Rose was reinstated today by Sepp Blatter following her Cookie Incident suspension and the first thing she did when she walked into the office was smile and hold up 6 fingers. “The lowly accountant/secretary correctly predicted six first round winners and the brainiac Commissioner only got two right (Minsk and Berlin). Yeah! Maybe I should take over the commissioner’s post.” She also called the commissioner an arrogant jerk and it was NOT the first time he’s heard someone say that about him.
Onto the second round predictions:
Gothenburg (No. 4 seed) vs. Minsk (No. 1)
Commissioner: During the regular season, Minsk averaged 10 more shots than their opponent every game. Gothenburg isn’t quite in Minsk’s class and I foresee another Hussar win. They beat Gothenburg in four of the six meetings of the teams this season. Pekka Rinne, Frolunda’s goalie, was great in the first round, but Minsk can wear down a goalie with their relentless attack. Look for the top line of Nick Backstrom, Milan Lucic and Patrick Kane to again lead the way. Prediction: Minsk in 4 games.
Rose: Gothenburg is not being given enough credit. General Manager Austin Dwyer has always been very complimentary to me and he has perfect manners. He once invited me to visit him at his college where he said I would be known as the Mellow Rose of Texas. What a nice boy. I couldn’t make it, but someday I think my single niece and I might make a road trip. Gothenburg Coach Randy Carlyle needs to unleash Mark Fraser on the Hussars. If the league’s baddest boy can stir up trouble and get the Hussars off their game, they might not get a lot of quality shots on red-hot Pekka Rinne. A little more contribution from Jordan Eberle and Petr Vrana on Adam Henrique’s line would help too. Prediction: Frolunda in an upset in 7 games.
Moscow (No. 3) vs. Belfast (No. 2)
Commissioner: The Giants have proven themselves as winners in the last two years, and while they face a tough test in Moscow, I think they have the multi-pronged attack to get through to the conference finals. One man in particular will feel like he has a lot to prove. Claude Giroux came from Edinburgh in a trade that made it seem like Belfast General Manager Chris Patton was saying Belfast “is all in” for the Cup. Going to Scotland in the deal were Sidney Crosby, promising forward Mikko Rantanen, a first round pick and a second round pick. Giroux was named captain of the Giants for a reason and he has the drive and ability to dominate parts of games. The Giants gave the puck up too often against London and if they can limit the giveaways and stay out of the penalty box, they can win it. Prediction: Belfast wins in 6 games
Rose: Joel Quenneville looks like he could be an actor, doesn’t he? Rugged good looks, a penetrating glare … I would cast him as the captain of a ship in a 1700s period epic. I think about him often. London gave Belfast a rough ride in the first round and if Moscow and goalie Alexander Salak can frustrate the Giants early in the series, the Giants could be discombobulated enough to let the series and their third straight EURO Cup slip away. Belfast star defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson was not himself in the first round and failed to earn a point in 6 games. He will be pressing to turn things around and that could lead to mistakes, and when a defenseman makes a mistake, Moscow has the forwards (Ryan O’Reilly, David Backes, Dustin Brown, etc.) to make it hurt. The top defensemen in Moscow – Ryan Suter and Duncan Keith – excel at their defense-first game but they can really do damage with the puck, too. Prediction: Moscow wins in 6 games.
Athens (No. 5) vs. Paris (No. 1)
Commissioner: Paris looked gargantuan against Zurich. Their lopsided series win gave them plenty of time to rest up for the next round, while Athens is still catching its breath from their tight series with the Munich Dire Wolf. Paris has zero holes in the lineup and they have an immense talent at center in Evgeny Malkin, who finished second in the league in scoring. Overlooked in Paris’ star-studded lineup is Lauri Korpikoski, a free agent pickup at the beginning of the year. The Finn scored 44 points on the third line this season and was plus 47. In the first round, he saw fewer minutes than anyone else on the Rouge Eiffels but still scored twice and added an assist in the four games. The Eiffels might be almost four years removed from their Season 2 Cup, but the entire team other than 35-year-old Jason Krog is currently in the prime of the careers. Prediction: Paris wins in 4 games.
Rose: I was right about Athens in Round 1 because I know my Greeks. Call me a Greek Geek if you would like, but I see them in another conference finals series for a couple of reasons, but one in particular. Jaroslav Halak, ladies and gentlemen. One can assume he wants to show Moscow General Manager Ronnie Walker it was a big mistake to include Halak in the David Backes trade. The 31-year-old won a Cup and three individual trophies two seasons ago and Athens was happy to pick him up at $4.75 million for a year and a player option. Halak was definitely a difference maker in the first round, allowing only 1.82 goals per game in 7 games with a save percentage just under 92 percent. Athens was never really 100 percent healthy in the first round but they are now, so expect them to battle Paris in every game. Bobby Butler doesn’t play a lot, but he always seems to come up with big goals and plays it the playoffs. Prediction: Athens takes it in 7 games.
Madrid (No. 3) vs. Berlin (No. 2)
Commssioners: The Royals were great against Bratislava in the first round. They are well known for their amazing defense tandem of Erik Karlsson and Shea Weber, but even when Weber got hurt, others picked up the ball and ran with it. Derek Stepan, Gabriel Landeskog and Blake Wheeler can give any lineup fits and they worked well together in the last two weeks, scoring 13 goals in 7 games against the Eagles. But Sean Couturier was every bit as good as those three forwards, albeit in a different role. He blocked shots, hit and showed a good offensive game. Teams that focus on Stepan and the brilliant defense pair feed right into Couturier’s game. Big Robin Lehner in goal had a poor series by his standards, but he stopped pucks at a 91 percent rate during the regular season. Madrid will always be in it with him in goal. Prediction: Madrid wins in 6.
Rose: I bad-mouthed Berlin before the first round and I paid for it financially. The commissioner is dumb enough to make the same mistake twice. I’m not. I will say this about the Smurfs: They are great. Their general manager Guybrush Threepwood is handsome, smart and intelligent. Erik Forssell is the best player in the world. I also see them with some advantages over the Royals. The two teams met four times in the regular season and the home team won every time. Berlin has home-ice advantage in this series. Jimmy Howard in goal had a better first round than Lehner did and he has a lot more experience. I like experience, especially in the playoffs. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who came to Germany from Prague in a trade, centers the third line, but he is really a second- or first-line player. He scored 55 points this season and has nearly twice as many takeaways as giveaways in his EURO career. Berlin has the better third line against most teams in the league. Prediction: Berlin, the greatest team in history, wins in 6 games.