Roberto Luongo and Martin Havlat will go head to head in Round 2. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
An overly proud person wouldn’t admit to going 3-5 in predicting the first round of this spring’s NHL playoffs. Luckily, too much of this kind of business has prevented your faithful sports-typist from becoming overly proud.
Here’s Screen Shots’ breakdown of the second round. As always, take these as suggestion-based Internet entertainment rather than the basis for a multi-thousand-dollar bet or two.
Boston (1) vs. Carolina (6)
Why It Makes Sense To Pick The Bruins: Because Boston swept the Hurricanes in their regular season series and outscored them by a 3-1 ratio in those victories. Because Zdeno Chara will have more of an impact on the series than Carolina’s entire defense corps. And because, as strange as it is to write and read, Tim Thomas hasn’t been in the habit this year of giving up the super-soft goals New Jersey’s Martin Brodeur surrendered to the Canes in the first round.
Why It Makes Sense To Pick The Hurricanes: Because Joni Pitkanen – Joni Pitkanen! – led Carolina in plus-minus (plus-five) in the opening round. Because Jussi Jokinen – Jussi Jokinen! – has turned into a playoff scoring machine. Because Erik Cole, who averaged nearly a point-per-game once he returned to Carolina in March for his second tour of duty, was eerily quiet (pointless in seven games) against the Devils. Because Cam Ward is neither Carey Price nor Jaroslav Halak.
What Swayed Me To Pick The Bruins in Six Games: Chara, who got my first-place vote for the Norris Trophy, was arguably the Bruins’ best player against Montreal; his top priority will be stifling the white-(and-red)-hot Eric Staal, a task I believe he’s up to. So unless Cole, Ray Whitney and Chad LaRose can pick up the slack, Carolina is going to be in trouble over the long haul of this series.
Washington (2) vs. Pittsburgh (4)
Why It Makes Sense To Pick The Capitals: Why wouldn’t you put faith in a team that just scampered back from the precipice of elimination? Why wouldn’t you believe in Alex Ovechkin, the only NHLer who greets great expectations with an unmistakable boyish exuberance and bottomless pit of confidence? Why wouldn’t you expect Simeon Varlamov, who the Penguins have never played against, to continue his strong play in Washington’s net?
Why It Makes Sense To Pick The Penguins: Although the Caps have four genuine superstars (Ovechkin, Alexander Semin, Nicklas Backstrom and Mike Green) on their roster, the Pens’ marquee talent (i.e. Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Marc-Andre Fleury and Sergei Gonchar) could just as easily out-perform their opponents. As well, Fleury has already demonstrated the ability to take his team to the Stanley Cup final; nobody on the Caps outside of Sergei Fedorov has shown a similar skill.
What Swayed Me To Pick The Capitals in Seven Games: I’ve been an unapologetic believer in the Caps since the lockout ended. And though they had some trouble with a less-than-mediocre Rangers squad in the first round, I’m not about to get skeptical on them now.
Detroit (2) vs. Anaheim (8)
Why It Makes Sense To Pick The Red Wings: Uh, they’re the freaking defending-champion, that’s why. If that wasn’t enough evidence for me, I also watched them take the innocence of a blossoming young Columbus Blue Jackets team and debase that innocence with the businesslike demeanor of a villain in a Quentin Tarantino movie.
Why It Makes Sense To Pick The Ducks: It didn’t make sense to pick Anaheim over San Jose – and look how that first round series played out. Also, it’s looking more and more like the Ducks’ deal for Ryan Whitney rejuvenated a group of blueliners that were fairly juvenated to begin with.
What Swayed Me To Pick The Red Wings in Six Games: Uh, they’re the freaking defending-champion, that’s why.
Vancouver (3) vs. Chicago (4)
Why It Makes Sense To Pick The Canucks: Roberto Luongo. Roberto Luongo. Roberto Luongo. And Roberto Luongo.
Why It Makes Sense To Pick The Blackhawks: In defeating the veteran-heavy Flames, the Hawks showed their dearth of playoff experience wasn’t an issue. In addition, I was all ready to pronounce Kris Versteeg as the guy responsible for Kings rookie Drew Doughty getting hosed out of a Calder Trophy nomination, but then he had to lead Chicago in first round point production; with him, Jonathan Toews and Martin Havlat firing on all cylinders – and Patrick Kane on the verge of joining them – even Luongo could look human.
What Swayed Me To Pick The Canucks in Seven Games: With all due respect to the Hawks’ surplus of energetic young players, I don’t know that a trailer load of kryptonite and the miniscule old goalie pads Darren Pang used to wear could slow down Luongo at this stage. Look for the Hawks to run at him all series long. And if that doesn’t work, look for Chicago to kidnap Luongo at gunpoint.
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Adam Proteau, co-author of the book The Top 60 Since 1967, is writer and columnist for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Mondays, his Ask Adam feature appears Fridays and his column, Screen Shots, appears Thursdays.
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