Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Playoff Predictions 2007: Western Conference

It's time once again to offer up bad predictions about this year's playoff match ups.

Once again, I'm joined by my buddy Rick from Edmonton and Sens' fan Keith from PWI. New to the fray is Steph from No Pun Intended and hopefully at some point, Tom from the Out Route will be joining in as well.

We're going to try to get through all eight match-ups before the puck drops on Wednesday...this year I'm also going to introduce my version of Maggie the Monkey, instead it will be teams picked from my coffee cup:

ECHL's finest blendBe interesting to see how the cup compares to the five of us.

Detroit Red Wings (1) v. Calgary Flames (8)

Mike (aka Bitter/MF37)
Another first place finish for the Red Wings, another match-up with an Albertan adversary: will it be another first round exit for Northern Michigan's finest?

The Flames can't seem to win on the road and the Red Wings can't seem to win in the playoffs.

I'm not even sure what the upset would be here. Would it be more surprising for the Wings to actually make the second round or for Calgary to go home early after making so many trades to prep for the post-season?

The most compelling part of this series may be wondering how many games it will take before Hasek goes on the IR.

It's a pretty even match-up for a 1 v. 8 seed: the teams split their season series 2-2, each team scored 12 goals over those four games and the home team won every time.

Given that there's one extra game in Motown, I'm going to go with the Wings in 7, but I don't think either of these teams will go any further than the second round.

Is it just me or has the departure of Steve Yzerman made the Red Wings one of the most dull franchises in the league?

They just go out there and win coldly and without any personality. Ice cold killers. Like someone who'd go "hit a lick" in a Chilli bar.

It's hard to like a team like that, it's hard to hate them either. Calgary, on the other hand, are likable. They're Canadian which is nice. AND they have Dion Phaneuf who provides me a whole world of viewing pleasure. Phaneuf may be the subject matter of a few too many of Pierre Maguire's masturbatory fantasies (everyone, repeat after me "That kid's a MONSTER!") but he did provide hockey fans one of this season's best bodychecks, (note to Sens haters, Denis Hamel no longer wears the red and black). More importantly, however, Phaneuf has a great nickname. My friends from Calgary call him "Caveman" which is not only an accurate description of his playing and interview style, but the physical resemblance is quite uncanny.

Likeable, very likable.

But of absolutely no bearing on the Wings/Flames series...

One the one hand, Calgary might not be able to win on the road but they did sweep a four game string to end the month of March and they (this just blows me away) scored more goals than Detroit this season. On the other hand Detroit are clearly the better team, but their ability in the Playoffs over the last couple years has been almost Senatorsian.

When it's that much of a mess, things usually come down to which team's goalie plays better.

Hasek and Kiprusoff have been pretty much a statistical saw off this season, but my gut goes with the Czech.

Detroit in 6

It's no secret the Red Wings like to hit the playoffs with brilliant records and then almost immediately choke - particularly against Albertan teams too. Knocked out by Edmonton in round one last season and Calgary in the second round the season before.

But then again, this is a different team than what we've seen the past few years. After the flop last year, losing Yzerman and Shanahan and dumping Manny Legace for a groin injury waiting to happen (albeit with a beautiful record when healthy), the horrid West Canada road trip that started off the season, that much was obvious.

So the question is: if the team could find a way to work back up from that and surprise everyone who thought they were going to decline, should we expect the same sort of surprise in the playoffs?

My bet is that as long as they can keep up the level of depth they've found again lately and not fall back on Datsyuk and Zetterberg for every goal (and so long as Hasek stays healthy - when the first "injury" flared up, the announcers claimed that "not since the Rockettes has so much attention been given to a thigh in Detroit", and the last thing anyone needs is that concern to move north), then yeah, we should - especially with that home advantage and Calgary's issues with the road.

Detroit in 6 - but don't underestimate the Flames.

(And for the record, Senatorsian is my new favorite word. Ever.)

Keith - if you think the Wings are dull, what are we going to do when it comes time to talk Minny?

Steph - I'm guessing that prior to the Rockettes, the most discussed thigh in Detroit involved the word "dismembered"

Three for three with Detroit so far...wonder if Rick or Tom will break the pattern and pick the Flames (can't imagine that Rick's Edmonton roots would permit such a thing...)

I'll wax poetic about Jacques Lemaire's ability to make chicken salad outta chicken feathers (Then I'll pick the Ducks...).

I think I will get my two year old son to make my picks this year considering how well I did last year - stupid Dallas!!

That being said - it is nice to be able start following hockey again after the Oilers decided to quit playing a month earlier than everybody else. Check out my blog at bitteroilfan.blogspot ... oh never mind.

Let's get on with it.

They say bad luck comes in 3's so could this be the third straight time that an Alberta team knocks out the Wings?

I don't think so.

The Wings lost to the Oilers last year ... ah yes, I remember watching Game 7 in a pub in Halifax at 11 PM, I'll never forget it ... sorry I got off track there. As I was saying - the Wings lost because Legace did not play well and their star players, especially Datsyuk, did not want to get their noses dirty and make the sacrifices necessary to win the battles for the puck that comes with playoff hockey.

We know the Wings are better in goal with Hasek and I think Wing's Defence and Depth are better this year as well - Kronwall is going to be the next Lidstrom. With his new contract, it still remains to be seen whether Datsyuk will prove his worth in the playoffs or whether he is just another Joe Thornton (I will elaborate more on that argument when we talk more about the Sharks).

We know all about the Flames' road woes but I think with their offensive additions this year that the Flames are a team with an identity crisis -are they an offensive juggernaut? Or the same old defensive shut down team?

Kipper has been getting lit up a lot lately as the Flames have been involved in more high scoring games. Also, I am not sure if the players fear Playfair as much as they did Sutter. If Sutter was still Coaching the Flames wouldn't have stopped playing when they were up 2-0on Saturday night against the Oilers and found out that Colorado lost.

But in the end, all of these factors mean nothing to me because there is no way I can ever, ever, EVER picked the hated Flames.

Wings in 6

Coffee Cup Says: Wings in 7

1 comment:

  1. When you guys are making your comments about Detroit's defence and depth, you do know that Kronwall will only play if Detroit makes the finals, right? Have you looked at the Red Wings depth on defence?

    Just a question... ; )