Sunday, May 13, 2012

Second Round Review and Conference Finals Predictions

Once again, the View has proven that you should not bet the house money on his predictions, as my prognostication skills for the second round came in at a meager 25% correct. Here is the recap:

WESTERN CONFERENCE

NASHVILLE vs PHOENIX

MY PICK: NASHVILLE IN 5
OUTCOME: PHOENIX IN 5

The Predators did not play Predator hockey, while the Coyotes did, prevailing in five games. The Predators could not generate consistent offensive efforts against the Coyotes stingy defense, and when they did, Mike Smith cleaned up most of the chances. The Predators had a chance to seize home ice advantage before falling in OT in game 1. While that may have been encouraging, the Predators defense was absolutely horrid in game 2, hanging Pekka Rinne out to dry. After a strong effort in game 3, the only victory for the Predators, the offense once again sputtered, and the Predators were unable to get past the second round for the second year in a row. While one can look at different reasons for the failure of the Predators to advance, the fact remains that the best players on the Predators roster could not produce offensively against the Coyotes, and this cost them the series.

ST. LOUIS vs LOS ANGELES

MY PICK: ST. LOUIS IN 7
OUTCOME: LOS ANGELES IN 4

Jonathan Quick has been outstanding in the playoffs, but I felt that the Blues had the offensive horsepower to pressure the Kings defense and make Quick's life miserable. Uh...no. Quick continued his red hot play and shut down the Blues offense. The Blues seemed to get rattled by the physical play of the Kings, and they were taken off their game, seeming to want to retaliate against the Kings rather than play their style of hockey. Obviously, the loss of Jaroslav Halak hurt the Blues, as Brian Elliott struggled and there was no recourse for the Blues but to stick with him. The Kings have the ability to play a physical game, but their skill players were superb in this series, bedeviling the Blues defense and scoring timely goals and putting pressure on the Blues. Pressure the Blues surprisingly could not handle throughout the series.

EASTERN CONFERENCE

NEW YORK vs WASHINGTON

MY PICK: NEW YORK IN 6
OUTCOME: NEW YORK IN 7

The story of this series was the Caps Braden Holtby, who was superb ad kept the Caps in every game. Except for a late goal and an OT win in game 5 by the Rangers, this series would have gone to the Capitals. The Rangers responded well to the challenge the Caps presented in the deciding game 7 by limiting the Caps potent offense, even though Jason Chimera had a late goal to make the game close. In the end, the Rangers had just enough offense to eke out the series win, but this was tougher than many expected it would be for the Rangers.

PHILADELPHIA vs NEW JERSEY

MY PICK: PHILADELPHIA IN 6
OUTCOME: NEW JERSEY IN 5

After the dismantling of the Penguins, it appeared as if the Flyers were firing on all cylinders. Solid defense and an explosive offense looked to make this a short series for the Flyers. Just one problem. The Devils played a more complete game in every game of the series. The Devils defense did a good job of containing the Flyers forwards and Marty Brodeur was solid in net. The Devils forwards outworked the Flyers D throughout the series, and Ilya Bryzgalov was just average in net for Broad Street Bullies. As this series was played out, it appeared that the Devils grew in confidence while the Flyers were searching for their mojo. They will have a lengthy off season in which to find it.

So let's take a look at the conference finals.

WESTERN CONFERENCE

PHOENIX (3) vs LOS ANGELES (8)

The Kings are 8-1 so far in the playoffs, and they have knocked off two division champions in Vancouver and St. Louis. This will be the toughest test so far for the Kings, as they will face a goalie that is nearly the equal of their own Jonathan Quick. The Coyotes play a solid team game, and their defense does a great job of protecting Smith, so the Kings will have to use their big bodies and their physicality to make things difficult in front of the Coyotes net. If the Kings do not come out ready to play, the Coyotes will make them pay. Relying on Quick alone to keep the Kings in the game will create problems, because the Coyotes have the ability to score and can pressure in the offensive zone. I look for the Kings ability to physically wear down the Coyotes to work to their advantage as this series goes along. Once again, this series will go to the team that makes the fewest mistakes, and I think that will be the Kings.

MY PICK: KINGS IN 6

EASTERN CONFERENCE

NEW YORK (1) vs NEW JERSEY (6)

The Battle of the Hudson will be an all out war. These two teams don't like each other and it will show as this series unfolds. Look for the Devils to play with confidence after dispatching the Flyers, and they will give the Rangers problems. Both teams are opportunistic and have forwards that can score. Home ice will once again be an advantage for the Rangers, but one has to wonder how a difficult 7 game series with the Caps will affect them. The Rangers are the more physical team, and that will work in their favor the longer this series goes. The Rangers D will be challenged by the Devils offensive capability, but they should be able to contain them.In the end, I think the Rangers have the advantage in net, and will ride the play of Henrik Lundqvist to a series win.

MY PICK: RANGERS IN 7

So there you have my picks for the Conference finals. Remember, don't bet the rent money on them.

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