In this WBRU-Exclusive Playoff Preview, each series will be pitted against an in-depth analysis of every facet of the game. It will be released in two segments—East and West.
Stay tuned for your Bruins preview on Friday!
After a first round not quite so easy on the heart, the hockey world got quite a taste of what’s to come in these 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs. In the West, we saw epic 7-game series, 100 shot games, controversial soccer-style goals, and overtime thrillers. But now it is time to move on. Only one upset prevailed, as Detroit beat 4th-seeded Phoenix in 7 games. That leaves the 1st-seeded San Jose Sharks, 2nd-seeded Chicago Blackhawks, 3rd-seeded Vancouver Canucks, and 5th seeded Detroit Red Wings.
But only two will prevail. Who will make history? Who will be the next cornerstone to their team’s epic disappointment? Only time will tell—unless you have the experts from WBRU on hand. So, lucky you…awaiting you is intense analysis of Who’s Hot and Who’s Not in the hockey world in this 2nd Round of the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
1 SAN JOSE Sharks vs. 5 DETROIT Red Wings
Locker Room: Detroit has been the hottest team in the league—hands down. With a stellar record of 13-1-2, the Red Wings were cruising into the playoffs. San Jose, on the other hand, staggered into the playoffs with a slew of disappointing losses in the latter part of the season. However, Detroit is an exhausted team. They’re coming off two consecutive seasons of reaching the Finals. Add a grueling 7-game series with Phoenix to the mix, and it doesn’t matter what kind of confidence this team has in the locker room. Do they have what it takes to push through yet another round, now against the top-seeded team? Sounds like Shark bait to me, folks.
–EDGE– San Jose
SCORING: Detroit’s top forwards are finally coming to fruition here in the playoffs. Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk lead the way with 11 and 8 points, respectively. San Jose, on the other hand, has been relying on secondary scoring a tad too much. “Little Joe” Pavelski is playing out of his mind…but how long can he really keep it up? With “Big Joe” Thornton, Dany Heatley, and Patrick Marleau boasting a despicable 10 points—between all three of them—San Jose has to turn things around…and fast.
SHUT-DOWN DEFENSE: Detroit and San Jose are oh so sad to admit having the 3rd and 4th most goals allowed per game so far in these playoffs, which certainly does not bode well for either team. San Jose D Drew Doughty has been arguably one of the strongest defensemen in the first round (besides the whole, scoring-the-game-winning-goal-on-his-own-team thing), but then again so has Detroit D Nicklas Lidstrom. The key statistic in this one is Shots Allowed per Game. Get this: San Jose is 1st in the playoffs with only 24.8 shots allowed per game. Detroit? 31.6 per game. That puts them squarely in 10th of 16 teams.
–EDGE– San Jose
SPECIAL TEAMS: Detroit has a slight, slight edge in Power Play % (23.5 to 19.2), but San Jose has an equal edge in the Penalty Kill % (86.7 to 81.8) What this comes down to is converting in the big games. And guess what? Detroit was 3-for-6 in Game 7 against the ‘Yotes the other day. Enough said.
DARK HORSE: Who should you be looking out for in these playoffs? Detroit’s Jimmy Howard. He was streaky the entire first round, and you gotta believe the freshman has some butterflies with this decade’s powerhouse Detroit on his shoulders. Chris Not-Os-Good must be creeping over Howard’s shoulder, ready to take over at any moment. This series is Howard’s to steal. Is Howard up for the challenge? I think he’s ready to step up.
FALLING OFF THE HORSE: The dream run for “Little Joe” Pavelski cannot last forever. His 8 points and 5 goals in six games has been carrying the team, but don’t expect his offensive production to continue its dominance. Mark my words: Pavelski will be falling off the horse oh so very shortly.
WBRU PREDICTION: San Jose looks better on paper. But then again, don’t they every season before crashing and burning in their own misery? Okay, so maybe this is the year. Could this be the year “History Will Be Made” and San Jose will be finally be able to push off those off-season golf plans? In a nutshell… No. Evgeni Nabakov and company struggled a tad too much against what is certainly the weakest playoff team in Colorado. The confidence just doesn’t seem to be there. Jimmy Howard will be the difference maker in this series and Detroit will pull of the upset.
–Detroit in 6–
2 CHICAGO Blackhawks vs. 3 VANCOUVER Canucks
Locker Room: Welcome to Chicago-Vancouver: Round II. These two teams faced off last year in the quarterfinal round and Chicago claimed a 6-game series victory to move on to the Conference Final. But this time, life is a little different. Chicago has home-ice, and the Sedin twins are having (identically, of course) career years. Roberto Luongo has continued his less-than-stellar showings since his Olympic Gold, and the Vancouver Canucks locker room must be at least a little weary about Luongo’s stamina going into the next round. Chicago’s undrafted rookie G Niemi, on the other hand, has been quite impressive in his first ever playoff series and Chicago must be happy inside the locker room.
SCORING: Chicago happily produced 13 goals in its last 3 playoff games. Sounds pretty impressive, right? Try again. Vancouver, on the other hand, scored a baffling 17 goals in those same 3 games. That’s good for a 4.17 Goals per Game Average. Throw playoff leading scorer Mikael Samuelsson into the mix for the Canucks and you’ve got quite the dynamic…trio. I think it’s safe to say the newly-proposed Sedin “Twinkies” (thank you, Darren Pang) and Samuelsson are ready to lead Vancouver past the offensive powerhouse Blackhawks.
SHUT-DOWN DEFENSE: Vancouver has allowed 3.00 Goals Against per Game to Chicago’s 2.50. But the biggest issue here is the Vancouver’s shut-down pairing. The Canucks’ defense has gone under the radar all year and—let’s be honest—you probably cannot even name most of their defensive core. The one known man on the defensive end that is known, in fact, is G Luongo, who has been disappointing to say the least. Chicago, on the other hand, was welcomed by the return of D Brian Campbell, only to further complement a stellar core led by Duncan Keith and his 27:57 Time on Ice per Game.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Vancouver is 61.5% on the Penalty Kill. Chicago is 96.3%. I think that says it all.
DARK HORSE: Chicago’s Patrick Kane is about to unleash. He proved himself in the big games late in the Olympics, and he’ll happily do so in this upcoming 2nd Round matchup as well. Kane only has 7 points in 6 games, but his shooting percentage is an impressive 25%. Kane may not take control of the scoring race anytime soon, but look for Kane to make the big offensive plays when they matter most.
FALLING OFF THE HORSE: Expect Chicago’s Marian Hossa to fall into the woodwork this series. With about a point-per game (7 in 6) pace in the first round, his best days are behind him. Two trips to the Cup Finals in the past two seasons, and Hossa is spent. His ice time per game is dropping, and his work ethic is sub par. The latest dirty hit on Nashville’s Dan Hamhuis late in Game 5 was well deserving of a suspension, and without a doubt he knows that. Hossa will play it safe, and at this stage in the game, safe is sorry.
WBRU PREDICTION: Vancouver sounds much better than they really are. Chicago’s biggest weakness is between the pipes in rookie goaltender Antti Niemi. But when matched up against a struggling Roberto Luongo, Niemi will come out on top. This is Luongo’s series to lose, and he will certainly lose it. The top line of the Sedin twins and Mikael Samuelsson can only carry this team so far offensively without the defensive unit breaking down to Chicago’s equally impressive offensive core. Chicago is young, hungry, and destined to move on once again in this growing playoff rivalry.
–Chicago in 5—
Can’t seem to get enough? For more analysis, don’t forget to visit the blog on Friday to see the predictions of your Bruins and the rest of the East!