Saturday, April 28, 2007

Turnovers Key as Games are Won

The second round has gotten underway and every series has an interesting storyline behind it.

My prediction of a sweep of New York by the Sabres still is in line to happen as Buffalo is leading the series 2-0. The Rangers managed to keep it close, losing 3-2 in the last game, but I expect Buffalo to take the next two.

In Game 1 of the Ottawa-New Jersey series, turnovers killed the Devils. Routinely giving away the puck in their own zone, the Devils allowed four goals in the first period. They managed to cut the deficit to one with under a minute to go, but it wasn't enough. But if anything, I think Ottawa should be more worried. While they won the game, Emery let up four goals. Brodeur is a prove performer in the Playoffs while Emery is still being tested.

Currently, the two teams are in Overtime. (2-2) Heatley managed to score with TWENTY SEVEN SECONDS left in the third. Playoff excitement at its best.

In the West, Detroit got off to a terrible start, letting up two goals early on in the game. In disbelief, the crowd was quieted, as they were the rest of the night. The Wings lost 2-0. The physical play of the Shark fowards obviously put a beat down on the Wings, but it was the consistency of the defense that impressed me. Matt Carle could very well become the next Nick Lidstrom in terms of leadership and defending.

The Vancouver-Anaheim series began with an Andy McDonald hat trick. McDonald has been on fire all postseason. Is he the 2007 Fernando Pisani? It looks like it. The Ducks took Game 1 by a score of 5-1. The whole team looked flat and I don't contribute this to the Ducks as I do the fatigue of the Nucks. Game 2 was a different story. Obviously rested by sleeping through Game 1, the Nucks won 2-1 in two OT's. Naslund finally scored as did Cowan for the second straight game. Both goalies were phenomenal, with Luongo and Giguere stopping 43 and 47.

The key to this series is obviously goaltending. Everyone remembers the run the Ducks made with Giguere in 2003, and the winner of this series will most certainly have the hottest goalie going into the Conference finals. Look for the winner to make a finals appearence.

Remember to check out http://talkinsports.proboards32.com for more NHL stories.

Sunday Games:

Buffalo at New York
2:00 EST NBC

Anaheim at Vancouver
8:00 EST NBC

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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

A Look at the Semi-Finals, My Predictions. Rant of the Week: NFL Draft

Sorry I haven't been blogging much lately. I've been really busy, but I'll be much more active as the Semi-Finals get underway.

Speaking of the semis:

WEST:

1. Detroit
vs.
5. San Jose

Even though they won in five games, San Jose had to be very physical against the Predators, and I predicted that the winner of that series would be swept in the next round. Guess what? The Wings haven't done anything that makes me think otherwise. Not only do the Wings have the advantage in goal, but with Pavel Datsyuk finally breaking his Playoff slump, the Wings are ultra dangerous this year. Based on an NHL.com poll, this game is the most likely for an upset, but I'm not seeing it.

PREDICTION: Detroit in 5

2. Anaheim
vs.
3. Vancouver

Not only is this one of the most fun series in the semi-finals, it's also one of the hardest to predict. At one end, you have the Ducks. With Chris Pronger and Scott Neidemayer (forgive the spelling) they boast one of the best defensive schemes in all of hockey. At the other end, Roberto Luongo is a rock in net, and remember, the Ducks could be rusty since the Nucks just played a few nights ago. It comes down to whether or not the Sedins have a good series because lets face it, they are the Canucks this year. While Pronger and Neidemayer are great, I believe in Luongo.

PREDICTION: Vancouver in 6

EAST:

1. Buffalo
vs.
6. New York (Rangers)

The Rangers shocked many by sweeping the Atlanta Thrashers. The difference between this series and that series? Many of the Thrashers main players (Lethonen and Kovalchuk included) had never played in the Playoffs. Meanwhile, the Sabres have much more experience, with many of the players on last years team. Buffalo can beat you a million ways, but mostly, they do it with offense...and Ryan Miller, who is my choice for American goalie of the future. IF Jaromir Jagr can put up some impressive points, the Rangers have a chance, but I wouldn't bet on it.

PREDICTION: Buffalo in 4

2. New Jersey
vs.
4. Ottawa

I love this goaltending matchup because it features the best in the game versus the future of our game. Brodeur and Emery are two very different people, but both are extremely effective in net. Apparently, Emery did get injured in practice, but is cleared to play in Game 1. Ottawa is very solid on defense, and with a first line that features Spezza, Heatley, and Alfredsson, they shouldn't have an issue of who to put on the ice in crunch time. The Devils play a much different game...a defensive game. And I hate to say it, but for the NHL, the Devils are the worst. Who wants to watch the trap? I don't. This has the potential to be one of the most compelling series in the Playoffs. In the end, I really think Ottawa is overdue. I hate betting against Martin Brodeur, but the Sens have a greater commitment to defense this season and for that reason alone, I'm giving them the series.

PREDICTION: Ottawa in 7

The games kick off tonight, with Buffalo, New York, Anaheim, and Vancouver all on Versus. The other two games come on the weekend on NBC.
RANT OF THE WEEK
This weekend, the semi-finals of the NHL Playoffs are set to continue on to Game 2 of each series.. No doubt, there will be excitement and good hockey, but will anyone watch it? NBC has done nothing to market the game. As much as I hate ESPN, at least they created NHL2Night and advertised on other stations. NBC gives the NHL a 30 minute pre and post game show and after that, it's on to local swim meets. To make matters worse, the NFL Draft is this weekend. Why watch Martin Brodeur, in line to break numerous records, when you could see your favorite division II player be drafted in the 8th round? Why listen to Bill Clement or Keith Jones talk about the game when you could be listening to Mel Kiper Jr. give you his 2010 first look rankings? I'm sick of it. The NHL is with NBC, and if NBC had any pride, they'd get hockey noticed in America. But of course, most NBC executives will be focused on Calvin Johnson, instead of Sean Avery. (If they even know who that is)

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Friday, April 13, 2007

Playoffs Begin, Excitement Level High

Without the Avs, the Playoffs don't have the feeling they have had the past 9 years that I have watched the game. Even so, I have been following the coverage on Versus closely. Some thoughts:

-Pittsburgh took their licks as a new Playoff team losing 6-3 to Ottawa in the first game of the Playoffs. The game was actually everything the NHL could have hoped for. Crosby scored his first Playoff goal, only to have it be called back, only to score another one a few minutes later. Fleury wasn't terrible, but his inexperience certainly showed.

-Overtimes were amazing in the first game of a few series. Nashville and San Jose went into double overtime, but that was overshadowed by the Dallas-Vancouver game.

Roberto Luongo, in his Playoff debut made a record, 72 saves. 72. Lets say it again. 72. The game went into FOUR OVERTIMES. Before going to bed, I checked the game, and I saw that the first OT was starting, and since Playoff OT is the best thing since pizza, I had to watch. I ended up falling asleep after the 2nd OT, and woke up at 3:00 to find that they were still playing in the FOURTH Overtime. I couldn't believe it. The sixth longest game in NHL history ended with under 2 minutes to go in the fourth, with a goal by Ryan Kesler. The two teams play again tonight.

-Pavel Datsyuk scored his first Playoff goal in over 40 games last night. The Wings crushed the Flames, making me more sick over the fact that this is the team that got in over the Avs.

-The Islanders lost to Buffalo. After just one shot in the first period, the Isles got the score to 2-1, but could never tie the game.

-Other winners included Ottawa, Anaheim, and San Jose.

The Playoffs certainly don't lack intensity. The level of physical play is extremely high, and Versus is doing a decent job of broadcasting it. I do which they would experiment with live look-ins, so we aren't stuck with just one game all night.

More to come.

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Thursday, April 12, 2007

Weeks in Review: Avs Out, Sakic Gets 100, Sakic Signed, Etc

After coming back from a wonderful Italy trip, I found the Avs three points out with two games remaining. Coincidentally, Calgary also had two games remaining, the last one being against the Avs. Both teams were scheduled to play on the same night. With any sort of Calgary win, the Avs would be eliminated. Likewise, if the Avs failed to get at least a point, their Playoff hopes would be dashed.

The night started out well, and the Avs carried a 2-1 lead into the third period. But in fitting fashion for what this season has been, the Predators tied it up. With under five minutes to go, the Avs needed to hang on until OT to get the much needed point. All of a sudden, the menace, Peter Forsberg, slipped one by Peter Budaj and ended the Avalanche Playoff run.

It's funny that Forsberg would end it on his old team. Of all the guys to eliminate us. I blame the Flyers.

What could make it worse? Calgary lost that night.

In the season finale, the Avs defeated Calgary, leaving them just one point shy of the 8th spot. Game over.

The Game I Trace It Back To

With under ten seconds to go, the Avs were beating the pitiful Kings in LA. After a scramble in front of the net, the Kings scored to send the game into Overtime, then a shootout, where the Avs eventually lost. Had the Avs hung on in regulation, they would be in the Playoffs.

Some Positives:

-Joe Sakic records 100 points at the age of 37.
-Paul Stastny finishes with the highest rookie point total as an Av in history.
-Jose Theodore closes out the season with a win.

In Other Avs News:

-Joe Sakic signed to a 1-year 6.75 million dollar deal
-Avs secure the 14th spot in the 2007 draft.

No rant. Just sadness. The Avs were the only pro sports team to have never missed the Playoffs, and that streak has been broken. It's been a great 10 years, and I have no doubt that the Avs will be back next year. I believe the Avs would have made a deep Playoff run had they gotten in. They could have been the Edmonton Oilers of 2007.

Missing the Playoffs also means that the Avs-Wings rivalry wasn't re-created. With Todd Bertuzzi and Scott Parker, a Playoff series would have sparked new blood in the historic rivalry.

My Avalanche Awards:

MVP: Joe Sakic
Calder: Paul Stastny
Vezina: Peter Budaj
Best Free Agent Pickup: Tyler Arnason
Most Costly Injury: Jordon Leopold
Most Pleasant Suprise: Ben Guite
Best Story: Stastny 20 Game Point Streak / Sakic Gets 100
Most Disappointing Player: Marek Svatos
Most Improved Player: Milan Hejduk
Line of the Year: Sakic-Brunette-Wolski

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