2011 third round predictions

Dan A

EASTERN CONFERENCE FINAL

#3 Boston/ #5 Tampa Bay
Both teams are coming off of sweeps in the second round, Boston with a quick dismantling of Philadelphia and Tampa with a slightly less convincing romp over top-seeded Washington. Both teams have their top offensive weapons firing on all cylinders with the re-emergence of the Milan Lucic-David Krejci-Nathan Horton line as well as Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis finding their strides. On the defensive sides you have two big bodies on the backend in Boston’s Zdeno Chara and Victor Hedman who can dominate a game. In goal you have two feisty old battlers in Tim Thomas and Dwayne Roloson, both of whom can steal a game on any given night. This is going to be a great series with Boston’s physicality versus Tampa’s finesse and, to me, it’s a question of whether Roloson can hold out for another series…and I think he can. This series will go no shorter than 6 games with the Tampa Bay Lightning coming out to represent the Eastern Conference in the Stanley Cup Finals. Lightning in 6.

WESTERN CONFERENCE FINAL

#1 Vancouver/ #2 San Jose
The Sharks survived a scare, barely finishing off a series against Detroit in which they led three games to none, a feeling their opponents in Vancouver know well. However, having survived that scare, it’s time for San Jose to turn to the NHL’s top team and it will be a steep challenge. Vancouver has at least four defensemen playing at the top of their game, Ryan Kesler dominating in every aspect of the game, Raffi Torres rattling bones, and Roberto Luongo playing as well as he can play. For the Sharks, perennial playoff no-show Joe Thornton seems to have finally gotten over the hump, playing at around a point-per-game pace. Power forward Ryane Clowe is dominating down low and is the Sharks leading scorer and Antti Niemi is playing like a rock in net, leading the Sharks to a series win despite being greatly outshot by Detroit. However I don’t see this continuing and if the Sharks get outshot in the same way against Vancouver they’re not going to win. Vancouver in 6.

Pavialax

EASTERN CONFERENCE

(3) Boston Bruins vs. (5) Tampa Bay Lightning
I think the rest helps both of these teams and it will be a close series, with could make for an incredibly boring series. Special teams will be important for Tampa and I think will ultimately help decide the series. Guy Boucher seems to have his team very focused on the task at hand and they will be a tough team to beat and on the other side I think the Bruins falling into a lull after their sweep of the Flyers. Tampa’s speed could present difficulty. Boston has the upper hand in net, but I think if Roloson can continue to play as consistent as he has, Tampa could come out on top. Tampa in 7

WESTERN CONFERENCE

(1) Vancouver Canucks vs. (2) San Jose Sharks
It should be interesting to see if the Sharks are fatigued at all by enduring the 7 game series with Detroit. The Canucks have looked beatable so far in the post season. Will the layoff hurt them or help them? Can the Sharks carry the momentum from their game 7 win into the conference finals? I don’t think either team has shown us their best this postseason so far, they each have another level. The team that finds that level first will take the series. Ultimately, the rest pays off and allows Vancouver to re-focus their game. Canucks in 6

Penaltykiller

EASTERN CONFERENCE

#3 Boston/ #5 Tampa Bay
This is an interesting matchup. Boston is a strong even strength team while Tampa is much stronger on the special teams.Normally I’d prefer the even strength team, but in a 7 game series anything could happen. I could see this one going either way, but I think Boston losing Bergeron could be the unfortunate difference maker. Tampa in seven.

WESTERN CONFERENCE

#1 Vancouver/ #2 San Jose
The fact that these are the top two seeds in the West would lead one to believe these two teams are close, but Vancouver was the better team in almost every statistical category in the regular season. They scored more goals while letting in fewer goals. Their goaltending was far superior. Their special teams was also superior. Vancouver also won the season series 3-1, their only loss coming in the shootout. Vancouver will win this one in six.

Nick D

EASTERN CONFERENCE
Tampa Bay Lightning head coach Guy Boucher seems to be pushing all the right buttons and has the Lightning on a seven game win streak in the playoffs. That’s almost two straight series sweeps. If anyone had any doubt that the Bolts were going to be a good team going into the playoffs, they have absolutely been rectified at this point. The Boston Bruins on the other hand overcame two pretty big demons in their own right by winning a seven game series and closing out the Philadelphia Flyers, a feat they failed to complete last year in four straight tries, in four. This should be a good series as the big bad Bs will try to enact the same type of punishment on the Lightning that they did the Flyers, if they can catch them of course, and just so everyone knows, the Lightning aren’t that small of a team either. There’s just something about this Lightning team that can, and have proven that they can, score at the right times to take down the Bruins in the Conference Finals. Lightning in 6

WESTERN CONFERENCE
Out in the wild West we have the Vancouver Canucks and the San Jose Sharks facing off for the Clarence S. Campbell Bowl. Both of these teams have flirted with greatness, and both have flirted with complete and utter collapse. The Canucks almost allowed the Chicago Blackhawks to repeat history from a year ago by going up 3-0 in the series and then blowing the next three before closing out the series in overtime in game seven. The Sharks on the other hand, have just come off a  third period game seven win after also being up 3-0 in a series. This series really could go either way, but the Sharks seem to have finally gotten their act together so maybe they’ll pull it out. Sharks in 7

Frick

EASTERN CONFERENCE

Bruins vs. Lightning
The Flyers will pull this one out by the skin of their teeth (weird phrase, huh?  Since there is no skin on teeth…)  Wait, what does that say?  Bruins vs. Lightning?  What the heck is that all about?  Seriously??!  I, um, wow.  Talk about blowing up my bracket.  If that’s not a typo and I really have to pick a winner for this series, I will go with Guy Boucher’s Lightning in 6. I mean, how do you bet against a guy (see what I did there?) who sounds like he is auditioning to be the next Batman?

WESTERN CONFERENCE

Sharks vs. Canucks
The Sharks will give hope to their fans that maybe this is the year.  But, alas, they will fulfill their destiny and lose to the over-powering Canucks.  It will be an interesting series, just close enough to break thousands of hearts. Canucks in 7.

Marcello D

EASTERN CONFERENCE

#3 Boston/ #5 Tampa Bay
In the offseason, I said that the Lightning would be a formidable Stanley Cup threat if they could find an upgrade in net and on defense. Tampa Bay GM, Steve Yzerman, filled the holes in his team’s roster by the trade deadline and Guy Boucher has the Bolts playing like a cohesive unit. The Bruins may be coming off a vengeful sweep of the lackluster Flyers but Tampa Bay is the real deal. Tampa Bay in 5.

WESTERN CONFERENCE

#1 Vancouver/ #2 San Jose
With each passing series, the Canucks get one step closer to living up to the hype. Meanwhile, San Jose found itself on the verge of a historic collapse at the hands of the Red Wings. The Canucks are a logical choice to steamroll the Sharks but I don’t think it will be that easy. San Jose will make a strong series out of it and, much like the Predators in the last round, they are the team I want to pick to win. However, my head prevails over my heart. Vancouver in 6.

Craig F

Lightning in 7

Canucks in 6

Bob H

Bruins in 6

Canucks in 6