A Fan of the Game

Sports Talk, Straight Talk

Guest Column: NHL First-Round Predictions

Nathan Skytta is back again — this time with predictions for the first round of the NHL playoffs.

For the first time in almost 20 years, the Detroit Red Wings will not start their run towards the Stanley Cup at home in front of the fans at Joe Louis Arena. In a season that was plagued with injuries, featured a rookie between the pipes, and contained league diversity with no real powerhouse, the Wings struggled out of the gates.

Led by gold medal winning head coach Mike Babcock and a plethora of skill and determination, the Wings overcame their injuries and got their lineup back together. Oh and that rookie in net? Well, he turned out to be a possible rookie of the year finalist.

The Wings finished fifth in the conference and are going to take on the fourth-seeded Phoenix Coyotes, in the first round of the playoffs. The Coyotes will put up a challenge for the Wings, but after finishing the season as one of the hottest teams in the league, the Wings should be favored in advance.

RED WINGS IN SIX.

In another matchup in the Western Conference, it’s the No. 1 San Jose Sharks versus No. 8 Colorado Avalanche — a matchup that will be worth watching. The Sharks barely missed having to face Detroit, but the road to the second round didn’t get any easier when they were paired up against the Avs. The Sharks need to be on their ‘A’ game in order to have any chance of advancing.

SHARKS IN SIX.

The No. 2 Chicago Blackhawks will take on the No. 7 Nashville Predators. This may be the highest scoring series out of the eight first round playoffs because each team has struggling goaltenders and stars that can put up big numbers when given the chance.

PREDATORS IN SIX.

In the last Western series, it will be the No. 3 Vancouver Canucks facing off against one of the scariest teams in the league, the No. 6 Los Angeles Kings. Both of these teams have great goaltending, but it will be the matchup of the Kings defense against the all-star duo of the Sedin twins that determines who comes out victorious.

The Kings are the Cinderella team of the NHL this season and are unpredictable, so this series is one worth watching.

KINGS IN SEVEN.

In the Eastern Conference, it’s the President’s Trophy winning Washington Capitals versus the Montreal Canadiens. This matchup pits Capitals starting goaltender Jose Theodore against his former mates from Montreal.  The Capitals have too much firepower for the Canadiens and should win this series convincingly.

CAPITALS IN FIVE.

Future Hall of Fame goaltender Martin Brodeur will lead his No. 2 New Jersey Devils against the No. 7 Philadelphia Flyers, in hopes of clinching another Stanley Cup title. This is the time of year where Brodeur seems to always step up his game — just what any team wants to hear when facing the goaltender with the most wins in NHL history.

DEVILS IN FIVE.

Silver medal-winning goaltender Ryan Miller and his Buffalo Sabres face the Boston Bruins and their rookie goaltender Tuukka Rask. The Bruins are going to have a challenge beating Miller and his teammates, so the Sabres should easily win this series, but at this time of year, anything is possible.

SABRES IN SEVEN.

Last but not least, it’s the No. 4 Pittsburgh Penguins versus the No. 5 Ottawa Senators. Both teams struggled down the stretch, but the reigning Stanley Cup Champion Penguins should advance. Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin should lead the charge against the Senators, who lost their star Alex Kovalev to a torn anterior cruciate ligament this past week. The Senators have a challenge ahead of them, but hopefully they can make it an interesting series.

PENGUINS IN FIVE.

Anything can happen in the first round of the NHL playoffs, so tune in and see some of the exciting hockey that the last 16 teams in the league have to offer. Versus and NBC will have all the coverage starting Wed., April 14.

–Nathan

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April 14, 2010 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Sharks Report III – San Jose 4 Detroit 2 Final

Wow! What a great game to watch!  It was phenomenal to see the Sharks play the way they did tonight.  In 3 days they beat both conference champions from last year, the Penguins and Red Wings.  Tonight’s game was complete domination by San Jose in all aspects of the game.

The Sharks outshot Detroit 33-27, which was a big statement of tremendous forechecking.  The Red Wings had 14 shots in the third period that brought the numbers closer together but, for the most part, Detroit was held to bad shots and very few legitimate scoring chances.

Patrick Marleau exhibited blazing speed tonight slicing through various pairs of Detroit defenseman and Jumbo Joe Thornton laid a big hit on Niklas Lidstrom, showcasing his hard-nosed side.

Marc-Edouard Vlasic celebrates with Jamie McGinn after McGinn notched his first career goal

Marc-Edouard Vlasic celebrates with Jamie McGinn after McGinn notched his first career goal

The Sharks used their size and speed to overpower the Red Wings.  Hits were 29-16 wearing down a possibly tired Detroit team coming into a back-to-back.  Detroit players won’t list that as an excuse, however.  Nor should anyone blame this loss on Ty Conklin, who played wonderfully tonight despite allowing the 4 goals.  Detroit giveaways and losing battles for lose pucks were their downfall.

Todd McClellan can now relax after beating his former team in his first opportunity.  He outcoached Mike Babcock the entire game putting out matchups that worked and sticking with them.

Devin Setoguchi, who had two assists tonight, really showed me something.  This kid puts 110% on the ice and takes advantage of every shift, and every loose puck.  He can grow into one of those players who makes everyone around him better.

Joe Pavelski is a Red Wing killer.  His first NHL goal came with 5.9 seconds left at Detroit to beat the Red Wings.  From then on, he has scored or gotten a point in so many games against Detroit.  I love this kid.  His wrister is wicked.

Joe Pavelski > Detroit

Joe Pavelski > Detroit

Jamie McGinn, Sharks rookie, scored his first career NHL goal in only his second career game.  Great story.  He got it by working hard and poking the puck through Conklin’s pads.  Congratulations, Jamie.

The defense as a unit shut down Datsyuk and Zetterberg, keeping them off the score-sheet.  Despite their mental lapse in the first twenty seconds of the second when Marian Hossa scored, they played spectacular.

The Sharks are now 6-0 at home, cementing HP Pavilion, or the Shark Tank, as one of the toughest places to play.  Sharks fans are among the most passionate in the world, selling out game after game and making it tough on opponents to get their bearings.  Keep it up, fans.

One thing is for certain: The Red Wings have just experienced the best team in the National Hockey League.

The San Jose Sharks.

Ray wins! Nathan loses!  Time for Nathan to put on some Sharks stuff after his Wings lose to the almighty.

-Ray

October 31, 2008 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment