Wednesday, April 13, 2011


We don't get to see the Western Conference teams very often in Boston. It's a shame that we play Florida and Atlanta far more often than Detroit, Chicago, Vancouver, or even San Jose.

The defending champion Hawks were victimized by the salary cap in the off-season, which I think will do the NHL more long-term harm than good, and that's why they barely made it in as an 8 seed. Vancouver have been electric all year. #1 in goals scored, goals against, power play, and #3 in penalty kill. The Sedin-Samuellson line totaled 78 goals. Then Ryan Kesler added 41 more from the 2nd line. Luongo had a brilliant year, and on paper, the Canucks have to be favorites to win it all. The Hawks also boast plenty of weapons, but their goaltending is untried, and their defense is suspect. Vancouver wins in 6 high scoring games.

The Pacific Division sent 4 teams to the postseason and these are two of them. They split the season series 3-3. And while San Jose has dangerous scorers like Marleau, Thornton, Pavelski, Heatley, and 22 year old Logan Couture (who scored 32 goals), I have my doubts. The Sharks are perennial postseason failures. Their offense depends a great deal on the power play, and LA has an excellent penalty kill. The Kings also have Jonathan Quick. I don't think LA has the offense to go very far, but they do have enough defense to stop San Jose. Kings in 7.

Detroit made the playoffs for the 18th straight season. They can score, but their defense and goaltending is shaky. Zetterberg's health is a question mark, but the Wings can deploy plenty of other weapons. Not to mention a roll call of strong, experienced forwards. Datsyuk, Franzen, Cleary, Bertuzzi, Draper. And it's the same on defense. Lidstrom, Rafalski, Kronwall, Stuart. Phoenix doesn't have many recognizable skaters. Even goalie Ilya Bryzgalov had an off year. Phoenix are solid 5-on-5, but have an anemic power play and a gaping penalty kill. That will be their undoing. Detroit wins in 5.

The Predators were 3rd in goals against, and 21st in attendance. The Ducks had the 3rd best power play, and were 26th in attendance. Two of the best players in the NHL will duel each other in this series. And they'll finally be able to do it in front of full houses. Anaheim's Corey Perry scored 50 goals, with 48 assists. Nashville's Pekka Rinne had a 2.12 GAA and a .930 SV%. The Ducks have some weapons beside Perry, including George Parros' bristling black mustache.

But Anaheim's offensive output depends too much on getting power play points. The Predators also have Shea Weber, a burly defenseman who also scored 16 times this year. I'm picking Rinne and the Preds in 6.

It's difficult to not pick Detroit to win the West. But they're old. They don't have the goaltending. I think this is finally the year for Vancouver to shine and go all the way to the finals.

Tonight's games:
7:00 PM - Red Wings @ Coyotes - Versus
7:00 PM - Lightning @ Penguins
7:30 PM - Rangers @ Capitals
10:00 PM - Blackhawks @ Canucks - Versus
10:30 PM - Predators @ Ducks


This just gets worse and worse. You knew this would be a pitcher's duel, you knew it would be tight, but watching this offense still hurts. Crawford's struggles are beyond a slump. Same with Youkilis. It's psychological, or physical, or physiological. It's not a run of the mill, ordinary slump.

Lester was good, apart from the 5th inning. And even though he allowed 3 runs off 4 hits in that frame, the Rays were hardly knocking him around. It's Lester's second Quality Start in a row, and the second time the Sox have failed to win despite such a start.

One of the few bright spots has been the performance of Jed Lowrie. He hit a pair of doubles and knocked in a run. He's now hitting .438. There's no reason he shouldn't be starting every day, at least until he's cooled off.

The Sox are now in danger of being swept for the 3rd time this season. John Lackey takes the mound to face James Shields. I'm rooting for the rain.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo