And you thought the East was bad, just wait ...
The Skinny: The Canucks Stanley Cup Trophy case. The President's Trophy. Home-ice throughout the playoffs. Stanley Cup expectations. First round exits .... wait, what? Yup. Since the lockout, 3 teams (Detroit, San Jose, and Washington) have been felled by the weight of Stanley Cup expectations with only the 2008 Detroit Red Wings capturing both in the same season. Which one will the Canucks be? ... Which Blackhawks team will we see? Without Dave Bolland, the 'Hawks face a mountain of a challenge trying to stop the Sedin onslaught with Burrows on the other side. Duncan Keith you would think would be the man, but he's coming off his worst regular season since his rookie campaign, so who knows?
Something to watch for: Kesler and Burrows. Can they elevate their game come playoff time?
Prediction: Blackhawks in 7. Something deep inside me just has this feeling that the 'Hawks on Sunday faced on the one thing that may help them more than anything in the future - humility. They almost died laughing and finally faced the music of "we're not as good as we thought". Looking at the Stanley Cup banner that was raised a few months prior only to be known as the next Carolina and/or New Jersey must have given them a pit in their stomach. A second chance could prove to be exactly what they need. ... and the road team has won 7 straight in Game Seven's and is 8-2 over the past 2 playoff seasons.
The Skinny: The Kings actual chances. Let's face it, without Kopitar this is one giant of a task awaiting the Kings here. They'll have to be letter perfect defensively and hope Niemi gives up a few cheesy ones like the Dumont marker in Game One last year. Highly unlikely both will happen. The Sharks are a little different this year with the likes of Couture and Pavleski pacing the offensive attack instead of Heatley, Marleau, and Thornton. Dangerous this team is.
Prediction: Sharks in 5. Too much offence, depth, talent, goaltending ... you get the drift.
3. Detroit Red Wings vs. 6. Phoenix Coyotes
The Skinny: My respect for Todd Bertuzzi. The Red Wings march down the playoff aisle for 20th consecutive season - very impressive. Even more impressive when you consider the amount of top tier injuries that they had to endure once again. Even without Zetterberg this team still has the playoff machine that is Johan Franzen and the magic hands of Pavel Datsyuk. Jimmy Howard showed some signs of brilliance Sunday, but can he build off that? ... On the flip side we have the Coyotes who will have the task of winning a Seven Game series with having ZERO fan support in any of them. But please don't move them to Winnipeg, the whiteout even with 80% Red Wing jerseys is good for the league no? Bryzgalov was once again "Mr. Everything" and has made sure that Ted Lenosis will give him his big paycheque come July 1st. Heh. Other than that, Radim Vrbata is still a cheesie-sucker.
Something to watch for: Keith Yandle. He's awesome, but can he stop the magician Pavel Datsyuk? If he can, it's a potential upset here.
Prediction: Red Wings in 6. Having the fan support for all 6 games should help the Motor City Maniacs here, that and they're the better overall team with much more depth which should push the Coyotes playoff winless streak to 24 years (1987 if you asking at home).
The Skinny: It's a trap! I just had to say it. The Anaheim Ducks come in as one of the hottest teams in the planet paced offensively by SuperDick Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf, and Bobby Ryan. And let's not forget the "never will age a day" Teemu Selanne. Although the health of Jonas Hiller remains to be a cause for concern the duo of Ellis and Emery have done them well. ... Over at the Music City, the Predators once again march into the playoffs under Barry Trotz's defensive system that is aimed to suck the life out of hockey. Their newest acquisition Carrie Underwood Mike Fisher has produced little offensively (no shit?) but has given them a little more depth at the centre position as Matthew Lombardi has gone missing since October. Weber and Suter were once again Monsters.
Something to watch for: Dan Ellis vs. his former team. Can he outduel Pekka Renne?
Prediction: Ducks in 6. The offence of the Ducks should be more than enough to take down the Nashville Predators. Unless Weber and Suter can completely shutdown the top trio of Anaheim's I just don't see them scoring enough to keep pace ... even with twitter Ellis mending the twine. Look for Saku Koivu to have a solid series for Anaheim as he's always been a good playoff player.
There you have it. It's over. Now I can go back to bed.