Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Into The Crystal Ball: Round 3

After going 6-2 in Round 1, I went 1-3 in Round 2…seems like the crystal ball’s getting rusty. Oh well. Mind you, the Detroit-San Jose series was a tossup and I never figured that Martin Brodeur would be the one that would cave instead of Ray Emery. That said, the only series I got right- Buffalo over the Rangers- was a series I predicted in Round 1, and the series ended exactly as I said it would- in six games. I will admit I underestimated the Anaheim Ducks, who manhandled a Vancouver Canucks team that just couldn’t cope with the physical assault and the great team defence. So without further adieu, here’s Round 3.

Western Conference Finals

(1) Detroit Red Wings vs. (2) Anaheim Ducks:
The Red Wings defied expectations by not buckling to the physical assault that both the Calgary Flames and the San Jose Sharks gave them, but now they’re playing a team that’s better defensively than either the Flames or the Sharks in the resilient Ducks. The Ducks are deeper on the blueline with their “Big Three” of Scott Niedermayer, Chris Pronger and Francois Beauchemin, but the Wings are faster and are playing like the champions of yesteryear. This series is going to go the distance, but Detroit- who have looked to be the best team in this year’s playoffs- will ultimately use home ice to their advantage. Detroit 4, Anaheim 3.

Eastern Conference Finals

(1) Buffalo Sabres vs. (4) Ottawa Senators:
Right after the Senators knocked off the New Jersey Devils, I was ready to jump on the Senators’ bandwagon and declare them the odds-on favourite for the Stanley Cup that everyone else is saying they are. Then it hit me that both of Ottawa’s series wins were quick ones, disposing of both Pittsburgh and New Jersey in five, plus the fact that the Senators had yet to steal a game in these playoffs like the Sabres did in Game 5 against the Rangers. Furthermore, at this stage of the year, Ottawa can’t expect all its series to end so quickly. It’s impressive that Ottawa got this far for the first time since 2003, but the Senators have yet to face the kind of adversity that the Sabres did (being seven seconds from going down 3-2 to New York), the Wings (blowing a 2-0 series lead to the Flames and having to come back from two goals down in Game 3 to obtain a 2-1 series lead) or the Ducks (also coming back from two goals down in Game 4 against Vancouver to take a commanding 3-1 series lead). It is true that the Sabres themselves haven’t been that consistent in this year’s playoffs, but when the games mattered most, Buffalo got what they needed- wins. This series is going to be a long one, and since it will be long, the advantage has to go to the Sabres- the Senators’ problems have always been mental, and when the tough got going, so too did the Senators from the playoffs. Since Ottawa has yet to really be tested in this year’s post-season, it’ll be another season of coming up short. Buffalo 4, Ottawa 3.

Stanley Cup Finals

Buffalo Sabres (East #1) vs. Detroit Red Wings (West #1):
As far as the Sabres are concerned, this is the dream Final- finally, they get to exact revenge on the franchise goaltender that deserted them in Domonik Hasek. The Sabres will be spirited in the Final after being a period away from it last year and should boast a far better chance this year than they did last year or in 1999 (and, if you really want to get daring, 1975), but the Red Wings are clearly the team to beat. Ryan Miller has a step on Hasek, but Hasek has won both the Vezina Trophy and the Stanley Cup, silverware Miller has yet to obtain. Plus, both the Wings and the Sabres are essentially the same team boasting great depth at forward and underrated defences, but the Wings have Niklas Lidstrom and the Sabres have no one comparable. Buffalo can say it won the President’s Trophy and that it beat Detroit 3-2 in a shootout in early October, but this is the Stanley Cup Final and the Wings won’t buckle after underachieving for so long. This is going to be a long series, but it won’t go seven- Detroit knows they can’t go back to Buffalo for Game 7 where home ice advantage really takes its place, meaning Detroit will win its first Stanley Cup since 2002. Detroit 4, Buffalo 2.


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