I don't know what happened but this four day week seemed like an eternity. I'm looking forward to getting the Stanley Cup Finals going tomorrow night. An eight day wait would have been insufferable.
On my playoff predictions, I rallied in the last round with a 2-0 record after failing with a 1-3 in the second round after a surprising 7-1 in the opening round. So I stand at 10-4 overall so far this year. My tidy 500 word submission to the Daily Herald on the Stanley Cup Finals follows:
Wings and Pens to Meet Again in Stanley Cup Finals
The defending Stanley Cup Champion, Detroit Red Wings, will meet last year’s runner-up, Pittsburgh Penguins, in the final round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs beginning Saturday night at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit.
Detroit and Pittsburgh won easily in the Conference Championships. The Wings beat Chicago in five games, while the Pens disposed of Carolina in four.
This will be the first rematch of prior year finalists in 25 years, going back to 1984 when the Edmonton Oilers defeated the New York Islanders.
Last year’s runner up, Pittsburgh, appears to be much better prepared for this years match than they were last season. With the team’s core intact, and under the leadership of mid-year replacement coach Dan Bylsma, the team appears to be hitting on all cylinders and playing with confidence.
Pittsburgh has the two leading goal scorers and point producers in this year’s playoffs. Sidney Crosby has 14 goals and 28 points to lead in both categories while team mate Geno Malkin is right with him with 12 goals and 28 points.
In goal, Marc-Andre Fluery has played well during the playoff run and has not suffered an off night in a couple of weeks. With the experience of last year’s playoff run and the added incentive of trying to make the Canadian Olympic team in 2001, Fluery appears more confident than he has in the past.
On paper, Detroit still appears to be the best team in the NHL. They have balanced scoring throughout the line up and defensively no one can shut down the opposition and clog up the neutral zone as well as the Wings.
During the series against Chicago, two key players suffered injuries that kept them from playing in the final game.
Hart Trophy nominee, Pavel Datsyuk is suffering from a foot injury and will be a game time decision on Saturday. Six time Norris Trophy winner, Nicklas Lidstrom was out with a “lower body injury” and is expected to play in game one.
The Wings are lead in scoring by Johan Franzen, with ten goals and seven assists, and Henrik Zetterberg with nine goals and nine assists. They also have Marion Hossa who played for the Pens last season.
Wing’s Goalie Chris Osgood is a veteran of 14 NHL seasons and has won three Stanley Cup rings, two as a starter. After an average regular season, Osgood has been solid during the playoffs going 12-5 with a 2.06 goals against average.
This will be a long, hard fought series that hockey fans will thoroughly enjoy.
For Pittsburgh to win, they will need to win one of the first two games in Detroit and win their home games.
For Detroit to win, they will need to play their style of controlled hockey and not let Pittsburgh’s young scorers move freely in front of the net.
My final prediction for this year is the Wings repeating as Stanley Cup Champions in seven games.
In Predator News...
On the heels of Mirtle's post about Alexander Radulov, Forechecker comes through with one that is really discouraging for fans hoping for his return. It appears that he is remaining aloof to his situation and is being led around by misguided parents and agents and doesn't seem to understand the position that he left the Predators in last season.
Barry Trotz give his opinion of the finals match-up between the Pens and Detroit in a column by David Boclair at the City Paper. Trotz also revealed his plans for a prospects conditioning camp from July 6-13 and the fact that there will be some type of rookie camp in early September before regular camp opens September 12. There also will be a couple of Rookie games in Atlanta like they had here last year.
Mark at the View From 111 recaps his perfect picks from round three and can't seem to overcome his dislike for the Wings as he picks the grand prize winner.
John Glennon stirs the pot at Inside Predators asking if the Preds have enough to move out of last place in the Central Division next year.
The day's most obscure Predator fact is that Preds coach Brent Peterson will be playing in the first Winterhawks Classic Alumni Golf Tournament on Aug. 10 at Persimmon Country Club in Gresham, OR.
Around the NHL...
With the NHL Combine starting on Friday, NHL Central Scouting has expanded their web site to include a much broader range of information for fans as they track their favorite draft eligible players. The release says that a new web design will be launched this morning at 8:30 here. To see what happens to a national Post writer going through the combine's paces go here.
Forechecker also has an interesting article about the psychological testing that will be done at the NHL combine in Toronto.
The Sports Business Journal named the Winter Classic as the Sporting Event of the Year. I am in full agreement and wrote this article on New Year's Day stating that it was the Tradition of the Future for NYD.
Ryan at the RLD wraps up the conference finals and has a fun article about his road trip to Carolina for game four of the Pens-Canes series.
Puck Daddy gives his 20 story-lines to watch in the SCF.
BlueJacketBuzz pointed us to this article that has a grim tone to it. The Jackets are trying to get a better arrangement with their arena to try to head toward making a profit. It almost makes the Pred's $2 million dollar loss this year seem like a successful endeavor. Alan Portzline and others have another article that even mentions the Jackets leaving town.
Puck Daddy has an article on Cam Ward and his successes, trials and tribulations of the past month. I really felt sorry for him in the Pens series. The momentum the team had ridden for the last part of the season and playoffs finally ran out.
Jim Kelly at SI has a round up column which points out something I hadn't thought of. Game six of the SCF is the same day as the next hearing in Phoenix on June 9th which means there could be a battle in the courts on the same day the trophy is handed out. What a contrast that would be!
From the desert, attorneys for Jerry Moyes want a new hearing for June 3 to attempt to get more history of relocation documents from the NHL in order to prepare their June 5 brief.
Combining space and hockey, the CBC's broadcast will be avalible to Canadian astronaut Robert Thirsk on the ISS.
Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass
Jim Balsillie has big plans to renovate Copps Coliseum at only $150 million in 2007 dollars. This sounds like big Jim pulled the plans for the Hamilton Predators out of the closet and created a new press release.
Forechecker has Mitch Korn's view of the SCF goalie match-ups.
The Predators site has the final predictions from the broadcast team. It looks like a clean sweep for the Wings.
ProPuckTalk looks at the NHL following the NFL model. They also mention a Global TV Rights offering for the NHL. The league has been aggressively going after ATDHE and other web sites offering links to games on the net during the past season with limited success. I've said it repeatedly, that if the NHL would offer fans complete access with no blackouts at a reasonable price then they wouldn't have competition from European rebroadcasters on the net.
A SCF travesty in Tampa... Mark Manning reports that the local NBC affiliate has a telethon in place of Game 1 on Saturday night. Mark is also picking the Pens in six.
Me, being a Braves fan since 1966, I have to mention what @codeyh reported "Braves to retire Greg Maddux's number on July 17th." I was thinking that Glavine and Smoltz should also be there but they are both still trying to hang on and play. The day the Braves clinched the playoffs in 1991 was one of the happiest days of my life. Another favorite was the night of my 40th birthday, October 28, 1995, when they won their only World Championship in my 44 years of being a Braves fan. I was in Atlanta/Fulton County Stadium for both.
CoyotesHipCheck throws a hit on a couple of items in today's news. She's not someone I would want to make mad. She was a fun guest on POTG Radio a couple of weeks ago. I wish someone from MakeIt7 would join us on the show.
Mirtle comments on the Balsillie press release today on Copps and confirms my report that it was something pulled out of storage from a couple of years back.
We got a new follow on Twitter today that has a great blog that I had not seen. Check out Smilin' Like a Butcher's Dog. He does a really good job on the Pens.
TSN has a live Blog from the combine updating here. You can get up to the minute throw up info as well as who players would eat dinner with given a choice of Sean Avery, Barak Obama, or Maria Sharapova.
Ryan at the RLD updated his Finals preview with a prediction that makes us both look smart. Forechecker looks like a smart guy too with his pick. Dueling previews at the Program, Chris and Ryan square off and agree (almost). Burt the dog has the alternate view. I sure hope we are smarter than the dog.
From @pwnicholson "Never thought I'd see the day when the Preds were in trailer for NHL 10 - and hoisting the cup!"