Friday, May 1, 2009

NHL Playoffs: Western Conference Preview and Schedule - 2nd Round

*Eastern/Western Conference 2nd Round Wrapups will appear Friday, May 15.
*Eastern/Western Conference Finals Schedule and Preview will appear Saturday, May 16

Western Conference - 1st Round Preview
Western Conference - 1st Round Wrapup
Western Conference - 2nd Round Preview

Eastern Conference - 1st Round Preview
Eastern Conference - 1st Round Wrapup
Eastern Conference - 2nd Round Preview


Friday, May 1 at Detroit, 7:00 p.m. VS, TSN2
Sunday, May 3 at Detroit, 2:00 p.m. NBC, TSN
Tuesday, May 5 at Anaheim, 10:30 p.m. VS, TSN
Thursday, May 7 at Anaheim, 10:30 p.m. VS, TSN
*Sunday, May 10 at Detroit, 5:00 p.m. TSN
*Tuesday, May 12 at Anaheim, TBD VS, TSN
*Thursday, May 14 at Detroit, TBD VS, TSN

The Ducks are fresh off their huge upset of the top-seeded San Jose Sharks and now move on to face the #2 seed Red Wings. Much like the Edmonton Oilers a few years ago, the Ducks took the momentum from a late-season push and caught the Sharks off guard by winning the first two games on the road at HP Pavilion. What really impressed me about this team in Round 1 was Anaheim's defense. With the addition of offensive defenseman Ryan Whitney at the trade deadline and the return of Francois Beauchemin from injury, I really think this is the strongest defense in the league. Jonas Hiller got all the first-round attention after averaging 39 saves a night, but much of his success was a result of Anaheim limiting San Jose to long-range shots from the perimeter. If they can play a similar style against the Detroit, the Ducks could definitely win this series.

Detroit on the other hand disposed of Columbus with very little trouble in four games. Columbus never led in the series and Chris Osgood was hardly tested until the fourth game. Despite the fact the Red Wings are essentially being crowned the Western Conference champs with San Jose out of the picture, I'm not so quick to come to the same conclusion. This team has weaknesses that haven't been exposed and it starts with Osgood in net. He struggled mightily all season and even was given a two-week break late in the year to get himself straightened out. At the age of 37, it's not going to be easy for the veteran goalie to make another long playoff run. In round one, I warned you that Simeon Varlamov would make an appearance sooner rather than later for round two, Ty Conklin is going to be the guy to watch. If the Ducks steal a game or two on the road in this series, head coach Mike Babcock will have Osgood on a short leash. Red Wings fans just have to hope it's not too late. I'm going with the upset again.

Prediction: Anaheim in 7 games


Thursday, April 30 at Vancouver, 9:00 p.m. CBC, VS
Saturday, May 2 at Vancouver, 9:00 p.m. CBC, VS
Tuesday, May 5 at Chicago, 8:00 p.m. CBC, VS
Thursday, May 7 at Chicago, 8:00 p.m. CBC, VS
*Saturday, May 9 at Vancouver, 10:30 p.m CBC, VS
*Monday, May 11 at Chicago, 9:00 p.m. CBC, VS
*Thursday, May 14 at Vancouver, TBD CBC, VS

This will be an interesting series of two teams with minimal postseason experience. On one hand, the Blackhawks are one of the most offensively entertaining teams in the league and seem to have found their stride with Nikolai Khabibulin in between the pipes. While Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane get all the credit, Chicago might have the most deep set of forwards in the Western Conference, if not the league. Martin Havlat has had a quiet yet outstanding season and has finally shown what he can do if he stays healthy for an entire season. Heading into free agency this summer, look for him to have a monster series for the Blackhawks. Much like the Ducks, the Blackhawks have a very underrated defensive group with tons of young skilled blueliners. Brian Campbell was the big offseason signing from San Jose, but Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Cam Barker are the ones to watch this season and beyond.

Representing Canada's last hope for this year's Stanley Cup is Vancouver. The Canucks dispatched of an inexperienced St. Louis Blues squad in four games and have been waiting for a week and a half for this series to get underway. After suffering a serious groin injury early in the year, most have forgotten about how dominant Roberto Luongo can be. Had he not missed over two months with the injury, I think he would've been your Vezina trophy winner. He seems to finally be healthy and that isn't good news for Chicago. He allowed only 5 goals in the first round and never looked to be out of position. As a team, SportsJudge hockey columnist summed up the Canucks best: they are great at nothing, yet weak nowhere. This is just an all-round solid defensive team that is absolutely on fire at home over the past two months (15-1-1 streak). If Luongo continues his brilliance in net, it'll be tough for Chicago to find an answer. However, I think stealing a game in Vancouver is all the Blackhawks need to get confidence and take this series. Let's just hope this time around no one gets their hair pulled.

Prediction: Chicago in 7 games

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