Thursday, April 30, 2009

NHL Playoff Predictions: Round Two

"Weeping and wailing and moaning,
You've got yourself to blame, I tell you."

Okay, Round One has come and gone. I knew there would be a giant upset...just didn't pick the right one. San Jose, the NHL leader in points, was bounced by Anaheim in six games. I can't say I was completely surprised by this given that I figured the Ducks would give the Sharks all they could handle, but the Sharks just got completely outplayed. In fact, it's a wonder they didn't get swept (won Game 3 in OT).

Carolina made one of the most dramatic comebacks in NHL history in Game 7 against Jersey, scoring two goals in the final two minutes of play to beat the Devils 4-3 in East Rutherford, advancing to the semifinals to face the B's.

Outside of that, there weren't a whole lot of surprises in the opening round. So, let's see how Round Two is shaping up:

Eastern Conference:

(1) Boston vs. (6) Carolina (BOS 4-0)

Line: BOS -215

Again, don't sleep on Carolina. They have a big-time scoring option in Eric Staal, and they are riding a hot goalie in Cam Ward. However, as was evident in the first round, the Bruins are going to be incredibly tough to bounce. Too much depth, too much D, too much scoring...just too much.

Pick: Boston in 5

(2) Washington vs. (4) Pittsburgh (WSH 3-1)

Line: WSH -110

The line on this series is a lot lower than I had envisioned (I was thinking more like 170-175). I have to attribute this to the Caps inability to close the door on the Rangers. In fact, it was looking for awhile that they wouldn't even be able to make it past Game 5. However, they persevered, and now the dream matchup is in place between Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin. Look, there comes a point in time where you have to think about what the future matchup would look like, and with that, I'm talking about who would likely be playing in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Bruins. If you look at it like that, there is no way Washington doesn't win this series. A Boston/Washington finals is the best you can possibly get, and because the Caps were able to find a way to beat the Rangers in 7, I can't see them getting bounced here.

Pick: Washington in 7

Western Conference:

(2) Detroit vs. (8) Anaheim (DET 3-1):

Line: DET (-280)

Okay, here's my concern about Anaheim. Yes, they have probably the best defensive duo in the league, but do they have enough scoring to keep up with Detroit? The Wings possess a better all-around presence than what the Ducks bring. The lone weakness the Wings have is Chris Osgood in net. He has been inconsistent, and the Ducks could potentially take advantage of that. Ultimately though, I think Detroit is very much like the B's in that with the absolute ease they had getting by in Round One, I just cannot see a team like Anaheim beating a colossus like Detroit.

Pick: Detroit in 5

(3) Vancouver vs. (4) Chicago (Tied 2-2)

Line: VAN -130

Again, I am huge on Chicago, but the thing that makes me hesitant is that Roberto Luongo is probably the best overall goalie left in the playoffs (sorry Tim Thomas). However, I'm still going to ride the hot hand in Chicago. Also, much like what I did with the East, I'm looking down the road towards the finals, and who would be the matchup for Detroit. My thinking is that this would set-up to be the experienced (Detroit) vs. the newbies (Chicago). I think it makes a lot of sense, so I'll continue to go with the Blackhawks.

Pick: Chicago in 7

Record Last Round: 5-3

Right On The Freggin' Money: 0

So that is all for the NHL. A quick side note, because I'm becoming aware that I haven't talked about soccer in seemingly forever. Chelsea bounced Liverpool in an amazing home-and-home in the UEFA Champions League playoffs, which saw the Blues beating the crap out of the 'Pool on the road 4-1, then coming back at the Bridge to take them out in a 4-4 draw (the way the playoffs work is that each team gets a home game, and the aggregate (combined) score determines who moves on). So now, they are playing Barcelona. On Tuesday, they played in Spain in front of an estimated 95,000 people, and played them to a 0-0 tie, which was a huge feat considering Barcelona had not been shut-out at home the entire league season. Now the two will play at the Bridge on Saturday to determine who will move on to the finals. Right now, it looks as though we may have a rematch from last year, which saw Chelsea lose to the uber-popular Manchester United squad.

I have to say that the biggest difference in Chelsea from the first half of the season to the second half has to be the coaching move that was made. Luis Felipe Scolari was a decent manager, but the drama that he brought on in the in-fighting with certain players (most notably Didier Drogba, the Blues' second-best attackman behind Nicholas Anelka) got to an absolutely ridiculous level, and he had to go. As soon as Guus Hiddink took over, you could see that the club was much looser and they have played at such a high level ever since, only losing once in three months. With Drogba playing much more frequently, they have a completely different looking team. Also, credit has to go to Frank Lampard, who potentially could be one of the top four or five players in the world. Lampard has been simply amazing in the middle, and not only is he scoring in bunches, but he's creating chances for guys like Drogba, which has resulted in this lengthy streak that the Blues are on right now. Also, keep in mind that this is the Champions League, and that Chelsea is already in the FA Cup Final against Everton (which will be played on May 30), who knocked off Man U. in the semis. So, if Chelsea is able to get by Barcelona, they potentially could be playing for both the major European championships this year...not too shabby.

Well, I'm watching the Celts/Bulls Game 6 right now, and it's in OT...again. I'm pretty sure the league made some kind of overtime mandate in this series...I mean how many close games can these teams play? It's totally ridiculous, but I'm going to get back to the game. Take care everyone. Peace.

~Mell-o

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