R.I.P Derek Boogaard.
28 years old!? What the hell happened!? Shocking loss. Is it bad luck to play on the Rangers? No wonder Gaborik's ghost appears in games. His body is elsewhere, cuddled in a corner.
Hey folks well after a bit of a hiatus, I'm fully refreshed and ready to talk hockey once again. That doesn't mean I wasn't watching hockey of course and I especially enjoyed the Wings/Sharks series, where Detroit almost pulled off my earlier prediction in which I called for them to win in 7.
So for the 2nd round, I went 2-2, putting my post season totals at 5-7. Not bad. Who could've predicted Tampa would knock the Caps out in 4??? Not me. But now you have to like Tampa, because they have totally bought into Boucher's ideology. He's the man in my opinion. It is interesting to think what the Habs would have been like this year with that guy behind their bench... and you know, I am a Jacques Martin supporter. Just thinking!!
3RD ROUND PREDICTIONS:
EASTERN CONFERENCE FINALS
Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Boston Bruins
Let's get something straight. I don't like the Bruins. They don't like me. But I picked them against the Flyers because of that team's pathetic situation between the pipes, as well as the fact that Crissy Pronger was out. But the Flyers did Tampa a big favour -- actually, Claude Giroux did them a big favour -- in taking out Patrice Bergeron, Boston's best player hands-down.
The Bruins' power play is pathetic, and their top lines are still firing blanks. How they beat the Habs, well, that's for another time. Okay, 3 games in OT, that's how. But here's the deal. The Bruins top lines aren't playing up to snuff and that leaves it all on Timmy Thomas' shoulders. If he pulls off skate lace saves and gets his tongue in front of pucks, the Bruins could eke this one out.
But Tampa has a core of Stanley Cup Champs in Lecavallier and St. Louis, they have a bunch of good grinders in Bergenheim and Moore, and possess much more speed up front and sniper-ship in Stamkos. Plus, the Thomas effect is dulled in the fact that he faces his doppelganger in Dwayne Roloson, with his grey beard poking through his mask. The guy looks more like the team trainer than their starting goalie. But he's solid, he's a competitor, and the Lightning are on a serious roll. AND coach Guy Boucher is a psychological sports guru who has his team believing. This isn't an emotional call, it's the right call.
Habs Fan in LeafLand: Tampa Bay in 6
Update: I'm posting this after Game 1, where Tampa Bay rolled over the Bruins 5-2 in Boston. But the above-decision was made already made, I just didn't have the time to post. Tampa took a 3-0 lead to eventually win 5-2. Marc-Andre Bergeron put one past Thomas to seal the deal in the 3rd. And of course, Boston ended the game with cheap shots, Julien whined about the officiating, and the team looked pathetic as they can't lose with class. Is it the refs' faults your team takes bad penalties then can't kill them off? Is it the refs' faults your team can't score on 4 powerplay chances???? Plus Bergenheim scored his 8th of the playoffs!!! Tampa has never lost a series when they've won the first game.
WESTERN CONFERENCE FINAL
San Jose Sharks vs. Vancouver Canucks
Well, the Sharks are back in the conference finals, barely getting by the Red Wings. The Canucks make their first conference finals in 17 years when they were beaten by the eventual cup winning New York Rangers.
I've never liked the Sharks, hate Dany Heatley, think Joe Thornton's a good player but not great and Patrick Marleau is at his no-show best even if he got the series winning goal against Detroit. Plus, the Canucks have yet to still play their best hockey -- especially the Sedins -- and they have the best player in the post-season in Ryan Kesler. This one's an easy pick, but that doesn't mean it's going to be an easy series. Niemi won last year and who knows how high he can raise his play. But the guy gives out wayyyy too many rebounds, which the Canucks forwards should pounce on. Of course, I'm not a big Luongo fan either, but as long as he stays awake, he should be able to make the saves his team asks of him.
Habs Fan in LeafLand: Canucks in 6
Lots of talk this week about the Habs signing Alexei Yemelin, the 25yr. old defenseman and rumour has it that if they do sign him, it's almost a certainty the Habs will make good with Andrei Markov who would definitely be a valuable asset/mentor for the young, sometimes rambunctious player. That means that most likely James Wisniewski and Roman Hamrlik are goners.
But then GM Pierre Gauthier goes and signs Swiss dman Raphael Diaz -- another Marc Streit clone. At 5"11, 194 lbs. he's another small defenseman with a strong shot. Does this mean the team has given up on Yannick Weber??? Probably not. Remember Streit only broke through at 29, and Weber is 22. And he did show improvement this year and seems willing to play up front where Streit balked at the idea. Diaz had a solid World Championships, posting 4 points (3 goals, 1 assist) in 6 games.
I just read that Steve Yserman, GM of the Year most likely, was interested in Diaz. With Tampa Bay being somewhat of a Habs clone to an extent (see my earlier post in the year about how the Lightning were following the Habs lead), this could be a good signing. Let's see what else happens. Remember, we also have some decent dman prospects in Hamilton, so the Habs' Gauthier has a lot of cards to play.
I'd love to see Wisniewski back, but you know he deserves a pay raise, and with his and Hamrlik's contracts out of the way, that gives the team the dough to sign Markov and Gorges -- who should at least get something close to what the Wiz made this year (3.25 million). We have enough offensive-minded dmen on the squad now with Subban and we need Gorges' stay at home style. I do hope they re-sign Hal Gill (my how things have changed) as he's a true leader on this team and really does his job well. Look at this defense corps:
Yannick Weber/Raphael Diaz
We know Mara's a goner. But in my view, the list above needs some grit. Hamrlik, if he takes a major pay-cut, you never know. He's solid, and if he isn't called on to play as many minutes as last year, could still be a good player for the Habs.
And remember, the Habs may make some deals, and Spacek could be a part of that equation.
Then also this week, rumour has it Jaromir Jagr is contemplating a jump over the pond back to the NHL and only wants to come to an Original 6 team. And he's been playing very well with Pleks at the World Championships (but remember, who doesn't play well with Plekanec!?). He obviously still has the skills, and maybe he's the dude to wake Scott Gomez up from his 2010-2011 slumber. But at 39, Jagr certainly wouldn't be the kind of force he once was. Could be good for a 1 year contract, and worse comes to worse they could trade him in February if it didn't work out (someone would surely take him). But knowing the more conservative Gauthier, I'd bet this is just a rumour. But a fun one at that.
THANK GOD, GOALTENDING IS NOT THE BIG ISSUE THIS YEAR. CAREY, YOU DA MAN. CAN'T WAIT TO SEE YOU HOIST THE CUP OVER YER HEAD WEARING YOUR PUCK-MARKED HABS JERSEY. Kisses. Just don't get hurt riding the bulls out west, okay?
Oh the fun to be the Montreal Canadiens GM. I wonder if he dreams about these decisions!? I would...