Two games into the opening round, let’s look at the (Eric Cartman voice) West Side.

bwscpws

Respect my authority! And my picks…..

Through two games, let’s take a look out west and discuss the series thus far.

Note: After each blurb you will see my original prediction for the series, and how I feel about it now after 2 games.  Keep in mind, only my original predictions will be counted as a correct or incorrect prediction.  I just wanted to share my thoughts about what’s happened so far.

Winnipeg vs Anaheim

HOW WE GOT HERE

There are three reasons why Anaheim is the only team to have a 2-0 lead in the west.  First and foremost, Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf have been outstanding.  Both have 4 points with an even 4 goals and 4 assists between them.  Second is the Jets inability to shut down the Ducks less than stellar power play.  Anaheim finished the regular season 3 from the bottom in terms of pp % and through two games they have 4 goals on 10 attempts.  Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, the Ducks are just that much stronger.  Strange considering what you would expect to happen if a duck runs into a jet, but then again this is just hockey and not a lopsided game of chicken.  This was the only series of the opening 8 which I thought could possibly end in a sweep and thus far I’ve seen little to sway me away from that thought.  Ahh good old 1999.  Oz was the worst character of the 4 though.  Anyways, back to why I don’t think the Jets have a shot.  The OT winner of game 2 was a perfect microcosm for this series.  The Jets desperately clinging to life, Jakob Silferberg and Bryan Little come together behind the net.  First Little hooks Silferberg and Silferberg responds by holding his stick as they both tumble.  Silferberg gets up first and, despite Little having the edge in experience, finds the puck and uses his skill to expose a bad defensive play by Little and shortly after ends the game with a wrist shot.  Speed, recognition and skill all on display and all displayed by the Ducks.  Incidentally, when Silferberg takes a picture of himself with his phone, does he call it a Silfie?

WHAT NEEDS TO HAPPEN

You need two x factors to collide for the Jets to climb back into this series.  Going home will be an immeasurable help for Winnipeg.  It’s been 19 years since the Red Wings sent the Jets packing for Arizona and an NHL playoff starved city will be frothing with anticipation for games 3 and 4.  Hey those are for acid indigestion.  Didn’t you see the label on the side of the bottle that says use as directed?  The Jets need to feed off of their fans and punish the Ducks.  Another factor that might help is if Anaheim suddenly remembers that they are Anaheim.  Let’s face it, with no San Jose to pick on, it’s between Anaheim and St. Louis as to whom you want to believe are playoff under achievers.  I guess it’s only fair to say St. Louis since the Ducks do have a cup, but man that seems like such a long time ago.  Ondrej Pavelec standing on his head would help as well.  A gaa above 3 isn’t going to cut it.

WHAT TO EXPECT

More domination from the Ducks.  I fully expect the Jets to come out on fire for game 3, but if the Ducks can whether the early storm, things will eventually settle and it will become a hockey game again.  In fact, if the game remains close, that frenzied energy from the fans will eventually turn into worry, an emotion that can be just as detrimental to the home team as energy can be beneficial.  While both games have been close, I just can’t help from thinking that the Ducks are just kind of playing with the Jets.  Enjoying their power with a perverse pleasure before they deliver the killing blow.  It’s a lot like that that scene in the The Lion King where Scar catches a mouse with his paw and taunts it.  Well except for the part when he loses it.  Actually that scene as a whole is another good way to describe the Ducks, so much power yet easily distracted and eventually losing what they’ve worked so hard to attain.  That won’t happen in this series though, Anaheim is gonna eat 747 sized meals over the next week.  Original prediction: Ducks in 5   —-  Prediction after 2 games:  Ducks in 5 Let’s say the Jets have enough energy and pride to take one at home.

bufflin

Poor Dustin Byfuglin.  If the NHL was also scripted, even your Jets could be champions! And while I’m still unclear as to why your name isn’t pronounced BY-FUG-LIN, it does give you one hell of a theme. Everyday I’m Byfuglin, everyday I’m Byfuglin, Byfuglin, Byfuglin, Dustin Byfuglin, Byfuglin.

Chicago vs Nashville

HOW WE GOT HERE

Patrick Kane, who hasn’t played since February 24 after suffering a broken clavicle, has been arguably the ‘Hawks best player in the first two games. But I’m calling shenanigans on Chicago here since nobody really knew if Kane would suit up for the start of the series.  In their defense though, nobody could have predicted he would play this well upon his return.  Also, there is a new Darling in the Windy City these days.  After allowing 3 goals on just 12 shots, Corey Crawford was pulled in favor of back up, and minor league journeyman, Scott Darling.  Darling, who has spent the last 6 seasons in the SPHL, ECHL and AHL, made 42 saves en route to a Blackhawk double OT win.  Head coach Joel Quenneville, aka the Q-Stache, decided to go back with Crawford for game 2.  A decision I thought to be the right one.  Unfortunately, so did Nashville, as the Preds lit Crawford up for 6 goals on 35 shots.  Quenneville seemed to immediately announce that Darling would be back in goal for game 3, a decision I also believe is the right one.  I mean, lets face it, what other choice did he have?  Did you see Crawford’s reaction after the last goal beat him.  It was epic disbelief.

WHAT NEEDS TO HAPPEN

This is really simple for Nashville.  Continue to pepper the net, especially with the inexperienced Darling in goal.  89 shots in two games is definitely a sign that the game plan is working, you just have to execute a little better.  One element they may want to eliminate form their game however is giveaways.  The Preds have handed the puck over nearly 30 times in the 7+ periods played in this series.  As for Chicago, it’s merely a matter of feeding off their home crowd and protecting Darling.  They can’t continue to give up this many shots and hope to pull out this series.  Additionally, Chicago needs to limit their time in the box.  34 minutes is far too much, even if the Nashville power play seems to be struggling a little right now.

WHAT TO EXPECT

I don’t like what I’m about to type here.  Captain Shea Weber is the heart and soul of this Predators team.  He left game 2 late in the 2nd period, and despite his team going on to win that game big, they won’t go much further without him.  It was announced two days ago that Weber will not make the trip to Chicago, thus eliminating him from the Nashville lineup for these ever important games.  Poor Weber, even hurt he can’t escape Nashville.  Not only is it bad enough he won’t play, he won’t even be in the building, meaning he won’t have any opportunity to be the emotional leader his team desperately needs at times.  Unless he can do it via conference call or something.  Oh, and officially listing him as day to day at the same time you announce he won’t make the trip, is a great touch by the Nashville management.  Not sure who your fooling with that one fellas.  This has to be a huge boon for Chicago, already knowing they won’t see Weber until at least game 5, when they might very well have the Preds on the ropes desperately hoping their mommas will rush in to save them with some Payless pumps.  Who uses a shoe, honestlyOriginal prediction: Preds in 7  —-  Prediction after 2 games: ‘Hawks in 6 No more Weber means no more playoffs.

weberbody

Show us on your cut out exactly where they hurt you Shea.

Minnesota vs St. Louis

HOW WE GOT HERE

Both of these teams are often looked at with a type of double vision.  Just remember no Loverboy, because Loverboy has always sucked.  Anyway, what I mean is that it’s really hard to get behind either of these teams as they have shown a history of post season disappointment.  Especially St. Louis.  The Wild have been considered one of the better teams in hockey every since signing Parise and Suter a few seasons ago.  However, if you happen to be like me (Why wouldn’t you want to be?), you often wonder if they have invested too much in their dynamic duo, making it more difficult to surround them with quality help.  Let’s face it, they’ve struggled to make the playoffs these past two seasons and had it not been for the Devan Dubnyk trade, they may have found themselves on the outside looking in this season.  The Blues are a whole other story all together.  As mentioned before, they may be looked at as the new San Jose Sharks.  Every year they seem to be the “cute pick” for all of the experts, and end up pulling a Peyton Manning with an early elimination.  Games 1 and 2 of this series couldn’t have demonstrated this more.  The Wild dominated the Blues on their own home ice in game 1, limiting St. Louis to a mere 11 shots through 2 periods, keeping their 4th ranked power play off the board while scoring 2 pp goals with their miserable 27th ranked man advantage.  If your a Blues fan, it’s nothing you haven’t seen before.  But then came game 2.  St. Louis found some discipline, forced the Wild to the box and seemingly shot up Vladimir Tarasenko with a terran stimpac.  So the question is, which version of each of these teams shows up in game 3?

WHAT NEEDS TO HAPPEN

Just as a hockey fan, how entertaining would it be if the good versions of both of these teams showed up on the same night?  Seriously, we would see some nice offensive plays, some great goaltending and a lot of bone crunching hits.  So just for us viewers, why not work on that fellas?  Beyond both of these teams bringing their varsity and leaving the jv at home, they need production form their leaders and stars.  Tarasenko came alive on night 2, but their needs to be more production from other guys.  Nobody TJ Oshie plays a lot of minutes, has a number of shots, but no points and is a -1.  Paul Stastny, who’s entire season was at least a little disappointing, has no points and more penalty minutes than he has shots on net.  Lastly Jay Bouwmeester, who used to be a point machine for Florida, has shown little offensive flare for St. Louis despite leading the team in average ice time.  For Minnesota, it’s much of the same.  Parise has no goals.  Neither does Thomas Vanek and Mikko Koivu who both have a minus rating, and tough guy Matt Cooke looks to be out indefinitely.  And then there is Ryan Suter.  Despite playing roughly 30 minutes a game (CRAZY!) Suter has done almost nothing offensively this entire season.  He finished the year with only 2 goals had thus far has 0 points in these playoffs.  What he does have is a team leading -3 rating.  Maybe all of that ice time is finally catching up with him.

WHAT TO EXPECT

The advantage here is clearly with Minnesota for game 3 as they return home to “The State of Hockey”.  But given the way both of these teams have played thus far, I’m almost guaranteeing a return to St. Louis for game 5 with a knotted series at 2. It was interesting to see St. Louis head Coach Ken Hitchcock give the youthful Jake Allen the game 1 start over the veteran Brian Elliot.  Don’t misunderstand, it wasn’t a surprise given the play of the two down the stretch, but Hitchcock has always had an affinity for experience, see Ryan Miller last year.  Allen had a great stretch run and certainly performed well in game 2, but I wonder how short the leash is if he stumbles early in this pivotal game 3.  Original Prediction: Blues in 7 —- Prediction after 2 games: Blues in 7  This series is going the distance and I still think St. Louis has enough to squeak by.

hitchcock

Worry not SOA fans, FX announces a new spin off. It takes place in Missouri and has a disappointing season finale each year.

Calgary vs Vancouver

HOW WE GOT HERE

Both of these teams are making their return to the playoffs after finishing just 1 and 2 spots from the bottom last season.  The Canucks were playoff favorites for several years, while the Flames are making their first post season appearance since they traded Jerome Iginla.  Sometimes you don’t know what you’ve got ’till it’s gone.  Oh, don’t worry folks, he didn’t go bunji jumping in Mexico.  He had a nice year for the underachieving Ave’s.  It’s a shame that not too many people seem to be paying attention to this series, because it’s easily been the most violent of the first round.  Seriously, the level of hate between these two western Canadian rivals is on full display and at 18:43 of period 3 of game 2 resembled something out of a gladiator movie.  Hell yes, at least I am Russell Crowe.  Oh, below is the penalty summary for that time:

18:43 VAN Brad Richardson  Game misconduct against  Matt Stajan
18:43 VAN Shawn Matthias  Misconduct (10 min) against  Michael Ferland
18:43 VAN Derek Dorsett  Game misconduct against  Deryk Engelland
18:43 VAN Derek Dorsett  Fighting (maj) against  Deryk Engelland
18:43 VAN Derek Dorsett  Fighting (maj) against  Deryk Engelland
18:43 VAN Brad Richardson  Fighting (maj) against  Matt Stajan
18:43 CGY Brandon Bollig  Misconduct (10 min) against  Dan Hamhuis
18:43 CGY Michael Ferland  Misconduct (10 min) against  Shawn Matthias
18:43 CGY Deryk Engelland  Game misconduct against  Derek Dorsett
18:43 CGY Deryk Engelland  Game misconduct against  Derek Dorsett
18:43 CGY Deryk Engelland  Game misconduct against  Derek Dorsett
18:43 CGY Deryk Engelland  Fighting (maj) against  Derek Dorsett
18:43 CGY Deryk Engelland  Fighting (maj) against  Derek Dorsett
18:43 CGY Deryk Engelland  Instigator against  Derek Dorsett
18:43 CGY Matt Stajan  Game misconduct against  Brad Richardson
18:43 CGY Matt Stajan  Fighting (maj) against  Brad Richardson
18:43 VAN Dan Hamhuis  Game misconduct against  Deryk Engelland

WHAT NEEDS TO HAPPEN

It should go without saying that both teams need to find some discipline.  Neither power play has been overly efficient thus far, but that could change quickly if guys keep going to the box as if their handing out free punch and pie.  For Vancouver, it’s nice to spread out your scoring, but when you don’t have a single player with more than 1 goal and your point leader is a rookie who only averages about 10 minutes per game, you may need some other people to start stepping up their efforts.  I’m looking at you Sedin’s.  The Flames need to refocus and get back to playing hockey in all three zones.  When you have multiple players with -3 ratings and one at -4 after two games, you need to find yourself some stronger team defense.

WHAT TO EXPECT

Jonas Hiller is a quality goalie who seemed to be the scapegoat in Anaheim for their faults as a team.  God that goat is so annoying, sorry about that.  But he’s a very big reason as to why the Flames are back in the post season.  He had a rough game 2, but he doesn’t seem to let bad games bother him much, so I expect him to be back to form for game 3.  The Canucks are a bit of a conundrum to me.  What kind of team are they?  They aren’t overly physical, but they aren’t strictly a puck possession type team, and they’ve played a number of up and down games this year in which both they and at times their opponents have put up a ton of goals.  And, if the first 2 games are any indication, might just be how this series goes, tight checking one game, high scoring the next.  Another factor the Canucks seem to be in search of is a starting goalie.  Ryan Miller was signed in the off season to help replace both Luongo and Schneider, yet Vancouver will start the playoffs with Eddie Lack in net.  I can’t say it was the wrong decision, Miller was kind of up and down even before his injury, but the goaltending battle seems to be a definitive advantage for Calgary.  Unfortunately for the Canucks, that just might be the part of the game that wins this series, as both teams seem to be fine with fighting it out and allowing something, ahhhhhh rather unexpected to take them to victory.  Original prediction:  Flames in 6 —- Prediction after 2 games: Flames in 6 Calgary just seems a bit hungrier to me

austin

What would you know, you made a movie in which the Maple Leafs won the cup. And that wasn’t even the worst part of that movie. Scary….

Well that’s all for now folks.  See you in round 2, where it’s looking more and more like I might have some apologies to make.

EDIT:  Since this is being released just after game #3, here is the penalty summary starting at 14:28 of period 3:

14:28 VAN Dan Hamhuis  Illegal Check To Head against  Sam Bennett
18:35 VAN Alexandre Burrows  Instigator against  Kris Russell
18:35 VAN Alexandre Burrows  Boarding against  Johnny Gaudreau
18:35 VAN Alexandre Burrows  Fighting (maj) against  Kris Russell
18:35 CGY Kris Russell  Fighting (maj) against  Alexandre Burrows
18:35 VAN Alexandre Burrows  Game misconduct
18:54 VAN Kevin Bieksa  Fighting (maj) against  Michael Ferland
18:54 CGY Michael Ferland  Fighting (maj) against  Kevin Bieksa
18:54 CGY Joe Colborne  Misconduct (10 min)
20:00 CGY Deryk Engelland  Roughing against  Luca Sbisa
20:00 VAN Luca Sbisa  Fighting (maj) against  Deryk Enelland