Round 3: They went to Jared’s

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Because they all have rings…GET IT?!?!?!?  That’s gold.  If you’re not laughing then YOU’RE the problem.  Ok round 3 of the playoffs and I’m pissed.  Why would I be pissed you ask?  Well that’s a good question Johnny.  The reason I’m pissed is because I’m a pathetic Carburner team away from being perfect on these predictions this playoff season.  11 for 12….I just HAD to trust the Carburners didn’t I?  When you’re hot in Vegas, you don’t walk away from the table.  When a team is incredible at awful you don’t bet them.  But the Sharks were awesome at awful too so what’s a “brother to do?” as the kids would say.  Anyway, I’m starring down the barrel of 14 for 15 and hitting just about everything spot on so not going to change a thing.

 

Eastern Conference final

#1 Pittsburgh Penguins vs #4 Boston Bruins

Dream matchup number 1 features the 2009 champion Pens against the 2011 champion B’s (remember that one Carburner fans?!)  The biggest storyline coming into this series is Jarome Iginla and how he was almost a Bruin.  Who cares anymore?  To me that’s an issue between the Bruins and Flames not the Bruins and Pens.  For me the biggest storyline in this series is the Bruins size vs the Pens skill.  I don’t like it, but I don’t usually pick against the team that has the size advantage in the playoffs.  It’s a war of attrition and if you’re using your size advantage right then you should wear down your opponent over a 7 game series.  And the Bruins are red hot right now as they are still riding the momentum of their game 7 comeback win over the Leafs.  HOWEVER….there are always exceptions to the rule in life and this I believe is one of them.  The Pens skill is overwhelming.  They have the advantage down the middle against the the Bruins, something most teams can’t do.  And while Chara is far and away the best d-man in this series, there is only 1 of him (although there is a lot of that 1!)  Do you match him against Crosby’s line or Malkin’s?  Then you have Sutter’s line which can produce as well.  The Bruins have the advantage defensively and between the pipes, but it’s not at the level that it needs to be to eliminate the Pens.  I believe the Bruins can win this series, but I don’t think they will get it done.

Pens in 7

 

Western Conference final

#1 Chicago Blackhawks vs #5 LA Kings

The President’s trophy winner vs the defending champs.  It’s a sexy matchup anytime it happens in the playoffs, and the deeper in the playoffs it happens the better.  The last time it happened was the 2011 opening round, Hawks and Carburners.  That series didn’t exactly suck if you recall.  And much like the Eastern final, this is size vs finnesse.  In boxing, styles make great fights.  I expect that to happen in both these conference final matchups.  I haven’t viewed the Hawks as some have as this incredible power house.  They have a great team, I’m a huge fan of the team, but I haven’t seen them as some unbeatable juggernaut like others have.  Then again it’s not like the Kings are rolling in these playoffs like last year.  Last year they made it look ridiculously easy, this year it’s been one hell of a grind.  6 grueling games against the Blues, followed by 7 grueling games against the Sharks.  Had the Hawks dusted the Wings in 5 or even 6 I would love them in this series.  Because while they aren’t as big or as physical as the Kings, they can play that game.  But 2 things for me give the Kings a huge advantage in this series.  The Hawks are good down the middle, but they can’t matchup with the Kings at center.  Kopitar, Richards, Stoll (if healthy), Lewis, and if they feel like doing so Jeff Carter.  So that’s a big edge to the Kings.  But the biggest one is in goal.  Crawford has been quietly great in these playoffs.  He doesn’t get much work, but when he does it seems like they’re high quality chances.  And for the most part he has shut the door.  But I’m not taking him against Jonathan Quick.  Quick is in that zone again and is going to make it damn tough on the Hawks. Obviously the Hawks can win this series, but they’ll really need Crawford to raise game to an even higher level.  I had the Kings and Pens at the begining of the playoffs and I see no reason to change that now.

Kings in 6

 

Doesn’t matter what the combo will be, we will get an amazing Stanley Cup final.  Big markets, big stars, experienced teams, it’s going to be great hockey from here on out, Gary is in the NHL offices right now laughing like Dr. Evil.  I won’t lie, I’m pulling for it to be the Hawks and Pens, I believe that would give us exciting, high skilled, end to end action for at least 6 and likely 7 games.  But again, had Kings and Pens from the start, not going to change it now.

 

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Amazing performance, but…

 

That was incredible to watch.  From the puck drop in their first game of not just the Memorial Cup, but the Halifax Mooseheads entire run, Nathan MacKinnon took his game to another level.  The kid who entered the season as a lot of scouts number 1 draft eligible player for the 2013 draft needed to have a performance like he did to have any shot at reclaiming his spot at the top of the rankings.  But despite all he did, I still don’t see him going 1st.

You have to really ignore the Memorial Cup performance right now.  Just sit back and take a deep breath.  MacKinnon got the better of Jones in this tournament, but don’t forget that Jones got the better of MacKinnon at the WJC.  After that tournament all everyone talked about was how great Jones was and how invisible MacKinnon was.

Clearly the Sportsnet pannel forgot that last night.  I have a difficult time respecting what Nick Kypreos or Damian Cox have to say about kids in the WHL or QMJHL, especially when it comes to the draft.  I don’t know first hand, but I have been told that both have a tough time picking up a phone to do research on kids in leagues outside of the OHL in the CHL.  Last night they started bringing up Crosby and saying MacKinnon isn’t Sid but he isn’t very far off.  Right.  Why did you need the Memorial Cup to tell you that guys?!  Meanwhile, just because Nate MacKinnon is that good why should that all of a sudden decrease Jones value?!

If Halifax wasn’t in the Memorial Cup and Seth Jones had the stage more to himself, Kypreos and Cox among others who are much too high about things right now would have walked away from this talking about how amazing Jones was.  He is a 6’3, 208 pound, total package on the blueline.  He is the best prospect on defense since Drew Doughty.  He’s better than Hedman and Larsson were, and don’t forget Hedman was the “Swedish Chris Pronger”.  As for Doughty, he just like MacKinnon would have gone 1st any other year but it just so happened that some kid named Stamkos stood in his way.

I will say this for MacKinnon: IF the Florida Panthers had won the draft lottery, then MacKinnon likely would have played his way into being the top pick.  But it is a toss up between these 2 phenoms and the team who hold the 1st pick just will not pass on Jones.

Seth Jones grew up an Avs fan, started hockey in Denver, an American kid whose dad was a well known NBA player, and fills a HUGE need on the Avs blueline.  MacKinnon might be a better prospect, but if he is it’s by the slimest of margines.  So in this case all those factors will come into play.  Extremely rare that the Avs could ever take a home town kid, and that is a team that has had a difficult time of late putting asses in the seats so the marketing aspect of things will be taken into consideration.

This isn’t to take away from what Nathan MacKinnon did.  He was as dominant during this run as Taylor Hall in 2010, Milan Lucic in 2007 or Corey Perry in 2005.  But I just don’t think it adds up to him going 1st overall.  Of course certain things could happen, namely a team being so desperate to land MacKinnon they give the Avs a trade offer they can’t refuse (something the Flames should look into).  But you simply never see teams trade down in the top 5 anymore, its just too big of a risk.

Make no mistake though, this will be heavily debated over the next month, a lot more than it has been since the WJC.  You can’t go wrong with either kid.  At this time I would like to take the time to point out how ridiculous it was for certain scouting services to put Drouin or Nichushkin ahead of MacKinnon this season.  The kid has amazing talent with even better upside.  Just too bad for him that there is another kid just like that who fits the bill better in Denver.

 

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2013 Mastercard Memorial Cup Preview

 

I’m very much so appreciate anyone who reads my stuff.  Either you are a very good friend, or my parents pay you well and my parents have never read a word of this (although my uncle does, shoutout to uncle Al!)  But today I have something different for you.  Today I have something that is a little more….hell, a LOT more professional.

With the Memorial Cup starting up tonight in Saskatoon I wanted to do a preview.  So here it is, but this time its not just my opinion like always.  Nope, today I’ve not only got the expertise of someone involved in junior hockey, I have the man who a lot of people would describe as the encyclopedia of the CHL.  Peter Loubardias has been kind enough to not call the cops on me for stalking him and discuss the upcoming tourny.  The man whom Elliott Friedman once said “has forgot more about junior hockey in this country than most know” was kind enough to take time out of his day to help me out in anyalying the 4 teams, so without further adieu…

 

Saskatoon Blades Host Saskatoon Blades – Most of us have been watching this team all season from a far.  The reality show “On The Edge” was simply terrific and has a lot of the country pulling for the host team.  But the hosts are in very tough.  Swept by Medicine Hat in the 1st round of the WHL playoffs, they’ve had a long time to rest and prepare….”It’s pretty simple, the x-factor for the Blades is Andrey Makarov.  He is more than capable of carrying this team, having been to back to back World Juniors, and if the Blades are to win this then Makarov has to win it” said Loubardias.  He went onto say “the 18 wins in a row was no fluke.  18 in a row is still 18 in a row, I don’t care who it was against.  This team has 3 good lines, but it will be tough to get up to speed after 50+ days away.  The biggest thing for the Blades is they have to make believers of themselves”.  Couldn’t have said it better myself…actually, I couldn’t have said it nearly that well, which is why I sought out someone to say it better and just happened to get the best source possible.

 

1297411728950_ORIGINAL WHL Champion Portland Winterhawks – 3rd times a charm for the Winterhawks.  After 2 missed opportunities in the WHL final in 2011 and 2012, the Winterhawks sealed the deal in 2013 with a 6 game win over the defending champion Edmonton Oil Kings.  “This is the youngest group they’ve had in the last 3 years, but the leadership group is much improved.  They have their skilled forwards playing a 2 way game which you didn’t see in the 2 previous seasons” Loubardias explained (like how instead of saying “said” I slipped in “explained”?)  The strength of this team however is obviously along the blueline and Peter couldn’t have agreed more.  “That top 4 is so great and I truely believe that all 4 of those kids will play in the show someday, they’re THAT good.  And they make their transition game so amazing.  The Pace they play with really is fun to watch.  This team has as good of chance as anyone in this tournament”.  Strong words and I don’t know how anyone who has watched this team could disagree with that.  They’re just playing at a different level right now, that wasn’t a weak Oil Kings team they just knocked off.  The Oil Kings had most of last year’s championship team back.  Sure they were without Griffin Reinhart, but I’m not sure he would have made a difference.

 

ohllondonknights0145 OHL Champion London Knights – Welcome back, the only returnee this season are the Knights who of course were knocked off in OT of last year’s championship game.  And they’re going to return most of this team again next season when they host the Mastercard Memorial Cup.  Without a doubt they’ll be known as a dynasty in the CHL before all is said and done.  Loubardias explained what the strength of this team was.  “Top to bottom this might be the best team in the tournament.  They’re not as top heavy as some of the teams, but better depth.”  He also added about the Knights “They’re not great between the pipes.  The coaching staff doesn’t have a lot of trust in either kid.  Jake Patterson took over in the playoffs, but he didn’t practice today (Thursday).  Only real question that I have about this team though is fatigue.  Every year I have been at this tournament there is always 1 team that suffers a letdown”.  Coming off an incredible and emotional 7 game series, coming back from 3-1 against Barrie, it’s a great point from Peter as it is going to be very difficult for them to get back up to that kind of intensity level.

 

mooseheadshuskies01-02 QMJHL Champion Halifax Mooseheads – This might be the sexiest team in the tournament for the average fan anyway.  Most scouts have Nathan MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin ranked 2nd and 3rd for the NHL entry draft in late June.  They also have stud draft eligible goaltender Zachary Fucale between the pipes, and breezed through the playoffs unlike the other 3 teams.  “For me this is the most intriguing team in the tourny.  1 thing people don’t give enough credit to is…yes, MacKinnon and Drouin drive this bus offensively.  But kids like Martin Frk, Stefan Fournier, Darcy Ashley, Andrew Ryan, Brent Andrews, Stephen MacAulay, they don’t get enough credit for their contributions to this team.  The Mooseheads can go toe to toe with Portland’s talent.”  Peter has seen the Winterhawks more up close than the Mooseheads, so to say that is extremely high praise of their group of forwards, but it’s not all good about them.  “3 concerns: 1) while they’re forwards are great, their D isn’t on the same level.  2) I wonder how they will handle the media circus.  They’ve dealt with it a bit throughout the season, but it will be on another level at the Memorial Cup.  3) How battle tested are they?”  There is so much high end draft eligible kids in this Memorial Cup (more than I can ever remember), and for that reason this could be the team most are excited to watch on the big stage.

So then the question becomes….who will walk out of Saskatoon with the Memorial Cup.  I didn’t push Peter to give me 1 pick, he doesn’t like playing the prediction game.  In fact his quote was “**** off you ******* son of a ***** or else I’m gonna *********** ******** ***** **** ********* ************ ******* and then do it again!!!”…..Ok, so that’s not anything along the lines of what he said, but I know that’s what you were hoping he said to me.  The ACTUAL quote was “If I was a betting man….Portland vs London in the final, but I feel in saying that I’m not showing Halifax enough respect”.  I agree with that and essentially what he is saying is that it’s a 3 horse race which going into this I don’t know how you can see it any other way.

However….Shawinigan wasn’t exactly a power house entering last year’s tourny and look how things went for them.  They peaked at the right time and took home the title.  As I said last year, that might not seem “fair” for a team to be bounced so early in the playoffs to then win the national title.  But while that might be true, it’s also what makes this event not only unique, but intriguing.  The Blades will have home ice and are well rested, those are 2 incredible advantages to have in such a short event.  Can’t wait for the puck to drop tonight!!!

 

A TREMENDOUS thank you to my good friend Peter Loubardias to take time out of his busy schedule to help break things down!

 

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Round 2….FIGHT!!

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 Who didn’t love Mortal Kombat?!  That’s a shoutout to all you fans of Johnny Cage, Sub Zero and of course my boy Scorpion, #COMEHERE .  So here we go yet again, round 2 of the playoffs.  Hey guess what?  I went 7 of 8 in the 1st round…have I mentioned that yet?!  Had both the Bruins and Rags winning in 7.  Had the Hawks winning in 5 (although if you didn’t have the Hawks in 4 or 5, I’m sorry but you’re an idiot).  I feel dumb that I got the Carburners series wrong because I should know better, nobody chokes like the Canucks.  Nobody goes into there domain and does it better than the Carburners!  But as much as I brag about how well I did in the 1st round, other than Chicago vs Detroit I think these series could easily go either way.  I would be stunned if the other 3 series are less than 6 games so buckle up because that likely means a lot more GREAT hockey is on the way, unlike last season where the playoffs quite frankly peaked in the 1st round and were a huge letdown by playoff standards the rest of the way.

 

Eastern Conference

#1 Pittsburgh vs #7 Ottawa

Here it is!!!  The forensic series!!!  Did he….or didn’t he?!?!?  Matt Cooke’s freshly sharpened blades vs Erik Karlsson’s achillies heel!!!  This one will be good, and will have nothing to do with that.  These 2 teams are fun to watch, they play tough, they’re well coached, and the Sens have a BIG advantage in goal right now.  That could be the x factor in this series.  Craig Anderson’s best is far better than Tomas Vokoun’s….although it remains to be seen as of typing this who we will see in game 1.  I think they go back to Fleury, but could agrue it either way.  If the Sens get Spezza back I have a tough time going against them, but even if he comes back in this series he won’t be at 100%.  Craig Anderson will make this a close series, but in the end I think the Pens edge them out.

Pens in 7

 

#4 Boston vs #6 NY Rangers

I can’t believe Boston survived.  In my mind the better team didn’t win that series.  Toronto was better, but that’s what happens when it is such an experienced team vs such a youthful team.  Those things can happen.  Hats off to the Leafs for an awesome year and even better series.  But it’s the Bruins and Rangers, Boston v New York in what should be a tough, low scoring, and long series.  I won’t lie, this one I could argue either way.  Neither have an advantage in terms of being rested, both goaltenders are great, both teams are really good down the middle, solid on the blueline, I really don’t see the advantage going into the series.  So this is what I’m going with….the Bruins got such a scare in game 7, and could have HUGE momentum coming into the series having won in such dramatic fashion that I think the Bruins got their sluggish play out of their system and have new life.  So while I do expect a long series, I’m going to say the Bruins are a bit too much for the Rangers.  If Brad Richards was going at 100% this pick would be different, but I highly doubt he has been all season given his performance and that is a huge hole for the Rangers to fill.

Bruins in 7

 

Western Conference

#1 Chicago vs #7 Detroit

This could be the final time for a LOOOOOONG time we get to see this matchup in the playoffs with the Wings moving to the East next season.  So enjoy this one while we got it and really there are 2 theories on this series.  Either the Hawks will win in 4 or 5 because they owned the Wings the in regular season and the Wings will be gassed coming off a 7 game series while the Hawks had a cake walk with the Wild.  And after all these years, I still have no clue what a cake walk is, just that it’s easy.  And why are you walking while eating cake?!  Doesn’t that defeat the purpose?!?  Guess what all you cake walkers….it doesn’t make it any healthier, it’s still CAKE!!!  I’m looking at you Adam Banks, we all know you’re a profoned cake eater, so why wouldn’t you be a cake walker as well?  Oh yeah, the Hawks and Wings.  Being a rivalry and the Wings having so much experience maybe they do make it a series, but while I really respect the Wings I just don’t see that happening.  You can only ride 2 players for so long.

Hawks in 5

 

#5 Los Angeles vs #6 San Jose

Californiaaaa, Californiaaaaaaaaaaaaaa, here we coooooooooooooooommmmme!   For all the talk of “what was happening 9 years ago” prior to the Leafs/Bruins series, I can’t speak for the rest of you but if you WEREN’T watching the O.C….then you were a TOOL!!  Ryan and Marissa was 2004’s Zach and Kelly, their Sam and Dianne.  And Seth…well Seth was that loveable loser who over comes his loser ways and gets with the hottest girl in school just like in real life.  OF COURSE this leads me to the Kings and Sharks series.  I like the Kings.  Had the Sharks got the Hawks I would have liked the Sharks chances better to be honest because they may have the edge in net, but they don’t in this series.  After a bad mistake in game 1, and a VERY stoppable puck let in with a minute to go in game 2, Jonathan Quick got back to being dominant in the Blues series.  And what was even bigger for the Kings is they finished the Blues in 6 so while it was such a punishing series, they got a few days off while the Sharks having swept the Carburners may have got too many days off.  I think this will be a damn good series, but love the Kings.

Kings in 6

 

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