Playoff Preview: Round Two

The second round of the NHL playoffs has been set (one game already in the books) and here’s my look at the match-ups.  The league can’t be very happy to have so few key markets making it into the second round, although playoff success for the Coyotes helps the books of 29 other teams.  Like most prognosticators, my predictions were a mixed bag (3 for 8).  Here’s how I did (winners in bold, my prediction in italics):
East
New York Rangers-Ottawa – I had Ottawa in seven, as the Rangers were able to score enough to win
Boston-Washington – I had the Bruins in six, but they could not overcome injuries to get through Washington’s stifling style and third-string goaltender
Florida-New Jersey - I had the Devils in five, but the Panthers (as during the regular season) were better than expected
Pittsburgh-Philadelphia – I had the Penguins in seven, not foreseeing how bad Marc-Andre Fleury would be
West
Vancouer-Los Angeles – I had the Canucks in five, expecting to Kings to struggle to score
St. Louis-San Jose – I had the Blues in five, which was spot on
Phoenix-Chicago – I had the Hawks in six, but terrible goaltending made that impossible
Nashville-Detroit – I had the Preds in seven, but the Wings weren’t able to push it that far

Before I get into each series, I want to reiterate the main points to remember:
1. Team’s rarely repeat Cup runs (with both Vancouver and Boston eliminated, this trend continues)
2. The Cup winner has been no lower than 8th overall in the NHL, leaving us with the Rangers, St. Louis, Nashville, and Philadelphia
3. Playoff experience is something that gets thrown around as a vital ingredient over and over again, but I’ve never seen actual data to show that it equals success (for recent Cup winners it works with Boston, but not Chicago)–if it was a vital criteria than Detroit should win the Cup every year
4. The idea that teams need to lose before they win is simply absurd–29 teams lose every year, so other than the Cup winner it’s axiomatic for everyone
5. The officiating will be awful; calls will be missed and bad calls will be made (including goals reviewed)

New York Rangers (2)-Washington (15th)
Goals For: 226 (NYR, 13th), 222 (Wsh, 15th)
Goals Against: 187 (NYR, 3rd), 230 (Wsh, 18th)
Powerplay: 16.7% (Wsh, 18th), 15.7% (NYR, 23rd)
Penalty Kill: 86.2% (NYR, 5th), 81.6% (Wsh, 21st)
Faceoffs: 50% (Wsh/NYR, 17th/18th)
5-on-5 Goals For/Against Ratio: 1.14 (NYR, 6th), 1.01 (Wsh, 13th)
Shots Against Per Game: 27.8 (NYR, 6th), 30.2 (Wsh, 16th)

Despite the Rangers owning most of the statistical categories, this is the match the Caps wanted most given their recent history (beating the Rangers and Lundqvist twice with essentially the same rosters).  Washington beat Boston which plays virtually the same game as the Rangers and I’m beginning to wonder if the Caps have a Montreal-esque run in them (ala the Habs in 2010) where mind-numbing defensive hockey knocked out superior teams.  There won’t be many goals scored here, but I wasn’t impressed by the Rangers in their series against Ottawa so I give the edge to the Caps.  Washington in seven.

Philadelphia (6th)-New Jersey (9th)
Goals For: 264 (Phi, 3rd), 228 (NJ, 11th)
Goals Against: 209 (NJ, 8th), 232 (Phi, 21st)
Powerplay: 19.7% (Phi, 6th), 17.2 (NJ, 14th)
Penalty Kill: 89.6% (NJ, 1st), 81.8% (Phi, 17th)
Faceoffs: 48.3% (Phi, 24th), 47.1% (NJ, 29th)
5-on-5 Goals For/Against Ratio: 1.13 (Phi, 7th), 0.93 (NJ, 19th)
Shots Against Per Game: 26.8 (NJ, 2nd), 28.4 (Phi, 7th)

The Flyers beat a team (Pittsburgh) which owned nearly all the statistical edges against them in dominating fashion.  I don’t think the Devils stack up against Philadelphia very well at all and Martin Brodeur just isn’t the goaltender he used to be.  The Flyers are young so the series may go for awhile, but if Philadelphia is even remotely healthy this shouldn’t last long.  Philadelphia in five.

St. Louis (3rd)-Los Angeles (13th)
Goals For: 210 (Stl, 22nd), 194 (LA, 29th)
Goals Against: 165 (Stl, 1st), 179 (LA, 2nd)
Powerplay: 17% (LA, 17th), 16.7% (Stl, 19th)
Penalty Kill: 87% (LA, 4th), 85.8% (Stl, 7th)
Faceoffs: 51.5% (LA, 7th), 50.4% (Stl, 14th)
5-on-5 Goals For/Against Ratio: 1.34 (Stl, 2nd), 0.98 (LA, 17th)
Shots Against Per Game: 26.7 (Stl, 1st), 27.4 (LA, 5th)

If your choice is watching paint dry or watching this series, pick the former.  The Kings only calling card in these playoffs is defence and goaltending and they are playing the only team which is consistently better than they were in both categories.  The teams are lead by two experienced coaches who secretly wish games could be won 0-0.  The Blues will usher out the Kings in short order.  St. Louis in five.

Nashville (5th)-Phoenix (11th)
Goals For: 237 (Nsh, 8th), 216 (Phx, 17th)
Goals Against: 204 (Phx, 7th), 210 (Nsh, 9th)
Powerplay: 21.6% (Nsh, 1st), 13.6% (Phx, 29th)
Penalty Kill: 85.5% (Phx, 8th), 83.6% (Nsh, 10th)
Faceoffs: 50.2% (Phx, 15th), 49.0% (Nsh, 22nd)
5-on-5 Goals For/Against Ratio: 1.11 (Phx, 8th), 1.05 (Nsh, 10th)
Shots Against Per Game: 30.8 (Nsh, 20th), 31.6 (Phx, 28th)

Nashville will dominate this series (don’t let game one’s result fool you, the Predators dominated that game) as they simply have a better team.  Rinne has had his one bad game and that may well be the only one the Coyotes win.  Nashville in five.

If my crystal ball is more accurate in this round then we will have a Philadelphia-Washington series for the east and a St. Louis-Nashville series in the west.  I’d give the former to the Flyers and the latter to the Predators; a healthy Philadelphia wins the Cup, while a beat-up Flyer team loses to Nashville.

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2 Comments

  1. […] Playoff Preview: Round Two […]

  2. […] playoff predictions for round two fell completely off the cliff (0-4!).  I had Washington in seven, Philadelphia, […]


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