NHL Postseason Prepping
By Stephen London
The NHL postseason is right around the corner. There are a ton of great storylines in the opening round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, some with old rivalries and others with shades of new rivalries coming to form.
The NHL is doing something that has never been done before in terms of televising the playoffs. This year, in the United States, the NHL is broadcasting every single playoff game.
Using the NBC Sports Network, as well as other NBC-owned networks, such as CNBC, any hockey fan who wishes to watch every game of the playoffs now has the ability to. This broadcasting strategy is similar to what the CBS Sports Network did during the NCAA men's basketball tournament.
Here are previews of the series that begin April 11.
No. 5 Philadelphia Flyers at No. 4 Pittsburgh Penguins -- 7:30 p.m.
This playoff series is possibly the most highly anticipated opening matchup this year. The Battle of Pennsylvania should prove to be a ferocious one, considering the fireworks seen during the last couple meetings and coaches' comments after the games.
Head coach Peter Laviolette of the Flyers called Penguins head coach Dan Byslma gutless after sending the Penguins' fourth line in against the Flyers' first line, late during an already decided game. What came from this line matchup was 52 penalty minutes after Joe Vitale of the Penguins drove his body through veteran Flyer Daniel Briere. After numerous fights broke out following this vicious hit, both head coaches had a screaming match while standing on top of the bench.
Neither team in this series likes to be physically dominated. Expect huge hits, fights and a ton of minutes in the sin bin for both sides. The Flyers won the regular-season series, winning four games out of six against their in-state rival.
No. 5 Detroit Red Wings at No. 4 Nashville Predators -- 8 p.m.
The Detroit Red Wings have an interesting matchup with the Nashville Predators. Since the Predators were founded in 1997, they have never had a regular-season record as good as the one they have this year (48-26-8). Goaltending from Pekka Rinne and defense headed by Shea Weber have contributed to their success.
The Red Wings are going to play without right winger Patrick Eaves (concussion) and forward Dan Cleary (knee injury). The Red Wings are going to need Jimmy Howard to play better than Rinne of the Predators during the first two games in Nashville in order to have a chance to beat the Predators. With the Red Wings having a losing record on the road, it is hard to imagine that they will be able to get a win during the first two games at Nashville.
These two teams play at different speeds; the Red Wings like the fast-paced finesse type of hockey, but the Predators like the slow, defensive hockey style. Pavel Datsyuk is one of the best two-way forwards in the NHL and is the veteran presence on offense for the Red Wings. He has won the Frank J. Selke Trophy (best two-way forward award) three of the last four years for his skills not only putting the puck in the net, but also backchecking and defending.
No. 8 Los Angeles Kings at No. 1 Vancouver Canucks: 10:30 p.m.
The Vancouver Canucks are facing the Los Angeles Kings during the opening round of the playoffs for the second time in three years. But the Kings roster looks a bit different this year. The Kings traded for Jeff Carter right before the trade deadline, reuniting him with Mike Richards, his former Flyers teammate. Goaltender Jon Quick has also matured, leading the NHL in shutouts this year with 10.
The Canucks, on the other hand, have been going through a goaltender controversy. Roberto Luongo, the starting goaltender of the Canucks, has been getting shelled recently, causing his hometown crowd to boo him off the ice. Then, when backup goaltender Cory Schneider replaced him, the hometown erupted with cheer.
Whether Luongo or Schneider will start in net for the Canucks remains to be seen. But it seems unlikely that this goaltender controversy would cause a mental lapse for the Canucks during the playoffs, considering they have the best record in the NHL. But if there is a team to take advantage of this controversy, it could be the Kings, who know the Canucks all too well during the postseason.
Posted April 9, 2012