Ok, so there was a little improvement over here in Off-Sidel Playoff Predictions Central from Round 1 to Round 2 of this year’s NHL post-season.
Round 3: Canes & Hawks will move on to the Stanley Cup Finals
After going a dismal three-for-eight in the opening round, I nailed three of four in the semi-finals, correctly picking Detroit, Carolina and Pittsburgh to win.
I might have missed the boat on Chicago, but I really felt Roberto Luongo was going to steal the series for the Canucks.
Oh well, at this rate, seven-for-12 in total is looking not so bad.
Which leads us to Round 3… Both series have completed one game thus far, but despite Pittsburgh and Detroit each being up 1-0, I’m still taking Carolina and Chicago to move on the to the Stanley Cup Finals.
Pittsburgh vs Carolina – CAR 6, PIT 2
I’m going with Carolina here for exactly the same reason I went with Pittsburgh to beat Washington in their previous series.
Before the Caps and Pens face off, the teams looked like a pretty good match in two of the three major elements of the game: offence and defence.
But there was no matchup in the goaltending department.
The simple fact was that while he may have rough outings now and then, Penguin goalie Marc-André Fleury was going to be better than Washington rookie Simeon Varlamov.
Varlamov was, at times, totally outstanding against Pittsburgh, but in the end, it was the vet who beat the rookie while the superstars were putting up points on both ends.
In this next series, it’s going to be Carolina’s Cam Ward who steals the show from Fleury.
The truth is they’re both excellent goalies with proven track records – Fleury brought the Pens all the way to a Stanley Cup Final loss to Detroit last season, while Cam Ward is only a three seasons removed from winning not only the Cup as a rookie, but also the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoffs MVP.
Through the first two rounds, Fleury has been good, but Ward has been simply awesome.
Watching Ward is almost like watching the goalie he beat in the first round, Martin Brodeur, in that he has Brodeur’s calm and technically-sound approach to the game.
Ward is a big boy, but looks even bigger when he squares up to the puck because he’s so well in position.
Fleury has many of the same qualities, but is more of a flashy type who makes simple saves look spectacular since he’s out of position to begin with.
From there, it’s the Crosby/Malkin vs Staal/Cole show, and while Crosby has been excellent thus far, I would bet on the Canes to pull this one off.
Carolina in six.
Detroit vs Chicago – CHI 4, DET 3
The easy choice is to go with Detroit in any number of games, and I could spend pages talking about good they are and why they should win.
But I just have a feeling about Chicago.
They were so irrelevant for so long leading up to some major front-office shakeups last year that their re-emergence seems timed just perfectly for a major upset.
They have the key elements in young superstars like Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharp, experienced vets like Martin Havlat and Brian Campbell, a Stanley Cup-winning coach in Joel Quenneville (as an assistant in Colorado in 1996), and most importantly, a Cup-winning goalie in Nikolai Khabibulin.
Yes, Detroit has all of these elements as well, but the Blackhawks are going to win this series.
Chicago in seven.