Friday, April 30, 2010
Eastern Conference Semi-Finals
8 Montreal Canadiens vs Pittsburgh Penguins 4
Season Series: Pittsburgh won series 3-1.
The Pittsburgh Penguins are marching towards their 3rd straight Stanley Cup Finals appearance. Montreal shocked the hockey world after upsetting the #1 seed Washington Capitals in 7 games. Can they pull off another upset?
Pittsburgh Penguins: The Penguins although the 4th seed are by rights the 2nd best team in the Eastern Conference and now the best team remaining after Washington's loss. Only an 0-6 record to New Jersey during the regular season cost them from being the #2 seed. Turns out, everything works out. Pittsburgh avoided a matchup with the 7 seed Flyers in the first round, in our opinion a better playoff team than Ottawa. Now that Washington is out, we see no reason why the Penguins shouldn't march into the Stanley Cup Finals. Impressive in the Ottawa series was the resilience of the Penguins when falling behind. An impressive comeback in game 6 when trailing 3-0 on the road was more proof that Pittsburgh is the class of the East. As usual, the Penguins relied on Crosby (14 pts) and Malkin (8pts) to lead the way. Chris Kunitz and Bill Guerin had decent series as well, but the Penguins will need more from secondary players if they want to win the Cup.
Montreal Canadiens: The Canadiens improbable path to the 2nd round has caused lots of people to question the importance of the regular season and how important playoff seeding is. Is there that much parity? We aren't sure. What we do know is that Jacques Martin out coached Bruce Boudreau, Jaroslav Halak outplayed Semyon Varlamov and Hal Gill kept Ovechkin from taking over the series. Mike Cammelleri had 10 points and Tomas Plekanic had 7 to lead Montreal in scoring. For a team that clinched a playoff birth on it's final game of the season, a knockout of the Washington Capitals should seem like a nice accomplishment but the Canadiens are not satisfied. The Bell Centre will be electric for game 3 and Pittsburgh will have a tough time matching their intensity.
Pittsburgh still by far has the best 1-2 punch in the game. No team has an answer for Sidney Crosby as he has become a scary goal scoring threat as well as a dish man. If Hal Gill can slow down Crosby and play physical and Halak can continue his ridiculous play, Montreal will then have a shot. We saw them do it to Washington so I don't want to say it can't happen, but look for the Penguins to move on to next round.
Pittsburgh in 6
7 Philadelphia Flyers vs Boston Bruins 6
Season Series: Split, both teams were 2-1-1.
Should be an old school slugfest. Let's break down both teams and see who has an edge.
Philadelphia Flyers: They say regular season matchups don't translate to the post-season. Well the Flyers, who took 5 of 6 from the Devils during the regular season, breezed through the first round in 5 games against that same team. The Flyers who got into the playoffs by winning a shootout against the New York Rangers on the final game of the season, find themselves in the 2nd round of the playoffs. Brian Boucher proved us and many hockey people wrong by being the backbone of the Flyers during their first round match-up. The Flyers are built for the playoffs and have several guys that can light the lamp. Richards, Briere, Giroux all had solid series as well as Chris Pronger adding 5 points to the scoresheet. Pronger solidifies the defense and adds grit and size that most teams can't match up with. The Flyers will need for all these players to contribute.
Boston Bruins: The Bruins are another team that is built for the playoffs. Several gritty forwards and a defense led by Zdeno Chara has them capable of matching up with the also gritty and physical Flyers. Add Tuukka Rask, the NHL goaltending leader in Goals Against Average and Save Percentage, the Bruins are capable of beating anyone. However, the Bruins were also the lowest scoring team in the NHL this season and although Marc Savard will be back in the 2nd round, the Bruins will need him to play like he hasn't missed the last 6 weeks of the season.
The Bruins did upset the Buffalo Sabres largely in part to their defense and goaltending. Tuukka Rask outplayed the over rated Ryan Miller and Marc Recchi played like he is 23 years old.
This should be a throwback, old time beat em up series. Both teams play hard physical games and defense and goaltending should be the keys to each team's success. The Flyers have the edge in offense but the Bruins have the edge in goaltending and defense. Although these teams are the 6th and 7th seeds, both of them are better than their records and are built for these situations. This should be an excellent series to watch. All in all, the Bruins have failed to prove they can score enough goals.
Flyers in 7