Stanley Cup Playoffs Preview: Second Round

We made it past the first round, which was pretty entertaining.  We had great games: Almost comebacks (Sorry Ottawa).  A very wrong prediction (Calgary hates me).  A “How did they not win that?” game (Cough, Detroit last night, cough).

Islanders-Capitals, Blackhawks-Predators, and Red Wings-Lightning were my favorite first round series.  Winnipeg played so much better for getting swept.  That team has some interesting potential, though the Evander Kane thing sucks.

Red Wings fans can’t feel great right now (you know who you are).  They lost a killer last night, in a game where they had a billion shots and opportunities.  I still don’t know how they lost, and now, you don’t know what the future holds.  Was this the last Datsyuk/Zetterberg run?  Is Mike Babcock out, and headed to Philadelphia?  It’s gonna be an interesting offseason, like San Jose’s and Toronto’s.

Anyways, let’s jump into round two.  We’re gonna have less games per night, which is great for some one like me who covers everything (check out the new tagline!).  These matchups will be fun.  However, out of the four, we’ll have no Game 7’s.


Capitals vs. Rangers

Man, as a Rangers fan, was I rooting for the Islanders in that series.  I thought the New York thing would be fun, and no, it’s really not a rivalry.  It’s all about bragging rights.  Anyways, Capitals-Islanders was the best series of the first round, as I predicted it to be in my preview.  I nailed the pick, taking Washington in seven.

The Rangers handled the Penguins easier than I expected them to.  Pittsburgh was a zombie coming into the playoffs, and they had no chance from the beginning.  Though they got a game, they were out played the whole series.  I was never nervous, and was pretty confident from the start.

This series is a little different for me.  I’m not nervous, but I feel like the Rangers do have a chance to lose.  These teams are evenly matched.  3rd and 6th in offense and defense.  Both of them.  Top ten offenses.  Top ten defenses.  This should be fun.

Both teams have their stars.  Washington features Alex Oveckhin and Nicklas Backstrom.  New York features, well, Henrik Lundqvist, Rick Nash, Derek Stepan.  There’s a lot of guys to worry about with the Rangers.  They attack on offense with speed, and know what they’re doing.  New York has chemistry, and that’s hard to defend.  The Capitals have John Carlson, who’s been fantastic this year, and should have been up for the Norris Trophy (Best Defenseman).  Washington has a younger defense, making them faster at the blue line.  With the Rangers age, the Caps have the advantage here.

The offense and goaltending for New York is where it changes.  The Rangers fly up and down the ice, but take their time when it comes to attacks.  Wearing out Washington is the key, since they are gonna be stingy.

Henrik Lundqvist was phenomenal in the first round.  He’s stopped everything for the Rangers.  That’ll probably continue, and, unlike last series, gives Washington the disadvantage in the net.  Braden Holtby was very good in round one.  He played better than Jaroslav Halak, which wasn’t surprising.  The Capitals find themselves with the worse goalie here, and no one can deny it.  While Lundqvist isn’t a MVP candidate, due to his missed time, without him, the Rangers wouldn’t be the favorites for the Stanley Cup, per Sportsbook’s odds.

Both teams have the right amount of experience, and that’s what makes a series great.  Both know what they’re doing.  They’ve been here before.  It won’t be bad hockey.  Enjoy it.

Oh yeah!  Prediction time!  As I said above, I’m not nervous about this series, but I’m definitely less confident.  New York has to spread out attacks and slow the game down with them.  Tire out Washington, get power plays, and stop the puck.  That’s the game-plan.  Execute, and you’ll be fine.

That last line was super homerful.

Prediction: Rangers in 6

Canadiens vs. Lightning

This is gonna be a fascinating series.  Montreal was up 3-0 on Ottawa, then the Senators got pesky and won two games.  The Canadiens finished out the series in six after allowing Ottawa back in.  The Senators gave them an unexpected fight.  They were pesky!  But, Montreal is too strong of a team for that to bother them.

The Lightning, as I covered at the top, some how won last night in Game 7.  Ben Bishop put up a shutout, somehow, due to the insane amount of chances Detroit had.  Detroit-Tampa Bay was a fun series.  There was lots of good goaltending, especially for the Red Wings after inserting Petr Mrazek, who played great even though his team didn’t help him last night.

Neither team is coming in here with rest.  Both series went at least six games.  Tampa Bay in a thriller, and Montreal in a kinda-scare.

Carey Price has been ridiculous this year and only continued it in the second round.  He stopped everything.  He’s gonna have a test against the fast-paced Lightning.  Tampa Bay has Steven Stamkos, the ultimate assist guy.  He can set up everyone.  Working with Tyler Johnson, who was great against Detroit, it makes a dangerous pair.  Montreal’s defense will have to step up.  Carey Price is great, but can’t do it by himself.  Getting him disoriented and erratic will give Tampa Bay more chances.

Montreal is going to be able to respond.  That’s no question.  I have concerns with Tampa Bay’s defense, and with the way the Canadiens attack off breakaways with Max Pacioretty, they’re impossible to stop.  Ben Bishop could be in trouble if his team doesn’t help him.  This series deals with good team chemistry.  Both have it, but one team has it on both sides.  Montreal shuts people down, then attacks swiftly.  Tampa Bay goes full steam ahead, and doesn’t totally worry about defense.  With a good, but not great goalie, that might be problem against Montreal.

Tampa Bay has hope in this series.  I mean, they’ll get a game, but I am seriously worried about the defense, and whether Ben Bishop can handle being shot at so much.  For the Canadiens, their path to the Cup gets a tad easier with this quick series.

Prediction: Canadiens in 5



Wild vs. Blackhawks

I admit defeat on picking the Blues.  I mean, this Minnesota team has been unpredictable all year, and they did it again.  They beat St. Louis in six games, as I had the Blues in six.  I didn’t receive as much crap as I expected Monday morning (I live in the Twin Cities) due to my pick, but it was still there.

Chicago beat Nashville in six, compared to the series win I gave them in seven.  Nashville lost Shea Weber to a knee injury halfway through the series, taking away one of their biggest leadership guys.  Chicago went back and forth with goalies, starting Scott Darling and Corey Crawford.  Both did very good, with Darling edging Crawford out by a bit.

This is a rematch of last year, where the Blackhawks beat the Wild in six games on an overtime winner.  The outcome is one Wild fans try to forget. They surely don’t want that again, and they feel confident it won’t happen.  This Minnesota team has people really excited, and it’s not only them who really like the Wild in the playoffs.  I will say, they’re super fun to watch, and am rooting for them, as others think different.

Minnesota is so much better than last season, and will be able match up better with the Blackhawks.  You could say they have the goalie advantage with Devan Dubnyk, who as of now saved Minnesota’s season.  He’s one of the finalists for Venzina Trophy (best goalie in the league this year).  Chicago has two guys worth starting, which is sometimes a problem (cough Vancouver cough St. Louis).  It can get a little frisky with that situation, and it worries me a tad with Chicago.

Against the Blues, Minnesota started the game well.  They got shots and pushed the puck.  It got St. Louis worried, and then they gave up a goal.  Basically, if Minnesota scored first, there was an 85% they were winning that game, because they don’t blow leads.  The Wild get in trouble when they start slow, and that didn’t really happen in the last series.  While they were blown out 6-1 in one game, I’m not sure they even tried that night.  It’s not worth talking about.

Chicago is one of the better teams in the league from a talent standpoint.  While Minnesota has the under-the-radar/good chemistry guys (Like the Hawks in basketball, though not good enough record wise), Chicago might be able to simply out-skate the Wild.  Meaning, while on the ice, they’ll be smarter.  They know what they’re doing.  They’ve been here before.  The Blackhawks are smarter than Minnesota, with more experience.  The bench is smart as the Blackhawks have the coaching advantages by a mile.  They’re just a better team, with more talent, and more experience.

This series is going to be defensively dominating.  Expect lower scoring games.  Minnesota has a lot young guys on defense who are fast and physical.  They’ll be faster than Chicago in the back.  Side note though:  Why is Jordan Leopold playing so many minutes?  Yeah, his daughter’s letter was cute, but he’s not great.  Sorry.  Matt Dumba has been excellent late this year for the Wild, and really showed it against the Blues.  He’ll be someone Chicago will have to keep their eye on.  Looking at the Blackhawks roster, one might think that Chicago gets more from it’s offense, but the defense is the heart and soul of this team.  They have experience with guys like Duncan Keith, who know what they’re doing.  They’ve been here before.  Experience is a common trait with Chicago, and Minnesota isn’t totally full of it.  While I expect the Wild to play Chicago tough, I just can’t do it.  And yes, I am okay with getting burned by them again.  And by my friends.

Prediction:  Blackhawks in 6

Ducks vs. Flames

So, I originally had the Ducks in four in the first round, but that was in my bracket.  After re-thinking, I decided to give Winnipeg a game for their crowd, since that place is a circus and you could probably hear it from Fargo.  Note to self:  Don’t re-think playoff series.  Winnipeg played a lot better than a sweep however.  That team is really young, and super physical.  They’re very fun to watch.  I enjoyed seeing them play well.  The Jets’ problem in the series was that, when Anaheim’s offense picked up, they couldn’t defend and then collapsed.  The Jets played very well for most of the game, but choked when it mattered.

On Calgary:

And that’s it.

So yeah, I underrated Calgary.  I’ll admit that.  This looks like it for Vancouver.  This might have been their last run.  It didn’t help that Alexander Burrows left practice on a stretcher one day.  Anyways, the Flames used their speed to beat the Canucks, and flew around the ice.  They poured it on Vancouver in Game 6, as it kinda seemed like the Canucks gave up there.  That’s what the Flames do.  They tire you out.

However, the Ducks are ridiculous on offense, as they used it as their biggest weapon against the Jets.  Corey Perry and Ryan Kesler were top three in points for them last series, with Jakob Silvferberg in second.  Silvferberg had a great series, having the highest +/- on the team (5).  Jonas Hiller started all six games for the Flames last series, and did very well.  He’ll have a tough task against the Ducks blazing offense, but his team will have to help him out a bit.

Calgary also has a very good offense, but are still figuring things out.  Like I said in the first round preview, they’re the new kids around here.  Young and inexperienced, they aren’t very aware of what’s lurking.  They did very well against Vancouver, but matchups are key, and the Canucks got the worst matchup possible in the first round.

The Flames have one catalyst to this series, but it’s still up in the air.  Captain Mark Giordano tore his bicep in late February, and was expected to miss the rest of the year.  However, local reports in Calgary and Anaheim have the team optimistic about his return for a game or two in this series.  Girodano is one of the best defenseman in the league, and makes the Flames pretty pesky with him.  He gives them some more experience and leadership.  A possible return would also add physicality to the Flames, something they lack.  Look, Calgary would be estastic to have him back late in the series, but that’s if it gets past five games.

I know, I know.  I underrated Calgary in the first round.  I gave Vancouver credit because they were older and knew what they’re were doing.  They let me down, and the Flames showed me that are a good team who deserves to be here.  Anaheim is a different team.  They’re so much better than Vancouver, and could be close to unstoppable.  If Calgary gets a game here, Giordano is gonna have to be in the lineup.  And yes, I am confident about my pick.

Prediction: Ducks in 5

 Enjoy the second round!!!!