Posts Tagged ‘Western Conference’

Jay Feaster’s Playoff-Bound Calgary Flames?

October 9th, 2011

As I sat watching the Calgary Flames home opener against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday night, I kept asking myself what the hell Jay Feaster was talking about. Context: Earlier this summer Feaster was quoted saying his Flames will make the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Several. Times.

“We’ll make the playoffs this year”
Jay Feaster, Calgary Flames General Manager | Source

Yeah, for realz.

Look, no one’s putting a gun to the man’s head. Maybe Feaster is trying to light a fire under the asses of the entire Flames roster. Or maybe he truly believes what he’s saying. Frankly it doesn’t matter. He’s wrong.

» Read more: Jay Feaster’s Playoff-Bound Calgary Flames?

Will they or won’t they – Edmonton Oilers

October 2nd, 2009

The big question in Edmonton is the same question the team has faced every year since the 2005-2006 season. The question is whether the Edmonton Oilers will make the playoffs or not this year.

Reasons They Will Make the Playoffs

After missing the playoffs for the past 3 seasons, something had to give in Edmonton. They had the world’s first mutual firing of longtime head coach Craig MacTavish and quickly hired Pat Quinn (and Tom Reeney) to replace him. I like this move and I think Oilers fans will rejoice in the coaching change. No offense to Mac-T on this one, but he had clearly lost the dressing room and the team seemed very out of sync towards the end of the season last year. Quinn will bring new life to the team and will create higher levels of accountability for each player.

Up front, I think the Oilers have a tremendous level of skill. Their top 9 forwards are as fast as any team in the Western Conference and at the very least, this should keep their games entertaining to watch. Among forwards, the players to watch will be Dustin Penner, Andrew Cogliano and Sam Gagner. Cogliano and Gagner both regressed last season after making large impacts in their rookie seasons two years ago. They’re also both RFA’s at the end of the year so I’m expecting them both to put up solid seasons. This counts double for Sam Gagner, who really, really struggled last year. Dustin Penner, a.k.a The Enigma, is entering a true make-it-or-break-it season. He’s the big man up front and with all of Edmonton’s skill, he can be that player that cleans up in front of the net and scores tons of garbage goals. If Penner can do his best Dino Ciccarelli impression, Edmonton fans will forget all about the disappointment of his past few seasons. I think Penner will benefit tremendously from the coaching change. It seemed like Penner was getting publically called out every few weeks last year, so a clean slate will be a nice change for him. I also think he plays at his best with a chip on his shoulder, and that whole Dany Heatley saga this summer should provide adequate fuel for that fire.

Reasons They Won’t Make the Playoffs

Looking at Edmonton’s blueline, it looks pretty strong. Their top 4 include Sheldon Souray and a healthier Lubomir Visnovsky. Tom Gilbert is coming off a strong season and Ladislav Smid may just be one of the best kept secrets of the Western Conference. Injuries will play a key factor, especially if Souray or Visnovsky get hurt and miss significant amounts of time, as the depth of the Oilers defense isn’t quite as deep as other teams in the west. This could put the playoffs out of reach, as it’s worth noting that Edmonton have 5 road trips of at least 4 games in length this year. Their top 4 blueliners log huge amounts of icetime and unless Edmonton can remain extremely healthy, it could make for a really rough season.

My other main concern is the lack of size for Edmonton’s forwards. I was puzzled by the signing of Mike Comrie because it seemed like they already had too many small players. Comrie is one of 5 players who are 5’11” or smaller and play on the top 3 lines. And this doesn’t count Shawn Horcoff or Ales Hemsky, which makes me wonder how much punishment these small forwards can take. Aside from Penner, I’m not sure who will play enough minutes to be able to competently stand up for the little guys. Again, with so many lengthy road trips, these smaller forwards will need to keep their heads up and their feet moving.

Final Prediction

This will be tough to read if you’re an Oilers fan, so I’m sorry in advance. Honestly, it’s not that the Oilers aren’t talented enough to be in the playoffs – I think talent-wise, they’re there. The problem is the depth of the Western Conference. You can break the teams up into three different groups (in not particular order):

Playoff Bound: Anaheim, Calgary, Chicago, Detroit, San Jose, Vancouver

On the Bubble: Columbus, Dallas, Edmonton, L.A., Minnesota, Nashville, St. Louis

Golfing in May: Colorado, Phoenix

The top 6 teams in the West are virtual locks to make the playoffs. Then you’ve got your ‘bubble teams’. Of those teams, I think most people, myself included, are expecting St. Louis to get back into the playoffs this year, and I think Columbus will get in as well. When you look at the teams Edmonton are competing against, it’s hard to imagine one of the aforementioned clubs not making the post-season. The bottom-line is that Edmonton are going to need to have a terrific season just to out-do one of those teams and make the playoffs. If there’s one thing you can guarantee, it’s that the race to the Stanley Cup Playoffs will be an absolute battle-royale in the Western Conference. Perhaps the Oilers should rent Top Gun to learn how to dog fight, because that’s what it’s going to take. Ultimately, I think the Oilers will remain in the hunt until the end of the regular season, but I just can’t see them squeezing past teams like St. Louis or Columbus.

Your Reporter in the Field,

Fantana

Follow Fantana on Twitter or be a fan of Stayclassy on Facebook.

Stanley Cup Final- Game 7- Keeping my Fingers Crossed

June 12th, 2009

I have to admit, it’s hard not to get caught up in the hype for this one. Stanley Cup Final rematch, Game 7, back at the Joe, a chance to build on a dynasty for one team, a chance for redemption for another team. The storylines are endless and the excitement has built to an all-time high. This is what the NHL wanted. Let’s hope they get it.

Why the cynicism?

I have no doubt that this game has the potential to be great; a game we will talk about for years to come. But, like Marc-Andre Fleury in Game 1 last year, it also has the potential to fall flat on its face.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LQQaQGOSquo&hl=en&fs=1&color1=0x5d1719&color2=0xcd311b]

This morning, the TSN Top Ten was the Top Ten Stanley Cup Final Game 7 moments. Not to give too much away, but there were only ten moments they listed. Yesterday, Ian Mendes at Rogers Sportsnet posted some of the best Game 7s in sports. Again, it was a short list. I’m sure in both cases there were many more. But there have also been plenty of duds. So here’s hoping tonight’s game doesn’t turn out like these travesties:

2009 Eastern Conference Semi-Finals- Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Washington Capitals
In what had been arguably the best series of the playoffs, there was no other option than a Game 7. Two of the best young teams in the East were going the distance, and we were promised fireworks. Well, except for a breakaway save by Fleury against Alexander Ovechkin, this game had about the same enthusiasm as Joaquin Phoenix’s recent appearance on Letterman. Pittsburgh skated away with this one, and I felt like I was watching pre-season in Switzerland. Not the Conference Semi-Finals.

2004 Eastern Conference Quarter-Finals- Ottawa Senators vs. Toronto Maple Leafs
Maybe this one stings a bit more because of my allegiance to the Ottawa Senators, but talk about another Game 7 letdown. In what was supposed to be Ottawa’s chance at finally beating the Leafs in the playoffs, a struggling offense, and stellar, if not incredibly lucky goaltending from Ed Belfour (remember when that Hossa shot hit the butt-end of his stick? Really Eddie? You meant to do that?), pushed this series to a Game 7. Well, we all remember how this one went. Current Stars GM Joe Niewendyk put two softies past Patrick Lalime and the game was out of hand and out of reach. The Sens bench, which used to turn defense into offense, was absolutely startled. They had no game plan after those goals, and we had to watch in utter dismay as Alfredsson led the charge to shake hands with the dreaded Leafs. In a series that had so much potential for Sens fans and the Battle of Ontario, this Game 7 was a dud.

2003 Stanley Cup Finals- New Jersey Devils vs. Anaheim Mighty Ducks
This one is being talked about as Dan Bylsma’s missed opportunity, but Game 7 was a complete bore. After coming back from a 3-1 deficit, most of the hockey world was cheering on Giguere and the Ducks as the cinderella story of 2003. But a shutout performance from Martin Brodeur and two goals from Mike Rupp made this less exciting than a John and Kate Plus 8 marathon on TLC.

1999 Western Conference Finals- Dallas Stars vs. Colorado Avalanche
Colorado took an impressive 3-2 lead over the future Stanley Cup Champions with a 7-5 victory in Game 5. After Dallas tied the series in Game 6, we all figured for some fireworks in Game 7. Well, 6 minutes into the third period and Dallas was already up 4-0. Only 7 minutes later did Colorado score its first goal, but Dallas had already wrapped this one up. They were on their way to the Finals. With a Colorado team that featured the likes of Sakic, Forsberg, Drury, and Fleury, we all figured we’d get a bit more out of this Game 7.

1996 Conference Semi-Finals- Detroit Red Wings vs. St. Louis Blues
I don’t know if you can call this a bad game, so much as a brutal way to end a series. We all know the goal. It’s replayed over and over and over. But Steve Yzerman grabs a loose puck that was coughed up by Wayne Gretzky, skates into the St. Louis zone, and fires a shot from the blueline that somehow handcuffs Jon Casey. It cements Yzerman as a great leader, player and playoff performer, sends Casey to who-knows-where, and ends the series. Good series, good hockey. Awful goal.

My age is beginning to show here, cause I’m sure I’m missing some other brutal Game 7s. Here’s hoping that tonight’s billing lives up to the hype, and doesn’t make my list next year.

Stay classy, Stanley Cup Finals Game 7. The NHL needs you.

Add SC.net on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.

2009 Stanley Cup predictions: Conference finals

May 15th, 2009

Wow!  What a second round that was.  All the series played out great and so far, this has been the best playoffs I’ve ever seen.  Kudos to the NHL… now if only we could get the referee’s to be as good.  Overall, their performance and blown calls runs similar to Tim Thomas and rebounds – get it fixed before it becomes more costly.  Sorry Bruins fans, but you knew Thomas’ weak rebound control was going to be a factor sooner or later.

Before we get to SC.net’s third round predictions, a quick note on the Carolina Hurricanes for their amazing run.  They remind me a lot of the Montreal Canadiens who won the Stanley Cup in 1993 – no current superstars, other than an amazing goaltender but played so well together.  It’s also validating for Paul Maurice, less than a year after being exiled from Toronto.  He’s been to the finals before and has a shot at it again this year.

Eastern Conference

Pittsburgh Penguins vs Carolina Hurricanes
Burgundy: Penguins in 6 games; seeing Sidney Crosby vs Eric Staal should be quite the match up, but I think Sid is on another level after being pitted against Alex Ovechkin in the series of the year.  The Canes are a fast team, but I think Pittsburgh’s grit and equally good defense (if not better) will wear down Carolina.  I expect Malkin to have a huge series, as Crosby will targetted heavily.  As with my Western prediction, this series will show Pittsburgh’s depth, helping them win.
Fantana: Penguins in 6 games; Staal’s a great leader for the Hurricanes but after watching Crosby pick up the Penguins and lead them to victory over Washington, how do you bet against Sid the Kid?  Crosby will find a way to score on Cam Ward and I’m thinking that Malkin will finally break through this series.  See ya Cardiac ‘Canes… it’s been fun.
Mantooth: Penguins in 6 games; If Fleury can keep in the net and stop trying to puck handle, and the Pens offense can figure out Ward. I give this one to Pittsburgh. Even though I have discounted the Canes in both round 1 and 2, I think that Sid is going to be too much for them.
Tambland: Penguins in 5 games; Oh man, who do you think they are cheering for in Thunder Bay for this one. I bet there’s a line that’s been drawn down the middle of the living room in the Staal household. On the one side, Red and White uphoulstry. On the other side, Black and Gold. But I think it’s the younger Staal’s turn and Stanley. Eric already has it, and should be practicing for the 2010 Olympics. The Penguins have proven me wrong for the last time (see first round predictions and Conference Semi-Finals Game 7 predictions.
Baxter: Penguins in 7 games; Gonchar needs to get healthy.  Fast.  Or else it doesn’t even matter how many hat tricks Crosby fires.  This is really about whether a talented Pittsburgh offence go beat a hot goalie more times than an average Carolina offence can beat an average goalie. 

Western Conference

Detroit Red Wings vs Chicago Blackhawks
Burgundy: Red Wings in 7 games; this series will be close, but I believe Detroit’s experience will hold up against the young Hawks.  My only concerns are the Red Wings defense core: is Bryan Rafalski and Nik Kronvall healthy?  And will Dustin Byfuglien get under the Wing’s feathers enough?  Detroit’s forwards are slightly stronger in this series and should prove the difference.
Fantana: Red Wings in 7 games; I want a re-match of last year’s Stanley Cup Final!  I think Detroit faced a really tough Ducks team that pushed them harder than they’ve been pushed in a long time… the Wings will build off this victory and will over-match the young Hawks.
Mantooth: Blackhawks in 7 games; It’s hard to go against the Wings, but seeing the fight that the Ducks put up, goes to show that they too have their weaknesses. I am putting my hope in the Hawks to take this one one pure youth alone. Plus I need Toews and Havlat to put up some decent numbers for my pool.
Tambland: Blackhawks in 7 games; Again, this is a coming of age story. The NHL is going to have wet dreams all summer long when Sid the Kid meets the young Blackhawks in the Finals. As much as I’d love to see Hossa lose the Stanley Cup to the team he snubbed in the off-season, the Wings won’t be able to handle the speedy young Hawks squad. Watching goaltending become an issue here again.
Baxter: Hawks in 6 games; Ok, I’m getting tired of second-guessing this pesky Chicago team.  Can’t beat these kids. And now they’re well rested. Detroit may have exhausted themselves trying to get by Anaheim.

It’s interesting to note that three of the four goalies remaining in this year’s NHL playoffs are previous Stanley Cup winners within the last 4 seasons, and the fourth goalie – Marc-Andre Fleury was last year’s runner up.

Stay classy, conference finals.

Follow Stayclassy.net on Twitter or be our friend on Facebook.

The 1st round post mortem

April 30th, 2009

Now that the 1st round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs is complete, 8 teams moved on to the Conference Semi-Finals while 8 teams cleaned out their locker rooms and began shaving their playoff beards.  For the losing teams, the questions over what went wrong, who under-achieved and who will be re-signed, traded or let go will start.   

Western Conference
 

Where did Joe Thornton go?

Where did Joe Thornton go?

San Jose Sharks – After letting Ron Wilson go last summer and seeing another early playoff exit this year, it’s clear that coaching isn’t the problem in San Jose.  Todd McLellen will be back next year and that’s probably the only safe bet with this team.  San Jose’s core group of players didn’t show up against the Anaheim Ducks and that’s why they lost.  Despite the no-trade clause, I think Patrick Marleau may be moved this summer.  With one year and $6.3 Million on his contract, he’s pricey but can be afforded and I could see a team like the Los Angeles Kings being interested.  I also wonder about Joe Thornton… it really makes you wonder if Boston were wrong to have traded him several years ago.  Maybe they were right all along… weird!  Evgeni Nabokov didn’t elevate his game in the playoffs either but I suspect the Sharks will retain him because he’d be too hard to replace. Milan Michalek is another guy that was non-existent against the Ducks and could be on the trading block.  I expect he will be back next year but with $20 Million owing over the next 5 years, he’ll be hard to move.  Finally, I think San Jose will re-sign Travis Moen and let Rob Blake go.  
 

Columbus Blue Jackets – Columbus have a bright future and GM Scott Howson has done a great job in his two years with the Blue Jackets.  The main challenge this summer will insulating Rick Nash and finding a way to re-sign him to a long-term contract, as his current deal expires at the end of next season (Shut up Leafs fans).  Columbus could use another top 4 defenseman as I’m not sure if Christian Backman will be re-signed – he could be had but for less than the $3.4 Million he earned this season.  With Voracek, Brassard, Filatov, Umberger, Vermette and Nash in their top 6, this team will be fast and dynamic next year.  I’m excited to see these guys in October. 

 

Calgary Flames – There’s no question that Calgary’s lineup was decimated with injuries but Flames fans won’t tolerate another early exit and neither will their ownership.  Expect a few big changes this summer.  I think Calgary would like to re-sign Mike Cammalleri, but their problem is that they’ve already got $47 Million committed to next season.  Basically, to keep Cammalleri, they’ll have to pass on re-signing Rhett Warrener and Jordan Leopold, as Cammalleri will likely command $6 Million per season.  Or they’ll have to trade Olli Jokinen to free up some cap space but I don’t see that happening.  I doubt the Flames will re-sign Todd Bertuzzi or Adrian Aucoin but I do however believe David Moss and Jamie Lundmark will be retained. 

 

St. Louis Blues – St. Louis ripped it up in the 2nd half of the year and surprised many with a 6th place finish in the ultra-tough Western Conference.  Remember that Paul Kariya, Eric Brewer and Erik Johnson will all be healthy next season and that’s a big bonus for a young Blues team.  Keith Tkachuk is UFA but I think he’ll re-sign with St. Louis for around $2 Million next year.  Dan Hinote and Jay McClement should also be straight-forward re-signings.  The only notable change for St. Louis is that I don’t see Manny Legace coming back next year.  Look for the Blues to promote from within, with guys like Alex Pietrangelo, Patrik Berglund, Ben Bishop/Marek Shwartz and Johnson to take on bigger roles next season. 
 

Eastern Conference

 

Philadelphia Flyers – Paul Holmgren was lauded as a genius for turning around the Philadelphia Flyers franchise in 2007.  Well, turns out he didn’t plan that far ahead after all.  The Flyers have $53 Million on their payroll for next year, so they won’t be participating in the UFA sweepstakes this summer.  So no, they cannot afford Jay Bouwmeester, nor will they won’t be able to retain impending UFA’s Mike Knuble and Andrew Alberts.  James van Riemsdyk will be a top 6 forward, so that makes Joffrey Lupul expendable.  Good luck moving that contract though.  I think the Flyers will try to move Daniel Briere (hello, Montreal), Lupul and possibly Simon Gagne this summer to clear cap space because, among other things, they have no goaltenders signed for next season.  I think Philly will re-sign Biron to a similar contract as this year and will let Antero Niittymaki walk.  Any teams trading with the Flyers can expect some really good deals!

 

New York Rangers – John Tortorella will be back as coach next year, so the circus with him and Sean Avery will continue.  Oh boy!  With $42 Million committed to next season already, some tough decisions will need to be made this summer in New York. I don’t see Zherdev or Antropov coming back, especially with Matt Gilroy joining the fold on a one-way contract next season.  Paul Mara and Derek Morris are also doubtful to return.  I think it’s clear the Rangers need to get some of their “character” players such as Brandon Dubinsky, Blair Betts and Ryan Callahan re-signed, as they were the most consistent players all year for the Blue-shirts.  They will command significant raises that will bite into New York’s available cap space.  The rest of the spare cash will go towards UFA defenseman that are better than Wade Redden.

 

Montreal Canadians – It’s been well documented that Montreal have a total of 13 UFA’s  and 6 RFA’s this summer.  Wow.  Marc Denis, Robert Lang and Alexei Kovalev are very doubtful to return and depending on salary demands, Francis Bouillon, Alex Tanguay and Saku Koivu may not return either.  For Koivu’s sake, I hope he finds a team/city that actually deserves him – I’ve heard rumours of Koivu going to Minnesota to play with his brother, but I’m not sold on that.  There are also question marks surrounding the Kostitsyn brothers, though I suspect they will return to the Habs next year.  The only players I can see the Canadians bringing back for sure next year are Mike Komisarek, Patrice Brisebois (at a reduced salary), Guillaume Latendresse and Chris Higgins.  Montreal do have some promising youth ready to step into a regular role with the team, including Max Pacioretty, Matt D’Agostini, and Ryan O’Byrne, among others, and that’s about the only good news for Habs fans.  It’s going to be a long season next year and making the playoffs is all but guaranteed.

 

New Jersey Devils – New Jersey have 9 UFA’s this summer, including John Madden, Brian Gionta, Bobby Holik, Brendan Shanahan, Scott Clemmenson, Niclas Havelid and Johnny Oduya.  Needless to say, it could be a very different looking Devils team that hits the ice in October.  I believe the Devils will re-sign Oduya and Madden for sure, while Holik and Shanahan could be kept, assuming they aren’t seeking too much coin.  Brian Gionta will be tough to retain, given he’s 29 years old and earned $4 Million this past season.  I also think Clemmenson and Havelid are goners.  Travis Zajac and Andy Greene are RFA’s too, and they’ll both command big raises, expecially Zajac.

 

Your reporter in the field, 

Fantana
Follow us on Twitter or be a Facebook fan with exclusive content.

2009 Stanley Cup predictions: Conference semi finals

April 28th, 2009

Alright, back again for our first annual 2nd round predictions of the 2009 Stanley Cup Conference semi finals.  Round 1 was a little weird – I mean, other than NHLdigest.com, who else foresaw the Anaheim Ducks taking out the San Jose Sharks?  I vow to never pick Joe Thornton in a playoff hockey pool again.

Everyone is and will continue talking about the Sharks being perrenial playoff chokers.  As a long time Ottawa Senators fan, I know what Sharks fans are going through.  But you can’t even call the Senators chokers this year – you have to make the playoffs first!  Seriously, where’s Calgary in all this choker talk?  Did you know the Calgary Flames have gotten to the Stanley Cup finals three times?  You probably did, my wicked readers.  What you may not know is that it’s the only three times Calgary have advanced beyond the first round.  

Now who’s the chokers?  And Joe Thornton has never worn a Flames jersey.  

And speaking of chokers; let’s quickly look at the New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils.  Who had the biggest choke: Is it the Rangers who had the 3-1 series lead, losing three straight games?  Or is it the New Jersey Devils who had a 3-2 lead in game 7 with 80 seconds remaining in the game losing in regulation time?  Two equally embarrassing collapses, this is tough.  Your thoughts are required…

 

Anyways, onto our 2nd round playoff picks… let’s hope they go better than last round.
 

Western Conference

Detroit Red Wings vs Anaheim Ducks
Burgundy: Detroit in 7 games; “Ducks fly together”… unless there are Red Wings around.  Is it me, or does Ryan Getzlaf remind you of Charlie Conway from the Mighty Ducks?  You know you agree. The Sharks never had anyone infront of Hiller and this series will feature 70% more screened shots from Johan Franzen, Thomas Holstrom and other Wings.
Fantana: Detroit in 6 games; Anaheim surprised us all in the first round against San Jose but I’m positive Detroit will crush the Ducks this round.  Even though Giguere didn’t play against San Jose, he has been Jonas Hiller’s mentor for the past few seasons.  And anyone who’s been mentored by a goalie who plays goal with a jazz flute is in trouble.
Mantooth: Detroit in 5 games; One team in this series is going to get their feathers clipped and I don’t see it being Detroit.  The Red Wings walked all over the Blue Jackets, with the only close game being the last. With a nice long break they will come out guns a-blazin’.  Franzen and crew are going to make this one look effortless.
Tambland: Anaheim in 6 games; Not really sure what to say anymore. My logic last round seems to have failed. I’m gonna have to flip a coin on this one. If it’s heads, the Ducks (because Ducks have heads). If it’s tails, the Ducks (because Ducks have tails). Oh. Well there you go.  
Baxter: Anaheim in 6 games; Since I totally blew my San-Jose-Will-Smoke-The-Ducks prediction from the first round, I’m going have to humbly eat crow, er, duck…um, never mind.  Who knew that Anaheim would outscore SJ 9-2 in third periods?  Specialty teams?  Forget it.  Ducks outscored SJ 12-5 at even strength.  Listen, this is all about defence.  I’m scared.  Another Duck championship is starting to look like a real possibility if they get past the Wings.  Do you think I’m drinking too much purple Kool-Aid?  Think way back… Anaheim beat Detroit in six games two years ago in the West finals on its way to the franchise’s lone Stanley Cup title.  Against Ottawa (ahem).

Vancouver Canucks vs Chicago Blackhawks
Burgundy: Vancouver in 7 games; Although I hate the thought of betting against Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook (the list goes on), I hate the idea of betting against Luongo even more.  The difference will be the extra week worth of rest the Canucks got while the Hawks were battling the Flames.  So yes, I’m voting for Vancouver, despite the fact Chicago has more Canadian-born players on their team (the Hawks have 15 and the Canucks have 14).
Fantana: Vancouver in 6 games; Luongo is like a machine in a constant cat-like readiness and he will stonewall the young Hawks all series long.  Chicago’s only hope is to set Marty Havlat’s kicking legs into motion in Vancouver’s crease.  Failing that, they could try to clone Dustin Byfuglien and put two Byfuglien’s in front of Luongo.  That might work.
Mantooth: Chicago in 6 games; If I were to pit a Killer Whale against a Hawk in a fight, I would put my money on the Whale hands down!  The only problem is, this is one awesome Hawk.  This series will be all about offense, I think that Toews, Havlet and Versteeg have the edge over the Sundin and Sedin’s.
Tambland: Vancouver in 5 games; Well well well.  So Chicago thinks they can ruin Canada’s Cup dream twice in one playoff.  I don’t think so.  Here’s the way I see it.  Vancouver is probably the next Canadian team due to make the Finals, seeing as Edmonton, Calgary and Ottawa have all done it recently.
Baxter: Vancouver in 6 games; Shut down the speed.  Slow down the breakout.  Make Luongo drink water.  Canucks are well rested.  Then again, did Chicago ever break a sweat?  Khabibulin gave up a combined 9 goals in Games 3 and 4 (both losses to Calgary).  And then for some bizarre reason, he stood on his head in Game 6.  Poor Iggy is still licking his wounds.  If the Canucks keep rolling, they will have to come up with new product lines at IKEA.  The Sundin doorMat.  The Sedin twin bunk bed.  The Matias Ohlund.  Whatever that means.

Shut down the speed.  Slow down the breakout.  Make Luongo drink water (http://www.theprovince.com/Sports/Luongo+doesn+want+talk+dehydration/1528581/story.html).  Canucks are well rested.  Then again, did Chicago ever break a sweat?  Khabibulin gave up a combined 9 goals in Games 3 and 4 (both losses to Calgary).  And then for some bizarre reason, he stood on his head in Game 6.  Poor Iggy is still licking his wounds (http://www.nhl.com/ice/news.htm?id=420536).  If the Canucks keep rolling, they will have to come up with new product lines at IKEA.  The Sundin doorMat.  The Sedin twin bunk bed.  The Matias Ohlund.  Whatever that means.

 

 

Eastern Conference

Boston Bruins vs Carolina Hurricanes
Burgundy: Boston in 6 games; I don’t think Carolina has the same forward depth Boston has.  As a Sens fan, I’m looking forward to seeing Zdeno Chara put Joe Corvo through the boards.  And Erik Cole too.  I just kinda don’t like him.  It’s an irrational hate thing because of his terrible stint in Edmonton.
Fantana: Boston in 6 games; It’s the year of the Bruin and Bruins are so tough, they can stand through Hurricanes.  Carolina will throw everything they’ve got at Boston but it won’t be enough.  The Hurricanes playoff drive is going to Staal in the second round.  See what I did there… pretty impressive, I know.
Mantooth: Boston in 6 games; The Canes finally get 2 straight wins when they needed it the most and Eric Staal is the man of the hour.  Now the Bruins on the other hand, were pretty much given their series on a golden platter and are all fresh going into this series.  This will be a straight up battle. and a tough one to call, but I have to side with my gut feeling.
Tambland: Boston in 6 games; Again, this one goes to the B’s.  Only because it is a good opportunity to ‘bruin’ Paul Maurice’s comeback in coaching.  Sorry.  I really am quite happy that I discovered “bruin” could replace “ruin” in most instances.
Baxter: Boston in 6 games; Tim Thomas (6 goals against MTL, with an uncomprehensible .946 save percentage) will be well rested after sitting since April 23rd when the B’s embarassed les Habs in four straight.  While Cam Ward kept his team in it long enough to beat NJ in game 7 (in probably one of the most bizarre final one minute 30 seconds I have ever seen in a playoff game), his record versus the B’s this season has been humbling (0-4-0, with a 3.90 GAA).  Chara only needs to flash one stat: his dimensions at 6’9″, 255 pounds.  His dad was a Greco-Roman wrestler for Czechoslovakia at the 1976 Olympics.  ’Nuff said.  And what does a tailgate party look like in the Carolinas?  Take a look.

Washington Capitals vs Pittsburgh Penguins
Burgundy: Pittsburgh in 6 games; Nothing witty here.  Marc-Andre Fleury might be the hottest goalie in the Eastern Conference and doesn’t have a weak glove side (see Henrik Lundqvist).  Pittsburgh’s forwards will score on those odd-man rushes the New York Rangers screwed up.  I’m not convinced Washington can play as team for a whole game; whereas Pittsburgh can.
Fantana: Washington in 7 games; While most fans are expecting a Malkin versus Ovechkin showdown, or even a Crosby versus Ovechkin showdown, I think this will be Alexander Semin’s emergence as a playoff star.  Semin scored 5 goals against the Rangers and he didn’t even have to drop his gloves.  Marc Staal got lucky he didn’t get beaten like a drum again, but Crosby & co. should watch their backs.
Mantooth: Washington in 7 games; Alright let’s get this out of the way, we all know that Gary B has a raging hard-on about this series.  Do you blame him?  This is going to be the series of the entire playoffs. Ovechkin & Semin vs. Crosby & Malkin.  Now I have 3 of those 4 in my pool, and all I want to see is high scoring by those individuals.  And I need this series to drag out to 7 games to make it worth while.  I see the Caps on a high making the comeback from being down 3-1 being the deciding factor.
Tambland: ** Editors note: this pick was made at 4pm on Tuesday April 28th** Pittsburgh in 6  games;  That’s right.  I’m calling it early.  This could completely be screwed up by the end of the [Tuesday] night.  But I’m going to have to go with the Penguins on this one.  The Caps are going to be too tired, and Pittsburgh looked awesome last round.  Plus, the Russian Ice Hockey Federation is still mad at me, so I’m still mad at them. 
Baxter: Pittsburgh in 6 games; Bettman must be doing cartwheels.  Ouch.  Bad visual on that one.  Sorry about that.  How about this instead: the top three in scorers this year playing head-to-head in what will easily be the series to watch.  Fun fact: which two teams were the worst in the Eastern Conference three years ago?  Answer: Pittsburgh and Washington.  This will be like watching a fat kid at an all-you-can-eat buffet: Ovechkin has 10 goals and 11 assists in 16 games against Pittsburgh. Malkin has six goals and 11 assists in 12 games and Crosby has eight goals and 18 assists in 15 games against Washington.  Apologies to all the fat kids out there.  And the parents who feed them

 

Closing Thoughts:
Mantooth: Dorothy Mantooth is a Saint, A SAINT!!!
Fantana:  Your reporter in the field, Brian Fantana.
Tambland:  I love playoffs.
Baxter:  “woof”.
Burgundy:  Stay classy, conference semi finals.
 

Follow Stayclassy.net on Twitter or be our friend on Facebook.

2009 Stanley Cup predictions: Conference quarter finals

April 13th, 2009

Since Stayclassy.net has only been around since January, nearly everything that happens is the “1st annual something-or-other”,  and how we plan on covering the Stanley Cup playoffs is no different.  We’ll predict each series/each round and keep track of our picks – may the best blogger win.

Disclaimer:  none of us really know what we’re talking about and SC.net is not responsible for any money, respect or bragging rights lost as a result of our ‘advice’. 

Below are our picks for each Conference quarter final series and how many games it will take with small explanations.

Eastern Conference

Boston Bruins v. Montreal Canadiens
Burgundy:  Boston in 6 games; the Bruins are too strong and too deep for Montreal’s injury riddled defensemen and underperforming offense, depsite the strong finish
Fantana:  Boston in 6 games; the Bruins physical style of play will wear down an already injured Canadians roster that lost its final 4 regular season games.
Mantooth:  Boston in 5 games; Schneider with one shoulder and missing Markov is going to be too much on the blue line to hold back the “most boring to watch” team in the league.
Baxter:  Boston in 5 games; as much as those old former Hab cronies would like to see a Cinderella story in the Canadiens’ centennial year, the Bruins have too much going for them, including a healthy Tim Thomas, sniper Marc Savard, and solid blueliners Wideman and Chara.  I’ll give the Habs one home victory but this should be an easy first round for the B’s.  The Habs have been too distracted this year (new coach, moody Kovalev, inconsistent Price) to muster anything serious.
Tambland:  Boston in 5 games; clearly this matchup was made so that Boston could “bruin” the Canadiens 100th anniversary celebrations.

Washington Capitals v. New York Rangers
Burgundy:  Washington in 5 games; even if you successfully shut down Ovechkin, good luck shutting down Mike Green, Alex Semin and Sergei Fedorov.
Fantana:  Washington in 6 games; I see Washington making a deep run in this year’s playoffs and while their goaltending has been shaky throughout the season, the same can be said about the entire Rangers roster this season.
Mantooth:  Washington in 5 games; I still can’t believe that NY actually made it into the playoffs. Thank God Ottawa got rid of Redden, I can’t wait to see the Gong show that is going to ensue when Ovechkin and crew rock him out!
Baxter:  Washington in 4 games; OMG, I can’t believe NYR have even a small hope in hell in beating the Caps.  When a team looks to add Avery for their playoff run, it can’t be a good sign.  Gomez is way past his best before date.  Drury has looked lost since he left Buffalo (2 straight 30-plus goal seasons in Buffalo, followed by 2 straight 25-or-less goal seasons in NY).  Besides, there is this hipster-dufus named Ovechkin who should pretty much single-handledly send the Rangers to the golf course after 4 games.
Tambland:  Washington in 6 games; let’s call this one a “Wash”.

New Jersey Devils v. Carolina Hurricanes
Burgundy:  Carolina in 7 games; the Devils are in a tailspin at the worst time and I’m starting to question their no-name defense a little. Right now, I believe Cam Ward can out-duel Marty Brodeur in a 7 game series.
Fantana:  Carolina in 7 games; this will be one of the closest series of the first round and will be an interesting one to watch.  New Jersey seem to have plateau-ed a month early but Carolina have caught fire at the right time.  This series will be a goaltending battle and ultimately, I think that Cam Ward’s been hotter over the past month and this streak will carry into the playoffs. 
Mantooth:  New Jersey in 7 games; even with the Canes being red hot lately, I don’t think it will be enough when they face NJ. The Devils have been really consistent, and I think that will play on through the first round. 
Baxter:  Carolina in 6 games; I’m happy for Brodeur, but he has pretty much been nothing more than a slice of Swiss cheese since setting his goaltending record for most regular-season wins last month.  Unless he is able to pull it together (and I still think he is the best goalie of all time), Carolina should get enough support from Cam Ward and the thank-god-we-got-you-back-from-Edmonton Erik Cole to upset the Devils.
Tambland:  New Jersey in 6 games; I have to assume that a Devil would have some sort of supernatural control over a Hurricane….plus this is Marty’s time to shine.

Pittsburgh Penguins v. Philadelphia Flyers
Burgundy:  Pittsburgh in 6 games; I don’t see Biron or Briere coming up big like last season this year.  I think Jeff Carter will struggle in the post season while Pittsburgh appear to have great momentum… again.
Fantana:  Pittsburgh in 7 games; Pittsburgh had a great 2nd half of the season and are surging at the right time.  This will be a great series and while Richards and Carter are a great 1-2 punch, Crosby and Malkin are a little bit better.   
Mantooth:  Pittsbrugh in 6 games; the toughest to call. I almost had to flip a coin on this one… wait… Heads – Pittsburgh, Tails – Philly… Flip and its… Heads! Pens are going to take this one. Sid and Malkin will rock it out, the only thing I see that might hamper them is goaltending. I don’t have any confidence in Fleury’s skill… He will hold them from going going past the 2nd round.
Baxter:  Pittsburgh in 7 games; get ready for a war.  This is easily the most interesting matchup in the Conference and one of the best rivalries in the NHL.  If you are planning to only watch one series, then this is the one.  It is also the battle of the Quebec goalies (Biron vs. Fleury).  I’m not even going to get into the gory details of this series, as it has already been over-analyzed to date.  Instead, just to make the story line even more bizarre, I’ll fill you in on this one: former Flyer Keith Primeau has agreed to donate his brain.   I can’t even dream this stuff up.
Tambland:  Philadelphia in 7 games; this one is going to be a long, drawn-out, grinder of a series. But it will be Philadelphia coming out on top because (drumroll please) Penguins are not Flyers.

 

Western Conference

San Jose Sharks v. Anaheim Ducks
Burgundy:  San Jose in 6 games; I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – this is the Sharks year. Fin-ally.
Fantana:  San Jose in 6 games; the Sharks have lost in the 2nd round of the playoffs in each of the past 3 seasons, yet something seems different this year.  San Jose are playing with more bite than in previous years and captain Patrick Marleau has picked his game up considerably this season.  Anaheim have been up and down all season but won’t be able to match the Sharks speed and offence.  
Mantooth:  San Jose in 4 games; after listening over and over again to Burgundy’s reasoning why the Sharks are going to Win the Cup this year, its been too hard to find any flaws in his arguments. If the Ducks were in the East, they wouldn’t have even made the playoffs. I am calling this one to be the shortest series in round 1.
Baxter:    San Jose in 5 games; too much fire power (Thornton, Marleau, Setoguchi), solid goaltending (Nabokov at 41-12 with 2.44 GAA), and a defensive core that is just downright scary (Boyle, Blake, Lukowich).  Giguere will have to recapture his performance from a few years ago if the Ducks have any hope at all of upsetting the Sharks.
Tambland:  San Jose in 6 games; I’ve never seen a Shark eat a Duck. But I have seen a Muskie eat a duck, and it ain’t pretty. So if a Shark is anything like a Muskie (and we all know that a Muskie is really just a freshwater shark up here in Canada), then the Sharks are going to take this one.

Detroit Red Wings v. Columbus Blue Jackets
Burgundy:  Columbus in 7 games; Steve Mason is too hot to drop now and Ken Hitchcock’s defensive systems will prove too much for a Red Wings team who’s record is far better than it deserves to be. 
Fantana:  Detroit in 5 games; I think Detroit are too talented to defeat.  Considering Detroit has added Marian Hossa to a same team that won Lord Stanley last year, it’s awfully difficult to bet against them.   
Mantooth:  Columbus in 6 games; that’s right, I said it – the Jackets with the amazing goaltending of Mason are going to be the upsetter of this years playoffs. These games are going to be the ones worth staying up late to watch and Mason gets a shutout in there too!
Baxter:  Detroit in 5 games; this reminds me of Detroit vs. Pittsburgh in the finals last year.  Men versus boys.  You know what I mean.  Columbus is making its first playoff appearance.  Ever.  Steve Mason will steal a win for the Jackets but this one should be quick and dirty.  (Burgundy: “That’s what she said!”)
Tambland:  Columbus in 7 games; it’s the battle of the colours! And I like Blue more than Red. And Mason has been playing outstanding. The Blue Jackets may be Green, but they’ve got spunk. And Vermette. Plus, Rick Nash is used to playing his best hockey this time of year. It’s just usually at the World Championships and not in the playoffs.

Vancouver Canucks v. St Louis Blues
Burgundy:  Vancouver in 6 games; Luongo looks to be in perfect playoff form and I like the Canuck’s grit. This series features two of the hottest teams in the league, but I think St. Louis’ emotional high will fade quickly.  I’m changing my mind here – I’m calling St. Louis in 7 games.  Their second half turnaround will carry them through to the playoffs, and the Sedins will crumble once they run into the Wall, otherwise known as Blues stud Chris Mason. Don’t forget Mason scared the crap out of Red Wings fans in last year’s Nashville/Detroit first round match up. I’m calling the 2nd and 3rd seeds in the west to lose first round.
Fantana:  Vancouver in 6 games; St. Louis and Vancouver are both riding hot goaltenders into this series and I don’t expect that to change.  This will be a fast and aggressive series as both teams will play hard.  The Canucks will take this in 6, but this will be a much closer series than most expect.
Mantooth:  Vancouver in 5 games; I love the Canucks in the west… I think they are Canada’s best hope for a contender for the cup, as long as Luongo is on his game… do I think they will make it, no but they have a good showing this year. We will see them in the Conference Finals this year.
Baxter:  Vancouver in 6 games; if Luongo plays well, carrying his shutout streak into the playoffs at just under 146 minutes, then it doesn’t matter that the Sedins suck in the playoffs. St. Louis has had probably the most bizarre year in its history, including the Governor Palin spreading her good luck to Manny Legace.  Anyway, Canucks fans have reason to hope.  They are also delusional.
Tambland:  Vancouver in 6 games; I’m not really sure what to say to this one, other than that I think that Luongo will have St. Louis singing the Blues. 

Chicago Blackhawks v. Calgary Flames
Burgundy:  Chicago in 5 games; the Flames defense is way too beat up – Regehr, Phaneuf and Sarich are all very hurt and Jokinen will choke-inen. That’s right…
Fantana:  Calgary in 7 games; if you’re a Flames fan, you have to be concerned over the state of their defense.  Sarich and Regehr appear doubtful for Game 1 and Phaneuf is also a question mark.  I like Chicago a lot and they will have a good team for the next few years but their team reminds me an awful lot of the Pittsburgh Penguins from a couple years ago – they’re good but not quite ready.  Look for Calgary’s offense to carry them through this series.
Mantooth:  Chicago in 7 games; I might take some flak over this call, but I love the young Chicago team. I think that the Flames are going to put up a strong fight, but the youth of the Blackhawks is going to lead them to a win in the longest series in the west.
Baxter:  Calgary in 6 games; Chicago has OWNED Calgary this season, going 4-0.  However, Chicago is still rebuilding, and Iginla has been on a tear lately.  Watch for a physical series as Calgary will use grit to slow down the speedy Chicago forwards.  This will be a fun series to watch.
Tambland:  Calgary in 7 games; there’s nothing here kids. Nothing. Calgary is Canada’s best chance. Plus, they have this kick-ass song from playoff runs’ past!

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KYJ5ggKFY98&hl=en&fs=1&color1=0x5d1719&color2=0xcd311b] 

 

Closing Thoughts:
Mantooth: Dorothy Mantooth is a Saint, A SAINT!!!
Fantana:  Your reporter in the field, Brian Fantana.
Tambland:  I love playoffs.
Baxter:  “woof”.
Burgundy:  Stay classy, conference quarter finals.

Follow Stayclassy.net on Twitter or be our friend on Facebook.

A look forward to the 2009 NHL Playoffs

April 13th, 2009

It’s funny how quickly the NHL regular season passes by each year.  Every October/November I think “I have 7 more months until the Stanley Cup playoffs?”.  Then, around the 50-60 game mark, the playoff race begins to shape up and I’m still thinking “I have another 2 months before I know the final 1st round matchups?”

Then out of nowhere, it’s mid-April, the weather’s getting warmer and the regular season has ended.  Now I’m thinking “that went fast!”

Perhaps this year felt longer with my Ottawa Senators having their worst regular season in more than a decade.  Seems weird that Saturday’s battle of Ontario was the last Sens game until next season.  Dallas Stars fans probably feel the same way with their season.

Something good has come out of it though, we have some classic playoff battles set to begin – Boston/Montreal, Pittsburgh/Philadelphia – and some matchups we haven’t seen before (or in some time) – Detroit/Columbus, Vancouver/St. Louis, Chicago/Calgary.  

If you rely on Stayclassy for your sporting news, here are the 1st round playoff match ups:

Eastern Conference
Boston Bruins (1) VS Montreal Canadiens (8).
Washington Capitals (2) VS New York Rangers (7).
New Jersey Devils (3) VS Carolina Hurricanes (6).
Pittsburgh Penguins (4) VS Philadelphia Flyers (5).

Western Conference
San Jose Sharks (1) VS Anaheim Ducks (8).
Detroit Red Wings (2) VS Columbus Blue Jackets (7).
Vancouver Canucks (3) VS St. Louis Blues (6).
Chicago Blackhawks (4) VS Calgary Flames (5).

I’m so excited both Columbus and St. Louis made the playoffs this year.  The Blues had the best NHL record in the second half of the season and did this despite key injuries to Manny Legace, Erik Johnston, Paul Kariya and others.  Blue’s coach Andy Murray and his resilient team deserve big kudos for this achievement.  I’m not sure I’d want to be facing Blues, if I were Vancouver. Mind you, this series features arguably two of the hottest NHL teams in the last few months.

The Jacket’s deserve a lot of credit too.  While Pascal LeClaire wasn’t able to help their playoff aspirations (hopefully he can for our Senators next season), soon-to-be rookie of the year, Steve Mason broke into the NHL with a league leading (and amazing) 10 shutouts, helping Columus secure a playoff position for the first time in franchise history.  Columbus management made several key acquisitions last summer and this season and got into the playoffs despite losing key-cog Ron Hainsey to unrestricted free agency last summer (Atlanta Thrashers).  I wonder how golfing in Atlanta compares to Columbus, Ron? With Mason’s stellar goaltending and coach Ken Hitchcock’s structured defensive systems, I’m not sure Detroit has the advantage in this series.  

While this year’s playoffs could provide a few twists and turns for us, it will certainly be a memorable summer for hockey fans.  I still believe the San Jose Sharks will win the Stanley Cup, but who knows?  Beginning tomorrow, SC.net bloggers will make their first round predictions.  We’d love to hear yours, too.  We encourage disagreement.

Stay classy, NHL playoffs.

 

Follow Stayclassy.net on Twitter or be our friend on Facebook.

NHL coaches are hired to be fired, but can owners afford it?

March 13th, 2009

The life of an NHL coach can be rough … about as rough as it is to be Celine Dion. Sure, almost everyone hates you, but you can recycle the same ideas time after time and make good money doing it. Wait – that’s unfair, coaches aren’t talentless. Coaching isn’t exactly a secure job, but no coach expects that. It’s the thrill and challenge they thrive on. And the experience is nearly invaluable too.

Clearly NHL General Managers and Owners agree – they keep hiring and recycling the same coaches over and over. Many of these coaches don’t have amazing track records. Coaching in the NHL is tough – I can only begin to imagine, but are all these coaches really worth bringing back time after time?

Keep that in mind.

We’ve seen seven coaching changes in the 2008-2009 season – six in the Eastern Conference and one in the Western Conference. I understand coaches have a limited shelf life and when a change is needed to be made, it’s unavoidable. But consider this: six of the seven axed coaches are under contract for next season and at least four of those coaches will be under contract for next season and the year after.

Here in Ottawa, the Senators will be paying for both Craig Hartsburg and John Paddock for the next two seasons, plus Cory Clouston, should he be kept on.

“Alright Burgundy, you’ve impressed me with your relentless research and clever banter, but what’s your point?”

Well, with NHL revenues expected to take a serious hit (and potentially tank in certain soft markets) next season, I wonder if it will change philosophies on hiring and firing coaches? Can teams afford to be paying for 2 coaches over multiple years while the recession is in full swing? Even top NHL markets like Montreal (RIP Guy Carbonneau) and Chicago (RIP Dennis Savard) simply can’t afford to do that.

Often teams will reward an interim coach with a 3-4 year contract for a half season of good performance. Doesn’t make sense when you figure the after tenure for most coaches (Lindy Ruff, Barry Trotz and Jacques Lemaire excluded) is around 2-3 years. Why are teams locking into long coaching deals when we know the life of a coach is short? They are hired to be fired, but can owners afford that? We’re in a recession, but you’d never know it based on the way teams spend on free agents and coaches.

The next time I hear owners complain about league revenues, I’ll think to how many coaches are still being paid based off long contracts, bad decision making and recycled coaches.

Stay classy, rest of the world affected by recessions.

Follow our every thought and update on Twitter or become a fan of ours on Facebook… we could use the friends. Thanks!

Why the San Jose Sharks are going to win the Stanley Cup!

February 27th, 2009

You read correctly. I believe the San Jose Sharks will win the Stanley Cup in June. It became apparent to me Thursday night, as I witnessed the Sharks dismantle the Ottawa Senators at Scotiabank Place. And before I go any further in this blog, I’m warning you now: there will be a number of terrible shark/prey/animal jokes in the text below. I just can’t help it, so consider this your warning.

You are probably thinking “Burgundy, the Sharks predictably kill the Senators, like Jack Black kicks dogs over bridges, and you’re ready to name San Jose champions?” Not quite, my mini buddah. I have some fin-tastic reasoning, so read on, good reader.

You see, Thursday’s game is meaningless. I had a good time, but thats not the point – Burgundy always has a good time. What I’m saying is San Jose is the strongest, most well rounded team in the Western Conference and entire NHL. And before anyone gets smart and suggests the Sharks have struggled against other top Western Conference teams this year, I will be the first to agree. However… here are my argument fins, errr… I mean, my argument points. Okay, that one was weak. I will apologize for that (sorry).

Home Ice Advantage
Opponents have been drowning all season in the Shark Tank, otherwise known as the HP Pavillion. San Jose is king there. They’ve only lost 2 games in regulation all season in the Tank and another 3 in shootout. They’ve won every other game. So basically, they don’t lose much at home and if they finish the season as predicted, they will have home ice advantage throughout the playoffs. As I mentioned before, the Sharks have struggled against other top Western teams, namely the Detroit Red Wings. I don’t see the Wings winning the Stanley Cup again this year. Detroit has beaten San Jose pretty soundly twice at Joe Louis Arena this year, but have lost both in the Shark Tank. In a 7 game series, I think San Jose can take atleast one on the road (still only lost 7 road games this year) per series. Also, consider this: of all the teams the Sharks are likely to play in the first round of the playoffs (Los Angeles Kings, St. Louis Blues, Nashville Predators, Anaheim Ducks, Edmonton Oilers, Dallas Stars, Minnesota Wild and the Columbus Blue Jackets), only 4 of them are used to PST game starts. That could be an issue in a 7 game series – it was for the Ottawa Senators two years ago against the Anaheim Ducks. Quick sidenote here: whats with these Chris Pronger rumors? Why would the Ducks risk trading him and losing Neidermayer in the summer? Love Francois Beauchemin, but he and newly acquired Ryan Whitney would be the only real defensemen on the team… like San Jose needs a weaker division.

Goaltending
Another reason I don’t see the Red Wings winning the Stanley Cup is goaltending. Their goaltending isn’t where it needs to be and barring a big deadline deal, I don’t see that changing. To be honest, I don’t see a team in the Western Conference, Vancouver Canucks/Roberto Luongo aside, who’s goaltending holds a gill to that of San Jose’s. No offense to other goalies here, but the teeth are simply far sharper in San Jose. These shark references are getting awesome, eh?

Scoring Power
No team in hockey is deeper down the middle than the San Jose Sharks. I’d argue the Sharks are deeper than the Pacific Ocean, but its a fins-and-tails kind of debate. And this is a hockey blog. So anyways, consider this: their top 6 forwards all have 15 or more goals already. Of their top 6 forwards, Joe Thornton is 6th with 15. The Sharks will likely finish the season with 6 20-goal scorers; talk about depth. And thats with Jon Cheechoo struggling to hit double digits this year! Aside from Thornton, Cheechoo, Patrick Marleau (who’s having a great season without Ron Wilson), Ryan Clowe, Devin Setagouchi, Joe Pavelski and Milan Michalek, look at how aggressive their defense are! With Dan Boyle and Rob Blake leading the charge, they are often in their oppositions crease! I love how they rush up with the forwards to create odd-man rushes. The Sharks can do this with such great skating defenseman. And again, I don’t think there’s a team in the Western Conference (or the Eastern Conference) who’s defense goes as deep as the Sharks – maybe Detroit, but thats it. When guys like Christian Ehrhoff and Marc-Edouard Vlasic are considered 3/4 defensemen, things are going well. Add Cup winner Brad Lukowich to the fold and thats a winning “D”. Doug Wilson, GM of the Sharks deserves a lot of credit for this team. Setagouchi, Marleau, Michalek, Pavelski, Clowe and Cheechoo were all drafted and developed by the Sharks. We talk about Detroit’s drafting success, but we should also tip our fins to Wilson and co. for the great job they’ve done over the years.

So thats it. I think the San Jose will finally win the Stanley Cup this season. Who will they beat? That could be another blog all-together. Thats a hint to my lazy bloggers (Fantana, Baxter, Mantooth and Tambland) to write some more top stories. Anyways, at this point, I’m leaning towards the Washington Capitals, if their goaltending can stay stable. Whats your take? Do you agree with me? Should StayClassy.net sell those T-Shirts I talked about in my last blog? Should I fire Mantooth because he has bad hair? Too many questions?

You stay classy, internet.

Follow us on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook.