Here is my 499 word piece for the Columbia Daily Herald, the hockey source for Southern Middle Tennessee that includes my picks for the second round.
The first round of the NHL playoffs has ended, sorting out the Stanley Cup pretenders from the actual contenders. An argument could be made for each of the remaining eight teams being able to proceed to the final round.
As you move deeper into the playoffs, goaltending becomes more important as will be the case in each of the four second round series.
Play kicks off Thursday night when the Chicago Blackhawks travel to Vancouver to play the Canucks. These two teams do not like each other as evidenced by the all out brawl that erupted in their last regular season game.
Vancouver’s goalie, Roberto Luongo, appears well rested after being out with an injury mid-season. At the other end of the ice, Hawks goalie, Nikolai Khabibulin, has not played well against the Canucks having a 6-16-2 lifetime record.
Both teams have plenty of offensive weapons and solid defenses, but I am going with Vancouver in seven games with Luongo and Alexander Burrows leading the way.
Detroit and Anaheim is a match of long-time Western Conference rivals. Both teams have top defenses and plenty of offensive power.
The goaltender match-up between Jonas Hiller and Chris Osgood will be interesting. Hiller has only played a portion of one game in his career against the Wings, but was unshaken against the Sharks despite of a lack of experience.
Chris Osgood, while not having his best year during the regular season, was a rock in goal in the first round against Columbus.
While it will be a tough series, I feel the Wings will take the Ducks in five games as the defending cup champions seem to be hitting their stride at the perfect time.
In the East, Boston appears to be the solid choice “on paper” over Carolina and I will be surprised if the Hurricanes go deep into this series. The Bruin’s Tim Thomas will probably win the Vezina Trophy (best goaltender) and will lead the team to win in a six game series.
Finally, the league’s dream match-up is the Pittsburgh Penguins playing the Washington Capitals. This will feature two of the three nominees for the NHL Hart Trophy (MVP); Washington’s Alexander Ovechkin and the Penguin’s Evgeni Malkin. Throw in media darling Sidney Crosby and Alexander Semin and Mike Green and the series is loaded with all-stars.
I’ve never been sold on Pens Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury but he certainly has more experience than rookie Simeon Varlamov who has played more post-season games than regular season after playing the last six games against the Rangers.
In this series, I am going against conventional wisdom and picking the Capitols firepower to out play the Penguins in a long, hard fought, seven game series. The media presence in this series will be equal to that of a final match up and it will probably be an advantage that Varlamov speaks little English.
I’ll be back with a look at the semifinal round in a couple of weeks.
Jackson's picks will be posted first at the Red Light District later today.
In Predators News...
At the World Championships... Pekka Rinne got his second win for Finland and Ville Koistinen scored a goal as the Fins upset the Czech Republic. The US blew a three goal lead in the last three minutes and lost in overtime. Ryan Suter's turnover lead to one of the goals. (Pictures of Colin Wilson and Pekka Rinne from the IIHF site)
Jonathon Blum and Chet Pickard won awards as defenseman and goaltender of the year in the WHL respectively.
The Milwaukee Admirals kick off round two tonight at home against the Houston Aeros. An alternative view from the Houston side check out Ms Conduct. She has given me interesting info on Joel Ward from his time in Houston. Now she tells me to look at The Third Intermission for the good Aeros stuff (or something like that).
John Glennon has a story about Dan Ellis wanting the #1 job back. John also has notes about Blum, Belak and the open Wild positions at Inside Predators.
Paul McCann links to last night's PredsBuzz podcast that had Mark McGee and Brian Metzer as guests.
Around the NHL...
Predictions are everywhere including James Mirtle. He also has the stats leaders from round 1.
Controversy and disaster brewing in Phoenixas it appears that the league is running the franchise, lock, stock and barrel, per Glendale City Manager, Ed Beasley, which is ok if they admit to it and are honest about it. The Coyotes management days Beasley's assessment is untrue.
Those of you in the twtPool, don't forget to make your picks. We don't need excuses for forgetting.
Totally off topic...
A friend, Dennis Chamberland, who works for NASA has the most reasonable, factual, explanation of the swine flu threat at his web site. If you want facts and not hype and media scare tactics, Dennis is a good read. While off the topic, Dennis also is creating an undersea colony and was in charge of the Scott Carpenter missions in the past. He also was in charge of all live animal experiments on the space shuttle, so when he speaks, you should listen.
More later including a link to Jackson's picks at RLD.
Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass and The Columbia Daily Herald
Masterton Trophy Top three announced - Sullivan, Zednik, and Chelios Go Sully!!!!!!!!!!! A predator finally gets recognized. If Sully doesn't win, the voting is a total joke.
The City Paper also has a story about the Ads Calder Cup run.
Friend and HPT correspondent Dustin Morley picks Bos in 6, Pitt in 6, Nooks in 6, and his Wings in 7.
Mark at The View from 111 has posted his picks.
Our friend, Mark Manning from Tampa who has appeared on POTG radio sends his picks; Ducks in 7, Hawks in 6, Pitts in 7, and Boston in 7.
Jackson made his picks for the Red Light District. He went with Boston in 6, Pittsburgh in 7, Anaheim in 7, and Vancouver in 7. I hope all the series do go that deep. We don't need any more nights last night without hockey.
Brandon Felder had the best picks I saw in the first round except for drinking the Blue (Jacket) Kool-aid. Here are his for the second round.
The Preds Broadcasters check in with their round two picks.
I love the Chicken Dinner race between dads and sons at the Hockey Zen. The kids are primed for a move in round two.
Interesting interview at Kukla's on Crosby and Ovie matchup.
Interesting story from Vancouver on Jonathon Blum leaving the Giants.
Mirtle has a good look at the best individual post lock out playoff performers.
Milwaukee signed Bryan Smolinski for the playoff run. He was first rounder in the 1990 entry draft and has played over 1000 NHL games. The Ads are serious about winning the Cup!