Friday, April 27, 2012

Into The Crystal Ball: 2012 Conference Semi-final Edition


Question: How do you top a first round with three Game 7’s, each a one goal game and two going to overtime, with three upsets (Kings, Capitals, Coyotes) and a Western Conference situation that guarantees a Sun Belt franchise will be in the Cup Final? By turning the clock to May and seeing what surprises lie ahead.

Eastern Conference

Semi-finals

#1 New York Rangers vs. #7 Washington Capitals: Prevailing opinion in this series is that the Capitals would be no match against a defensive team with a great goaltender, but it was against the Bruins too and we know what happened. The Rangers have more speed, but not the guns to keep up with the upstart Capitals. Capitals 4, Rangers 2

#5 Philadelphia Flyers vs. #6 New Jersey Devils: These aren’t your father’s Devils, as New Jersey is more of a fun-and-gun, freewheeling kind of team than the staid defenders of years past. Then again, these aren’t your father’s Flyers, who are also more of a fun-and-gun, freewheeling kind of team than the brute attackers of years past. Only difference is that the Flyers actually have blueliners, whereas the Devils don’t, though this should be a fun, close series. Flyers 4, Devils 3

Finals

#5 Philadelphia Flyers vs. #7 Washington Capitals: Is this where the Capitals’ magic runs out? Yes. After two rounds where the Caps’ defence wasn’t tested, the Flyers will come at them with wave after wave. If it isn’t Claude Giroux hurting them it’s Scott Hartnell or Daniel Briere or Jaromir Jagr or super rookies Sean Couturier or Matt Read or Brayden Scheen or the rugged Wayne Simmonds. This won’t be close at all. Flyers 4, Capitals 0

Western Conference

Semi-finals

#2 St. Louis Blues vs. #8 Los Angeles Kings: Let’s make something abundantly clear: yes, the Kings’ victory over the Canucks is an upset, but it’s not as big as many think. Los Angeles is a good team, with a deep forward cast and a great goaltender, who are only now finding their stride. They should be where the Blues are and would be if the first half of their season wasn’t garbage. St. Louis was full marks for beating a San Jose Sharks team that, despite the Sharks’ superior offence, just couldn’t break through the Blues’ stout defence and superior goaltending, though the Blues are going to have their hands full against a Kings team that can score just as well as San Jose can- only this time, they can stop the puck just as well as the Blues can. St. Louis will make this close but the Kings are too deep. Kings 4, Blues 2

#3 Phoenix Coyotes vs. #4 Nashville Predators: This series is billed as “system vs. system”, with two teams that play the same way playing each other. Truth is, we’ve got two teams who are more workmanlike than star-studded that play responsible hockey but with a lot of speed. It’s going to be a fun series but Nashville has the edge since they have the better goaltender and the better defence- no one seems to be a match for the Predators’ super duo Shea Weber and Ryan Suter, with Kevin Klein emerging as a force. Predators 4, Coyotes 2

Finals

#4 Nashville Predators vs. #8 Los Angeles Kings: This series will pit the Kings’ offence against the Predators’ defence, since those are each team’s relative strengths. This series is so close, it’s like splitting hairs and whoever wins the matchup battles- Shea Weber/Ryan Suter/Kevin Klein vs. Anze Kopitar/Mike Richards/Jeff Carter/Dustin Brown, Pekka Rinne vs. Jonathan Quick- wins the series. Since I have to pick, I have to pick the Kings- they have the size to match up with the Predators, and they’re responsible enough defensively that their depth on offence should break them through, though this series will be extremely close. Kings 4, Predators 3

Stanley Cup Finals

E#5 Philadelphia Flyers vs. W#8 Los Angeles Kings: If you look at both teams and think you’re looking in the mirror, it’s because you are. They’re the exact same team. They both play an abrasive, exciting brand of hockey with lots of skill, the Flyers doing it with speed and the Kings with size, with two quality goaltenders. The advantage goes to Philadelphia, who, despite having slightly inferior goaltending to the Kings, have the superior blueline, which will be enough to make up the gap in net. Flyers 4, Kings 2

-DG

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-DG

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