The Grill Report
a blog by Austin Grill
It’s that time of the year again. If Christmas is number 1 the list, than NHL Playoffs have got to be 1a. The time of year when teams make ridiculous runs to glory or that bitter taste from coming up just short. Currently, the Colorado Avalanche are getting ready to golf and see weather or not they will be getting Ryan Nugent-Hopkins or Gabriel Landeskog, which means instead of cheering on the Avs I get to hate Detroit even more and just be a general fan of the playoffs. There are definitely a few teams I would like to see make a deep run but if I had to pick one, I would go with Vancouver. The city, along with the team really deserves the cup, if not for being the best team in the league this year, but for having a great hockey city and for going the first 40 years of their existence without Lord Stanley’s Cup. These are the first round match ups I have broken down:
4 Pittsburgh vs 5 Tampa Bay
Honestly there is only one thing that matters in this series. Sidney Crosby. He is the best player in the world, and will change any series. Right now Pittsburgh is a very good hockey club, and that is without Crosby. With Crosby they become an amazing hockey team. Even without Malkin, Sid is enough to keep the Penguins as a Stanley Cup contender.
I would be surprised if Sid didn’t play at some point in the playoffs this year. He has been skating with the team every day. It wouldn’t make any sense for the Pens to risk injury to Cros in practice if he were not going to possibly play at some point this playoffs. Hockey Fans all over are eagerly awaiting his return and although the Pens say they don’t know when he’ll be back, I expect him to be back in the second round.
The Lightning look good up front and Roloson has been playing well but I believe the lack of depth on defense will be the undoing of Tampa. The other thing that has been a major issue leading into this year’s playoffs for the Lightning is Steven Stamkos. Starting the season red hot, the young sniper has cooler off considerably in the last quarter of the season. 91 points on the season is nothing to be upset about, but recording only 2 points in the last 5 games leading up to the playoffs, Tampa Bay will need him to step up his game considerably. Right now there is not a stand out player in this series. Which leaves the question, who will step up? The Lightning will expect a lot out of their big three, Stamkos, Marty St. Louis, and Vinny Lecavalier. However I think that if the Lightning want to see round two, they will need a big series from Simon Gagne. He was crucial to the Flyers last year in the post season especially if he plays like he did in the series against Boston. The Pens will expect a lot from Jordan Staal this series and I think he will be counted on the most out of anyone on the team. Marc-Andre Fluery will be great as expected, but I still don’t think it will be necessary as the Penguins depth out matches the Lightning. Pens in 6, 5 if Sid plays.
3 Philadelphia vs 6 Buffalo
This is a really interesting match up given that the Flyers have gone 7-7-6 in their last 20 games. They were red hot all season long even dealing with injuries and so much uncertainty in nets. The Sabres have done quite the opposite, winning 16 of their last 24 and come into the playoffs on a tear. It will be quite the feat if the Sabres can pull off this upset against an absolutely stacked Flyers team. I am honestly concerned with the mental state of the city of Buffalo if they can’t get past the Flyers. No city in the entire NHL has been fucked around with more than Buffalo. Two deflating defeats back to back years right after a lockout and a summer that saw all the talent leave Buffalo in a hole. The emotional victory for the Sabres could be very rewarding, but won’t be enough to stop the sting of a second round blowout by the Penguins or Capitals. However, I just don’t think the Sabres have it in them. The loss in the finals last year to Chicago leaves the Flyers wanting more and with a lot of players from last year they expect more of themselves. I see the Flyers moving past the Sabres in 6.
3 Detroit vs 6 Phoenix
This series is huge for one major reason and that reason is my hatred for Detroit. I hate everything that they stand for. You are not a hard working city cause you used to build decent cars half a century ago. You don’t have a nice part of town. It is a parking lot where God’s dog took a shit, and he was like “Nah, don’t need to pick that up.” Because he was in the middle of a Shopko parking lot and he knew no one would ever go there. There is certainly no good reason to visit Detroit. Mackinaw Island is a giant fucking contradiction given that you pride your state on making “fine automobiles,” and you can’t even drive there. Also, maybe the whole state should secede from the country, then maybe your new slogan “Imported from Detroit” might actually mean something. You can’t import something from the same country you are located in dumb-asses.
On the other hand, Phoenix is a lovely area to visit and I have a blast every time I am down there. Phoenix hockey has grown exponentially over the last decade or so and has a handful of players that have potential to go in the NHL entry draft over the next few years. The desert is heavily populated because people can tolerate living there. Golf year round and more hot girls than you can shake a stick at gives Phoenix a serious advantage over Detroit in this series. Which is going to be ridiculously important given the results of last years playoff match up. Obviously I want the ‘Yotes to pull this one out, are they going to? I think they can. If they can provide Ilya Bryzgalov with some offense to take the pressure off him it will go a long way. Especially since I expect nothing but spectacular saves from him all series long. A healthy Jovo Cop and and Korpikosky will be pivotal as well. Paul ‘Biz Nasty‘ Bissonnette will be crucial on face offs leading the team at %66.7. On an unrelated note, Biz Nasty is only one point behind the first pick of the 2003 entry draft in points. Look for Phoenix to ‘import’ a shit blizzard to Detroit in 7.