Thursday, May 1, 2014

First Round Review and Second Round Predictions

The first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs is in the books, so let's take a look at my predictions and how they panned out.

Western Conference

Dallas vs Anaheim

Prediction: Ducks in 6

Outcome: Ducks in 6

The Stars were scrappy and should have forced a game 7, but they were finally vanquished on their home ice by a flurry of third period goals by the Ducks. The Ducks had too much offensive firepower throughout their line up and that proved too much for the Stars to handle.

St. Louis vs Chicago

Prediction: Blues in 7

Outcome: Blackhawks in 6

This version of the Blues was eerily similar to last year's team, jumping out to a 2-0 lead over their opponent before imploding and losing 4 straight. Ryan Miller was pedestrian at best, and his .868 save percentage certainly was not what the Blues management had hoped to get out of him when he was acquired from the Sabres.

Colorado vs. Minnesota

Prediction: Avalanche in 5

Outcome: Wild in 7

The highly talented Avs were smothered by the defense of the Wild and had to work for every goal, but surprisingly, the Wild showed the offensive chops of their own. The Wild overcame 4 one goal deficits to win in overtime in the pivotal game 7. Nathan MacKinnon of the Avs is the real deal, though, and their future looks bright.

Los Angeles vs San Jose

Prediction: Sharks in 7

Outcome: Kings in 7

The Sharks had their hearts ripped out by the Kings. Facing a 3-0 deficit, the Kings never lost their swagger and battled back to become only the fourth team in NHL history to win a series when behind by that margin. Lots of questions to be asked of the Sharks in the off season, and they will be hard questions.

Eastern Conference

Montreal vs Tampa Bay

Prediction: Canadiens in 6

Outcome: Canadiens in 4

The loss of starting netminder Ben Bishop was too much for the Bolts to overcome. While Anders Lindback was not exceptional in net, he got little help from the team in front of him. The big guns for the Lightning were not enough to overcome the balanced and relentless attack of the Candiens, who had a surprisingly easy time in this first round matchup.

Pittsburgh vs Columbus

Prediction: Penguins in 6

Outcome: Penguins in 6

The jackets played a highly competitive series with the Pens and were in every game. The Pens got scoring throughout their lineup, even without Sidney Crosby scoring a goal, and had too much talent for the BJ's to overcome.

Boston vs Detroit

Prediction: Bruins in 6

Outcome: Bruins in 5

The speed and puck possession of the Wings should have made them more competitive against the Bruins, but the Wings could not overcome the loss of Jimmy Howard. Injured Henrik Zetterberg was a non-factor in the game he played and the Wings did not have enough scorers in their lineup to threaten Tuuka Rask, much less score enough goals to win games.

Philadelphia vs New York

Prediction: Flyers in 7

Outcome: Rangers in 7

Henrik Lundqvist was the difference maker in this series. These two team were fairly evenly matched, but Lundqvist outplayed Ray Emery and Steve Mason in net. While physical, this series wasn't nearly as nasty as I thought it would be.

Now, on to the second round and my fearless predictions.

Western Conference

Anaheim vs Los Angeles

The Freeway Fracas portends to be a great series, matching the stifling defense and grind it out style of the Kings against the explosive offense of the Ducks. Jonathan Quick has shown that he is a winner and is not daunted by adversity, and his play carried the Kings to an improbable win of the their first round series. Quick is going to have to be at the top of his game once again as the Ducks can fill up the net. For the Ducks, the play of their goaltenders has been shaky. Frederik Andersen is the putative starter, but he looked rattled at times against the Stars. If he cannot carry the load, the Ducks have the capable Jonas Hiller to man the pipes, but confidence for these two guys is going to be critical. If their confidence is shaken, the Kings will capture this series. I think they will

Prediction: Kings in 7

Chicago vs Minnesota

The Wild have to be entering this series with an abundance of confidence. They will need it all as the Blackhawks look to be a team on a mission to capture the Cup. The Wild will need to be at the top of their game defensively if they are going to have a chance in this series, and they have shown they can play tough D. The Blackhawks are going to have to play their game and be patient, because the Wild will limit their chances. It is imperative for the Hawks that they capitalize on their chances. The question for the Wild is who will tend goal. Darcy Keumper was injured late in the game 7 against Colorado and did not return. If he cannot go, Sergei Bobrovsky will man the pipes, and that should be a humongous big adventure.

Prediction: Blackhawks in 6

Eastern Conference

Montreal vs. Boston

This is a blood feud between two teams that have a genuine dislike for each other. Carey Price is going to have to be strong in net as the Bruins are an opportunistic team that can score from anywhere in the offensive zone. The Bruins will use their size to try to push around the Habs, while the Canadiens will us their speed and skill to try to pressure the Bruins. Just as Price will need to be on his game, Tuuka Rask will have to continue his strong play from the first round. The Canadiens have the ability to pressure the net and will not be afraid to put pucks on Rask. This series will most likely go to the team that can keep their head and keep their butts out of the penalty box.

Prediction: Bruins in 7

New York vs Pittsburgh

There is no doubt that the Penguins are the more offensively talented team, but the Rangers have the capability of shutting down talented offensive teams. if the Rangers can frustrate the Penguins skaters, then it will come down to the play of the goaltenders. Henrik Lundqvist gives his team a chance to win every night. Marc-Andre Fleury is another story, as the Pens never quite know what they will get out him in the net. Fleury appears to be fragile mentally, and if the Rangers can light him up early, this could spell trouble for the Pens. This may be the most surprising series of all in the second round.

Prediction: Rangers in 7

There you have it friends. More outstanding playoff hockey awaits, and we get to enjoy it.

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