2010 NHL playoffs: Conference finals predictions

We’ve already proven
just how useless making predictions in the playoffs can be
, but
since we’re gluttons for punishment we thought we’d go ahead and keep at
it anyway. That the conference finals are so evenly matched for each
series will likely mean that we’re nowhere close on our predictions, but
here they are nonetheless.

Eastern Conference Finals

7)
Philadelphia Flyers vs. 8) Montreal Canadiens

James: I’m just
as conflicted with this
series as I am with Chicago-San Jose. Montreal has the best goalie of
the playoffs, a decent group of forwards masquerading as an incredible
group of forwards and a sharp defensive system that rarely springs a
leak. (They allow a lot of shots, but not a lot of quality chances) On
the other hand, Philadelphia has plenty of firepower and some big, mean
forwards. It could go either way. Ultimately, my motto is: when it
doubt, go with the team that has Chris Pronger. Philadelphia in 6.

Joe:
No, I’m not trying to do some reverse jinx stuff after picking the
Habs
to get bounced in six games in the previous two series. What I’m saying
is that I’m now a believer and I think they’ll find things to be a
little easier going against the Flyers. The Flyers haven’t played a team
this dedicated to defense yet, which is stunning since they’ve already
beaten the Devils. It won’t be pretty to watch regardless of who does
win but I think the Habs continue to work miracles. Montreal in 6.

Brandon:
This is going to be one heck of an interesting series to watch, as
these are two teams seemingly riding the wave of “destiny” on their road
to deep in the playoffs. Someone’s luck will run out and one team will
find their energy and edge gone after a month straight of overcoming the
odds. You also have to think, especially with two teams so evenly
matched, that the goaltending will truly make the difference. Jaroslav
Halak has proven so far that he’s the goalie to beat, and Michael
Leighton is still struggling to get his game together. Montreal in 7.

Western
Conference Finals

1) San Jose Sharks vs. 2) Chicago
Blackhawks

James: Every once in a while, a
pre-season prediction will have its advantages. Like, say, when you
don’t really know which team will win a playoff series. I picked the San
Jose Sharks to win the Stanley Cup last summer, so I’ll stick with them
until I’m wrong. Thank goodness for this default choice, though,
because I have no idea who I actually think will win.
San Jose in
6.

Joe:
I’ll be honest here, I really have no solid idea as to who will win
this
series. Both teams are playing great, both teams are showing tremendous
killer instinct and both teams have other-worldly talent. Saying this
one goes seven games is my way of saying this is a toss-up that goes
either way. I’m siding with the Sharks because I believe that this is
their time and that all the nagging labels they’ve had on them before
they’ve shaken off. Of course Chicago can still win this and make me a
huge liar. San Jose in 7.

Brandon: Is this finally
the year for the Sharks? Or will the Blackhawks take advantage of
perhaps their best and final shot to get this far before the salary cap
comes down upon their head this summer? Like Joe, there’s literally no
way to tell how this series will go because I honestly have no clue how
the Sharks will react after finally getting to the Conference finals
after four years of disappointment. I blindly throw a dart against the
wall. Chicago in 7.

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    Flames’ Bennett, Tkachuk accused of slew-footing in loss to Leafs

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    The Calgary Flames dropped an ugly 4-0 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday, not exactly rebounding from an embarrassing 7-3 defeat at the hands of the Edmonton Oilers.

    Things were ugly in a different way toward the end, especially if you ask Maple Leafs fans, as Sam Bennett and Matthew Tkachuk may or may not be guilty of “slew-footing” late in the contest. In each case, they were whistled for roughing.

    Bennett was guilty of the first incident on Connor Carrick:

    Meanwhile, around the time of the final whistle, Tkachuk’s “roughing” of Martin Marincin drew quite a bit of ire. You can see for yourself in the video above the post’s headline.

    More than a few people believe that Tkachuk will be on the Department of Player Safety’s radar thanks to this moment.

    There’s no doubt that he’s been making waves as a pest – really, from his first game in the NHL – but some believe he went over the line this time. He’s second in the NHL with 92 penalty minutes, by the way.

    Patrick Marleau’s magical third period secures Sharks win vs. Avalanche

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    At 37 years old and nearing 500 career goals, there aren’t a ton of things Patrick Marleau has failed to accomplish.* Still, he did something he’s never done – and few players have managed to do – in the San Jose Sharks’ 5-2 win against the Colorado Avalanche on Monday night.

    The amusing thing is that it was a mundane night for Marleau and the Sharks heading into the third period.

    They carried a 2-1 lead against the Avs before Marleau’s magical period really kicked into gear. In less than eight minutes of game time, Marleau managed an out-of-left-field natural hat trick:

    He didn’t stop there, either, as he also hit the four-goal mark for the first time in his career … and again, it was in the same period.

    That’s his first four-goal game (and period, naturally). It’s been a long, long time since someone enjoyed a period like Marleau did:

    Speaking of history, this massive night indeed places Marleau close to another impressive feat. He’s now at 497 career goals, three away from the elusive 500 mark.

    To underscore how unexpected this outburst was, consider this: Marleau generated zero goals and one assist in his previous seven games.

    As the Sharks enjoy an era fueled by the ascent of Brent Burns and the passing of the torch from the likes of Marleau and Joe Thornton to a group including Logan Couture and Martin Jones, it seems fitting that Marleau – a player receding from the team’s spotlight – totally stole the spotlight on Monday.

    The Sharks probably won’t complain, either. He helped them seal their fifth consecutive win, putting San Jose in a strong position to regain the lead in the Pacific Division.

    Pretty good stuff from a guy who rapidly faded from relevance after being stripped of the Sharks captaincy.

    * – How dare you make Stanley Cup jokes on a happy occasion for Sharks fans?

    Capitals assert their dominance once again, this time clobbering Hurricanes

    WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 03: Dmitry Orlov #9 of the Washington Capitals celebrates with teammates after assisting Justin Williams #14 on a goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs during the first period at Verizon Center on January 3, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
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    The Washington Capitals lead the league in standings points … and maybe in swagger. At least, it feels that way lately.

    Monday presented their latest display of power as the Carolina Hurricanes had no answer for the Capitals machine. Washington clobbered Carolina by a score of 6-1, but at least the Hurricanes can take comfort in joining a rather large group of teams who’ve been humbled by Braden Holtby & Co.

    This makes the Capitals 11-0-1 during a dominant run; they’ve scored at least a point in all but one game since Dec. 21.

    Honestly, you can dice up their hot streak in a variety of ways, as Washington’s been outstanding since at least early December. Margin of victory might be the most jaw-dropping way to illustrate Washington’s dominant run:

    Yep, that’s something else.

    Dmitry Orlov was one of the standouts of this latest win, scoring two goals. His strong night and flashes of brilliance prompted Alex Ovechkin to … maybe go a little over the top.

    Hey, when you’re on fire like the Capitals have been lately, it’s probably tough to make some pretty bold comparisons.

    Things might be turning around for Lundqvist (not so much for the Kings)

    LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 13:  Marian Gaborik #12 of the Los Angeles Kings shakes hands with Henrik Lundqvist #30 of the New York Rangers after the Kings 3-2 double-overtime victory during Game Five of the 2014 Stanley Cup Final at Staples Center on June 13, 2014 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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    As you likely know, the 2017 NHL All-Star Game is coming to Los Angeles this weekend. If the Kings don’t get it together, that might be the biggest hockey event for some time, as they’re currently on the outside looking in at the playoffs.

    Monday presented what felt like a story of one cold streak continuing to fade away while the other only seems to get icier.

    The positive side: Henrik Lundqvist might just be working through that slump.

    The New York Rangers beat the Los Angeles Kings 3-2 on Monday, and it wasn’t a walk in the park for Lundqvist. He made 36 out of 38 stops, giving him a personal three-game winning streak in which he’s allowed just four total goals.

    Some of those stops were pretty impressive, too:

    (He also shut down a Jeff Carter breakaway, which is obviously no easy task.)

    While Lundqvist is getting it together, the Kings might just be a little worried after dropping their fourth straight loss.

    They’re at 48 points in 47 games, leaving them three points behind the West’s two wild card teams and two behind the Canucks.

    The Kings have experience fighting through challenges like these, but they’ve also fallen short of getting into the West’s top eight, and their schedule is awfully road-heavy:

    Tuesday: at Devils
    Thursday: at Hurricanes
    Tuesday, Jan. 31: at Coyotes
    Wednesday, Feb. 1: vs. Avalanche
    Saturday, Feb. 4: at Flyers
    Sunday, Feb. 5: at Capitals
    Tuesday, Feb. 7: at Lightning
    Thursday, Feb. 9: at Panthers

    Some of those opponents are struggling and the All-Star break might allow for a breather, but that could still be a problematic stretch, especially if the Kings are in a fragile state.

    Then again, if they look at Lundqvist’s upward trend, they can note that fortunes can change pretty quickly in 2016-17.