Playoff Preview: The Rest of the West

Posted: 04/12/2011 by bc in Uncategorized

The NHL Board of Governors, through their mouthpiece Gary Bettman have advanced a policy of parity in the NHL. For the most part the parity policy, from the CBA through the rule changes is successful. The teams are far more competitive. There are no easy wins anymore.

Post lockout we’ve seen unbelievably close playoff races and even one playoff round when the bottom seeds swept the top seeds. I will pick one upset for all the just because reasons.Vancouver Canucks v. Chicago Blackhawks

For two consecutive seasons the current Stanley Cup Champion ‘hawks have eliminated the ‘Nucks in the second round. GM Stan Bowman was unable to keep the Cup winning roster together and as a result Chicago barely sneaked into the 8th playoff seed. Vancouver started slow but have been turning it up a notch at a time since December and locked up the President’s Trophy more than a week ago.

This season the ‘Nucks depth, even without Manny Malhotra, is the difference. Vancouver in six. The impact of beating Chicago is going to be huge. I don’t envy Vancouver’s second round opponent.

San Jose Sharks v. Los Angeles Kings

Without Anze Kopitar and Justin Williams the Kings scored 3 goals once in their final seven games. What a shame for the many Kings who believed the Cup was theirs if it weren’t for injuries. Ah well it happens. Better luck next year. L.A. manages to gut out a character win but nothing more. Sharks in five.

Detroit Red Wings v. Phoenix Coyotes

This is the upset I smell for two primary reasons and a couple of intangibles that tilt toward Phoenix. Ilya Bryzgalov is a pending UFA and there’s nothing like a playoff upset to encourage owners and GM’s to open their checkbooks. Beat Detroit and the Leafs media machine will crank up the daily Breezy to Toronto stories .

Secondly, the Red Wings are among the least penalized teams in the NHL. Can they remain cool under the pressure of the Desert Dogs smothering defense? It’s just a gut call but the ‘Yotes might be able to frustrate the puck possession, smooth skating Red Wings into taking some bad penalties by clogging up the Wings skating and passing lanes.

On the intangibles this is the first season that six-time Norris Trophy winner Niklas Lidstrom posted a plus/minus, minus in his career. No athlete can beat father time and Lidstrom falls short of matching Doug Harvey’s 7 Norris or Bobby Orr’s 8 Norris wins. As someone who’s had the pleasure, check that, pure joy of having seen all three, Lidstrom might well have been a better player than Doug Harvey. Harvey did dominate his era more than Lidstrom did though. So I think it appropriate we remember and honor guys like Orr and Harvey for creating the modern era of the puck moving mobile D-man and Lidstrom and Ray Bourque as the first to dominate the era Orr & Harvey created.

Another gut call as this series feels like a bit of a passing the torch to one of the next great D-men in Phoenix Keith Yandle. Look for Yandle to make more headlines and hi-light reels than Lidstrom in this series.

The other intangible or maybe tangible is can the injury prone Red Wings hold up against the younger stronger Coyotes? This is the playoffs and injuries are usually hidden but if the Datsyuk’s, Zetterburg’s and Franzen’s are suddenly ineffective you might smell their pain.

Phoenix in six!



  1. czhokej says:

    I would like to see Phoenix to advance, but that’s a bold prediction. I am just guessing that Detroit was resting at the end of the regular season, trying to avoid injuries and fatigue. Tippett is a good coach, but his special teams are not that great.

    • BackCheck says:

      It might be bold cz but felt I had to pick an upset for the sake of blogger cred. It’s the one with the most compelling argument.

      Kings have about as much chance of beating the Sharks as there is OJ didn’t do it. Vancouver is so bent on exorcising the demon that is Chicago, no way do the ‘hawks pull an upset. If they do we should open a valium concession inside Rogers Arena.

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