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.

Ovechkin shrugs off Caps’ Game 1 loss in very Ovechkin way

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You know, it happens. Maybe not always in those exact words.

The Washington Capitals carried the play during portions of their 3-2 Game 1 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins, and even down 1-0 in the series, just about every player seemed happy with their overall game.

(Granted, Braden Holtby picked apart two of the three goals he allowed, and so on.)

Still, Alex Ovechkin shrugged off the disappointment in a way that wasn’t quite Rated R, but probably ranks in the PG-13 range:

The penalty element is interesting, though.

When asked after the loss about the lack of power plays, Matt Niskanen merely offered a “no comment.”

The Penguins experienced some sprawling moments, yet they avoided taking a penalty each time. Often, when a team carries long sequences of play, they’ll go on the PP (especially with home-ice advantage) … but not the Capitals in Game 1.

via Natural Stat Trick

It’s a situation to watch as the Capitals hope to even the series against the Penguins with Game 2 coming on Saturday at 8 p.m. ET on NBC. (You can watch online, via the NBC Sports App and follow the livestream here).

Holtby takes blame for two big goals in Caps’ loss to Pens

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It’s just about a consensus that the Washington Capitals believed that they generally played a strong game despite falling 3-2 to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Braden Holtby‘s teammates likely wouldn’t agree with his assessment that the Game 1 loss is on his shoulders, but the perennial Vezina candidate took the blame for Sidney Crosby‘s first goal of the night and Nick Bonino‘s game-winner.

Noting that the Penguins are a dangerous rush team – making them a different threat than the Toronto Maple Leafs – Holtby believes that he should have had his glove in position to stop the 1-0 goal. He said he’s capable of making such a stop and “will next time.” Check out Crosby’s two goals below, with Holtby having a beef with the first one:

It’s really difficult to place too much blame on Holtby for giving up Nick Bonino’s game-winner, as it seemed like a great rush play that few goalies would be able to stop.

Judge for yourself in the highlights:

The Penguins were ultimately able to take a 1-0 series lead, but the Capitals seem capable of shrugging off questions about frustrations, even with naysayers starting to gain confidence in claiming that there will be more than the same.

If Washington’s going to get over this big hurdle, Holtby is likely to be a big part in doing so.

Fleury, Penguins hang on for Game 1 win against Capitals

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The Pittsburgh Penguins pulled off a 3-2 Game 1 win against the Washington Capitals, but Thursday’s thriller probably prompted a sigh of relief.

(Washington, meanwhile, might have uttered a sigh at such unpleasantly familiar feelings.)

The first period ended 0-0 in part thanks to Jake Guentzel‘s sprawling “kick save.” Business really picked up in the second after Sidney Crosby raced off to two quick goals, only for Alex Ovechkin to give Washington a shot thanks to a booming goal and some physical play.

It sure felt like this one might head to overtime, especially after Evgeny Kuznetsov was tying things up and flapping his arms like wings. That was not to be, however, as Nick Bonino took advantage of a pretty area pass to beat Braden Holtby for the decisive tally.

Now, it was only decisive because Marc-Andre Fleury was at the top of his game. Oh, and also because the Penguins did a collective Guentzel impression in frantically denying a tying tally.

Makes you want to wipe some sweat from your brow, eh?

The Capitals dominated by just about every statistical measure … except, of course, goals on the scoreboard. Pittsburgh will gladly take that 1-0 series lead, then.

Expect a desperate Washington team in Game 2, which airs at 8 p.m. ET on Saturday. You can watch it online and via the NBC Sports App (click here for the livestream link).

Karlsson makes difference for Senators vs. Lundqvist, Rangers

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Swedish superstars Henrik Lundqvist and Erik Karlsson were both stupendous in Game 1 between the New York Rangers and Ottawa Senators.

Still, it was Karlsson’s game-winning goal (from a seemingly impossible angle) against Lundqvist that made the difference as the Senators beat the Rangers 2-1 on Thursday. With that, the Senators are up 1-0 in the series.

That Karlsson goal really deserves a special look.

Whether you blame that 2-1 tally on Lundqvist or not, the Rangers would be foolish to do anything but praise their red-hot franchise goalie. He stopped all 21 Senators shots in the first period and ultimately made 41 out of 43 stops in defeat.

Craig Anderson was strong in his own right, mind you, stopping 34 out of 35 shots (including all 28 at even-strength) to help Ottawa take that tight contest.

Anderson’s strong play highlights the fact that Rangers – Senators doesn’t merely come down to Lundqvist vs. Karlsson … but even so, both Swedish superstars really did stand out in this one.

Game 2 airs on NBC at 3 p.m. ET on Saturday. You can also watch online and via the NBC Sports App; click here for the livestream link.