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.

Larkin will start season with Red Wings

Dylan Larkin
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Dylan Larkin — despite being just 19 years old — will begin the season on the Detroit Red Wings, a team not normally accustomed to having teenagers in the lineup.

Coach Jeff Blashill confirmed the news this morning. Larkin could apparently start on a line with Henrik Zetterberg and Justin Abdelkader.

Larkin, the 15th overall pick in the 2014 draft, had three goals and one assist in five preseason games. A natural center, he’s shown the potential to one day step into the kind of “big-time” role that Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk have played for so long in Detroit.

“You have to give our scouts credit,” former coach Mike Babcock told ESPN in May. “We got a great pick where we picked. How high end is he? How soon?”

Related: Coaching change ‘one of the reasons’ Larkin signed with Wings

Preseason stats: Five goalies with good numbers, five goalies with…not

Anders Nilsson
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Yeah, yeah, it’s a small sample size and it’s just the preseason, but here are some goaltending stats anyway.

Five goalies with good numbers

Anders Nilsson, Edmonton — zero goals on 53 shots. His solid play a likely factor in the decision to waive Ben Scrivens, who actually wasn’t that bad in the preseason (4 goals on 56 shots).

Martin Jones, San Jose — three goals on 100 shots. The Sharks are rolling the dice on a couple of cheap goalies. Jones and Alex Stalock have a combined cap hit of just $4.6 million.

Jacob Markstom, Vancouver — three goals on 79 shots. Can he finally get over the NHL hump? If so, he could make it a real competition with Ryan Miller.

Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus — five goals on 122 shots. The Blue Jackets have scored a ton of goals in the preseason, but there remain questions about their blue line. Bobrovsky has the ability to make a so-so defense look good.

Anton Khudobin, Anaheim — two goals on 67 shots. A good early sign for the Ducks, who have Frederik Andersen in the starting role and want to give young John Gibson more time to develop in the AHL.

Five goalies with bad numbers

Thomas Greiss, Islanders — 14 goals on 94 shots. Has to be a bit of concern in Brooklyn. The Isles got below-average backup play last season from Chad Johnson. They wanted to fix that with the Greiss signing.

Robin Lehner, Buffalo — 11 goals on 95 shots. Tim Murray paid a hefty price to get the 24-year-old out of Ottawa. With the aforementioned Johnson in the backup role, the goaltending story is worth watching.

Jeff Zatkoff, Pittsburgh — 11 goals on 74 shots. Granted, Marc-Andre Fleury and Matthew Murray weren’t particularly sharp either. The Penguins conceded 28 goals in eight games.

Kari Lehtonen, Dallas — 15 goals on 84 shots. For a Stars team that desperately needs better goaltending, that has to be worrying. Antti Niemi wasn’t a whole lot better either, allowing eight goals on 65 shots. Fair question to ask — how many of all those goals were attributable to poor defensive play?

Pekka Rinne, Nashville — 12 goals on 91 shots. Has earned the benefit of the doubt, but thought we’d point it out anyway.