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2012 The Quest For The Cup-Eastern Conference
Gary Norris Gray BASN Staff ReporterOAKLAND, CA.(BASN)—What more could any hockey fan ask for then the 2012 ending of the regular National Hockey League Season?
The upstart Saint Louis Blues defeated the Dallas Stars 3-2 gaining the 2nd position in the Western Conference. The team that played in the old Checker Dome (are you old enough to remember?) had come of age.
Where is KMOX radio when you need them? With the Blues young scoring power they are going to be a tough out in the playoffs.
The President Cup once again returns to the Western Conference. The Vancouver Canucks defeated the Edmonton Oilers 3-0 with the Sedin Twins contributing as usual. This team is just another Jekyl and Hyde in the hocky bunch.
Last Saturday afternoon The New York Rangers skated on the Madison Square Garden ice six hours earlier thinking the Washington Capitals would lay down giving them the President’s Cup and a first round matchup with the same Washington Capitals.
WRONG, The Caps had other ideas and came out smoking scoring three goals before the 1st period ended and guaranteeing Washington a spot in the playoffs, they did not know which position. The Rangers were flat and did not show any interest in this game until the middle of the 2nd period, TOO LATE.
This also created a matchup most Ranger fans dreaded, The big Ottawa Senators who meanwhile dropped from the 7th to the 8th position and a date in the Big Apple. The Sens are the only team in the east that has handled the New York Ranger fire power all year long so the Broadway Blueshirts will be tested early.
The final parings for the playoffs were not known until 10:00 pm Pacific Time. The San Jose Sharks defeated the Los Angeles Kings on Dan Boyle’s goal in overtime. This happened to be for the last two positions in the Western Conference. Sharks win 3-2 to gain a date to the Gateway City, while the Los Angeles Kings travel to Northwest Canada and a date with the free swinging Canucks.
The Florida Panthers win their first divisional title capturing the Southwest Division and the Phoenix Coyotes also garnered their first title, capturing the Pacific Division on the last night of the season.
Eastern Conference #1 New York Rangers vs. #8 Ottawa Senators The Rangers put themselves in a hole early with the season ending with a 5-2 loss to the Washington Capitals. The Ottawa Senators are a very physical team that has given New York fits all year long. New York Goalies Lundqvist and Biron will have to be the Rangers last line of defense.
Ottawa may have found their goalie with the Matrix Man Craig Anderson in net. He has improved team defense and may have found a home in the Canadian Capital City. If Anderson gets hot between the pipes he could put the Blueshirts out of the playoffs in the first round.
The big line of Daniel Alfredsson, Colin Greening, and Nick Foligno line could be bouncing Rangers all over the ice. Captain Alfredsson at 39 knows this could be his last Stanley Cup chance so he might want to make things happen on the ice.
Blueshirts will have to finesse the Sens to get out of first round, the Rangers defense may have blocked more shots than any other Ranger team, and they have to continue blocking shots. This plays into Head CoachTortorellia’s defensive system.
New York in seven. #2 Boston Bruins vs. #7 Washington Capitals
These two teams deserve each other in the first round. Both have been big disappointments, and both have been hot, and both have struggled to score goals. The Caps were the preseason favorite to win the Stanley Cup and being in 7th position in the East was not one of their goals.
Defeating the New York Rangers on the last day of the year in typical Washington Capital fashion might be a bright spot for the red, white, and blue. The Caps are still weak in the goalie position but Super 8 Alex Ovechkin might save the day. Washington might need more scoring from Mike Knuble and Goal Brother Joel Ward.
The Boston Bruins have worn out All Star goalie Tim Thomas at the end of this season. Backup Marty Turco went into the net in the middle of the season to give Thomas rest but it was not enough. The Bruin defense may carry this team into the 2nd round. Zdeno Chara and Johnny Boychuch are older and wiser. It’s Washington Capital Speed against Boston Bruin Defense.
Boston in seven.
#3 Florida Panthers vs. #6 New Jersey Devils
Could it be the Return of The Rats in Southern Florida? The Panthers got the 3rd seed in the East but three teams have more points and should be ahead of Florida. This has been the major argument since the realignment of 2002.
This is a matchup of different styles. The Run and Gun Florida Panthers vs. the slow down and grind New Jersey Devils. The Panthers are one of the surprising teams in the league winning the Southeast Division, their first title. Florida solidified their goalie position acquiring two veterans Jose Theodore from the Montreal Canadiens and Scott Clemmensen from the New Jersey Devils.
It also changed the team defense knowing they have a man that will stop opponents’ shots. The Panther power play should challenge the Devil penalty kill. It will also be a reunion for John Madden as he will go up against his old teammates. Brian Campbell and Tomas Fleischmann will have to carry Cats to move on to 2nd round.
It was a very strange feeling for the New Jersey Devils missing the playoffs for the first time in 15 years. The Devils have been in the playoffs 19 of 20 years and are one of the most successful franchises in the NHL. The Devils have freshmen head coach Pete Doer whom the Panthers fired a year ago. So there could be a revenge factor in the Devil-Panther playoff.
(Sidebar- The New Jersey Devils organization and the Mayor of Newark are in a knockdown drag out battle for the redevelopment area around Prudential Center a.k.a. THE ROCK. Mayor Cory A. Booker has stated many times they would not have allowed the Devils to move downtown without this agreement. This has been a three year battle and it seems like it will be heading to the courts.)
The Devils have number 30 the Future Hall of Fame Goalie, Martin Broduer who won another 30 games in net the 15th time. The Devils have a decent backup in net with Johan Hegburg with his 2.2 goals against average. It’s comparable to St. Louis’s two headed monster in net.
Goal Brother Bryce Salvador played every game this year and is the last defenseman from the old regime. The old Devils defense returned on the ice propelling them into the first round of the playoffs. The Devils have to outscore the Cats to move on. Big Center Ilya Kovalchuk, Patrik Elias, and net crasher Zack Parise must carry the Devils offense. New Jersey is a team in transition with 8 rookies on the squad that have contributed throughout the season. This should be an interesting matchup Panther offense vs. Devil defense.
New Jersey Devils in Six
#4 Pittsburgh Penguins vs. #5 Philadelphia Flyers This is the State of Pennsylvania’s war, East vs. West. It should be the most interesting series in the Eastern Conference. It’s the star power spoiled Penguins against the hard working blue-collar Flyers. Evgeni Malkin, Sid Crosby, and goalie Marc Andre Fleurey vs. Goal Brother Wayne Simmonds, an older Jaromir Jagr, Scott Hartnell, and feisty Claude Giroux.
The Flyers have let Simmonds play his game and he has garnered the most points of his career. Wayne also brought back the nastiness of the old Broadstreet Bullies.
The Flyers still have questions in net who will start the playoffs Ilya Bryzgalov or Sergei Bobrovsky. It is not a good idea to enter playoffs with two goal tenders that are not doing well. The Flyers will go with the $51 million dollar man, Bryzgalov to get them through the playoffs.
Philadelphia’s Head Coach Peter Laviolette has to balance all four lines to keep pace with the high scoring Penguins.
Next, the Pittsburgh Penguins do not play defense so it should be easy for the Flyers to score in this series.
Philadelphia Flyers in six.
Â©Copyrighted Gary Norris Gray @ Gray Leopard Prod