2010 NHL playoffs: Western Conference first round predictions

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This is what everyone loves to do as we gear up for the first of four
rounds of playoff hockey: throw a dart at the wall and hope we can
come close to predicting the outcomes of each series.

So we are, Pro Hockey Talk’s predictions for 2010 NHL Western
Conference
Quarterfinals predictions (Eastern
Conference here)
:

(1) San Jose Sharks vs. (8) Colorado Avalanche (full
preview here
)

Season series (Tied 2-2)
Oct. 1: San
Jose 2 @ Colorado 5
Oct. 30: Colorado 1 @ San Jose 3
March
28:
Colorado 3 @ San Jose 4
April 4: San Jose 4 @
Colorado 5 (OT)

Brandon: Oh boy…San Jose’s worst
nightmare: a hungry, speedy, talented and young team with solid
goaltending. Must…not…choke….again…. Colorado in 7.

James: Everyone is so in love with the
Sharks “choking.” It’s kind of like when someone unfunny finds that one
joke that makes them feel part of a group. Like my grade school friend
who used to say “Kung Pao Chicken” every day because we laughed at it
twice. San Jose in 4.

Joe: Colorado is
gassed, San Jose is just naturally better. There’s ZERO reason for the
Sharks to lose this series. But if they do… perhaps it’s time for an
on-ice personnel change or twelve. San Jose in 5.

(2) Chicago Blackhawks vs. Nashville Predators (full
preview here
)

Season series (Chicago won 4-2)
Oct. 15:
Chicago 3 @ Nashville 1
Oct. 24: Nashville 0 @ Chicago 2
Oct.
29:
Chicago 0 @ Nashville 2
Dec. 4: Nashville 4 @ Chicago
1
Dec. 26: Chicago 4 @ Nashville 1
Dec. 27:
Nashville 4 @ Chicago 5

Brandon: This could be the best shot the
Blackhawks will get at a Stanley Cup. The Nashville Predators are the
perfect team to get in their way….but the Hawks are too hungry. Chicago
in 5.

James: The Predators could give the
Blackhawks some serious headaches. That being said, I think that
Nashville’s lack of high-end offense will be a huge disadvantage against
the loaded Chicago team. Chicago in 6.

Joe: I
think this is a terrible matchup for Chicago and Nashville will give
them everything they can handle and thensome. If Chicago is going to
show they’re for real, beating the Predators will go a long way towards
proving that. Chicago in 7.

More after the jump.

(3) Vancouver Canucks vs. (6) Los Angeles Kings (full
preview here
)

Season series (Vancouver won 3-1)
Oct.
29:

Vancouver 2 @ Los Angeles 1 (SO)
Nov. 26: Los Angeles 1 @
Vancouver 4
Dec. 14: Los Angeles 1 @ Vancouver 3
April
1:
Vancouver 3 @ Los Angeles 8

Brandon: Some are saying this is an upset
waiting to happen; I don’t see it. The Canucks are too good, and I can
see Jonathan Quick collapsing from exhaustion in the middle of a game. Vancouver
in 6.

James: Man, I cannot wait for this series.
I like the Kings’ talent, but I just can’t bring myself to choose a
team with Jonathan Quick in net (he’s decent, but …) against a team
with Roberto Luongo. Vancouver in 7.

Joe:
This is going to be a tremendous series. LA are the comeback kids,
Vancouver has the future MVP and Luuuu. The Kings are damn good though
but the question is can Jon Quick carry them through? Not yet. Los
Angeles is just setting the table for next season anyhow. Vancouver
in 7.

(4) Phoenix Coyotes vs. (5) Detroit Red Wings (full
preview here
)

Season series (Tied 2-2)
Oct. 22:
Detroit 2 @ Phoenix 3 (OT)
Dec. 14: Phoenix 2 @ Detroit 3
Jan.
2:
Detroit 4 @ Phoenix 1
Jan. 26: Phoenix 5 @ Detroit 4

Brandon: The series I’m most looking forward
to. Can the Coyotes pull off an unthinkable season, beating the Red
Wings in the first round? Will Jimmy Howard be magical? Will Tomas
Holmstrom play fair? Phoenix in 7.

James: I would feel bad for the Coyotes,
but then they rejected Throw the Snake. Now – as usual – I have empathy
for their fans, not the franchise. That being said, this should be a
great series because Phoenix is legit. I just like Detroit’s talent a
bit more. Detroit in 6.


Joe: A
bit of a homer pick, I admit, but for every great playoffs storyline
there’s a foil to make sure that story doesn’t go all Disney on us. Who
better than the Red Wings to go and foul everything up. Detroit in 6.

Pre-game reading: Bettman insists NHL isn’t ‘anti-Olympics’

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— Up top, members of the Detroit Red Wings and their fans recall some of their fondest memories from Joe Louis Arena, which will host its last NHL game on Apr. 9.

— Here’s NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, speaking Friday in Chicago: “The league isn’t anti-Olympics. The problem is, the clubs are anti-disruption to the season. To disappear for almost three weeks in February when there is no football and baseball and it’s only basketball and … there’s no programming for the NHL Network, for NHL.com (and) all of our social media platforms. … If somebody proposes something dramatic and radically different that gets the attention of the clubs where they say, ‘You know what? We don’t like going but on balance it’s worth it because of this,’ we’ll have to look at it again. But overwhelmingly the sentiment of the clubs is it’s too disruptive.” (Chicago Tribune)

— The players have said they won’t negotiate with the league for the right to participate in the Olympics. But they’ve made no secret about their desire to go, as evidenced by ESPN’s lengthy list of player quotes on the topic. Said Steven Stamkos: “In talking to a lot of players, I’ve yet to hear someone say they didn’t want to get a chance to represent their country at the Olympics.” (ESPN)

— Whether the NHL continues its Olympic participation or not, it’s clear the league is eyeing China as part of its growth strategy. In September, the Canucks and Kings are expected to play a couple of exhibition games in Beijing and Shanghai. And according to deputy commissioner Bill Daly, there may even come a time when an NHL franchise is owned by Chinese business interests. (The Globe and Mail)

— Are the Bruins on the verge of collapse? CSNNE columnist Joe Haggerty saw some concerning signs in last night’s loss to Tampa Bay — a loss that put the B’s in further danger of falling out of a playoff position. Haggerty concludes: “Their next wrong move will cause a nosedive straight out of the playoffs for the third year in a row, and that will spell changes far and wide on Causeway Street for the Boston Bruins.” (CSN New England)

— Islanders rookie Josh Ho-Sang, who wears No. 66, is ready for — and even looking forward to — a hostile crowd tonight at PPG Paints Arena. “For me, Pittsburgh is the one city as a whole where I’m totally OK with them hating me. For wearing No. 66. Mario Lemieux is a hero, a pioneer for them there, and for them to take it as disrespect is completely understandable.” (Newsday)

Enjoy the games!

PS — Lemieux said he was “fine” with Ho-Sang wearing his old number.

In prepping Vegas for draft, McPhee cites ‘outstanding’ record with Caps

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George McPhee is a veteran of the draft process, having presided over nearly 20 during his time with the Caps.

This year, he’s in a unique position — spearheading the first draft for the expansion Las Vegas Golden Knights — and he suggests his past success should set him up well for the future.

“I think we have an outstanding staff,” McPhee said, per the club website. “I think our draft record in my previous job was outstanding.”

Assessments like these are always up for debate — draft success is somewhat subjective, and there are inevitably a bunch of misses among the hits — but McPhee does have a strong history of drafting and developing players, and could point to the current Capitals as validation to his claim.

The active roster has 11 players that were original draftees (Braden Holtby, Philip Grubauer, Dmitry Orlov, John Carlson, Karl Alzner, Tom Wilson, Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Marcus Johansson, Andre Burakovsky and Nicklas Backstrom), with goalies Holtby and Grubauer — both fourth-round picks — emerging as pretty good finds.

McPhee’s strategy? Go big or go home.

“I don’t know if I’ve ever played it safe going to the draft,” he explained. “I believe in swinging for the fences, and trying to find someone who can be a real difference maker. The difference makers are those core guys on your team, those 4-5 players that become elite players are the ones that can really take you a long way.

“They are hard to find. Those are the ones I’d like to swing for.”

At this year’s draft in Chicago, Vegas should have a shot at landing an impact guy. The club will have the same odds of winning the lottery as the team that finishes with the third fewest points this season and, though it’s considered a weak draft overall, there is some serious talent at the top end.

WHL Brandon’s Nolan Patrick, QMJHKL Halifax’s Nico Hischier and OHL Windsor’s Gabriel Vilardi are all considered high-end prospects and — importantly — all three play center. For a team that’s building from scratch, filling that position is of vital importance.

McPhee acknowledged this is a weaker draft, but contended those are the ones “where the best teams excel.” He theorizes that with fewer quality players available, the strongest teams emerge with the good ones.

He also shared how the Golden Knights plan to land ’em.

“We’re really aggressive,” he said. “We try not to play it safe very often.”

B’s ink prospects Fitzgerald, Johansson to entry-level deals

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Boston has brought a pair of talented youngsters into the fold.

Forward Ryan Fitzgerald, who just wrapped his senior season at Boston College, and defenseman Emil Johansson — who spent this year playing in the Swedish Hockey League — have signed their entry-level deals and will begin playing with the club’s AHL affiliate in Providence.

Fitzgerald — who’s father, Tom, is the assistant GM in New Jersey — scored 31 points in 34 games for BC this year, serving as an alternate captain. He was originally taken by Boston in the fourth round (120th overall) of the ’13 draft.

Johansson, 20, was a seventh-round pick in ’14 that’s panned out pretty well. He scored a career-high seven goals and 17 points in 49 games for Djugardens this year, appearing in three playoff contests.

 

 

Ducks send Stoner to AHL on conditioning loan

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Clayton Stoner is going to play some hockey again.

The Anaheim Ducks announced today that the 32-year-old defenseman has been assigned to AHL San Diego on a long-term injury conditioning loan.

Stoner has not played since Nov. 15. He had abdominal surgery in December, at which point the Ducks said he’d miss an additional 4-6 weeks. But a setback in his recovery extended the time frame.

“The setback was kind of just me trying to get back maybe a little bit quicker than I should,” Stoner told the O.C. Register recently. “And I wasn’t ready. Things have been good here for a little while so hopefully I’m just trying to string some days together and earn a spot back and kind of prove that I can be healthy and stay healthy.”