Lets talk some hockey. Playoffs, Hawks, and whatever else comes to mind.

Im falling a bit behind on the 2nd round of the playoffs. Already the Nucks and Preds have played 2 games, and the 2nd Detroit - SJ game is about to take off in a few hours. There has been some great hockey already and I might be a bit tardy with this, but here are my second round picks.

I made 2 wrong predictions on the first round. I thought the Caps were going home and that Chicago would eliminate the Nucks. Not too shabby especially since one of the teams was my home town boys.
For this round:
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Preds - Nucks: I am going with the Preds. I have always had them making it to the conference finals and nothing has changed. While they had some problems getting to there game in round 1, the heroics of Pecka Rinne are back for this round. On a whole, I thought the Preds had a really rough game 1, and their offense still needs some tweeking. Their patented defensive organization was slightly off, and Rinne had to keep it close. Give credit to Vancouver for bringing their A game against a team they have less experience with.
Game 2 was totally different. The Preds brought it to Vancouver, but Luongo and company almost squeaked through with a win. A late goal by the Preds forced it to over-time. OT was the Rinne show as the Nucks realized how lucky they were to be in OT for this one and began bringing it to the net. If you have not seen what Rinne did, just in the OT alone, I suggest you take a look and watch some highlights. He is the best goalie in the NHL and he will take his team far.
Conclusion: a close and hard fought series that will get the best of Vancouver. Preds in 6 or 7.
Sharks - Wings: As I have stated more than a few times, the Sharks are my pick to win the whole damn thing. Nothing has changed, and game 1 only supported that assumption. Niemi will get his act together, which game 1 helped, and the depth and experience of this team will get them past the Wings. 
A 2-1 OT winner by the Sharks in game 1 gives them 4 wins in OT this playoffs. Thats 4 of 5 wins total. It means that they are battling for those last chances, and having the luck to get them in. Given the teams depth, coaching, goaltending and size, I find it hard to believe anyone will get the best of them.
Howard tried to steal it away (44 saves), but in the end it was the Sharks who found the back of the net and Niemi got the much needed confidence booster. Z-Berg returned and that can make things much more interesting though.
Conclusion: Sharks in 5 or 6
The EAST
Tampa - Caps: I am going with Tampa to win this series. I guess I have to considering I didn't even expect the Caps to make it this far.
Game1 was a 4-2 win for the Bolts, and the Caps were 0 for 5 on the PP. Stamkos' game winner illustrates exactly why this team is so dangerous. Patience, with a strong organized attack, a big-time goal scorer , and the Caps like to make mistakes. Ovi will have to be bigger than big to get his team through this series.
Conclusion: If the Bolts take game 2, I predict a breakdown by the Caps and the Bolts win it in 5. 
Bruins - Flyers: This is the hardest series for me to pick. The Bruins took game 1 with authority winning 7-3. I just don't know if the Flyers really have what it takes. They play a scrappy game and skill got the best of them in game 1. My gut is telling me that goaltending will be the difference if it gets close and Thomas will be victorious.
Conclusion: Boston wins it in 6.
Now to the Hawks and this man:
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There is so much to say here. I think we have a lot of time to break it down more closely, but here is the basics of what Bowman talked about during his little press conference the other day. Offseason moves, recent acquisitions, who produced, who did not, and what is the future of this franchise in net? Just a few things covered by SB.
Stalberg was mentioned. He is a candidate for trade, but Bowman mentioned how his size and speed are hard to come by. I think they might give him another year to figure his stuff out.
Frolik, one of the newly acquired forwards was mentioned as being pretty darn versatile. A smart player, he played on many lines in many different positions and situations. I don't think anyone has anything to complain about, but if the Hawks can find a guy with more size, they might go for it and move Frolik. Honestly, I am torn. I thought the guy came in and played damn good hockey, but I can see someone else fitting better for the organization.
Leddy, the rookie who shocked us all. What a damn good year he had, and he wasn't even sure if he would play in the NHL this year. Most do not at his age, and SB made it a point to state that. He played significant minutes, played great hockey, was wise beyond his years and is only 19. As SB said, "Keith was around 22 when he saw the NHL." This young lad goes nowhere.
Ben Smith: Optimism is all I can say. he came in super late and got the job done. The force is strong in this one.
The picture is so much better moving into this summer. In terms of crunch, and money, things look much more optimistic. There will be changes, but not like last year. Structure will be key, and this is the time for SB to shine. You could argue he helped get a team to the playoffs that was in a rebuilding year which looks good, but this is where it really counts. What kind of team is SB trying to build.
Crawford is probably the biggest no-brainer. If there were questions heading into the playoffs, he answered them all with flying colors. SB stated that Corey was at the top of his list to sign and for a long time. DUH.
Not so certain to return is Troy Brouwer. He had a somewhat inconsistent year, but a lot of that has to do with how much he was moved around between lines. He was one of the most physical players in the league and that looks good, but I caught a hint of trade in SB's eyes when mentioning his name. I like Brouwer a lot and I hope he stays and brings some more production next year.
I hope to god that Campoli is in a Hawk's uniform next year. He really "seized the day," as SB said and I don't think I was happier with any defenseman's overall performance. He fits in perfectly with the Hawk's system and I think we can expect a lot of production out of him next year.
Sharp was also brought up in the conversation, even though his contract does not expire until the following year. I think that SB said what everyone wants to hear by stating that he wants Sharp to be a lifer for the Hawks. He is an essential part of that "core." Another Duh situation, but at what cost I ask? Will they be able to afford him without moving one of the other big tickets on the team? In most cases I would pick Sharp over whatever the alternative.
Again, I say that if you can move Campbel everything gets better.

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  • The Nucks last night looked like the same team they are every year. When they have a lead, no matter how small, they look content to keep collapsing on their net and keep chipping the puck out. Two years ago, Havlat burned them late. This year, Toews did. Last night, the Preds did. But, Luongo also let in a stinker that set up over time. Strangely, I still have Vancouver taking it all. When they aren't playing keep away, they are damn good at moving the puck, they have size and snarl and Luongo stops a lot of pucks when he sees them. I think it's all a matter of attitude for them. If they play in bring it mode, they will be very tough to stop. As for the Sharks, like the Nucks, they are "that" team every year. Plenty of talent, plenty of grit, and propensity to choke when it matters. Detroit is always the elite and in a manner similar but opposite to the Nucks and Sharks, you have to pencil them in to go deep every year unless they get hit with injuries. Age is undeniably catching up and will be a factor if teams push them to six games. I stick with the Nucks getting out of the West.

    East, I think the Bruins are going to avenge last year's choke. They've got a nice balance of grit and ability to score and look pretty focused. I could see the Flyers coming out, but if they go down a few games again, I don't think lighting will strike twice. For the Bolts, I want to see them lose because I want trap hockey to die a painful and shameful death. Washington has been my sleeper pick from the East all year and I like what they've done in completely reworking their gameplan from pure offense to balanced defense and offense. That's an impressive change from last year. This is probably sacrilege for a WC fan, but I'm going to have a hard time cheering for the West unless it is Nashville.

    On to Stan Bow and some of the Hawks players, I'm going to reserve comments for now. There is a lot there to discuss. To sign players he wants to keep, it seems impossible to do so without getting rid of some more contracts. Dumping salary is only one piece of what SB has to deal with. But, I'll leave it at that for now.

  • I disagree about the Wings. To me, the Wings are the
    NHL'S equivalent of the Lakers. That is to say, they like
    getting hit in the mouth before they full engage themselves.
    Based on their rep alone, I wouldn't be surprised if Detroit
    went down 0-2 and then won the next three games. It's what they
    always do. Until San Jose can prove that they're not made of
    glass from a mental standpoint, I have to give Detroit the edge
    in this series. Wings in 7.

    I like your pick in the Caps-Bolts series though. I think that
    Tampa, based on how they play defensively, can frustrate Washington. Remember, Washington is a team that has a rep for crumbling into a heap when they've been down. This was a team
    that got smoked in a game seven in their own rink.

  • OK, I'll put my picks out there.

    Preds in 6 or 7. Easier for me to say now that they got their act together last night. Vancouver is scary good but Rinne > Luongo and in the end after a string of 1-0, 2-1, and 3-2 games Rinne comes out on top.

    Sharks in 7. Tough one to call, but I think the Sharks have some unfinished business this year. Getting swept in the conference final last year has to leave a bitter taste in your mouth. Detroit is always scary good but I think (and I'm writing this without knowing the score in todays game

  • In reply to fourfeather:

    That's a big list of guys who don't make a ton of money. Depending on what we got in return, I wouldn't freak to lose Campoli, but I also gotta say that I thought he played bigger then his size consistently. When he came, he looked energized and I think that fed the team. I go back and forth on the physical thing. Some games that might have helped, but I don't think that was what cost them this series. Just getting back Bolland shut the Sedin bitches down cold. The problem I see is that SB has taken a page from his Dad's book and has collected some skill guys. Even if the Hawks get some guys with size, it's not going to help much if they are like John Scott trying to skate up with Hossa. When healthy, I actually think Kopecky fits what we would have liked to have against the Nucks. On the down side, Kop, Bicks and Brouwer do not always play to their size. Find a way to keep those three healthy, hitting and consistent, I think you have what you need.

    After Hammer got suspended, he wasn't the same guy. But, I think the D also needed to pick up more responsibility this year that they weren't ready for. Some of the forwards need to be better defensively. But I think we are going to get around to that discussion. At 3.5, Hammer is probably pretty reasonable cap wise. Yeah, the elephant in the room is Campbell of course, but I'll play my Hossa and Campbell apologist cards later LOL.

  • In reply to nklhd12:

    Vegas, Hammer's contract is precisely what makes him so tradeable. Would I rather see Campbell go, yes, I think Leddy will assume that role eventually, but the likelihood of that happening is remote since he has a say in which teams he will accept a trade to. The team needs a #2 center as well. Should be interesting. Looking forward to this discussion starting in earnest.

  • In reply to fourfeather:

    I would agree that Hammer's cap hit makes him tradeable, but what Beaver said below about our defensive pipeline comes to mind for me as well. Hammer is a shot blocker and has decent size and I'm not sure he's easily replaceable for less money, right now anyway. On the matter of second line center, I am completely in agreement. If there was some true second line center out there who is a two way player, I would think about trading Hammer. But as a matter of cap relief, I don't think Hammer is a guy I would dump.

  • In reply to nklhd12:

    Aside from that stupid play in game seven, I like what Campoli brings to the table. He was the one guy who showed a desire to go in the corners and win battles. I can say the same thing about Frolic. With Frolic, you hope that he can develop an ability to finish around the net. I wouldn't deal Campbell unless you're sure that you have someone who can move the puck up ice as well as he can. Ideally, my Hawks shopping list would include someone in the mold of an Andrew Ladd. Someone with physicality and the ability to chip in a few goals now and then.

  • In reply to nklhd12:

    Number that I've seen that the cap is going up by is 4 million. Add that to the 8 million our old friend Capgeek reports, that's 12 million to play with for 9 players to fill out the roster.

    Trading the Hammer for a center goes against the "Bowman Way" in my opinion unless there's D-man ready to make the jump from the Hogs. Is there?

    BW

  • In reply to beaverwarrior:

    Guys, I'm not advocating trading Hammer. I just think, like others do as well, that he seems to be the most tradeable because his contract is so palatable to many teams. I like Campoli too, he fit right in with the 'hawks. With Seabs new contract kicking in next year that's a lot of denaro tied up in the top 4 D. Sharp is due for a raise as well after next year and he's not getting any younger

  • In reply to beaverwarrior:

    FF,

    I was thinking more of the SB Sr way then the SB Jr way. Sorry for the misleading comment on my part.

    BW

  • In reply to beaverwarrior:

    How 'bout them Bruins? There's a buzz building in New England...

  • In reply to iplagitr:

    I could see a Nucks or Sharks V. Bruins final. If it's the Bolts in the finals, I expect the OT's from game four to last until the start of next season.

  • In reply to nklhd12:

    Can you picture a Preds vs Bolts finals?

  • In reply to beaverwarrior:

    I just looked at what little grass there is outside my window and it did not grow in that time. I'm thinking that's probably similar.

  • In reply to beaverwarrior:

    Frankly, BW, no. Can you imagine the network ratings.

  • In reply to beaverwarrior:

    It looks like the Hawks are going to be in situation with Campbell where they're going to have to make a move and hope that they have someone within their system to step in and contribute. I know that cap is going up but if you pay Seabrook that means that someone isn't going to have a chair when the musical salary cap chairs stop spinning. I'm not expecting this team to win cups every year but I'd like to see become the Wings have become from an organizational standpoint. Every year, they're plugging in guys who can play on the NHL level and every year they're in the hunt. That's what I want the Hawks to be. I don't want a Cup and then a slow decline until the product bottom's out.

  • In reply to DANIALRAMIREZ:

    This is pretty much what I am getting at with the main post today. It's one thing to stockpile talent and the Hawks have already succeeded here. But, it's another thing entirely to keep that core firing on all cylinders and do the yearly swap outs of talent that first off fits a style of hockey you want to play and second of all compliments and fits with the existing players. I think the Bulls did a very good job of this. They had their "triangle" and then found a way to keep adding and subtracting players who could come in and play a specific role. I don't think the Hawks are there yet and more then anything, what I most wanted to see this season was the addition of a few more bricks to this foundation. I'm not yet sure that happened.

    As for Campbell, I've taken it upon myself to be the chief apologist for both Campbell and Hossa, so I'll roll out my spiel when we get around to talking about them individually.

  • In reply to DANIALRAMIREZ:

    The Hawks are in a pickle if they have to shed more salary because they have guys that are integral in terms of their system and what they do. Sharp has value because, when he's scoring goals, he creates more ice for Toews and Kane. Campbell, as much as he drives me nuts with his lack of physicality...... he's a perfect fit for the Hawks system as far as their puck possession game goes. You saw how, even in 2010, how much Campbell was missed after Ovechkin knocked him out for three weeks. Hossa falls into the Sharp category. He drives you nuts because he has ruts where he doesn't score but his presence equals more open ice. Call me nuts but if Ben Smith takes that next step up... do you gamble and walk away from Seabrook in light of how the Hawks functioned without him?

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