Fireside Chat – 2nd Round Edition

This was fun the last time so let’s say we try it again, huh?

Before I get into the second round kerfuffle, let’s have a word about the first round.

This Ducks thing is broken and I don’t know how you fix it without bringing in a Greek priest, gallons of holy water and some split pea soup. This is three seasons in a row that they held a 3 games to 2 lead only to see them lose the last two games of the series. At least they had a puncher’s chance in last night’s game as opposed to the last two when it was over before the end of the first period.

They can fire Bruce Boudreau (and they probably should) but that still may not fix anything. There is so much scar tissue among their important players that they could be too far gone. To be fair, though, the same thing was said of San Jose last summer and the 9 summers before that and now they’re America’s darlings. So who knows. Bob Murray is certainly not in an enviable position.

–Here’s something that doesn’t need to be written but was. It’s beyond hysterical that in a postseason where St. Louis, San Jose, Nashville, Pittsburgh and Washington still have Cup hopes that it’s logical to say the Blackhawks will be done in the years to come because they lost in the first round this year.

Each of those five aforementioned teams has an aging core with a full resume of playoff disappointments that would make Thurman Thomas blush. Yet, they’re doing just fine this year.

And just to further shed light on how the NHL playoffs are prone to chewing up and spitting out good teams on an annual basis, the Detroit Red Wings of the 00’s won the Central Division 8 of 9 seasons. They were also bounced in the first round in three of those seasons before their back-to-back Stanley Cup Final appearances.

So the window here is still open for quite some time.

Ok, on to the teams still playing…

Islanders vs. Lightning: So I’m sort of cheating here because they already played Game 1. Here’s all you really need to know: Steven Stamkos is still out and Jonathan Tavares is not. This may end poorly for Tampa.

To make matters worse, Islanders coach Jack Capuano took a puck to the face and had to leave the bench. The Lightning started to stage a comeback and Capuano came back for the end of the game. You just know Capuano’s bloody face is going to become a rallying cry for this team. I wouldn’t be surprised if the team makes him wear the blood-stained suit for the rest of the playoffs. They may win the East based on that alone. Kill me now.

Penguins vs. Capitals: Let’s take a trip back to the summer of 2009. The Capitals and Penguins played in one of the best playoff series’ of recent vintage with two young superstars Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin both playing a starring role. When it ended, it was common knowledge that both teams were likely to be facing off every summer for the next decade to determine who would represent the East.

Uhhhhh…about that. This will be their first playoff meeting since. Ovechkin is now 30 years old and Crosby is nearing that. While 30 has become the new 40 in professional sports, this will hardly be both players last chance at the Cup. However, it’s hard to imagine either having a better chance, particularly Ovechkin.

As I mentioned in the first round Fireside Chat, the Capitals are one of the best regular season teams everyone ignored. They would’ve steamrolled the Flyers in four games if it weren’t for Michael Neuvirth putting on a performance for the Gods.

The Penguins, on the other hand, seem to really like it when their head coach gets canned in the middle of the season. Much like the streaking they went on when Michel Therrien was sacked mid-season for Dan Bylsma in 2009, they’ve gone on a similar rampage since Mike Sullivan has assumed responsibility behind the bench.

You could say that much of it had to do with the Eastern Conference tanking contest and the fact that King Lundqvist had his eye gouged out in Game 1. However, there is a lot of speed on this Pittsburgh unit.

This series should be a fun one. (And please save me all your Trevor Daley thoughts. He’s not a smart hockey player. Watch as he’ll make at least one pass a game towards the bench to a player going off for a change.)

Sharks vs. Predators: Have you heard the Sharks are America’s Great Hope? Well, when your first round opponent is the Kings and then your next opponent is the Predators, an organization and fanbase that makes the city of St. Louis seem like radical progressives, it’s very easy to back a team that still employs Joe Thornton.

Ah yes. Former captain Joe Thornton. A generational talent with the personality of a doofus. Joe Thornton, the same guy responsible for continually punching people in the face while wearing his gloves. Joe Thornton, the same guy who basically turned David Perron into more of a slobbering fool than he already was. Joe Thornton, the same guy who was stripped of his captaincy and no one from his team really cared.

And yet, this would still be better than seeing the Predators and their ghastly crew of minotaurs move ahead.

It would take another collapse of epic proportions for San Jose not to advance to the Western Conference Finals. The Predators can’t continue to get Dr. Pekka and Mr. Rinne in another playoff series and expect to have a chance against this group. The Sharks have scoring top to bottom and a far more impressive defensive unit than Anaheim.

This should be another quick one for San Jose if things bounce their way. Otherwise, it’ll just take longer.

Blues vs. Stars: Last but not least, we get the series that came in second to Blackhawks vs. Wild as the “Series No One Wanted to See.” We all know about the Blues by now. They have a top line that is as good as anyone in hockey. And that line only plays 14-15 minutes a night because of their head coach’s desire to play David Backes and Troy Brouwer for 23 minutes a night.

You can rail about the Stars defense and the goaltending all you want but if St. Louis thinks they’re going to win this series by keeping it low scoring, Dallas may finish it quicker than anyone expected. Brian Elliott will not have a second round as good as his first. Jabe O’Meester will be exposed for the 3rd pairing defensmen disguised as a top pair that he is and Steve Ott will continue to be irrelevant.

Tarasenko and Jaden Schwartz have to be unleashed for 20 minutes a game for St. Louis to win this series even with Tyler Seguin out for Dallas.

I think that’s all for now. See you in the Conference Finals.

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