Thursday, 1 May 2014

NHL Playoffs: Round 2 Predictions and Musings

The first round of the 2014 NHL Playoffs was definitely full of surprises ... and a lot of groin shots. Seriously, what the hell?



How did I do with my first round picks?


PREDICTION RESULT MATCH?



Avalanche in 5 Wild in 7 N
Hawks in 7 Hawks in 6 Y
Ducks in 6 Ducks in 6 Y*
Kings in 7 Kings in 7 Y*
Bruins in 5 Bruins in 5 Y*
Habs in 7 Habs in 4 Y
Penguins in 5 Penguins in 6 Y
Rangers in 7 Rangers in 7 Y*


Wow, I got 7 out of 8, including 4 perfect picks :) Too bad I had no money on the line...

A few first round thoughts, before I predict the next round.

AVALANCHE V. WILD

I will never get tired of seeing Patrick Roy angry.

This series was definitely a "home-ice advantage wins", except for Game 7. The Wild were absolutely terrific at home, where Mike Yeo could match up his lines well vs. the Avs top line of Stastny, Landeskog, and MacKinnon. The Avalanche spent way too much time in their own zone when playing in Minnesota, and Roy was simply outcoached by Mike Yeo.... yes, Mike Yeo.

Darcy Kuemper was brought in after Bryzgalov sucked in Games 1-2, and was easily the better of the three goalies who played in the series. He should carry the torch the rest of the way.

HAWKS v. BLUES

Yes, the Blues won the first two games, but their loss was inevitable :(

The Blues have a very good team, but they definitely need toughness on the blueline. Bouwmeester, Pietranglo, and Shattenkirk are all fabulous defensemen, but that is a lot of Marshmallow on the back end. The physical Hawks had their way in front of Miller, and showed why they, and not the Blues, win in the playoffs.

Ryan Miller was also a complete bust and had a sub 90.0 SV% with the Blues... so much for THAT #1 GOALIE WE'VE ALWAYS NEEDED! The Blues should not waste any money signing Miller to a long-term deal.

KINGS v. SHARKS

Although I predicted the Kings to win in 7, nobody could have thought the series would go the way it did... with the Sharks winning the first 3 games and the Kings becoming just the fourth team, ever, to come back from that deficit.

The Sharks looked unbeatable, and then the Kings woke up and the Sharks just choked. Expect a coaching regime change.

CANADIENS v. LIGHTNING

Backup goalie Anders Lindback didn't lose the series for the Lightning, but he certainly did nothing to help the Bolts have a shot. The Lightning need a real backup next season, as coach Cooper had so little confidence in Lindback that he ran Ben Bishop into the ground. The Bolts definitely deserved better than a sweep.

PENGUINS v. BLUE JACKETS

The Jackets have a ton of heart, but injuries and an awakened Malkin did them in.

The Penguins have a lot of glaring holes, starting with Marc-Andre Fleury. Although his SV% is much higher than it has been in the past, his glaring miscues late in games make any Pens fan nervous. In addition, the Penguins get completely outchanced when Crosby and/or Malkin are not on the ice, by a WIDE margin.


SECOND ROUND PREDICTIONS


CHICAGO v. MINNESOTA


Minnesota exposed the Avalanche's weaknessess, but what do they do against a team that has so few?

The Wild play so well at home, so I expect they can take two games from the Hawks. Darcy Kuemper has shown that he is a pretty good goaltender, and gives the Wild a distinct advantage over Corey Crawford.

The Hawks, on the other hand, came off a brutally physical series against the Blues. The Hawks might end up running out of steam faster due to the beatings they took.

Still, I don't think the Wild will pull the upset.

Prediction: Hawks in 6

LOS ANGELES v. ANAHEIM


Another Battle of California pits the 'How the hell are they winning so much?' No-longer Mighty Ducks of Anaheim versus the awakened LA Kings.

The Kings seemed to have found their stride, and choke opponents to death with Sutter's stifling system. It's boring, but it works!

I still think the Ducks play worse than their record shows, and their luck has to run out. The Kings can better stop a one-line team than the Stars could.

Prediction: Kings in 6


BOSTON v. MONTREAL


An Original Six classic, and a real David v. Goliath battle. You pit the big physical Bruins versus the tiny, speedy Habs, and you get quite a contrast in styles.

The Bruins are my pick to take the East, and should roll over the Habs without a big sweat. Carey Price matches up decently with Tuukaa Rask, but the rest of the roster? The Bruins have every advantage, by a mile.

Prediction: Bruins in 4


PITTSBURGH v. NEW YORK


If there was a series to pick an upset, this might be it. The Penguins look like they have too many glaring weaknessess, and will eventually implode. Looking at advanced stats, the Penguins, as a team, rank quite low in Corsi and Fenwick. To put it in basic terms, the Penguins tend to possess the puck less and generate fewer scoring chances than the opposition.

That said, I would expect a much more physical team would do well against the Penguins, as past history has shown, than the Rangers.

Prediction: Penguins in 6.