SportsNet - April 2013
FC Barcelona will have to produce one of the all-time European comebacks against Bayern Munich on Wednesday if they are to advance to the final of the Champions League next month. The German outfit secured a 4-0 win in the first leg last week, meaning that an away goal for Bayern would leave Barcelona needing to score six times at Camp Nou on May 1. However, Barcelona will take heart from the last time they welcomed Bayern to this stadium in April 2009, with a double from Lionel Messi enough to secure a 4-0 win over their German opponents. That score this time around would take the semi-final clash into extra time.
Sergio Busquets was not fully fit in the first leg of the semi-final and it certainly showed. The Spanish international is again a doubt for the second leg as he tries to overcome a groin strain.
Javier Mascherano, though, is a bigger doubt, and Tito Vilanova will have to take a decision on whether to risk the Argentine against Bayern, with the Spanish club short on defenders.
Real Madrid 2-0 Borussia Dortmund: Late rally from Los Blancos not enough as Jurgen Klopp's side progress
Too little, too late: a last ditch brace from Real Madrid was one goal short of what the Spanish giants needed to stand a chance of winning their tenth European crown as Borussia Dortmund progressed to the Champions League final with a 4-3 aggregate victory.
If there's one series I don't feel good about picking, it's this one. There isn't a lot separating these teams and it could come down to random luck.
What is a Canucks preview without some goaltending discussion? The situation here is simple. Schneider is as good as they come in goal and if he's healthy, Vancouver is not a team I'd want to face. He can cover up for whatever flaws there might be in front of him and give his forwards enough time to find the back of the net. If for some reason he doesn't live up to expectations as the go-to guy, Luongo can come in as the sentimental underdog and do just fine. No one expected him to even be here, so if he's thrust into action to save the day it could be a nice final chapter to his days in Vancouver.
On the flip side, the Sharks will be relying solely on Niemi. That's not a bad thing because he's been great this season. I don't expect a dropoff in play unless something bizarre happens. With that said, I still give this duel to Schneider.
Much like the Wild in the West, no one is giving the Islanders much a chance in this series. Sportsbooks have made them a full two game underdog for the series, so the prevailing perception is that Pittsburgh will take care of business in four or five games. Is this a true representation of the matchup? Well it is and it isn't. Let's take a closer look at the key factors.
One reason why I wouldn't completely count out an Islanders upset in this series is due to the situation between the pipes. Fleury has had a nice bounceback season from last year's playoff debacle, but until he wins another round it will continue to be an issue. This is why the Penguins were smart to secure Vokoun as the backup. If Fleury falters, I don't think they will hesitate to park him on the bench to right the ship.
When the Ottawa Senators beat the Boston Bruins on the final day of the regular season, I was disappointed we weren't going to see a Leafs/Habs first round matchup. That said, getting to see the Toronto try to match-up against Boston might be the next best thing. This is perhaps one of the easiest first round series to breakdown and there's no question in my mind which side has the decided edge.
If you're a stat-geek, you'll know that the Leafs have dramatically overachieved in this shortened season. Not only has Reimer played well above his head, but the team's shooting percentage is also abnormally high. The result is a 1030 PDO rating, tied with Pittsburgh for the best in the league. Now which of these teams do you think is more likely going to regress to the mean? If this was a regular NHL season, I'd have fun betting against Toronto down the stretch, but due to the lockout I'll have to settle for the here and now.