Saturday, May 22, 2010

NHL Playoffs - Conference Finals, Buckle Up and Get Ready for Game 4 in Both Series

Well the NHL Playoffs have continued without: the Capitals, without the Penguins, and believe it or not without the Red Wings. Despite the lack of continued participation by these three powerhouses and/or in the case of Detroit, usual suspects, the ice hockey games being played have been interesting and exciting to say the least.

In the East, today's game 4 in Montreal will result in one of two things: a) the Habs Win, the series is tied 2-2 and we're probably in for a seven game continued barn burner, or b) the Flyers win go up 3-1 and probably find a way to the Stanley Cup Finals before the series is over in 5 or 6 games. Either way, the Eastern Conference participant in the Stanley Cup finals this year will be an improbable 7th or 8th seed team. They will also be a team with a balanced offense, who got to the finals by playing like a team and staying with their team's system, executing it as good as they have all season long. In other words, no easy "pickings" for their ultimate Western Conference Opponent.

In the West, Sunday's Game 4 in Chicago will result in one of 2 things: a) an improbable 4 game sweep of San Jose by the Blackhawks or b) San Jose winning, staving off elimination and from their perspective beginning the long crawl/comeback from being down 3 games - 0 and trying to be the second team this year that makes history that way. Either way whichever team from the West that makes the finals will be confident. So far this series, Chicago has been pretty impressive to say the least, though during last night's win they did allow San Jose 46 Shots On Goal. In Sunday's game, I expect we'll see a San Jose team playing with as much or more energy and drive as we saw in game 3. I also think Chicago is playing with fire when they let San Jose's second line (Pavelski-Stetoguchi-Clowe) fire a combined 12 shots on goal. As much as the NHL.COM press says these guys are cold, that's still playing with fire and once they break through for that first combined goal, chances are they could just as easily loosen their grips on their sticks just a little and return to the productivity levels they all had in the first two rounds of this year's playoffs. For Chicago, what is there to say, picking one or two guys to single out as being guys playing well is really difficult. For all the right reasons, by and large the entire Blackhawks team is playing very well and showing no signs of letting up the pressure their collective boot has on San Jose's throat right now. Antti Niemi's performance this series has been excellent. In game 3 he stopped 44 of 46 (SV% 0.9565), in game 2 he stopped 25 of 27 (SV% 0.9259) and in game 1, a goaltender's duel, he stopped 44 of 45 (SV% 0.9778). Overall through the series to date his GAA is 1.67 and his SV% is 0.9576. I'm sure Chicago is glad they have a great goaltender who is playing at the top of his game and will be around next year earning $5,5M to back him up again. Then again maybe not given the implied tone when I wrote "who is playing at the top of his game." Sorry, you had to guess, that if there was some way for me to get in a "jab" at my favorite former Capitals' goaltender, I would. After all, "I gotta be me."

Well it looks like it's going to be a gray, and possibly rainy day around here in Bristow, so I will indeed likely watch the Flyers - Canadiens game today or at least the majority of it live.

Apparently the "BIG" Capitals related news is that Alex Ovechkin and Brooks Laich always play to win, even when they are on opposing sides of the ice - I'm shocked, how about you?

Is it September, yet?

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