By Left Field
My sincere regrets to those of you who actually wagered any hard-earned coin on my Round Two predictions, feel free to bitch, based on the old adage that you get what you pay for.
In my defence, being half right is way better than being half wrong. The only one I really flubbed was Minnesota over Chicago, but what’s the point of making these calls if you’re going to play it safer than a Jacques Lemaire trap? If you factor in hitting the goalpost eight times and an overtime offside in game one, Montreal should have won. That would put me in the three out of four range which, last time I checked, works out pretty well in Vegas on any given night. Remember, it takes four rounds and 16 wins to clinch the deal, and fortunes can change hands with one star skater’s twisted knee or a Chris Kreider collision with a goalie.
It looks like the Ducks are all they are quacked up to be, and Frederik Johannsen has delivered between the pipes for two rounds. Unfortunately for them, however, they now face a flock of Blackhawks that look set to soar to a third Stanley Cup final during their current five-year flight, rarefied air in the age of salary cap strangulation. I know Ryan Kessler makes the Ducks deeper down the middle and Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry are playing lights out when needed, but the big Lebowski for me is on the D line. Without ruffling any feathers, the Ducks just don’t have a one-two punch that comes close to the kind of impact Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook make when minutes need to be gobbled up and the game is on the line. Corey Crawford finally looks comfortable in the crease, and even if he lets in the odd Ben Bishop floater, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp have enough playoff smarts to make up for his occasional gaffes. Add to that dynamic mix Patrick Kane, who is playing like he wants to punch out another cab driver for not recognizing him, and it’s tough to go against the Hawks in six.
NEW YORK/TAMPA BAY
The Rangers are close enough to taste another trip to the Final, with last year’s memories of oh so close overtime losses against the Kings still ringing in their ears. King Henrik is simply goal lights out so far and ready to checkmate any combination of Bishop and Bolts that stands in his way. With apologies to Habs fans for bringing up the one that got away, Ryan McDonagh is an absolute beast on the blue line. That kind of animal does not currently reside on the Tampa Bay defence, as well as that retooled group has played. Even with Steven Stamkos at his best, which hasn’t been the case through the first two rounds, Tyler Johnson ain’t enough to match the Rangers balanced scoring, especially considering Rick “No Show” Nash hasn’t exactly lit up the lights on Broadway so far. Nine times out of ten, experience and hunger will override the exuberance of youth, and New York has too much of both to get short-circuited by the Lightning. So without digging a deeper hole to have to crawl out of when the next round rolls around, I’m not Hagelin any longer. Rangers in six, you can bank on it.