April 29, 2010

How to ride a goalie

by Dan Bilicki In: Ice Hockey, Picks

Since we have plenty of time to get to the Inter Milan vs. Bayern Munich Champions League final before it kicks off on May 22, it’s a good time to wrap up a stunning first round of NHL action.

It really goes to show how much I know (read: care) about the NHL, when I only hit on half of my first round winners, but there was at least one trend that cropped up, especially during last night’s game, that I had forgotten about: The super-hot goalie.

Every single year, there is that one goalie that single-handedly swings the balance of a series, no matter who is playing. This year, it was in the Montreal Canadiens who were able to ride a young goalie past the best team in the East, the Washington Capitals.

Seriously, who could have predicted that a guy who was a backup for half of the season would have been able to not only force a Game 7 against Alex Ovechkin’s crew, but also win that game, on the road no less.

Yes, Jaroslav Halak is this year’s super-hot goalie on the rise, destined to be overpaid and over-counted on during seasons to come. Young Halak’s 96 saves in the last two games were impressive, but I’m not sure if he knows how much pressure has now been put on his shoulders. How he wears it will prove what kind of player he really is, but there’s no time to think about it now, since he’ll be back in action on Friday, taking on the league’s other super-mega-star, Sidney Crosby.

So how about taking a few shots at predicting the second round?

Sure, Halak has been super, but can he keep it up against Sid, the Olympic hero?
Pick: Pittsburgh over Montreal in six.

In a slobber-knocker of a series, the Bruins will benefit from Tuukka Rask in net and Marc Savard’s return from a concussion.
Pick: Boston over Philly in six.

The wily, veteran Wings are just hitting their stride and the Sharks always choke it away.
Pick: Detroit over San Jose in seven.

I’m not sold at all on the Blackhawks goaltending, or their ability to contain the Sedins.
Pick: Vancouver over Chicago in six.

And hey, at least the NHL was decent enough to start their second round before May did.

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