With the end of the hockey regular season comes the time of year that all sports fans should look forward to. The Stanley Cup playoffs are one of the most exciting times of the sports calendar. I am going to use this blog to preview the first round matchups and give my ballot for the major year end awards. Unfortuantely I am a Rangers fans, I know that will upset many of you Caps fans; but I won’t let that cloud my judgement. I will though try to be at the Verizon Center for a game to cheer on the blueshirts. As always feel free to let me know where you disagree with my picks.
#1 Boston Bruins (116pts) vs. #8 Montreal Canadiens (93)
top scorer Marc Savard Alexei Kovalev
goaltender Tim Thomas Carey Price
season series 5 1
The Bruins have had a fantastic season. They have scored in huge numbers this season and with Andrei Markov hurt for the Canadiens, you’ve got to like the Bruins chances to put the puck in the net. If Tim Thomas can keep up his regular season results this should be a short series.
PICK: Bruins in 5
#2 Washington Capitals (108) vs. New York Rangers (95)
TS Alex Ovechkin Nikolai Zherdev
G Jose Theodore Henrik Lundqvist
season 3 1
The key to the series for NY is their stellar penalty killing. They were the best in the NHL and actually did a good job in their four meetings of keeping Ovechkin in check. They still only accounted for one victory, and the Capitals are playing great hockey. The question mark for Washington is the inconsistent play of Theodore. He’s definitely got playoff experience so it is time for him to step up.
Pick: Capitals in 7
#3 New Jersey Devils (106) vs. Carolina Hurricanes (97)
TS Zach Parise Eric Staal
G Martin Brodeur Cam Ward
season 1 3
Zach Parise has put up potentially MVP numbers this season. Martin Brodeur came back in time to be in full swing for the start of the playoffs. Even though he hasn’t been particularly stellar the last couple of weeks, are you going to bet against him come playoff time. The hopes of Carolina will rest on the Stanley Cup winning shoulders of Staal and Ward. They are big time players, but I just don’t see them being enough.
Pick: Devils in 6
#4 Pittsburgh Penguins (99) vs. #5 Philadelphia Flyers (99)
TS Evgeni Malkin Jeff Carter
G Marc Andre Fleury Martin Biron
season 4 2
These teams will be renewing the rivalry that last met to decide the Eastern Copnference champion. All the things that were true then seem to be true today. The offense of the Penguins with Malkin and Crosby leading the way are tough for anyone to handle. The Penguins finished the season 18-3-4 after making the switch to Dan Bylsma as coach. One of the biggest reasons was a greatly improved penalty kill unit. The Flyers will need a huge series from Biron to be competitive.
Pick: Penguins in 5
#1 San Jose Sharks (117) vs. #8 Anaheim Ducks (91)
TS Joe Thornton Ryan Getzlaf
G Evgeni Nabokov Jonas Hiller
season 4 2
The Sharks won the Presidents Trophy, but honestly no one really cares. The NHL is about the Stanley Cup and San Jose has been spotty in the playoffs. This years look like it could be the year the Sharks break out. The Sharks are battling numerous injuries, but Nabokov is playing great and the Sharks have been almost unbeatable at home. Jonas Hiller is the Ducks starter but don’t you have the feeling that JS Giguere might get some time in this series. Either way it won’t be enough.
Pick: Sharks in 6
#2 Detroit Red Wings (112) vs. #7 Columbus Blue Jackets (92)
TS Pavel Datsyuk Rick Nash
G Chris Osgood Steve Mason
season 3 3
The defending champs versus an organization that has never been to the playoffs. It hardly seems fair that the Blue Jackets finally get to the promised land and have to face this juggernaut. The Blue Jackets will have some confidence because of the revelation goaltender Steve Mason has been and the fact that they split the season series; but Detroit has scored the most goals in the NHL and they do it from every line. The Hossa injury may affect them later in the playoffs, but not in this series.
Pick: Red Wings in 5
#3 Vancouver Canucks (100) vs. #6 St. Louis Blues (92)
TS Daniel Sedin Brad Boyes
G Roberto Luongo Chris Mason
season 2 2
This is one of the most intriguing series of the first round. Just looking at the rosters you would give the edge to the Canucks, but the young guns of the Blues are the hottest team in the NHL. They stormed through the second half of the season to claim their first playoff berth in about 5 years. Their penalty killing unit is extraordinary and they will be gettting an injection of veteran leadership with the expected return of Paul Kariya. The Canucks have one of the best goaltenders in the business in Luongo and the Sedin twins will not let Vancouver go quietly.
Pick: Blues in 7
#4 Chicago Blackhawks (104) vs. #5 Calgary Flames (98)
TS Martin Havlat Jarome Iginla
G Nikolai Khabibulin Miika Kiprusoff
season 4 0
The Blackhawks dominated this series during the regular season and the Flames come into the playoffs with major injury questions. Iginla and new acquisition Olli Jokinen have not seemed to click and Kiprusoff’s play has been erratic. Nikolai Khabibulin has great memories of playing against the Flames and he is coming into the playoffs playing his best hockey. The Blackhawks will have to depend heavily on their youngster like Toews and Kane. We will find out if they are ready for the spotlight.
Pick: Blackhawks in 6
2009 Hockey Awards
Hart Trophy (MVP) Vezina (goaltender) Norris (defenseman)
1. Evgeni Malkin, PIT Tim Thomas, BOS Zdeno Chara, BOS
2. Alex Ovechkin, WASH Steve Mason, CLB Mike Green, WASH
3. Zach Parise, NJ Cam Ward, CAR Dan Boyle, SJ
Adams (coach) Calder (rookie)
1. Andy Murray, STL Steve Mason, CLB
2. Claude Julien, BOS Pekka Rinne, NASH
3. Ken Hitchcock, CLB Bobby Ryan, ANA