Second round predictions..

First round done, and frankly, that was some great hockey. Only one four-game series, showing Ottawa to be the only team that really shouldn’t have been in the playoffs (and my sympathies to my sens-fan friends, it was sad seeing the entire franchise melt down this season).

six of eight series go six or seven games, and there’s been a lot of good, quality hockey. It’s so good people looking for things to complain about seem to be falling back on the reffing — and while the reffing isn’t perfect by any means, if that’s the worst you can find to complain about in the game, well, shut up and enjoy the ride.. (not that you will)

Game 7 in San Jose was a classic. The Sharks came out and just seemed ready — something they don’t always do. Calgary tried, but the Sharks simply didn’t let them get much traction. Even when the Flames went up 2-1, it was my feeling that the Sharks attitude was “no big deal, we’ll be there at the end”. and they were.

The Sharks are reminding me more and more of the Detroit Red Wings in their “machine” days, when it was obvious they knew they were going to win, almost daring you to beat them. The Sharks seem to be growing into that kind of mentality.

My feeling going into the Calgary series was that if the Sharks survived it and were healthy, it’d be hard for anyone to stop them. Coming out of the series, I feel that way even more. It certainly doesn’t get any easier in round 2 — but it’s not going to be harder. And the Sharks have toughened and gotten that confidence going again, so watch out.

Gotta give credit to a few folks: Kirprusoff had an awesome series, despite being pulled twice. the first time, it worked. Last night, it blew up in Keenan’s face, with joseph giving up a goal almost immediately and effectively putting the game out of reach. Keenan, of course, put the onus on Kiprusoff in the post-game interviews and not on his decision to put a cold goalie in against a team putting on a big rush. Sometimes the coach’s strategy works, sometimes it blows up, but that’s the goalie’s fault.

(and why did Keenan not show up in the handshake line? A bit classless, Mike. just like throwing Kiprusoff under the bus after the game. way to go, guy).

Also big kudos to Iginla, who worried me that he might beat the sharks singlehandedly, and sure tried. In game 7, everywhere he went, Joe Pavelski was there making sure the pass didn’t get through cleanly — and in the third, I’m not sure Iginla ever really left the ice. I haven’t seen formal numbers, but he had at least 12 minutes, I think, playing a forward shift with his line, then double-shifting at D with Phaneuf. Talk about a stud. (oh, and Phaneuf was the third stud. he’s a punk and a fairly dirty player, but he’s also very good and effective at it).

Finally, congrats to Owen Nolan, probably playing his last game (and also to ex-shark Wayne Primeau, who also made the Sharks moderately miserable in the series). Been fun to watch him all season playing well after most of us thought he was done years ago, and in this series, he was a force and scored a number of key goals.

But the big question in Calgary is how they’re going to make that team better; I don’t think Keenan is the answer (in today’s NHL, can he be?), and that team played its heart out, and it wasn’t good enough. Sutter has some tough decisions to make. First one I’d suggest is whether Keenan is who you want behind the bench. Sutter, bluntly, would have been in that handshake line, and that is to me a symptom of the bigger issues that Keenan carries with him; Scotty Bowman was never a “player’s coach”, but Keenan’s act wears out very quickly, and if his job was to take the Flames to the next level and get them deeper into the playoffs, it didn’t work. We’ll see. I know what my answer is, but then, my answer never involves hiring Keenan in the first place.

Anyway, a couple of days off, and back to the war. So what’s the 2nd round look like? And how’d I do in the first?

In the west, I was 3-1; picked san jose, detroit and colorado, missed Anaheim. In the east, I was also 3-1, picking Montreal, Pittsburgh, and the Rangers, missing Philadelphia. Not a bad start…. And both of my cup final picks are still live, even better (montreal/san jose)

So in Round 2

East: Montreal/Philly: I’ll take Montreal in 6. I like how they’re playing, and I think Price will outplay Biron. but it won’t be easy.

Penguins/Rangers: I think this one’s a tough one to call, but I’ll go Pittsburgh in 7. it can go either way, but I think the Pens will win this one.

West: Detroit/Colorado: in this case, I think the obvious answer is Detroit, but I’m not happy with the goaltending (neither is anyone in Detroit), and the Wings look vulnerable. And Jose Theodore has turned back into a goaltender. So I’ll take Colorado in 6.

San jose/Dallas: Nabokov? Or turco? San Jose? or Dallas? the teams have played very even this year, but the Sharks are on a run, and I don’t think Turco can play better goal than Kirprusoff did. 2nd round isn’t by any means easier for San Jose, but I don’t think it’s harder. Sharks in 5.

Drop the puck already!

(no, give us a couple of days for our ears to stop ringing…)

update: Mike Keenan skipping the post-series handshake is even more curious given this quote he gave just a few days ago:

To shake, or not to shake

Mike Keenan says never has he snubbed an opponent in a post-series handshake ceremony.

“No, but I’ve had other people mad at me who didn’t to shake my hand,” the Flames skipper said with a smile. “Pat Quinn (then coaching the Canucks) didn’t shake my hand when we won (the Stanley Cup) in New York. Other than that, everybody else has.”

The series-concluding ritual became a hot topic Friday when New Jersey netminder Martin Brodeur wouldn’t extend his hand to Rangers tormentor Sean Avery after New York dispatched the Devils.

“I think it’s part of the tradition of a hockey series,” said Keenan. “It’s the way it always has been, I don’t know why we would change it.”

(found in, among other places, the Ottawa Citizen)