Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Second Round Reset

And as we move on to the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, time to look back at our first round prognostications and ahem, make a few refinements to the road ahead.

Surprise is how we view some of those first round results, the Ducks losing to the Wings was not something we thought was going to take place, nor did we think the Canucks would fall to the Sharks and in such a hasty fashion.

We did not anticipate the trouble the Islanders gave the Pens, though we always figured the Pens would move through, while the speed that the Senators disposed of the Canadiens was an unexpected thing to view.

The St. Louis/Los Angeles series was a most entertaining thing to watch and we had a feeling that the Blues might survive that battle to move on, though if ever there were a pick em series that was the one.

The near death experience of the Bruins was not forecast, the thinking being that the veteran lineup would make fairly quick work of the young unproven Leafs, a thought that was banished about five games in.

Only the Hawks dominance over the Wild and the Rangers topping the Capitals (Washington never ceases to disappoint in the playoffs when it comes to new ways to lose out), would have been the thing of a sure bet.

So, with the preamble in place, a take on Round Two.

Ottawa and Pittsburgh

The Sens certainly announced their intentions for this years Stanley Cup drama with a total domination of the Montreal Canadiens, playing a rather complete series, which featured an answer to a foolish challenge of the Habs in the real of on ice physicality. The key to the Sens success, goaltender Craig Anderson and the continually rising star of Eric Karlsson, who plays the game with such ease it's as though he's part of the ice.

The Senators have embraced the team approach, nothing rattles them, a setback is forgotten quickly, the next step just a shot away, it starts with coaching and works its way down the roster and with each victory they collectively gain even more confidence.

That's something that the Penguins may have a problem matching, getting rattled may yet be the intangible in this series.

The Pens as we saw struggled against the Islanders, with goal tending the key deficit to the Penguin approach. With the Islanders giving the Pens so much trouble, the seeds of doubt may be creeping into the NHL's Eastern front runner.

The Penguins on paper and by record should be a prohibitive favourite, any team with a Sidney Crosby who always plays well against Ottawa should be a favourite.  And for the most part, the smart money would be on a Pittsburgh victory, but it's the playoffs where the unusual often takes place.

That and the fact that the ancient hometown team is in the mix, places us firmly on  the Sens bandwagon.

Senators in Six

San Jose and Los Angeles

The Kings survived the hard hitting NASCAR like race with the Blues, one of the most physical of series seen in a long time, the defending Stanley Cup champs serving notice that reports of their pending demise may be just a tad premature.

They avoided an all So Cal Showdown when the Ducks generously bowed out of further playoff action, setting up a North/South battle in its stead, the San Jose Sharks who quickly dispatched the Canucks may be impressed with their play of four games, but the Kings will be a very different team than that of Vancouver, the latter a team looking more like one looking for a vacation than a playoff run.

The Sharks also have history to keep watch of and that's not a good thing, the past playoff experiences for San Jose hockey fans has long been the thing of disappointment, the Kings having just finished off a very physical series will carry that over to the Sharks and with it, most likely advancement to the Western Finals.

Los Angeles in Six

Detroit and Chicago

An Original Six showcase that despite the records of the two teams involved could provide some of the best in hockey of the playoffs. The Wings barely scraped into the playoffs, the Hawks all but coasting for about half of the shortened season, still it's all about making the playoffs and then making the best of your appearance.

To that the Wings are full value, they tempted elimination on more than one occasion with third period collapses and yet somehow found the way back through to the winning side of the scoreboard.

Though, there is a bit of difference between the Ducks and the Hawks and should the Wings make similar  errors against Chicago, the series could be a very short reprise of the Original Six theme.

The Hawks have retooled to their Stanley Cup shape of a few years ago, playing on Madison is not an enjoyable experience for any team and the home side rarely disappoints the home fans. The Wild provided a tune up, more of a public skate as things turned out than a full contact practice.

Still, the rest alone may serve the Hawks well, they're rested, not particularly beat up and dangerous when they are on their game, which they will most likely be.

Chicago in Five

New York and Boston

The other Original Six brings together those friendly east coasters the Rangers and the Bruins, both having fought their way through a seven game preliminary round series.

The Rangers however come out of the Washington series with sky high confidence, the goal tending of Henrik Lundqvist, much like last year, has been the Rangers story. King Henrik sent the Rangers into their Game 7 showdown against the Caps, while the offense took the load off of him with a total destruction of the Capitals in the final game of the first round.

The Bruins as we all witnessed, launched a comeback for the ages, but with that impressive victory is the very apparent back story, that of a team that came but 11 minutes from elimination from the inexperienced Toronto Maple Leafs.

The Leafs series provided far too many questions for Claude Julien to think about when it comes to his team, too many things were exposed over the course of those seven games. Should Boston provide the Rangers with similar opportunities as they provide the Leafs, then New York will be shipping the Bruins out of the Playoffs.

New York in Six

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