Apr 302009
 

After going 7 of 8 in round 1, missing only the Carolina win over New Jersey, it is time to make my predictions for round 2 of the playoffs and this should prove to be a tougher round to predict.

Boston vs Carolina

This is probably the easiest series to predict.  As significant as Carolina’s win over New Jersey was, NEw Jersey seemed to do something they rarely ever do by giving up a number of late goals to lose games.  Boston should prove to be a far more challening foe than New Jersey and as good as Cam Ward has been, I don’t think he can steal more than a game or two and Boston’s superior depth up front and far superior defense will be enough for the Bruins to easily win the series.  Boston in 5.

Washington vs Pittsburgh

This might be the new premier rivalry in the NHL with two of the premier offenses in the game plus the heated russian rivalry of Ovechkin vs Malkin while Sidney Crosby desperately tries to strut his stuff in order to nor be left behind in the offensive flair department.  Both teams have solid supporting casts as well with Backstrom, Semin and Green in Washington and Gonchar, Sykora, Kunitz and others in Pittsburgh.  The difference in this series might come down to goaltending and whether young Capitals goalie, Simean Varlamov can keep up his outstanding play because Marc-Andre Fleury is really developing into a confident and more than competent number 1 goalie.  Varlamov will be facing a much more formidable offense in the Penguins than he faced in the Rangers and I am not sure he can keep up his play and Theodore just isn’t a viable option.  Penguins in 6 in an extremely entertaining series.

Detroit vs Anaheim

Like the Washington-Pittsburgh series, this is one I am really looking forward to watching.  There is no doubt that these two teams have the best group of defensemen in the NHL.  Pronger-Niedermayer-Beauchemin-Whitney vs Lidstrom-Rafalski-Kronwall-Stuart.  Only Boston would come remotely close to those defense groupings.  So, if you assume the defenses cancel each other out the series will come down to Detroits added depth up front to Anaheim’s likely edge in goal.  Osgood was good in the first round but Columbus is not an offensive juggernaught and they seemed overwhelmed bu their first playoff experience and just didn’t put up much of a challenge.  Anaheim should prove to be a tougher challenge for Osgood.  As for Anaheim’s defense and goaltending, they pretty much shut down a very good San Jose offense so there is no reason they may not be able to stand up to Detroit.  It is really difficult to bet against such a talented team like the Red Wings but I am just not confident in Osgood being good enough.  Anaheim in six.

Vancouver vs Chicago

Chicago got a bit lucky in that they played a pretty injury riddled Calgary team but Vancouver will prove to be a much bigger challenge to the young Blackhawk team.  They have depth on defense, can put out a couple of lines that can score a bit, and a lights out goalie that should prove to be far superior than what Kiprusoff was in the first round.  Khabibulin has been very good in the playoffs and all but won the deciding game six game against Calgary but he won’t be good enough to give the Blackhawks a win over the Canucks.  Vancouver in 5.

Apr 152009
 

Boston (5-0-1) vs Montreal (1-4-1)
This one is easy. Barring a spectacular performance from Carey Price or Jaroslav Halak and Boston taking a ridiculous number of penalties, the Bruins will win this one easy. The Bruins have better goaltending, significant better defense considering Montreal’s injuries, and better and bigger forwards. Boston dominated the regular season series and will take this series in 5 games.

Washington (3-0-1) vs NY Rangers (0-3-1)
The Capitals are the young and offensively talented team while the Rangers have more experience (though not significantly so) and play a more defensive game with excellent goaltending. The key for the Rangers will be to have one of their forward lines really step up and consistently produce offense. If they can do that their defense and goaltending may be enough to get them past the Capitals. In the end though I just think the Capitals have too much offensive power with Ovechkin, Semin, Backstrom,Green etc. The Capitals will win in 6 games.

New Jersey (1-3-0) vs Carolina (3-1-0)
This is a very intriguing series. You have the hottest team in the NHL in the Hurricanes (won 9 in a row before dropping the final 2 almost meaningless games) against a veteran team who struggled at times down the stretch. The Devils won 4 of their final 5 games, including a season closing victory over the Hurricanes so maybe they are back in the winning mode. Brodeur struggled a bit down the stretch as well but we know he can, and likely will, pick up his game during the playoffs. Cam Ward has been awesome for the Hurricanes the past few months as well so it could be a low scoring series. This is a tough call but I’ll go with Brodeur and the Devils in 7 games.

Pittsburgh (4-2-0) vs Philadelphia (2-4-0)
If the Devils-Hurricanes series is a low scoring one, this will be a high scoring one. Both the Penguins and Flyers have very strong offensive teams and both are capable of putting out two very good offensive lines. Both teams have some good offensive defensemen as well. Defensively both teams have some issues and both teams, particularly the Flyers, have experienced streaky goaltending. For the Flyers Martin Biron can be exceptionally good for a few weeks and then be exceptionally bad for a few weeks. Same for Niittymaki. I am going to give an edge to the Penguins in this series because I think they are playing better hockey heading into the playoffs. Penguins in 6.

San Jose (4-2-0) vs Anaheim (2-4-0)
The Sharks fired Ron Wilson as head coach and brought in Detroit Red Wing assistant coach Todd McLellan to take over as head coach last summer. The reason for the move was in hopes of having more playoff success. For whatever reason, the Sharks didn’t perform up to expectations in the playoffs despite some really good regular seasons under Wilson. The big question is, is this the year for the Sharks? In my opinion they have drawn a pretty tough opening round matchup. They Ducks ended the season on a high note going 10-2-1 in their last 13 games while the Sharks haven’t played as well in the last month or so as they did for most of the season before that. The Ducks can match the Sharks in goal and on defense but the Sharks should have a bit of an edge up front with a little more depth. The Sharks edge in this series is not as significant as many might believe based on each teams regular season point totals. I like the Ducks to upset the Sharks in 7 games.

Detroit (3-2-1) vs Columbus (2-3-1)
This is another upset waiting to happen because the Blue Jackets have generally held their own against the Red Wings and they have a rookie goaltender who is capable of stealing a game or two all on his own. The Red Wings meanwhile have goaltenders that are more than capable of giving away a few games on their own. Outside of goaltending there is really no comparison as the Red Wings are by far the better team. I’ll predict the Red Wings will win in 6, but if the Blue Jackets can pull an upset and take the series I will not be shocked.

Vancouver (2-2-0) vs St. Louis (2-2-0)
Both the Canucks and the Blues played excellent hockey down the stretch with the Canucks surging into the Northwest division title over the Flames and the Blues surging into a final playoff spot. The question I have about the Blues (and somewhat applies to the Blue Jackets too) is will the Blues just be happy to have made the playoffs or will they still have fuel left in their tanks to win a long series. I think for the Blues they may find themselves drained after a tough playoff push which shifts the series into Vancouver’s favour. But the key reason I’ll be picking Vancouver is because I believe Luongo has something to prove and will have a very strong series. I am picking Vancouver in 5 games.

Chicago (4-0-0) vs Calgary (0-3-1)
Of all the ‘good’ teams in the west I always believed the Blackhawks were the team you wanted to face in the playoffs because they have up and down goaltending and a lot of young, inexperienced players. But then I look at how Chicago dominated the Flames in the regular season and how the Flames struggled down the stretch and I have to start thinking that the Blackhawks have the edge in this series. No doubt the key for the Flames is Kipprusoff. When he struggles, the Flames struggle. Kipprusoff struggled down the stretch and if he doesn’t pick it the playoffs will be short for the Flames. As much as I hate to make this prediction, I have to predict the Blackhawks in 7.

Further down the road:
Eastern Conference Winner: Pittsburgh Penguins
Western Conference Winner: Vancouver Canucks
Stanley Cup Winner: Pittsburgh Penguins

Apr 082008
 

Here are my predictions for the first round of the playoffs. Beyond that I am predicting San Jose over Pittsburgh in the Stanley Cup Finals.

  1. Dallas at Anaheim

    Dallas (road) Anaheim (home)
    Predicted Winner Anaheim (Some)
    Fair Odds +121 -126
    Overall Record 45-30-7 47-27-8
    Home/Road Record 22-14-5 28-9-4
    Last 10 Games 3-5-2 8-2-0
    Since Trade Deadline 5-8-2 11-4-1
    Past Games
    • 2007/10/20: Anaheim 1 at Dallas 3
    • 2007/11/05: Dallas 5 at Anaheim 0
    • 2007/11/21: Anaheim 1 at Dallas 2
    • 2008/01/15: Dallas 2 at Anaheim 4
    • 2008/01/20: Anaheim 2 at Dallas 5
    • 2008/02/15: Dallas 4 at Anaheim 2
    • 2008/03/19: Anaheim 2 at Dallas 1
    • 2008/03/30: Dallas 2 at Anaheim 3 (SO)

    My Prediction: Both Anaheim and Dallas play a tight defensive system but with the return of Selanne and Niedermayer the Ducks have the edge offensively and that should be enough to give them the series. For Dallas to win Brad Richards really has to play well and above what he has contributed so far in Dallas (or in Tampa this season). Anaheim in 6.

  2. Colorado at Minnesota

    Colorado (road) Minnesota (home)
    Predicted Winner Minnesota (Some)
    Fair Odds +124 -132
    Overall Record 44-31-7 44-28-10
    Home/Road Record 17-19-5 25-11-5
    Last 10 Games 5-4-1 6-2-2
    Since Trade Deadline 12-5-1 10-4-5
    Past Games
    • 2007/10/21: Colorado 2 at Minnesota 3
    • 2007/10/28: Minnesota 1 at Colorado 3
    • 2007/11/11: Minnesota 2 at Colorado 4
    • 2007/11/18: Colorado 1 at Minnesota 4
    • 2008/01/24: Minnesota 3 at Colorado 2
    • 2008/03/17: Colorado 1 at Minnesota 3
    • 2008/03/30: Colorado 2 at Minnesota 3 (OT)
    • 2008/04/06: Minnesota 3 at Colorado 4 (SO)

    My Prediction: I believe that Minnesota is likely the better team but don’t count Colorado out as they have an abundance of offensive game breakers in Forsberg, Sakic, Smyth, Stastny, etc. to take this series. The two keys to the series will be whether they can solve the Wild’s defensive system and whether Theodore (or Budaj) can provide consistent and good enough goaltending. The key for Minnesota will be generating enough offense. This series really could go either way but I’ll give the edge to Colorado. Colorado in 7.

  3. Calgary at San Jose

    Calgary (road) San Jose (home)
    Predicted Winner San Jose (Some)
    Fair Odds -100 +100
    Overall Record 42-30-10 49-23-10
    Home/Road Record 21-19-1 22-13-6
    Last 10 Games 5-5-0 7-2-1
    Since Trade Deadline 9-8-1 16-2-2
    Past Games
    • 2007/10/22: San Jose 4 at Calgary 1
    • 2008/01/03: Calgary 3 at San Jose 2 (OT)
    • 2008/01/30: San Jose 4 at Calgary 5
    • 2008/02/12: Calgary 4 at San Jose 3 (OT)

    My Prediction: This series features one of the hottest teams in the league against an up and down team that hasn’t proven consistent enough to really get consideration as a true Stanley Cup contender. We all know how great San Jose has been since acquiring Brian Campbell and a large part of Calgary’s inconsistencies can be blamed on Mikka Kiprusoff’s poor play. But we all know what Kiprusoff is capable of so that should worry the Sharks. If Kiprusoff gets hot he and Iginla are capable of taking the Flames a long way. But in the end the Sharks are just playing too good to overcome. San Jose in 6.

  4. Nashville at Detroit

    Nashville (road) Detroit (home)
    Predicted Winner Detroit (Some)
    Fair Odds +103 -103
    Overall Record 41-32-9 54-21-7
    Home/Road Record 18-18-5 29-9-3
    Last 10 Games 6-3-1 7-2-1
    Since Trade Deadline 9-8-1 12-4-1
    Past Games
    • 2007/11/07: Nashville 2 at Detroit 3 (SO)
    • 2007/11/22: Detroit 2 at Nashville 3
    • 2007/12/10: Detroit 2 at Nashville 1
    • 2008/02/12: Detroit 2 at Nashville 4
    • 2008/03/09: Nashville 3 at Detroit 4
    • 2008/03/15: Nashville 3 at Detroit 1
    • 2008/03/20: Detroit 6 at Nashville 3
    • 2008/03/30: Nashville 0 at Detroit 1 (OT)

    My Prediction: Except for the stretch around Lidstrom’s injury Detroit has been by far the best team in the league over the course of the season but they aren’t without a few question marks that make them a potential upset victom. The key concern is whether Hasek has enough left for another Cup run and/or wether Osgood has it in him. Generally Osgood has been the better goalie this year but he has been considered the backup so who knows how this will play out. The other potential issue is scoring depth. After Datsyuk and Zetterberg they don’t have any big time scorers up front (their third leading scoring forward is Dan Cleary with 42 points). For Nashville they have no pressure on them and that is always a good position to be in. Some consider their season to be a resounding success just making the playoffs. We saw in the Superbowl what can happen when one team has a huge amount of pressure to win and the other team is given next to no chance of winning. I am picking Detroit in 6 but something tells me this series could very likely go the other way.

  5. Boston at Montreal

    Boston (road) Montreal (home)
    Predicted Winner Montreal (Some)
    Fair Odds +126 -135
    Overall Record 41-29-12 47-25-10
    Home/Road Record 20-13-8 22-13-6
    Last 10 Games 4-2-4 8-1-1
    Since Trade Deadline 8-6-6 13-4-1
    Past Games
    • 2007/10/22: Boston 1 at Montreal 6
    • 2007/11/08: Montreal 2 at Boston 1
    • 2007/11/17: Boston 4 at Montreal 7
    • 2007/12/06: Montreal 4 at Boston 2
    • 2008/01/10: Montreal 5 at Boston 2
    • 2008/01/22: Boston 2 at Montreal 8
    • 2008/03/20: Montreal 4 at Boston 2
    • 2008/03/22: Boston 2 at Montreal 3 (SO)

    My Prediction: There is really no sane reason why anyone would choose Boston to win this series. They have been thoroughly dominated by Montreal for a couple seasons now. Who knows what the reason for this domination is but you can’t dispute the numbers. Boston will be lucky to squeek out one win. Montreal in 5.

  6. Ottawa at Pittsburgh

    Ottawa (road) Pittsburgh (home)
    Predicted Winner Ottawa (Some)
    Fair Odds -114 +112
    Overall Record 43-31-8 47-27-8
    Home/Road Record 21-16-4 26-10-5
    Last 10 Games 3-6-1 6-3-1
    Since Trade Deadline 11-6-1 7-9-2
    Past Games
    • 2007/11/22: Pittsburgh 6 at Ottawa 5 (SO)
    • 2007/12/13: Ottawa 4 at Pittsburgh 1
    • 2008/02/23: Ottawa 4 at Pittsburgh 3 (OT)
    • 2008/03/01: Pittsburgh 4 at Ottawa 5

    My Prediction: Ottawa has been one of the worst teams in the NHL since their 15-2 start. Pittsburgh has been one of the better teams after a poor 8-11-2 start. Pittsburgh is fairly healthy while Ottawa is without Alfredsson, Fisher and Kelly. It seems like a no-brainer that Pittsburgh should easily take this series. But Ottawa has played Pittsburgh very tough this year and Pittsburgh is still a fairly young and inexperienced team. The key for Ottawa to win this series will be to have some success early in the series to boost their confidence and put some question marks in the minds of the Penguin players. To do that they will need to focus on their defensive game, not take bad penalties and get some big time goaltending from Martin Gerber. For a significant part of the year both those things have been problems for the Senators and I don’t think they will overcome some or all of those issues. Pittsburgh in 6.

  7. Philadelphia at Washington

    Philadelphia (road) Washington (home)
    Predicted Winner Washington (Good)
    Fair Odds +138 -161
    Overall Record 42-29-11 43-31-8
    Home/Road Record 21-15-5 23-15-3
    Last 10 Games 7-2-1 9-1-0
    Since Trade Deadline 11-4-4 14-4-0
    Past Games
    • 2007/11/02: Philadelphia 3 at Washington 2
    • 2007/11/23: Washington 4 at Philadelphia 3 (OT)
    • 2008/01/13: Philadelphia 6 at Washington 4
    • 2008/02/06: Washington 4 at Philadelphia 3

    My Prediction: Washington has home series advantage but Philadelphia actually had more points. But interestingly enough, home ice may be a disadvantage as the road team won all four of the games in the season series. The Capitals are kind of in the same situation as Nashville is in that they might just be happy that they have made the playoffs. The Capitals have been one of the best teams in the NHL in 2008 and have been on a ‘make the playoffs’ mission for a long time led predominantly by Alexander Ovechkin. But Ovechkin is highly competitive, loves to play hockey, and I don’t see him quitting now that they have
    made the playoffs. Plus he has a very supportive team behind him who will follow Ovechkin’s lead so I don’t see the Capitals taking it easy just happy they made the playoffs. For Philadelphia they is just one key to their playoff hopes. Will Biron (or Niittymaki) play well enough over the duration of a 7 game series and a playoff run for them to win. Both goalies have had stretches of great play and stretches of mixed play. The Flyers need consistent goaltending for them to win. I am going to stick with the hot team and pick Washington to win in 7.

  8. NY Rangers at New Jersey

    NY Rangers (road) New Jersey (home)
    Predicted Winner New Jersey (Some)
    Fair Odds +120 -125
    Overall Record 42-27-13 46-29-7
    Home/Road Record 17-14-10 25-14-2
    Last 10 Games 5-1-4 4-5-1
    Since Trade Deadline 10-3-5 9-8-1
    Past Games
    • 2007/10/25: New Jersey 0 at NY Rangers 2
    • 2007/11/03: New Jersey 1 at NY Rangers 2 (SO)
    • 2007/11/14: NY Rangers 4 at New Jersey 2
    • 2007/12/09: New Jersey 0 at NY Rangers 1 (OT)
    • 2008/02/01: NY Rangers 3 at New Jersey 1
    • 2008/03/19: NY Rangers 2 at New Jersey 1 (SO)
    • 2008/03/27: New Jersey 2 at NY Rangers 3
    • 2008/04/06: NY Rangers 2 at New Jersey 3 (SO)

    My Prediction: This will be a defensive struggle if there ever was one. Both teams rely heavily on their goaltenders and this series will be no difference. Martin Brodeur has the experience but Lundqvist is more than capable of matching Brodeur’s performance. The Rangers should have a little more depth offensively so I will predict the Rangers in 6.