The picks for Round 2 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs
So, did we enjoy Round 1?
Three Game 7s. Triple OT in the Calgary-Vancouver series. Canadian teams are advancing. Heck, even Detroit got a scare from Nashville before closing out the Predlies in six.
And, yes, Colorado fans were doubtless delirious with the Avs surprisingly dispatching the Stars in five. I’m not saying that is shocking that Colorado beat Dallas. But, did the Stars just roll over and play dead or what?
In my first installment of playoff picks I went 6-for-8. I missed on the Bruins and Canadiens, but I consider that more Boston’s fault than mine. Even the Canadiens, with all their Cups, had never come back from 3-1. That was Schiraldi-esque, even by Boston’s standards.
My other faux pas was Dallas in six over the Avs. See the aforementioned “roll over and play dead” explanation for my response. Enjoy it now, Colorado fans. The puck stops at The Tank in San Jose in Round 2.
San Jose (2) vs. Colorado (4)
Time for revenge. We – and it’s we because I’m Bay Area boy – should have taken the Avs down two years ago in Round 2. Remember Game 7 at the Pepsi Center when Peter Forsberg won it in OT, 1-0. Well, then-Shark Teemu Selanne missed and open net in regulation. Now, Selanne’s going to be missing open nets for the Avs. There’s definitely something to be said for karma.
Game 7 was in Denver in 2002. The Sharks have home ice this time around, and after a dreadful October, San Jose has been nearly unbeatable in The Tank. The Sharks also can win in The Can in the postseason. They won Games 1 and 5 in 2002.
Then, there’s Nabby vs. Abby. Evgeni Nabokov is the best goalie left standing in the playoffs. He was a superior goaltender to David Aebischer during the regular season and is more battle-tested in the playoffs. Avs fans need to wake up and realize that Patrick Roy doesn’t live here anymore.
Oh, yes, Forsberg and Joe Sakic and company are positively lethal. You still don’t have Paul Kariya and Selanne’s going to wither and fade into the ice as he did in 2002. Avs fans also need to realize that defense and goaltending wins in the playoffs. We’ve already addressed netminding. The Sharks are the better defensive team. They’ve been playing playoff-style hockey since November. The Sharks are younger and faster than the Avs.
Don’t come to me with the playoff-experience factor. Yes, the Avs have been there every year, but the Sharks’ key players – Nabokov, Vincent Damphouse, Patrick Marleau, Mike Ricci, Mike Rathje and so on – also have been through the wars. It’s a wash.
Coaching? Ron Wilson vs. Tony Granato. Hmm. Wilson took the Capitals to the Stanley Cup Finals a few years ago and turned San Jose around in one season. Granato? A playoff virgin.
Finally, it’s time. Avs fans inherited a Stanley Cup-winning team from Quebec in 1995. For cripes sakes, this is the first year Colorado didn’t win its division. Let’s see how many fans show up at the Pepsi Center when the Avs go 11-71-2. The Sharks did just that in 1992-93 and filled up their house each and every night. This is 12 years of suffering in the making.
Sharks in seven.
Detroit (1) vs. Calgary (7)
Red Wings fans – and Avs partisans, for that matter – collectively exhaled in relief when the Flames knocked off Vancouver. A Canucks’ win would have pitted Detroit and Colorado in Round 2.
Don’t relax too fast Detroit, though. The Flames are the real deal. Any team down 4-0 in Game 6 which comes back to tie, only to lose in triple OT and then comes back and wins in the other team’s building in Game 7 is not one to be taken lightly. If Jarome Iginla played anywhere else besides Alberta, he’d be as lauded as Peter Forsberg. Goalie Mikka Kiprusoff? He’s the real deal. The Red Wings should offer up animal sacrifices to the hockey gods that Cujo’s ankle stays in one piece.
In the end though, Detroit is too deep and experienced. Stevie Y, Brendan Shanahan, Brett Hull, Nicklas Lidstrom, Chris Chelios, Derian Hatcher and Pavel Datsyuk take the day.
Red Wings in six.
Philadelphia (3) vs. Toronto (4)
What a matchup. These two team are mirror images of each other – big, deep, physical and experienced. To quote “Slap Shot,” this is old-time hockey.
Owen Nolan should be back for the Flyers, which will help the Leafs’ quest for their first Cup since 1967. Robert Esche has been a delightful surprise for Philly between the pipes, but his counteprpart, Eddie Belfour, has been virtually untouchable.
Leafs (barely) in seven.
Tampa Bay (1) vs. Montreal (7)
OK, Maurice Richard is rolling in his grave over this series. Montreal vs. Tampa? Quoi? Well, the trendy pick in Round 1 was the Islanders over Lightning. That went by the boards quickly as the Lightning sent the Isles to the golf course in five. Doubtless, Round 2’s trendy pick is the Habs over Tampa.
Some people never learn. Sorry, Maurice, they do know how to play hockey on the Gulf Coast. Tampa is for real.
Lightning in five.
Chris Freud is the sports editor for the Vail Daily. If the Sharks lose to the Avs in Round 2, he will likely have to enter the witness protection program. In the meantime, he can be reached at (970) 949-0555, ext. 614 or vial firstname.lastname@example.org.