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MINERAL CENTER…. It is finally here! The greatest spectacle of ice hockey to grace this planet is ready to commence. The Stanley Cup Tournament combatants are finally decided and in place and all kinds of side stories, opinions and prognostications are being offered up as I type! This is kind of an unusual season though. If you think hard enough you might think that there are maybe one or two possible Cup winners in the race or you might conclude that it’s a wide open field and that as many as ten clubs could be polishing silver in mid-June. All I can admit at this point in time is that an eventual winner is as clear as mud.
It is mid-evening on a Sunday and the final two regular season tilts have just finished up. These were two games postponed due to blizzards earlier in the season, but both contests had some implications as to who would be playing whom when the tourney kicked off. The Philly Flyers were in Brooklyn to take on the NY Isles and the Anaheim Duck were in the Nations Capital to face the Caps. If the Isles were victorious they would have faced the Pittsburgh Penguins. If not, they were going to FLA to face the Atlantic winners the Panthers. Philly beat the Isles 5-2 dropping the NYI to the 1st Wildcard position. The NY Rangers now have the daunting task of facing arguably the hottest team in the show right now in the Pens with the Isles heading for the beach.
The Ducks meanwhile could clinch the Pacific with a win and they did, beating the Caps 2-0. This gets them the series versus the 1st Wildcard team, the Nashville Predators instead of their west coast nemesis the San Jose Sharks. So, without further ado, who will do what with which to whom?
(Home Team listed 1st) In the EAST;
Washington Capitals (M1) versus the Philadelphia Flyers.(WC2) Season series 2-2. The Caps were the best regular season team in the league, winning the Presidents Cup in the process. The Caps have had it all this year, offense, defense and special teams and goalie Braden Holtby tied the NHL regular season record for wins with 48. The Flyers have achieved as well with first year coach Dave Hakstol taking the team further then expected. The Flyers looked tired down the stretch. Caps in 5 games…
The Florida Panthers (A1) vs. NY Isles (WC1). Season series FLA 2-1. These clubs finished close in points and in wins. I liked the way the Cats looked at various points in the season over the way the Isles performed at times. G Jaro Halak is still out for the Isles and Roberto Luongo is the solid vet ready to go. I think the Cats are on a mission, Cats in 6 games….
Pittsburgh (M2) vs. NY Rangers (M3). Season series 3-1 PITT. In the recent past the Rangers have ousted the Pens twice from the SC tourney. Right now the Rangers are pretty banged up and missing important players. The Pens? They are without Geno Malkin and Marc-Andre’ Fleury, but seem to be playing on without them. The NYR have the King, but I don’t see him taking them to any coronation this year; Pens in 6 games…
Tampa Bay Lightning (A2) vs. Detroit Red Wing(A3). Season series 2-2. The Wings had the Bolts all but finished in last years tourney, until G7, period 3 and the Wings could not finish the job. The Wings didn’t finish great, but neither did Tampa and they are a banged up club. I see the Wings moving forth in 6 games….
IN THE WEST:
Dallas North Stars (C1) vs. Minnesota Wild (WC2); Season Series 4-1 DAL. The N-Stars won the West with a 109 point season. The Wild limp into the playoffs with 87 points and on a 5 game losing streak. The N-Stars however, give up almost one goal for every one they score. Can the Wild exploit that? Not the way they are playing. Stars in 5….
Anaheim Duck(P1) vs. Nashville Predators(WC2); Season series 2-1 NASH. After a horrendous start the Duck rallied to a divisional title. Nashville had some strong streaks at various points but is 5-5 in their L10. I think the Duck have too much for the Preds, give me Duck in 6 games…
STL Blues(C2) vs. Chicago Blackhawk’s(C3); Season series 3-2 STL. Some of the fiercest games I have ever seen in person have featured these two clubs. The Hawks are defending Champs, the Blues are on a mission. I don’t like what I have seen from the Hawks since the ASG, the Blues appear to have their game in order at the right time. Hawks have hit the wall, Blues in 6 games…
Los Angeles Kings(P2) vs. San Jose Shark(P3); Season series 3-2 San Jose. It is thought that with the Kings not getting in last year that this would give them rest and put them on an SC path for this year. But, SJ is focused too and is the best road team in the NHL this year. And they OWE the King for past playoff transgressions. I’ve seen them both in the last two weeks and I like the Shark better at this juncture, Sharks in 7.…
CONGRATS TO U OF NORTH DAKOTA.
UND has captured this years Frozen Four with a 5-2 win over Quinnipiac in Tampa Bay. Yeah, this is a Gopher fan giving Congrats to the Fighting whatever’s. And I am positive that outside of UMD Coach Sandelin, that there are not too many UND fans in the Ports. But I hope that you can appreciate how hard it is to win that, it’s their first title in 16 seasons. They had an exceptional tourney and are the rightful Champions…. PEACE