Don Cherry predicts Bruins-Sharks final
Grapes predicts either the Boston Bruins or San Jose Sharks will hoist the Stanley Cup this spring.
Don Cherry, the opinionated star of Coach's Corner on CBC's Hockey Night In Canada, told reporters during a conference call Monday that he has an inkling the two top seeds will emerge from their respective conferences and meet in the Stanley Cup final.
San Jose led the NHL with 117 points in the Western Conference, while Boston topped the Eastern Conference with 116 points.
"It will be a ding-donger," Cherry said, stopping short of predicting a winner.
"But I will tell you one thing, I just hope Anaheim gets a break this year. I mean, I'm not saying the referees say, 'Let's get Anaheim,' but they really get stiffed.
"I have checked it out. They have had to kill 85 more power plays than they get.
"I have watched them all year and I have got to say they get stiffed. And I just hope, when they get in the playoffs — I know they're a rough, tough team and I know we're going in a new direction — but I just hope they get a fair shot."
Vancouver 'will go the longest'
Asked which Canadian team is likely to survive longest in pro sport's most gruelling playoff grind, Cherry wanted to pick the Calgary Flames, but changed his mind because he is worried goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff (76 appearances) was overworked during the regular season.
"Vancouver, the way they're going," he said. "I'm not saying I want them to because I really like the way they play in Calgary.
"I don't know whether Kiprusoff is too tired or not. But the odds are Vancouver, I will say they will go the longest."
Cherry emphasized the importance of goaltending in the playoffs, noting that netminder Roberto Luongo is the key to Vancouver's fortunes and that the Detroit Red Wings will again need Chris Osgood to stand tall if they hope to repeat as Stanley Cup champions.
"They have got everything going for them," Cherry said of the Red Wings, who finished five points behind the front-running Sharks in the Western Conference.
"And it all comes right down to the goalie. If the goalie is as hot like he was when they won the Cup, they have a got a great shot because he was dynamite.
"I know he has taken an awful lot of abuse this year, and he has had some tough games. But it looks like he is coming around and, if he comes around, they're going to be tough."
Likewise, Tim Thomas is having such a splendid season that he makes Cherry's beloved Bruins the team to beat in the Eastern Conference.
Boston not only led the conference with 116 points, but boasts lofty plus-minus ratings, offensive depth and exceptional leadership from captain Zdeno Chara.
"They had 18 guys that were plus, which is unbelievable," Cherry said. "They had seven guys that were 20 or more goals, so he [Claude Julien] can throw anybody on there and like you guys said about Thomas, everybody makes fun of the way he plays.
"He just stops the puck and I think they only lost two games of their last 10. They had their little slump and, this year, Chara is going to be a force."
'First series are always the toughest'
Boston's opening-round opponent is the Montreal Canadiens, who narrowly squeaked into the playoffs.
Montreal has been Boston's nemesis since the days of the Original Six, winning 24 of 31 playoff series, including three in the past decade.
"I will tell you one thing, I always hate when I was a first-place club playing a team that snuck into the playoffs because they're going to be goosey-goosey and you have got a gun to your head," Cherry said. "When you're a first-place club, those first series are always the toughest."
And Cherry's choice as THE series to watch (CBC, Thursday, 7 p.m. ET).
"My playoff series is Boston," he said. "Nice and tough.
"They [the Bruins] have got eight 20-goal scorers, or they would have had eight had Chara not gotten injured.
"Only Washington scored more goals. They had 18 guys at plus and they only lost six games at home.
"I mean, I don't see how Montreal has a chance. They had nobody in the Top-40 scoring [and] they had 50 more goals scored against them."
"Boston in five, possibly six," he said.