North of the 400

North of Toronto, South of a championship

What went wrong – 2010 NHL playoff recap and picks (Western Confe

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If you haven’t read it yet, part one of my recaps and picks (all on the Eastern Conference) is over here. This piece will cover the Western Conference, recapping the first round and making some predictions for the second.

What I said: San Jose over Colorado
What happened: San Jose won in six

Going into this series, I assumed two things:
  • That the Sharks wouldn’t collapse until the second round
  • That the Avalanche would just be happy to be in the playoffs
I was wrong on both counts, although still right on the prediction. Although they won, the Sharks were seriously taken to task by Colorado and the series really could have gone either way, it was that close. Three games decided in overtime (more then any other series) and a game one that was absolutely stolen by the Avalanche, 2-1 in San Jose.
Translation: this was a really good series.
By far, the thing to take away was the exploits of Craig Anderson, the goalie for the Avalanche. He had some stunning games, even in defeat. In game three, he stopped an amazing 51 shots, completely stifling the Sharks throughout the game – it was easily the best goaltending I can remember seeing live, and was right up there with some of the best ever.To call it a shooting gallery doesn’t even seem fair, since the entire game seemed to be spent with pucks flying at Anderson.
Or look at the next game, a 2-1 win for the Sharks in OT. Anderson made 43 saves; the only goals were scored on the first and last shots he faced. Granted, maybe those two standout games burned him out – San Jose scored 10 times in the next two games – but it was still amazing to see.
Which brings me to the question of the Sharks: are they for real?
If a team can be stifled by a goalie for two games, then explode all over him in the next two, what does that say about the team? Are they a team that can turn it on when they need to? Are they a team that has to be clicking all over for things to work? Or are they just inconsistent?
Given the Sharks recent history, I’m leaning towards the last one – but by how much?
In the regular season, the Sharks were 2-2 against Colorado, a team that won eight less games and had 18 fewer points. And despite the two blowouts, the GAA and Save Percentage of Anderson was about the same between the season and postseason. Even with two big wins, the Sharks don’t seem convincing in their victories.
Which is why I say they’ve already started their collapse. In theory, they should have wiped the table with the Avalanche. Nabokov had better stats then Anderson did in the regular season. They had better scoring (three players with 80 or more points, to Colorado’s one 70+) and more of it (264 goals scored to Colorado’s 244). If they are already getting fits from a team like that, what’s going to happen when they face a better team – the Detroit Red Wings?
I can’t imagine it ending too well.
What I said: LA over Vancouver
What happened: Vancouver won in six games

Here, I’ll admit I put the horse in front of the cart. I wanted the Kings to win because I wanted an upset. The Canucks are good, but I didn’t trust their goaltending – Luongo’s 2.92 GAA and .893 save percentage still enforce that image – and I extended that to call for an upset.
Not something I really sat and thought about.
Instead, the Canucks won the series in what I’d call pretty convincing fashion. They won the last three games of the series in a row, scoring six or more goals in two of them.
A big part of this is on Vancouver forward Mikael Sameulsson. He’s had an outstanding first round, scoring seven times in six games and leads the league in playoff scoring. And he’s points in all but one of the games, too. The play of both Daniel (4 goals, 6 assists) and Henrik (1 goal, 7 assists) Sedin hasn’t hurt either.
To me, this shows that while their goaltending is still fairly average, their scoring is something to watch out for. Sure, they lit up the Kings who were a far worse team… but the Kings were no slouch, either.
This season, the Kings only allowed 219 goals, 14 less then the league average. Their starting goalie, Jonathan Quick, posted a GAA of 2.54 and a .907 save percentage in the regular season; in the playoffs, it inflated to a 3.50 GAA and an .884 save percentage.
In other terms, the Canucks were able to put the screws on the Kings; they were able to light up a team that was pretty good defensively.
What I said: Phoenix over Detroit
What happened: Detroit won in seven
Again, I was hoping for an upset here; although is it really fair to call Detroit the favorite in this series? The Coyotes finished the season with 50 wins and 107 points; Detroit finished with 44 wins and 102 points. Their SRS were pretty close: the Coyote’s was 0.34, Detroit’s was 0.23.
It shouldn’t be too surprising that this series went to seven games and was so back and forth.
One thing that really caught my attention was the quality of Detroit’s wins. When they won, they won big: 7-4 in game two, 3-0 in game four, 4-1 in game five and 6-1 in game seven. Conversely, the close games went to Phoenix.
To me, this means that they were either really close to Phoenix (likely) or that to win, they have to really put up a good performance (also likely).
Some of this probably has to do with their offense, too. You’re not going to put up seven goals a night, but they do have a deep number of scorers: nine players had five or more points.
Leading Detroit in scoring, more then somewhat predictably, is Henrik Zetterberg, who has six goals and 11 points in seven games. He has as many goals as the leading scorer for Phoenix has points; his presence alone was a big reason why the Red Wings were able to get past the Coyotes.
Still, I feel that this series was almost anticlimatic: it was back and forth, but the two biggest games – Phoenix playing for a game seven and game seven itself – were both blowouts, games that ended without a lot of drama. It certainly felt at times like Phoenix was playing like they were happy to be here, not so much to win.
That’s not really all that fair, though. Phoenix goalie Ilya Bryzgalov played really well in net for the Coyotes and was a big reason why the series lasted as long as it did. Even in the game seven blowout, Bryzgalov made 44 saves and faced 50 shots. He led all goalies in the first round in shots faced (255), more then Craig Anderson faced, more then Halak faced and more then Detroit’s Jimmy Howard faced.
If it wasn’t for the poor scoring of the Coyotes, who had a hell of a time scoring on Howard – only one player scored even four goals – this series may have gone a different way. Instead, Bryz got a massive pounding from Detroit and still managed to get the Coyotes to seven games, almost in spite of that.
The fact that Detroit was able to keep the pressure on a goalie like that and end up in a seven game series doesn’t speak too highly to me. I’m unsure how they will do against a team that plays better defence.
What I said: Chicago over Nashville
What happened: Chicago won in six

When I was making my picks, this was the one that gave me the most trouble. Not because I felt any which way about either team, but since I didn’t know much about either. Chicago looked good on paper (and was an uneducated guess for the Western finals. Nashville was an enigma, a team I knew far too little about.
Picking Chicago was a bit of a lucky guess.
Their regular season series was basically the same as how the series unfolded – four wins for the Blackhawks, two for Nashville. Chicago won what I’d call a pivotal game game five and took the last three games of the series.
I’d say more, but I honestly didn’t see much of this series; I still don’t feel like I know anything about this Chicago team. Between all the playoff series in the NBA and NHL, this was the one lost in the shuffle.
My Picks:
  • Chicago over Vancouver
  • Detroit over San Jose
I think that if a team like the Kings, who weren’t really all that good, gave Vancouver so much trouble, then the Blackhawks will give them even more trouble.
As for the Sharks, their goaltending didn’t really get much of a test by the Avalanche. Detroit’s constant forechecking and offensive pressure will give them that test; I’m not sure if Nabakov will be up to the task.
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