Let the Real Games Begin!

SenShot's 2011 Playoff Preview

 

With the 2011 NHL Playoffs beginning tonight, SenShot presents to you a playoff preview for each series. 

EASTERN CONFERENCE: 

(1) VS(8) 

Tony’s Thoughts: With the pressure to win the cup on the Caps this year, they need to step up or changes are in the air this off-season. The reason they gave for losing the last few year’s in the playoffs was that they ran into a ‘hot’ goalie. Well, Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist is the best out there and will carry his team. Alex Ovechkin had a down year and is not paid to play defence. Ovie needs to score and score often if the Caps have any chance to move forward.   

Jared’s Thoughts: A healthy Mike Green will be the key to a Washington victory, as Henrik Lundqvist makes the series that should be tilted in favor of Washington closer than many might expect. 

Derrick’s Thoughts: The loss of Ryan Callahan to a broken leg could prove troublesome for the Rangers. Callahan was the team’s second leading scorer… Meanwhile, with the return of Mike Green, the high profile offensive stars of Washington might be all that Ranger goaltender Henrik Lundqvist can handle. But can a more defensively-conscious Caps team atone for some disappointing playoff runs in recent years? 

 (2)       VS   (7) 

Tony’s Thoughts: This series will be decided by Ryan Miller. He’s the leader of the Sabres and if he’s healthy enough, he’ll win this series all by himself. The Flyers are missing their best player Chris Pronger and a depending on a rookie goalie to win them the Cup. Mike Richardswill need to step up big time or this series could endup being one of the big upsets of the first round. 

Jared’s Thoughts: Ryan Miller has shown he is an elite goalie and can steal a series.  Buffalo is well balanced as opposed to Philadelphia’s explosive offence and question marks in goal.  If Michael Leighton makes an appearance in this series, the Flyers are in trouble. 

Derrick’s Thoughts: The Flyers limped hard down the stretch and have looked nothing like the finely-tuned machine from last year’s improbable run to the Cup finals… In Buffalo, as usual, their success usually begins and ends with Ryan Miller in goal, and some are wondering if Miller is suffering from a nagging injury. Both teams have their share of flaws, but with a decided edge in goal (health permitting), expect an upset. 

(3)  VS (6) 

Tony’s Thoughts:With all the story lines going into this game, I think this series will be dictated by discipline. The Bruins will try to intimidate the Habs into a physical battle they cannot win. Montreal will need to play it smart andlet the B’s beat themselves. With goaltending a wash, Zdeno Chara will need to step up and assert himself. It’s been five years since he left Ottawa and has yet to make it out of the second round with Boston. Can’t wait to hear the crowd in game three in Montreal. 

Jared’s Thoughts: This will be a tight checking, low scoring affair that should favor the Bruins and their more talented forwards.  Zdeno Chara will be a force against the smallish Canadiens forwards.  This could be one series where Montreal has the disadvantage between the pipes. 

Derrick’s Thoughts: This series has all the makings of a gladiatorial blood bath, at least that’s what the hype machine would have you believe.  These teams do not like each other, as evidenced by the season series. Meeting in the post-season three consecutive years can certainly produce a lot of hate. In spite of the Habs winning the regular season match up, the most decisive and most recent result was a complete tar and feathering by the Bruins in a game where Montreal was supposed to be striking back for their fallen teammate, Max Patcioretty. They showed very little while the Bruins dictated the entire game, very telling. Boston looks the most poised out of any playoff team in the East, if they can take the first two games at home, expect a short series. That is, unless the B’s have another 3-0 series collapse in them; doubtful. 

(4)VS  (5) 

Tony’s Thoughts: Which team to pick – the one with injured stars that play a tight system that works, or the team with two stars that do all the work and doesn’t play defence? Pittsburgh has the upper hand in goal with Marc-Andre Fleury, so if their grinders can shut down Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis, the Pens got this one in the bag. Look for Jordan Staal to emerge from the shadows of Crosby and Malkin this post-season. 

Jared’s Thoughts: The key to this series is Steven Stamkos.  After going through a slump late in the season, he started to turn it around at the right time.  If he gets back to mid-season form, the Lightning have a shot.  However, even without Crosby, the Penguins have shown they have enough to compete. 

Derrick’s Thoughts: The Penguins continue life without superstars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. But it didn’t seem matter down the stretch as the Pens just kept piling on the wins… The Lightning are making their first playoff appearance in four years, and are also hot heading into the playoffs with Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos leading the charge. With no timetable on the return of Crosby and Malkin, this should be a very even series. Former Conn Smythe winner and Penguin goalie, Marc -Andre Fleury might be the key. Of note, if the Pens win this series and Alex Kovalev plays in at least half the games, the 7thround pick Ottawa got for him in the February trade becomes a 6th rounder. 

WESTERN CONFERENCE 

  (1)VS  (8) 

Tony’s Thoughts: With the weight of a nation on their backs, Vancouver is Cup or bust this post season. Drawing the worst possible opponent, Vancouver will need to beat the Champions to have a shot at the Cup. Roberto Loungo needs to be lights out if the Canucks have any chance of winning this series. A lot is said about the Nuck’s d-corps, but the two guys they brought in to help them win in the playoffs (Dan Hamhuis and Keith Ballard) have never won a playoff series. If Chicago wins game one, look out Van-city. 

Jared’s Thoughts: Its time for Vancouver to put up or shut up, and nothing could be better for them than to exorcise the demon that haunted them the past two seasons – the Chicago Blackhawks.  It might be too much for Chicago to ask a rookie goalie to carry them for the second year in a row. 

Derrick’s Thoughts: The Canucks cruised to the President’s Trophy while the Blackhawks stumbled into the post-season. Last year’s Cup winners were stripped of many key pieces during the summer and the holes in their line-up appeared evident throughout the regular season. Of course, the great equalizing factor is that Chicago is Vancouver’s nemesis, having ousted them from the playoffs in two previous years. Can the Canucks live up to expectations and exercise their proverbial  “playoff demons”? 

(2)VS(7) 

Tony’s Thoughts: San Jose could not have drawn a better first round opponent-  a young, beat up and injury-riddled Kings squad. What a great way to get over past playoff defeats then destroying a young LA team. However, LA’s ace up their sleeve could be Jonathan Quick. With his first playoff performance last year less than stellar, this could be the year he breaks out and become this playoff’s Jaroslav Halak

Jared’s Thoughts: The California battle would be more even if not for the injuries to Anze Kopitar and Justin WilliamsJonathan Quick struggled in the playoffs last year, and if he does so again this year there might be a quick hook in favor of Jonathan Bernier.  Do the Sharks finally have their man in last year’s cup winner Antii Niemi

Derrick’s Thoughts: Battle California. And what a battle it could be. Or not. LA is hurting with the losses of Anze Kopitar and Justin Williams. In San Jose, the playoffs are always a touchy subject. Can the Sharks translate their strong second-half of the regular season into first round series win? 

(3)VS(6) 

Tony’s Thoughts: This series will be determined by Ilya Bryzgalov. If he plays like the superstar he can be, then the Coyotes have a chance. If he does not, the Dessert Dogs will be left for dead. 

Jared’s Thoughts: Ilya Bryzgalov has been lights out and will be a factor, but Detroit’s depth and experience should prove to be too much for the upstart youth of the Coyotes.  The only hope for the Coyotes is for Zetterberg to be out for the series.  With him the Wings should fly. 

Derrick’s Thoughts: Detroit comes into the playoffs looking weaker (defensively) than they have in a long time. And without Henrik Zetterberg, for a least the beginning of the series, the Wings have a tough task ahead…  In Phoenix, the Coyotes are looking for their first playoff series victory in 24 years dating back to the Winnipeg days of the franchise.  Having 11 players with at least ten goals, the Coyotes have tremendous offensive depth. This series could easily go the distance. 

(4)  VS(5) 

Tony’s Thoughts:This series will be a battle every game. With the scoring abilities of the Ducks, and the defensive play of the Preds, we’ll see which philosophy wins out. Both teams can play it tough, so who every comes out of this series will make some noise in the west. 

Jared’s Thoughts: Perry, Getzlaf, Ryan & Selanne vs Rinne, Weber & Suter? WOW!  This could be the toughest one to call.  Questions in Anaheim’s net could be the deciding factor.  This series is what the Predators got Mike Fisher for. 

Derrick’s Thoughts: There will be a lot of interest for Sens fans in this series. Former Senators goalie Ray Emery re-emerged in the NHL down the stretch this season in Anaheim with an impressive showing. He did suffer a lower body injury two games prior to the post-season, so Dan Ellis might get the start in the Ducks crease, but Emery could be an factor before all is said and done. Offensively, Corey Perry lit the league on fire in the finals months of the season and will be leading the charge against Nashville… Mike Fisher and the Predators look like they are ready to make some noise in the Western Conference playoff picture. Depending on how far the Preds go this post-season, the Senators could be looking at attaining an additional 2ndor 3rd draft pick in next year’s draft. With a great young goalie in Pekka Rinne between the pipes, Nashville will be a formidable opponent. 

Now that you know our thoughts on each playoff series,  join SenShot’s free Playoff Pool called SenShot Stumpers Playoff Predictor Contest. There will be a $50 Sens prize to the winner and its FREE! 

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