series, the question is how many games will it take. SensChirp (a blog I respect) believes Ottawa stacks up pretty closely with Pittsburgh. Some of the points are valid, but I’m not sure Ottawa’s defence is that much better than Pittsburgh’s, nor do I believe Ottawa can out-coach the defending Stanley Cup Champions.
Verdict: Pittsburgh in 6 games.

San Jose Sharks (1) vs Colorado Avalanche (8)
I really like the Colorado Avalanche and no, I didn’t think they’d come remotely close to making the playoffs prior to the 09-10 season starting. Having said that, I see the Sharks experience and grit over-powering the young Avalanche. The Avalanche strike me as a team very satisfied with their season whereas the Sharks have known all year that their Playoff results is what really matters. I like some of the role players San Jose has acquired between last season and now (guys like Jed Ortmeyer, Scott Nichol, Niclas Wallin, etc…). I believe these guys, along with Patrick Marleau, Dan Boyle and Rob Blake will be difference makers in this series. Also, I’m concerned for Colorado that star goalie Craig Anderson might be a bit burned out from his first regular season as a starting goalie.
Verdict: San Jose in 6 games.

Chicago Blackhawks (2) vs Nashville Predators (7)
Most of us could make a living from underestimating the Nashville Predators. And although the Predators are a team built so well for the Playoffs, I simply cannot bet against the Chicago Blackhawks. People will question the Hawk’s goaltending and while it’s been suspect at times this season, I don’t think it’s as bad as everyone makes it out to be. It’s easily the weakest part of the Hawks roster, but that’s easy to say when you look at their forwards and defence depth. Chicago’s hurting with injuries to their defence, but I believe their talent up front will carry the load in this series. I look for Patrick Kane to lead the way in points and clutch plays.
Verdict: Chicago in 6 games.

Vancouver Canucks (3) vs Los Angeles Kings (6)
Alright Canucks fans, don’t hate me for saying this, but I think the Kings are going to beat the Canucks. Don’t get me wrong, this is the best team (by far) the Canucks have put together in years. But with all the pressure on them, their injuries at defence and Roberto Luongo’s inconsistencies, I don’t have a good feeling for the Canucks. I know the Canucks beat the Kings three times this year, but I think the Kings move pucks better and faster than Vancouver and have a quick transition game that will burn the slower Canucks defence. I know Jonathan Quick’s play recently hasn’t been good, but I don’t see that as a factor in this series. Simply put, the Kings are loose and Vancouver know they need a solid post-season run this year.
Verdict: Los Angeles in 7 games.

Phoenix Coyotes (4) vs Detroit Red Wings (5)
This might be the most intriguing 1st round match-up this year. Like I said with the Avalanche, I believe the Coyotes are satisfied with their season and won’t have the same drive the Red Wings will. Ilya Bryzgalov shed his reputation of burning out down the regular season stretch from previous years, but I can’t help but wonder if he’s at all fatigued from this season. He’s finally gotten used to playing 60-70 regular season games per year, but that’s without playoffs. I think Detroit are too strong and too experienced for the young up-tempo Coyotes. And with Jimmy Howard’s play over the second half of the season, he looks poised to have a great Playoff performance. I don’t like betting against this Phoenix team, but dislike betting against Detroit even more.
Verdict: Detroit in 6 games.

There you have it. These are my 1st round predictions. What are your predictions?

Stay classy, NHL Playoffs.

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