The conference finals didn’t live up to the hype; both series were over before they even began.
After jumping out to a 9-3 start through the first two rounds, I layed an egg in Round 3, going 0-2.
I’ve gone against the Boston Bruins the last two series and I think I’ve learned my lesson.
I like the Hawks’ speed and skill but if Boston can hold the mighty Pittsburgh Penguins to two goals in four games, I think they can have similar success against Chicago.
While Corey Crawford has put together solid numbers for the Hawks, Tuukka Rask is the odds-on-favourite to win the Conn Smythe as playoffs MVP.
For what it’s worth, I’m taking Boston in 6.
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The conference finals didn’t live up to the hype; both series were over before they even began.
You couldn’t ask for two better matchups in the conference finals. The last four teams to capture the Stanley Cup are still alive.
In the West it’s Chicago (2010 champs) vs. Los Angeles (2012) and in the East it’s Pittsburgh (2009) vs. Boston (2011).
Through the first two rounds, I’m 9-3 after getting three-of-four in Round 2.
Here’s my crack at the Eastern Conference finals (easy Rob Ford, I wasn’t talking about you.)
EASTERN CONFERENCE FINAL
Boston (4) vs. Pittsburgh (1)
The two best teams in the East collide. With apologize to Sens, Leafs and Habs fans, this is the series everyone wanted to see. Jarome Iginla, in search of that elusive Cup, chose the Penguins over the Bruins at the deadline. Now, we’ll see if he made the right decision. Meanwhile, the man the Bruins settled for, Jaromir Jagr, has yet to score in these playoffs. Will he be a factor in this series? At this stage of his career, Jagr really doesn’t have much to prove. But, there’s a bit of extra motivation for the future Hall of Famer in that the Bruins wanted Iginla and settled for him. Backup Thomas Vokoun will start in goal for Pittsburgh but how long before we see Marc-Andre Fleury? If Vokoun has a hiccup, Fleury is waiting for the opportunity. If anyone can come close to matching the Pens depth it’s the Bruins. Still, the Pittsburgh powerplay is deadly and it could be the difference in this series. PENGUINS IN 6
WESTERN CONFERENCE FINAL
Los Angeles (5) vs. Chicago (1)
This is a dream matchup in the West. LA’s path to the Cup final is more difficult this spring and now the defending champs get the Presidents Trophy winners. Both teams are coming off seven-game series. The Hawks have more speed and skill up front, but the Kings big, mean defence will grind down the Chicago forwards. Jonathan Quick meanwhile is officially a playoff performer, proving that last year’s run was no fluke. A lot like Patrick Roy, Quick is a good goaltender in the regular season, but he finds another level in the playoffs. I hope this series goes seven. KINGS IN 7
Here we go again!
After a jam-packed, shortened 48-game regular season, the first round was grueling for hockey fans, especially those who support the Leafs, Habs and Sens.
Only Ottawa plays on and they’re our last hope to see a Canadian team hoist the Stanley Cup for the first time in 20 years.
I survived Round 1 with a solid 6-2 record. The only two series I failed to get right were Montreal (never bet/predict with your heart!) and Vancouver (what was I thinking?). The second round has plenty of great storylines. There are a pair of Original Six match-ups, the Battle of California and Matt Cooke and the Penguins renewing acquaintances with Erik Karlsson and the Senators.
Here are my predictions:
EASTERN CONFERENCE SEMI-FINALS:
Ottawa (7) vs. Pittsburgh (1)
These two teams will collide in the second round, despite not playing their best hockey in Round 1. Ottawa was outplayed in much of its series vs. Montreal, but goaltender Craig Anderson was the best player in that series. He’ll have to pull it off once again if the Senators are to have a chance against the stacked Penguins. Ottawa was also physical early and often with Montreal and that paid off later on in that series. They’ve got to do the same to a Pittsburgh squad that has plenty of depth but is considered a little fragile with so many star players that have battled injuries recently. As for the Penguins, they had their hands full with the upstart New York Islanders in Round 1. But once the Pens turned to veteran backup Thomas Vokoun, they were able to right the ship. While Pittsburgh may not be 100% healthy (no one really is at this time of year anyway), they have too much depth and fire power. PENGUINS IN 6.
NY Rangers (6) vs. Boston (4)
The Bruins barely survived against the Maple Leafs and move from one Original Six rival to another. Boston and New York haven’t met in the post-season in 40 years. Henrik Lundqvist was sensational in Round 1 vs. the red-hot Capitals. His save percentage vs. Washington was .947 and he is coming off back-to-back shutouts, in elimination games nonetheless. That’s not good news for a Bruins squad that can struggle to put the puck in the net. Derick Brassard, who was acquired in the Marian Gaborik deal, led the Rangers in Round 1 with nine points while David Krejci continues his strong playoff play with 13 first-round points. Boston had a difficult run down the stretch; they had to play a lot of hockey late in the season and I’m not convinced they’ll fully recover after a sloppy series with Toronto. This should be a low-scoring series and I like the upset here. RANGERS IN 7
WESTERN CONFERENCE SEMI-FINALS:
Detroit (7) vs. Chicago (1)
Many counted out the old Red Wings, especially when they were down 3-2 vs. the Ducks. But Henrik Zetterberg, as he did to get the Wings into the post-season, was the team’s best player once again. After a tough 7-game series though, with four of those games having gone to overtime, I’m not sure how much the Wings have left in their tank. And they happen to be up against their Original Six rivals in Chicago, the Presidents Trophy winners. It’s no secret, the Blackhawks have plenty of firepower, and with Corey Crawford playing like he is (1.32 goals against average and .950 save percentage vs. Minnesota in Round 1), Chicago is set for a long playoff run. HAWKS IN 6
San Jose (6) vs. Los Angeles (5)
Thanks to a pair of high seeds getting knocked out in the first round (No. 2 Anaheim and No. 3 Vancouver) the defending champion Kings get home-ice advantage in the second round. They take on San Jose in the battle of California, only the second time they’ve ever met in the post-season (San Jose ousted Los Angeles in the first round of the 2011 playoffs). Both teams have won four straight and this has the makings of a seven-game series. Goaltending will be featured with two Cup winning ‘tenders between the pipes: last year’s Conn Smythe winner Jonathan Quick and Vezina nominee Antti Niemi. In Round 1, Joe Pavelski and Logan Couture were lights out for the Sharks and Brent Burns has been a force since being moved up front for San Jose. Still, I like the defending champs in a series that will go the distance. KINGS IN 7
It’s the most wonderful time of the year!
Like Paul Henderson, I’ll take a wild stab at it! The first round of the NHL playoffs is the most exciting. It’s also the most difficult to predict! Here goes nothing:
1. Pittsburgh vs. 8. NY Islanders
John Tavares has proven over the past two seasons that he is a superstar in the NHL. Too bad he and the upstart Islanders are up against a stacked Penguins team. With or without Sidney Crosby, the Pens are too deep for the Islanders. Look for Marc-Andre Fleury to make amends for his poor playoff performance of a year ago. PENGUINS IN 5
2. Montreal vs. 7. Ottawa
While Montreal does have more depth than the Sens, this series will come down to goaltending. Carey Price and Craig Anderson have been their team’s most valuable players this year, both have question marks heading into the playoffs. Price struggled down the stretch and Anderson battled injury. The team with the best goaltending will move on. CANADIENS IN 6
3. Washington vs. 6. NY Rangers
No team was hotter down the stretch than the Capitals and a rejuvenated Alex Ovechkin has led the charge. But the Rangers have been playing their best hockey of the season since the trade deadline as well. They’ve brought in character and Henrik Lundqvist has stood on his head. RANGERS IN 7
4. Boston vs. 5. Toronto
This could be the most entertaining series of the playoffs. Two big, physical teams. The Bruins have the experience, while the Maple Leafs are making their first playoff appearance in nine years. The Leafs could be poised for an upset if James Reimer shines in his playoff debut. BRUINS IN 6
1. Chicago vs. 8. Minnesota
After spending a couple hundred million last off-season on Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, Minnesota struggled early but managed to sneak into the playoffs. Their reward? A date with the regular season’s best team the Hawks. BLACKHAWKS IN 5
2. Anaheim vs. 7. Detroit
The Ducks have surprised many this season thanks to great (and unexpected) goaltending, not to mention a huge bounceback season from captain Ryan Getzlaf. The Wings have been lead by a red-hot Henrik Zetterberg, who scored 10 points in the final four regular season games to help Detroit sneak into the playoffs for the 22nd straight season. This series is a toss up. Let’s go with the upset. RED WINGS IN 7
3. Vancouver vs. 6. San Jose
Two teams that have underachieved in the past few seasons come post-season hockey collide. One will be ousted early once again. After an out-of-this-world start to the regular season, Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau have cooled considerably. The Sharks have been lead by great goaltending from Antti Niemi. Another toss up. CANUCKS IN 7
4. St. Louis vs. 5. Los Angeles
The defending champs are up against a team they swept last year in the playoffs. The Blues are physical and have plenty of depth on defence. But, goaltending is a question mark right now in St. Louis with Jaro Halak constantly battling injury. KINGS IN 6
#3 Cornwall (20-17-1-2) vs. #5 Sorel-Tracy (18-15-4-3)
Game 1: Sunday, April 14 at 2 p.m. (at Sorel)
Game 2: Wednesday, April 17 at 8 p.m. (in Cornwall)
Game 3: Friday, April 19 at 8 p.m. (at Sorel)
Game 4: Saturday, April 20 at 7:30 p.m. (in Cornwall)
Game 5: x-Sunday, April 21 at 3 p.m. (in Cornwall)
Game 6: x-Friday, April 26 at 8 p.m. (at Sorel)
Game 7: x-Sunday, April 28 at 3 p.m. (in Cornwall)
Ready for Round 2
It was a wild first round in the LNAH playoffs.
The defending champions from Thetford-Mines were ousted in five games by Trois-Rivieres.
Sorel surprised many by sweeping Riviere-du-Loup in three straight games.
And the River Kings got back to their winning ways with a 3-1 series victory over a team in Saint-Georges that appeared to have its number during the regular season.
Still, Round 2 – the semi-finals – promise to be even more intense as Cornwall takes on arguably it’s biggest rival in Sorel.
There’s no love lost between these two teams and they played close games all season long – with Sorel winning 4 games to Cornwall’s 3.
Loic Lacasse and the River Kings put a difficult regular-season finish behind them with a fresh start vs. Saint-Georges in Round 1.
Saint-Georges had plenty of fire power, but they were shut down thanks in large part to the trio of captain Steve Simoes, Kurt McSweyn and Francis Lessard. When leading scorer Kevin Cloutier was on the ice, more often than not, so too were Mario Joly and Brennan Barker on defence. And Lacasse was in fine form when called upon.
In Round 2, Cornwall will have home-ice advantage (well eventually thanks to the Home & Trade Show) and last change will once again play a huge factor for Cornwall on home ice, as they try to shut down Gregory Dupre, who was second in league scoring with 67 points (32 goals, 35 assists) in 40 games.
The River Kings will also have to keep a close eye on Michael Tessier, who had 46 points (35 assists) in 38 games.
Sorel was one of the biggest surprises in the second half of the LNAH season. And, they dispatched of a struggling but talented Riviere-du-Loup squad in three straight games, outscoring the No. 4 seed 18-6. Their confidence has to be sky-high.
Sorel isn’t a one-line team either. Dominic Chiasson had 6 goals and 2 assists in Round 1. And Eric Doucet is coming off a 3 goal, 2 assist performance in Game 3 vs. Riviere-du-Loup.
Cornwall will once again be led by veteran Eric Meloche, who had 29 points (11 goals and 18 assists) in 31 regular-season games. Meloche has that fire in his eyes and you know he’d love to win one more championship here in Cornwall.
The line of Alex Bourret, Nicolas Corbeil and Olivier Proulx sparked the Kings in Round 1, not only with their offense, but gritty play as well. Bourret and Proulx will dig with the best of them, do all of the dirty work and more often than not, the sharp-shooting Corbeil is there to do what he does best – put the puck in the net.
Look for speedy winger Pierre-Luc Faubert, who is always outworking d-men in corners, to be a factor in this series as well.
REGULAR SEASON RECAP
Nov. 17: Sorel 4, Cornwall 3 SO (in Cornwall) – Michael Tessier scored the winner in the shootout, as Sorel battled back from an early 2-0 first-period deficit to beat the River Kings. Mario Joly had a goal and an assist for Cornwall.
Dec. 14: Cornwall 3, Sorel 2 (at Sorel) – Kurt McSweyn’s goal with 2:12 to play was the difference as Cornwall edged Sorel on the road. Fred Piche stole two points for the River Kings with a 37-save performance. Olivier Daunais scored twice for Sorel.
Jan. 4: Cornwall 5, Sorel 4 SO (at Sorel) – Sasha Pokulok scored a beauty in the shootout as Cornwall picked up two points on the road. Sorel trailed by two goals in the third period, but battled back with two power-play goals by Maxime Charron and Christian Deschenes.
Jan. 25: Sorel 6, Cornwall 2 (at Sorel) – Gregory Dupre had a goal and two assists and Sorel scored five power-play goals en route to an easy two points. Sasha Pokulok had both River Kings goals, while Sorel had six different goal scorers.
Jan. 26: Cornwall 6, Sorel 5 (in Cornwall) – Playing in the second half of a home-and-home, Cornwall escaped with a wild penalty-filled win at the Civic Complex. Oliver Proulx’ second goal of the game in the third period was the eventual game winner. Nicolas Corbeil and Mathieu Curadeau each had three-point nights for the River Kings. Gregory Dupre scored twice for Sorel, while Michale Tessier chipped in with a goal and two assists.
Feb. 24: Sorel 3, Cornwall 0 (in Cornwall) – Francis Gourdeau made 37 saves for a rare LNAH shutout in a game that featured an incident that would get national attention. Sorel’s Sebastien Laferriere and Cornwall’s Francis Lessard squared up for a fight but not a single punch was thrown after the two combatants skated around centre ice for a couple of minutes. After serving two for delaying the game, Laferriere and Lessard immediately settled their differences.
March 9: Sorel 5, Cornwall 3 (in Cornwall) – Sorel trailed 3-0 at one point in the third period, but scored five unanswered goals to shock the River Kings.
PIPER’S POINTS PREDICTS
These two teams don’t like each other and a best-of-seven playoff series will add fuel to the fire. Cornwall proved in Round 1 that even with a young defence, they could shut down some of the league’s elite offensive players. The River Kings must play a simple game, limit the sloppy play and turnovers in their own end. Sorel has good depth and Cornwall will have to play solid defensively. While Sorel’s confidence level is sky-high right now, that’ll be brought back down to earth quickly in this series. The pesky line of Olivier Proulx, Nicolas Corbeil and Alex Bourret will be the difference for the River Kings. CORNWALL IN SIX.