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