The first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs are over. Here are my first round picks. I went 5-3, missing the losses of each of the top three seeds in the East Conference. The fact that the West Conference was significantly better when playing the East Conference in the regular season coupled with the defeats of the top East Conference seeds make a West Conference Stanley Cup winner look quite likely at this point.
Here are my second round predictions:
The first round of the AHL playoffs completed last night. Here are the results:
Worcester Sharks defeat Lowell Devils 4 games to one Worcester is San Jose’s AHL affiliate and Lowell is that of the New Jersey Devils. Dan DaSilva and TJ Trevelyan led the Sharks in scoring with Danny Groulx leading the defence and Alex Stalock in goal. Lowell was led offensively by Alexander Vasyunov and Nick Palmeiri, with Matt Taormina leading the defence and Mike McKenna in goal.
The Boston Bruins defeated the Buffalo Sabres four games to two in a series that ended last night. Buffalo was widely considered the favorite as they had a nine point regular season advantage. One advantage Boston had in the series was that Buffalo failed to score a single goal on the power play in the series. The Boston penalty kill was perfect. During the regular season, Buffalo had a mid-level power play. They were ranked 17th in the league. It was led by Tim Connolly, Derek Roy, Jason Pominville and Tomas Vanek. Connolly the Sabres regular season leading point scorer on the power play was limited to one assist in the playoffs.
One of the greatest coaches in NHL history is retiring today. He won the Stanley Cup in 1995 and the Jack Adams Award as coach of the year twice. Lemaire spent much of his career coaching an expansion Minnesota Wild team that never built up a good enough core to be a serious contender. Nevertheless, Lemaire retires with 588 career wins, which is good for seventh overall all time. That number could have been higher if he coached a team with a larger talent pool than Minnesota. We also see how the coach of the year is often chosen poorly. The coach of the most improved is often given the award even when the improvement has little to do with coaching. As a result good teams with good coaches are often out of the running as they have nowhere to improve and good coaches with teams that drop for reasons that have nothing to do with coaching also find themselves out of the running. A coach of Lemaire’s ability should have easily won the Adams Trophy more than twice, but the NHL was giving it to such luminaries as Bill Barber and Bob Francis.
If you had been reading media reports and not watching games, it would be easy to assume that this post is about Mike Green (Steve Simmons is one of his more high profile detractors). Mike Green has not been a superstar in the playoffs yet. In five games he has two points. He leads Washington in playing time and has been playing against tougher competition than he did in the regular season - largely due to the development of rookie John Carlson - who is taking so of the defensively easy minutes. Green has been a solid defenceman so far this playoff, but he has not been spectacular yet.
Once again the NHL revealed their playoff suspension policy, which appears to be no playoff suspensions, especially not to key players, if they can possibly be avoided. Last night at the conclusion of Buffalo’s 4-1 victory over Boston, a brawl broke out. Forty-five minutes in penalties were handed out to five different players. Zdeno Chara was the instigator of the brawl, when he started to fight with Paul Gaustad. Chara was given a two minute instigator penalty, in addition to a game misconduct and a five minute fighting penalty.
NHL rules state that anyone who gets an instigator penalty in the last five minutes of a game receives an automatic suspension. however, the NHL has a history of reviewing and cancelling these suspensions especially in the playoffs.
I think the biggest upset in the 2010 playoffs has just occurred. The Philadelphia Flyers have defeated the New Jersey Devils. Philadelphia was without their first two choices to be starting goalies as Ray Emery and Michael Leighton were injured. This left the Flyers with Brian Boucher in goal. Boucher was coming off a lacklustre .899 saves percentage and had not won a playoff game since the year 2000. Philadelphia almost lost their playoff berth with due to their goaltending problems. They went on a streak where they lost seven of eight games and needed a run where they won three of their last four games to clinch a playoff berth on the last day of the season. Things looked even worse when Jeff Carter and Simon Gagne both suffered foot injuries that will keep them out for weeks, if not the rest of the season. Nevertheless, Philadelphia defeated New Jersey four games to one in the first round.
Today will be the nomination announcements for the 2010 Calder Trophy. If the early playoff results are any indication, perhaps the best player to debut in the 2009/10 season will not be nominated this year. So far in the playoffs, John Carlson of the Washington Capitals has made a claim to being the best rookie in the NHL. Carlson has appeared in all four Washington Capitals games and scored four points from defence. He has a +7 +/- rating in the playoffs so far. This is quite an impressive showing for a rookie.
Carlson will be eligible for the Calder Trophy next season because he only played 22 games this season (and the Calder cut-off is 25). In those 22 games, he logged an ever increasing amount of playing time with six points and a +11 +/-. Carlson is a 20 year old World Junior Championship hero who was a Caps first round pick in 2008. He has the pedigree of a future NHL star and is playing like one so far in the playoffs. He is a very logical front-runner for next year’s Calder Trophy.
I like to pick leaders in any NHL awards race as soon as there is a meaningful front-runner and what to see when and if they lose their front-running status. We are now three and four games into the first round playoff series and it is the earliest possible time to pick a meaningful early playoff MVP. That man is Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Crosby has 11 points in four games played and a playoff leading +7 +/- rating. That is a very strong streak of four games. It is unlikely that Crosby can keep that level of play up for the entire playoff run, but he is off to a big lead over the rest of the pack and is thus the early playoff MVP. Should Crosby continue to play at this level and Pittsburgh make another deep playoff run (both are reasonable possibilities), a Sidney Crosby Conn Smythe Trophy is a strong possibility.
It is usually a bad sign when a team changes goaltenders during their Stanley Cup run. Something must have gone wrong and there is little time to fix it before a team is looking at elimination. The President’s Trophy winning Washington Capitals are the first team to find themselves in that situation this year. They began the playoffs with Jose Theodore in goal. Theodore had a strong stretch run, but after he allowed goals on his first two shots in game two of their playoff series with Montreal, he was pulled. Theodore’s playoff saves percentage had dropped to .875 and his goals against average was at 3.70. Thus Washington chose to use goaltender Semyon Varlamov, who had replaced Thoedore in the playoffs last year as well.
Varlamov completed game two and played game three. He earned wins in both games and Washington now has a 2 games to one lead against Montreal.
About The Puck Stops Here
Who am I? A diehard hockey fan.
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