With round 3 of the the NHL playoffs about to begin tonight, I figured this would be the perfect time to give my thoughts on this round.
In the last round, I went three-for-four, only getting the Boston Bruins-Carolina Hurricanes series wrong.
Chicago Blackhawks vs Detroit Red Wings
This is one of those matchups that showcases two extremes. Chicago is a young team, making their first playoffs in seven seasons and only second time in 12 years. Detroit is the Staley Cup champions, and has won four Stanley Cups in that time while not missing the playoffs in more than a dozen seasons.
Detroit spent about $2 million on their goalies this past season, while Chicago spent more than $12 million on theirs.
The list goes on and on. But despite all the experience Detroit has, this series has a Blackhawks win all over it.
These are the top two powerplay teams in the league in the playoffs (with Chicago being the best), but Chicago has the advantage on penalty killing (even the Montreal Canadiens had a better penalty kill so far this playoffs than the Red Wings). So look for the Blackhakws to take advantage of the Red Wings on the powerplay.
The other advantage Chicago has is its goaltending. Going into the Vancouver series, Canucks goalie Roberto Louongo was seen as the top goalie in the league. But the Blackhawks destroyed him. Even a three-goal wasn’t safe with the Blackhawks coming at him. In a must-win game 6, Luongo let in seven goals on 30 shots. They kept coming, and wore down Luongo until he started letting in plenty of third period goals.
So if the Blackhawks can do that against the best goalie in the world, then what will they do to Chris Osgood. Sure Osgood has looked good in these playoffs, but that is following a weak regular season. Throw in the fact he has had two easy series (where the Red Wings swept an overmatched Columbus BlueJackets in the first round, and went to a seventh game against an Anaheim Ducks team that would get about 20 shots a game).
The Blackhawks can roll three scoring lines at Osgood, and will pepper him with quality scoring chances until he gets tired (like what happened against Luongo) and end up winning most of the games.
Because of that, Chicago will take this series.
My prediction: Chicago in 6.
Carolina Hurricanes vs Pittsburgh Penguins
Both teams are coming off game 7 victories over higher-seeded teams, but it’s the Hurricanes that pulled off the bigger upset, defeating the top seeded Boston Bruins.
People have been counting Carolina out for every series they have played so far. Can they pull off another upset? The simple answer is no.
If they were meeting on more even terms, then a Carolina victory would make more sense. But the fact is, they have played two tough game-seven series’ in a row. Lots of overtime games, lots of hitting, lots of back and forth action.
I look for Carolina to start getting tired. They have no time to recover from their injuries or to rest.
The Bruins would try to match up with Carolina, but I think the Pens won’t care as much. They have too much talent to try and line match. If you want to beat Pittsburgh, you have to line match against them.
Plus, Sidney Crosby looks like a man possessed out there. He has definitely taken his game up a notch in this year’s playoffs.
Also, look for the Pens’ Jordan Staal to be chacking his brother, Eric Staal, the whole series. We all know what it’s like to be matched against your brother. They’ll know exactly what to say and do to goad the other into bad penalties or to take them off their game. It will be fun to watch.
The key to Pittsburgh though will be Sergei Gonchar. If he’s playing, their powerplay will be able to click. If he’s too injured to play, the team will suffer with the man advantage, and make it that more difficult to win.
Regardless, the Pens have too much firepower, and the Hurricanes will start to slow up as fatigue sets in the longer the round goes.
My prediction: Pittsburgh in 6.