2010 NHL playoffs: Western Conference Round 2 predictions

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Another round, another set of darts. This time, we’re taking a look at Round 2 of the 2010 NHL Playoffs (also known as the Conference Semifinals, if you’re a stickler for details). I think the question is: which team will torment us with their upset special this round?

Since the East got first dibs last round, we’ll go with the West first today.

[1] San Jose vs. [5] Detroit

Brandon: The Red Wings were taken to the brink of elimination in the 1st round, but they showed they still know how to play dominating team hockey. The Sharks will need more than just Joe Pavelski to have their own shot. Red Wings in 6.

James: I picked the Sharks to win the Cup last summer, so I figure it’s best to lay in the hockey bed I made. This will depend (gulp) on San Jose’s big dogs waking from their typical summer slumber. I cannot see the Sharks winning a Game 7 against the Red Wings, so six games it is? Yikes. Sharks in 6.

Joe: I tried to look at this one in some sort of logical formulaic kind of way. San Jose had issues containing the spunky play of Colorado while Detroit had a couple of games where they couldn’t stop a pee wee team, never mind and NHL team, on the power play. Add in some homer-iffic glasses in which to view this series and… Voila! Truth be told, Detroit showed signs of some killer instinct in parts of their series that haven’t been shown in some time from this team and that should scare the chum out of the Sharks as they’re already a team that has issues handling the Wings. Red Wings in 6.

[2] Chicago vs. [3] Vancouver

Brandon: It’s the contest of “our goaltending is more consistent than yours.” Will the suspect defense of Vancouver be able to sustain the offense of Chicago? Can the Blackhawks find some way to slow down the Sedins? Whatever happens, this will be the series to watch. Vancouver in 7.

James: This is a really tough one. On paper, Chicago’s offense can go toe-to-toe with any in the league but Vancouver was the West’s leading goal producing team. I like the talent of the Blackhawks’ D better than the banged up Canucks blueline, but commitment-wise? Eh, not so sure about that. Plus, Roberto Luongo really showed me something in Game 6. Antti Niemi was great in Round 1, but going from facing the Predators offense to squaring off against the Canucks offense is like defending against bows and arrows and then running into a tank. Vancouver in 7.

Joe: I think this will be the best series of the four remaining and a lot of that is based upon how crazy their series was in last year’s playoffs but more than anything it’s based on Vancouver being a better team than they were last season. Does Vancouver have issues? Yes. Does Chicago have issues against defensive-minded teams? Yes. Can they both fill the net if need be? Definitely. I am just running with a gut feeling here that says Vancouver is going to get it done. Nothing more, nothing less. These teams are extremely even. Vancouver in 7.

The Panthers are healthy scratching Bolland, and he is their highest-paid forward, but they insist they’re not sending a message

Dave Bolland, Derek Nansen
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It feels like there’s a story brewing in Florida, where Dave Bolland — the team’s most-expensive forward, at $5.5 million a season — has been a healthy scratch for three consecutive games.

But according to head coach Gerard Gallant, there’s nothing to see here. Move along.

“There’s nothing to talk about,” Gallant said, per the Miami Herald. “He sat out, our team is playing well. There’s nothing more than that. We have to sit two guys and I like the way we’re playing. The next game is a different game. We may change something up, who knows.”

Bolland had just one goal and five points in 18 games prior to getting parked in the press box. Well, technically he got dropped to the fourth line before hitting the press box, but you get the idea. He’s not exactly in Gallant’s good graces.

Not helping Bolland’s case is the fact that, as Gallant pointed out, the club is playing pretty well without him. The Panthers have rebounded from a rough start to November by winning back-to-back games against the Islanders and Red Wings, which set them up nicely for the remainder of this current five-game road swing.

Florida has games still to play in St. Louis, Nashville, Columbus and New Jersey. It’ll be interesting to see when — or, if — he draws back into the lineup.

In closing, a reminder that Bolland’s in the second of a five-year, $27.5 million deal.

Canucks rookie Virtanen exits with upper-body injury, won’t return


After sitting out Friday’s game in Dallas, Vancouver’s Jake Virtanen had to be excited at drawing back in for tonight’s game against the Ducks.

Unfortunately, the excitement didn’t last long.

Virtanen suffered an upper-body injury after playing just 1:45 in the opening frame, and was ruled out of the contest during the intermission. It’s unclear exactly what happened, but it looks like Virtanen was injured on a hit by Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf.

Virtanen didn’t take another shift following the incident, and Getzlaf was given a minor penalty on the play.

While we don’t know what the injury is or it’s severity, losing Virtanen for any length of time would have ramifications for the Canucks and this year’s Canadian entry at the World Juniors. There has been talk of Virtanen possibly being released by the Canucks to participate in the tournament; last year, he was part of the team that captured gold in Montreal and Toronto.

Virtanen has played in 18 games for the Canucks this year, scoring one goal and four points while averaging 10:17 TOI per night.

McLellan sounds off on Oilers after shutout loss in Toronto

Todd McLellan

Edmonton lost for the fourth time in five games on Monday, a 3-0 defeat in Toronto that marked the second time in a week the Oilers have been shut out.

Needless to say, the head coach wasn’t happy.

In a fairly blunt and harsh assessment aimed at a variety of players, Todd McLellan had some choice words for what he called a “disappointing” effort.

Some of the more choice quotes:

“I didn’t think we were a very hard team. I didn’t think we stood over a lot of pucks. I didn’t think we won a lot of battles along the boards. I didn’t think we were competitive enough in a lot of areas.”

“When I look at the trip as a whole, we had some key, key people really under-perform on the trip. Significant minus numbers, not hitting the score sheet. It can’t always be the [Leon DraisaitlTaylor Hall line] that provides that.”

It’s fair to suggest that last one was directed at Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle.

Nugent-Hopkins has just two points and zero goals in his last five games, with a minus-8 rating. Eberle is pointless entirely, and also at minus-8 over the same stretch.

They’re hardly the only Oilers not pulling their weight at the moment, however. Edmonton has lost 15 times in its first 25 games, a figure that suggests there are more problems that just a couple of underachieving forwards.

Just ask McLellan, who all but admitted his team has issues matching up.

“We’re not where we need to be,” he said. “We’ve got work to do as a team, work to do as an organization to get bigger, stronger, harder, and physically win more battles than we lose.”

Roy: Avs ‘need, expect more’ from Varlamov


The tough times continue for Semyon Varlamov.

After another unsuccessful outing on Monday — allowing four goals on 27 shots in a loss to the Islanders — Varlamov was subjected to a familiar refrain: Patrick Roy saying the Avs need more from their No. 1 netminder.


You can hear all of the head coach’s comments in the video above but, for brevity’s sake, here’s the Varlamov stuff:

“It’s not easy for him. Obviously we need that extra save and we didn’t get it on the road. It’s hard to win if you’re giving four goals on the road.

“We just need more from him. He’s our No. 1 guy and we’re behind him, but we need, we expect more from him.”

There has to be serious concern about Varlamov right now, if there wasn’t already.

His save percentage through seven games in November (.891) is marginally better than it was through seven games in October (.889), and that’s not the only alarming stat. Varlamov’s yet to record a shutout this year, yet to record back-to-back victories and has given up at least three goals in six of his last seven starts.

Not good.

Compounding things for Colorado are the standings. The Avs are now 9-14-1 and mired in the Central Division basement, meaning that — if they have any hope of going on a tear and getting back into playoff content — they’ll need to do it soon.

Which means they might not have the time, or the patience, for Varlamov to find his game.