Thursday, April 30, 4:04 PST
With the second round set to kick off tonight, I figured I better get my predictions in pronto to allow my devoted readers the opportunity to mock my musings and share a few laughs with their bookies.
I would normally fly with the ‘Hawks on this one because in my humble estimation Jonathan Toews is the best player on the planet not named Carey Price. This is a veteran team with peerless leadership and coaching that understands what it takes to get ‘er done. Add their two recent Cups to the mix and it’s hard not to like Chicago. But the goaltending is unsettled and that tends to stick in my Crawford. Round two is not the time to be figuring out who will be the Darling in the crease, so I’m reluctantly taking a walk on the Wild side on this one. I like Minnesota’s grit, so I’m placing my pesos on a hunch that Devan Dubnyk will be the difference in seven.
It’s impossible to ignore what Calgary has accomplished this year, especially after losing their heart and soul guy and leading scorer. In fact, if Giordano was playing, I would be much more inclined to warm to the Flames. Whether it’s Gibson or Andersen in net for the Ducks or Hiller or Ramo for Calgary, neither team is exactly battle tested between the pipes over the long haul, so this series will come down to Calgary’s ability to neutralize Getzlaf and Perry. If they perform like they did in grounding the Jets, the Ducks dynamic duo will do a better job of exposing Calgary’s overworked defence than the Sedins on steroids could ever hope to do. While the unwashed masses in Calgary will get one more night to peel a layer of paint off the Red Mile, their team will flame out in five.
These two teams have been reluctant dancing partners five times in the last seven years, and I think this series will crank up the animosity dial to eleven. I like the Rangers speed and D, and they know how to throw a blanket over Ovechkin, which will be key. Vigneault came up short with Vancouver in the Final and again last year against the Kings, but I think the third time will be the charm. Martin St. Louis is probably looking at this year as his last kick at the Cup, which makes it risky to bet against the Big Apple. Even though their iffy depth scares me a little, I’m sticking with the Broadway boys in six, providing they don’t get devoured by the injury bug.
The Habs snuffed out the Lightning four straight in the opening round last year, and Tampa electrocuted Montreal in five games during the regular season, but does that mean anything at this time of the year? Despite anything remotely resembling a potent power play, the Canadiens are a different kind of animal now, with more size, speed and scoring on the third and fourth lines. Plus, it’s hard to take Tampa too seriously because Stamkos has picked the worst possible time to go missing in action. Look for Jeff Petry to be a force in this series. Buoyed by a wake-up call against Ottawa and an extra four days of rest, the Price is right as rain, and the edge the Bell Centre provides says Montreal will Beliveau the Bolts in six games.