Friday, April 27, 2012

Second Round Predictions: Two Hours Late

These are verifiable with several online bracket competitions. We're two periods into the Predators-Coyotes series, so not much has been compromised.

Nashville in 6
St. Louis in 5

New York in 6
New Jersey in 6 - Best Sports Blogs, Sports Blogger Rankings

Friday, April 13, 2012

Avalanche Fan's Survival Guide to the Playoffs

My latest Hockey Writers piece focuses on what we (and other) fans should do who find themselves without a specific team to root for in the playoffs. Check it out here! - Best Sports Blogs, Sports Blogger Rankings

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

2012 First Round Predictions

The Stanley Cup Playoffs begin tonight and that means every blogger, mainstream media member, and fan will be scurrying to make their playoff picks and enter their playoff pools. This blog will be no different.

As an added bonus, I've also added the predictions of my "Hopeless Hockey Fan In Training," Adina, whose hockey knowledge is limited to the names of goaltenders on seven teams and Zdeno Chara's playoff beard. 

Without further ado: 

(1) Vancouver versus (8) Los Angeles 

Winner: Vancouver in 6

The Kings scored the second fewest goals in the NHL this season while the Canucks gave up the fourth fewest. Jon Quick has the ability to steal a few games for Los Angeles (and Roberto Luongo certainly has the ability to lose a couple for Vancouver) but the Canucks should be able to pull this one out. 

Hopeless Fan Pick: Vancouver in 4

(2) St. Louis versus (7) San Jose 

Winner: St. Louis in 6

The Blues are a ridiculous 30-6-5 at home this season, and the Sharks play just .500 hockey on the road. St. Louis also boasts 2012's best goaltending tandem in Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliot(!) while San Jose boasts Antii Niemi. This season was a huge disappointment for San Jose, and it won't end here. 

Hopeless Fan Pick: St. Louis in 6

(3) Phoenix versus (6) Chicago 

Winner: Chicago in 7

Chicago enters the postseason having gone 6-3-1 in their final ten games. Phoenix was similarly hot, going 7-1-2 down the stretch, en route to their franchise's first ever division title. Interestingly, the Winnipeg Jets missed the playoffs this season in the East. Curious. I expect this one to be a dog fight, and Mike Smith is certainly the x factor, but Chelsea Dagger will pull the Hawks through. 

Hopeless Fan Pick: Chicago in 5

(4) Nashville versus (5) Detroit 

Winner: Nashville in 5

Nashville is my pick to come out of the West this year, and even though I have them winning in a smooth five games, I don't think it will be easy. The Wings, possibly on their last legs to win a Cup with this core group, always perform well in the postseason and won't be an easy out. But the Preds finally have experience winning a series and they have all the tools to make a deep run. If anyone can shut down Pavel Datsyuk, it's Shea Weber and Ryan Suter. And if they fail, look no further than Pekka Rinne. 

Hopeless Fan Pick: Detroit in 7

(1) NY Rangers versus (8) Ottawa 

Winner: New York in 5

I've heard a lot of worries from Rangers fans, and while the upset is possible, it's not going to happen. The Rangers sputtered down the stretch, but they also had the East locked up and nothing to really play for. John Tortorella is a proven playoff coach, Brad Richards is a proven playoff performer, and Henrik Lundqvist should be your Vezina winner in June. 

Hopeless Fan Pick: New York in 4

(2) Boston versus (7) Washington

Winner: Boston in 7

If I had more guts, I'd pick the upset. In the last ten years, defending champs have only gotten past the first round three times. Luckily for the Bruins, the Caps have no goalie. 

Hopeless Fan Pick: Bostonnnnnn in 6

(3) Florida versus (6) New Jersey 

Winner: New Jersey in 7

Most people are picking this as the easy "upset" of the first round. The only reason I think it goes seven is because of the likelihood that a bunch of these games will go to overtime. Together, these teams combined for 42 overtime games this season. That is, to put it simply, absurd. 

Hopeless Fan Pick: Florida in 5

(4) Pittsburgh versus (5) Philadelphia 

Winner: Pittsburgh in 6

The main event, if you will. Philly's goaltending enigma and Pittsburgh's top end talent will push the Pens over the top in what should be a nice, old-fashioned, brutal and bloody series. What wouldn't you do to get this on 24/7? 

Hopeless Fan Pick: Pittsburgh in 4
_ _ _ 

The 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs kick off tonight with the Penguins and Flyers at 7:30 on the NBC Sports Network. 

Happy Watching! - Best Sports Blogs, Sports Blogger Rankings

Monday, April 9, 2012

Year End Avalanche Thoughts

It didn't end like we wanted it to. An 11th place finish, seven points out of 8th, and no first round pick in the 2012 draft. Yet, in the midst of this somewhat disappointing end (in which the Avalanche finished 3-5-2 and likely would have made the playoffs if they hadn't thrown up in the big games) there remain an extraordinary number of positives that exist for next year.

My year-end thoughts:

-The best part about this season was Gabriel Landeskog. As the likely Calder winner, Landeskog led all rookies in points and was a dynamic, physical force on the Avalanche's top line for most of the season. He also led the team in shots and hits, and it appears that the Avs hit a home run with their #2 pick.

-Ryan O'Reilly is probably my favorite story of the season. He started the year as the third line center and gradually climbed the depth chart (with Landeskog) to become the Avalanche's top line guy. His emergence allowed for Matt Duchene's shift to wing (more on that later), and even though he sputtered down the stretch, I don't think that this is the ceiling for the likely future captain.

-It has been reported that Joe Sacco will be returning next season. I'm actually fine with this. A lot of people will point to the fact that the Avs have missed the playoffs for two consecutive years (for the first time ever) and that in every year of Sacco's tenure, they have been awful in the last month of the season. But here's the other truth. In every offseason thus far, Sacco has been given a ton of new players to work with. He's had to figure out endless line combinations and manage a ridiculous amount of injuries. Now, Greg Sherman appears to have finalized his core group. Let's give Sacco a chance to work with a stable group that he really should know by now.

-Will Matt Duchene play wing next season? I think that's where he's going to start. His chemistry with Stastny wasn't brilliant this year, but let's face it, neither of them were, in general. On the whole, Duchene took a step back in his play in 2012. A lot of that was due to injury. But he needs to start figuring out his game next year. He still plays with the puck too much and often doesn't make the simple play when its needed.

-Bravo to Greg Sherman. His moves to acquire Varlamov, McGinn, and Downie were all wins. I'm ready to give him the benefit of the doubt on his moves in the future. In Sherman We Trust.

-For the first time in over a decade, Captain Milan Hejduk didn't reach 20 goals. Is this the end for the Duke? Looks like it. One of my favorite Avs ever, and there's no doubt that his number will hang in the  Pepsi Center one day. After Hejduk and Foote, expect the jersey retirements to be over for a long time.

-A ton of decisions to make on defense in the offseason. Johnson, Hejda, and O'Byrne are my only sure-things as to who will be back on the blueline. I have to believe Hunwick (despite a really nice final couple months) will be gone, and sadly, it might be time to part with one of Wilson and O'Brien. Room needs to be made for Barrie, Elliott, and eventually Siemens and Gaunce.

-Even though this blog wasn't as active, I was still showing my hockey fandom on Twitter, as well as The Hockey Writers. Give both a click and a follow.

-Thanks for reading, and be sure to follow for playoff predictions and free agent/draft coverage.

Until October... - Best Sports Blogs, Sports Blogger Rankings

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