He's banged out beastly Homer-esque comments with a high level of consistency.
We're just a little more than 24 hours from the start of the 2009-10 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Jesus, where did the season go? Has it really been six months since those banners came down from the Jumbotron to reveal the Cup at center ice of Mellon Arena? Yes, yes it has.
So with that said, it's time for playoff and end-of-season-related thoughts…dudes. Western Conference is up first.
San Jose (1) vs. Colorado (8)
- Colorado's a lot of the 2006-07 Pens – a team that jumped from near the league basement one year to get into the playoffs. In fact, there may be a lot of similarities between this series and that Pens-Ottawa series in 06-07.
- The Pens' best players in 06-07 were their young players; ditto for the Avs, as Paul Stastny is 24 and he's the old one.
- Ottawa in 2006-07 was a team that was making its last real run under that core; Marleau and Nabokov are unrestricted free agents after this season. And if things fall apart again this year for the Sharks, Joe Thornton might as well be.
- The Sharks are running out feet to shoot themselves in come playoff time, but even with their self-destructive tendencies, they should have enough to overcome a very young Colorado team that backed into the playoffs (3-5-2 in their last ten). But this could be Colorado's first step towards beginning to assert itself as an emerging Western Conference power.
- Ryan O'Reilly – former Erie Otter. Can't discount the awesomeness of the Otter. Not sayin'; just sayin'.
Chicago (2) vs. Nashville (7)
- I don't want to say Nashville doesn't have much star power on their team but if you put Jordan Staal on the Preds, he'd instantly be their top-line center. By a mile. That's no knock on Staalsy at all; it's what happens when you put him on a team whose top centers right now are Jason Arnott and David Legwand.
- On paper, this is a ridiculous mismatch. The Preds top scorer is Patric Hornqvist, whose 51 points would be good for 5th on the Blackhawks. Yet last year, the Rangers proved a pop-gun offense can (almost) work in the playoffs as they took the Caps to seven games in the opening round. And here sit the Preds with 100 points on the season, which is an amazing testament to the coaching of Andy Sipowicz…er, I mean Barry Trotz.
Vancouver (3) vs. Los Angeles (6)
- Luuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu. Luuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu.
- If the Olympics didn't get you ready for Vancouver playoff games, repeat the above line incessantly for two and half hours.
- Who knew Vancouver was coached by Dan Aykroyd?
- Henrik Sedin, we've got Jaromir Jagr and Alexander Ovechkin on Line 2. They'd like to talk to you about this "Scuderi" fellow.
Winnipeg (4) vs. Detroit (5)
- 50 wins and 107 points, each the highest totals in franchise history. What's your reward? How about a first round matchup with the Red Wings juuuuuuuuuuuuust as they're healthy and playing the best hockey of their season?
- Detroit is the team that no one in the West wanted to see in the post-season and I'm not sure the Coyotes could've seen a worse matchup. That said, the Red Wings do appear to have some holes this season and the Coyotes didn't win 50 games by accident, and they played in a strong division. Phoenix has got solid veteran goaltending and a good defense. The question will be offense – can Phoenix's young forwards deal with the superior two-way game that so many Wings forwards play and generate enough offense to get some pucks past Howard?
Washington (1) vs. Montreal (8)
- This is a series Washington SHOULD win going away. The Caps scored 101 more goals than the Habs did this year. What's more, the Habs gave up more goals than they scored – never a good sign for playoff success. THAT SAID…
- Last year, a Rangers team with much less offensive depth took what was very much this same Caps team to seven games. Jaroslav Halak's save percentage this year is .924; Henrik Lundqvist posted a .908 save percentage in last year's series against Washington. If Halak can maintain his regular season pace, and if Montreal can get some timely goals…
New Jersey (2) vs. Philadelphia (7)
- Spent part of Monday listening to EJ Hradek and Don LaGreca debate the merits of Brian Boucher finding goaltender nirvana for seven games and outplaying Brodeur. This is why I love playoff hockey. Two weeks ago, the national media was convinced Boucher wasn't good enough to get Philly into the playoffs.
Clarkson vs. Carcillo/Hartnell/Asham/
Laperriere/Pronger/Richards should be fun.
- Brodeur's played in 77 games this year, and he's faded horribly in the playoffs in each of the last two seasons. Philly has issues on defense and the usual problems battling chronic stupidity, but they can score and they've probably got better scoring depth through their top three lines than the Devils have.
Buffalo (3) vs. Boston (6)
- As long as Ryan Miller doesn't confuse the black and gold of Boston with the black and gold of Pittsburgh, this series should last about five games and Buffalo should win.
- Zdeno Chara. Tyler Myers. Giraffes on skates.
Penguins (4) vs. Ottawa (5)
- Big questions here involve the Pens' ability to "flip the switch". The successes of the last two years and the taste of playoff hockey made the 82-game season even more of a grind than it normally is for players and fans alike. It was often reflected in the Pens play, sometimes for annoyingly long stretches.
- That said, over the last stretch of games, Malkin and Crosby seem to be hitting their strides and other players are starting to follow suit. Malkin has shown more frequent glimpses of what we remember from last year's playoff run. Secondary scoring from guys like Guerin, Kennedy and the defensemen is starting to return.
- Crosby has been absolutely dominant. In the last ten games of the season – six of them played without Malkin in the lineup – Sid had 6 goals and 15 assists. That's Lemieux-like production, kids, happening at the right time.
- Can someone please let Alex Ponikarovsky know 1) he's playing for a contract and 2) it ain't ever gonna get any better than having Sid and Malkin feeding you the puck?
- Jason Spezza. Still a douche.
- Going to be interesting to see how the Pens defense responds in its own zone. Guys like Foligno and Neil will park themselves in front of Fleury and some Pens d-men are going to have to get nasty to keep the crease clear. We called him the USS Hal Gill for a reason (moved with all the grace and dexterity of an aircraft carrier), but he did make life miserable for anyone willing to go to the front of the crease last year.