2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs Round 1 Picks

I preface this post with the fact that I already saw that the Pens beat the Flyers 4-1, but I’d already made my decision, honest.

Tis time again to start the NHL Playoff Picks.  It’s round 1 and the Wings begin their title defense.  Entering these playoffs, I’m somewhat in a toss up for my feelings on the Wings chances.  Another big win season, the addition of Marian Hossa (please stay in Detroit!) has made this a very entertaining season.  As usual they had their February slumps and as usual find themselves stumbling into the playoffs with subpar play (though they haven’t had much to play for for a while now).  But the Wings are a playoff team and know that now is the time to pull it together.  The once stellar defensive wall seems to have become porous and the goaltending has been more troublesome than usual.

Goaltending is always the hot topic in Detroit, always the first to get blamed when anything bad happens.  There have been playoff years where offense did nothing and goaltending and defense still kept them in games, but all that’s blamed is the goaltending.  I’m usually the last to point at goaltending but this season could be a first for me.  The defense isn’t as tight, giving up a lot more shots than is usual in the last 10 years.  I’m not seeing too many people trying to block shots this season.  And while all those extra shots are a problem, our goaltenders haven’t been dealing with them very well.  I don’t know what happen to Conklin.  He started out so strong but has since faded.  The record is there primarily because the defensive issues have been saved by the offense.  But everybody tightens up in the playoffs and great Wings teams have been shut down in the past.  Somehow they always seem to run into some uber goaltender or new kid on the block that stands on his head.

Speaking of which, the Columbus Blue Jackets have a hot rookie goaltender that just happened to lead the league in shutouts.  I had hoped that the entire Central division would make the playoffs but Nashville and Anaheim didn’t cooperate.  At least one of my hopes was fulfilled that the Wings didn’t have to play some west coast time zone team, especially the Ducks who’ve been pretty hot lately (plus the fact that I despise any team that Pronger’s on).  I believe the travel factor has screwed the Wings in the playoffs more than anything the last 10 years.

The Blue Jackets have always seem to play the Wings tough.  Even early on when they couldn’t seem to win at the Joe.  The last 2-3 years season series has been very tight.  Nash is quite a problem, they’ve now got a goalie that can win the game single handed, and an 8-2 thrashing embarrassed Detroit.  Being so close to each other, this is a natural rivalry, but I’ve said for years that it always needed a playoff series to really ignite it.  So here it is, hopefully this isn’t one of those careful what you wish for things.

I believe this series will be a hard fought one, with all the pressure on Detroit as the top seed.  Columbus is the natural underdog with their first playoff series against the best team in hockey over the past 12 years.  Hopefully the pressure of the playoffs rattles their goalie a bit as I’ve grown quite tired of opposing goaltenders standing on their heads.  Regardless though, I think the Wings will perservere.  I think the defense will tighten up and the goaltending will find its form.  A disciplined, determined, on their game Wings are too much to handle for any team in the league, and Uncle Mike will have the machine purring.

Here’s the picks:

Western Conference

Sharks/Ducks – I’m thrilled to see this series.  The Sharks are very good and the Ducks are playing well.  The team that comes out will be a little worn by this series, which is good for the Wings.  This should be a tough one with the Sharks perserveering.

Wings/Blue Jackets – Wings.  See above.

Canucks/Blues – The Blues were written off from making the playoffs but went on an amazing run and jumped to the 6th seed on the final day.  They could be worn out.  I think they’ll continue through this round and beat Vancouver.

Blackhawks/Flames – This should be another good series to watch.  The Hawks are back, with a lot of young talent that should keep them around for a while.  The Flames are the same tough team to play that they always are.  I think Chicago’s talent will overcome Calgary.

Eastern Conference – As usual I know less about the East, because the West is where the best teams are.  🙂

Bruins/Canadians – Montreal has been in a tailspin and then lost their top two defensemen.  Should be an easy win for Boston.

Capitals/Rangers – The Rangers started out on fire but then stumbled into mediocrity.  Expect Ovechkin and crew to make up for last season’s early exit.  Washington sends New York to the golf course.

Devils/Hurricanes – The Canes have been hot of late and have played well against the Devils.  But the Devils have Brodeur and always are tough in the playoffs.  New Jersey beats Carolina.

Pens/Flyers – The Penguins lost a lot of talent in the offseason then played injured most of the season.  They’ve put it together at the right time marched back into playoffs after floundering for the first half.  The Flyers seem like just another bunch of thugs, like Anaheim (sorry, I’m so biased).  I don’t think they can deal with the Penguins skill.  Pittsburgh’s only concern will be not getting beat up physically.  Pittsburgh over Philadelphia.

That’s it.  Let me know your thoughts.  Can’t wait until tomorrow night to watch the Wings!

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