Wednesday, April 29, 2009

2009 Western Conference Playoffs: Round Two

Detroit Red Wings (2) vs Anaheim Ducks (8)

"Revenge is a dish best served cold" or in this case served "on" cold. In the 2007 playoffs, the Red Wings dominated the Ducks, yet still found a way to lose in 6 games. Two years later, these two meet up with each having won a Stanley Cup since that playoff encounter. Coming off a huge upset of the Presidents trophy winning Sharks, the Ducks are now looking to knock off the defending champs. Sorry quackers, but it isn't happening. The Wings are a better team than they were in 07 and even better than they were last year when they won the Cup. Unless Chris Osgood has a meltdown, there is no way the Ducks should come out of this alive. Anaheim gave the Sharks a lot of powerplays in their series and if they do the same to the Wings in this one, it'll be over quickly. Wings get revenge take this series in 5 games.

Vancouver Canucks (3) vs Chicago Blackhawks (4)

Its been so long since the Canucks have played a game it probably feels like they've been eliminated. Going into this series, that could be a problem for the Nucks as the Blackhawks will have had enough time to rest, but not get rusty. It should be another tough series for the Hawks and will probably go 6 or 7 games. Luongo did great against them in the regular season while the Bulin Wall was shelled by Vancouver twice. Its a tough call, the series looks to be pretty even, but I like the Canucks, with the extra rest, to come out on top in 7 games.

The eliminated teams

San Jose Sharks - My first reaction to seeing the Sharks upset by the Ducks was surprise, but then I thought to myself, "Why am I surprised? Its the Sharks! They can change that logo of the Shark eating the stick to a Shark choking on one." Despite racking up 117 points and winning the Presidents Trophy, the Sharks once again choked hard in the playoffs leaving their fan base and hockey experts shaking their heads in disbelief. The problem with this particular team is simple, the parts don't match machine their trying to build. Former Wings coach Todd McLellan came to San Jose with the idea that he was going to install Detroit's system and they would play like the Wings. The only problem is the personnel didn't match the system. The Wings system requires a good puck moving defense, three or four lines of speedy forwards that can backcheck, pass and possess the puck most of the time. The Sharks simply don't have those kind of players. The defense looks strong, although Rob Blake will most likely retire leaving a hole on the blue line and I'm starting to question whether or not Nabokov can be counted on to be a good playoff goalie after letting in some soft goals in this series. As for the forwards, beyond Thornton and Marleau, who do they have? Setoguchi? Cheechoo? Michalek? These are fringe second liners on most teams and should not be counted on to score most of your teams goals.

The Sharks don't need to "clean house" as some people have suggested, but they do need to make a few big changes starting with Joe Thornton. Thornton looked out of place in this series. He was forcing passes, not taking shots and showed no leadership qualities at all. He commands a big salary and will never fit in this particular system. So I would get rid of Jumbo Joe and look to replace him with a Marian Gaborik and/or Marian Hossa type of player. Which, by the way, are both are UFA's at the end of the season and both fit with what the Sharks are trying to do.

Calgary Flames -Alright, I think its time. They've proved it every year since reaching the Finals in 04 and now they are deserving of this glorious label... overrated. On paper, this team looks stacked. Iginla, Jokinen, Cammalleri, Phaneuf, Kiprusoff, but when it gets to crunch time, this team simply doesn't have the guts to get it done. For all the praise and hype Jarome Iginla gets, in three of the last four years he's scored less than 40 goals. He's a good goal scorer, but not an elite talent like everyone seems to think he is. Kiprusoff also hasn't lived up to the hype. His win total stays around 40 every year, but his GAA has gotten worse and worse and didn't look like himself at all in the playoffs. The addition of Olli Jokinen made them a darkhorse in some people's minds entering the playoffs, but once again the Flames burnout quickly and have to some tough off season decisions to make regarding personnel.

St. Louis Blues - Wait a minute. The Blues were in the playoffs? No seriously, the St Louis Blues. They were in it? Hmmm... I must have missed that. It seemed like before the playoffs really got underway the Blues were out of it. Andy McDonald looked really good for the Blues, but that was about it. Chris Mason looked good as well, but good isn't good enough in the playoffs. It'll be interesting to see next year if this playoff appearence was a sign of things to come or just a fluke.

Columbus Blue Jackets - The Blue Jackets waited ten long years before qualifying for the playoffs. Unfortunately, they'll have to wait a little bit longer to get their first playoff win. The team and franchise that had zero playoff experience ran into a team that couldn't have more, the defending champion Red Wings, and were swept. That's a very tough first draw for anyone. Super rookie Steve Mason looked very Clark Kent-ish with a GAA way over 4.00 and the Jackets offense scored a grand total of 2 goals in the first 3 games of the series. So they gave up a ton of goals and at the same time couldn't score any. Well at least they can say they were there, right? That's something.

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