Some INKTIME here on RINKTIME!
By Chris Madsen
April 29, 2013
Which should also give way to some THINKTIME. It is time to put on your thinking caps and give some thought as to who will make it out of the Opening Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. And the puck drops on Tuesday, April 30th:
And let’s begin with the 8th-seeded Wild taking on the #1-seeded Blackhawks. Fans in the Windy City must be breathing a collective sigh of relief because there is no way anyone wants to be in the path of the Red Wings right now. Conversely, the Wild eeked their way into the Playoff picture by shading the lowly Avalanche and securing the final spot in the Western Conference on the second-to-last day of the Regular Season. Chicago enters the series with two key cogs relegated to the sidelines. Goaltender Ray Emery–who racked up 17 wins during the lockout-shortened season–is nurturing a lower body injury, as is second line Center Dave Bolland. So you know Coach Joel Quenneville will implore his blue liners to clear bodies and rebounds aside while protecting their top, healthy asset in goal, Corey Crawford. This should make life difficult for Zach Parise, Mikko Koivu and the rest of the Minnesota offense to penetrate between the circles. Then, of course, there is Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa to contend with on the offensive side of the puck. Add it all up, with a side order of opening the series inside the the “unfriendly confines” of “The Madhouse on Madison,” and a very tall order awaits the Minnesota Wild.
Your INKTIME ON RINKTIME prediction: Blackhawks in 5 games.
Last spring the Kings were the 8th and final seed in the Western Conference, yet fast starts in every Playoff match-up allowed them to impose their will all the way to the first Stanley Cup in franchise history. However, the Kings learned very quickly, once the abbreviated season got underway, that EVERYONE elevates their game when facing the defending Stanley Cup champion…so the good news for them is that they have been forced to play a relatively low scoring, grind-it-out, playoff style of hockey for months. Meanwhile, the Blues utilized a very consistent effort throughout the regular season to hang within striking distance of the Kings and Sharks, before throwing on the afterburners (7-3-0 in their last 10 games) to leap-frog past both and into home ice advantage. So let me tell you why I think all of these elements combined lead to the Blues demise in the opening round. First of all, the Visitor’s level of expectation is simple…”let’s at least take one out of two in their building to open the series.” Many coaches will tell you that that is much easier to accomplish when you are the Visitor because players don’t feel the need to put on a show for the hometown crowd and that gives a crafty veteran Coach like Darryl Sutter a chance to sell his players on buying into an “opportunistic” game plan chockfull of potential frustration for St. Louis snipers Patrik Berglund and Chris Stewart. Furthermore, the Kings have won the last 8 meetings between this two teams dating back to last year…and that desire to snap the streak could have the less experienced Blues taking unnecessary risks.
Your INKTIME ON RINKTIME prediction: Kings in 7 games.
Whether you are talking East or West, this Opening Round match-up between the Ducks and Red Wings promises to be the most difficult series to call. Even while the Blackhawks were on their record-setting start to the season, the Ducks were just a couple strides behind them…yet Chicago was getting all the ink. Once the Ducks and Hawks locked horns, there was something about the Anaheim line-up that the Blackhawks never were able to solve…so the Ducks prevailed in the series (3-0-0)…and nobody else can say that! In fact, in a discussion with RINKTIME Founder John Kirker, I told him in early March that I thought the Anaheim Ducks would win the Stanley Cup! But then, the Ducks signed their two marquee guys Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry to 8-year, multi-million dollar deals and within days there was a marked difference in the Ducks ability to put opponents away. In fact, Anaheim was a mere (8-9-2) over the course of their final 19 games. And while all that was going on in Anaheim, the Red Wings were getting locked-in and healthy. The Wings finished the season on a 4-game winning streak, while Goaltender Jimmy Howard posted two shutouts and a 0.75 G.A.A. during that span. Also, be on the lookout for Henrik Zetterberg who amassed 10-points (2-G, 8-A) over the last week of the season. Plus, I like the fact that the Red Wings open this series on the road (see reasons “why” in Kings @ Blues, above) and they will be doing so in a building (Honda Center) that they came into on March 22nd and 24th and pulled off back-to-back “must-win” games in convincing fashion by scores of 5-1 and 2-1.
And that brings me to your INKTIME ON RINKTIME prediction: Red Wings in 6 games.
Oh, and one final note: All of the “So-Called Experts” (SCE) have just about narrowed the Stanley Cup down to a two horse race…CHICAGO V. PITTSBURGH–and perhaps understandably so. But I believe there are two”Dark Horses” that could emerge. I will reveal these teams in the days ahead…so stay tuned.
UNTIL THE NEXT TIME WE LACE ‘EM UP AND HIT THE ICE!–Chris Madsen