Tuesday, May 01, 2012

NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs Round 2 Predictions

NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs-Round 2 (Conference Semifinals)
Round 2 is already begun and now it's time for thoughts on what happened in round 1 and what to expect in round 2.

First of all, how did I do?  Well, not very well.  I got the monkey score, 4-8 (for those of you who did not have Saul Ploplys for high school physics, the monkey is the score a monkey would get on a test if he randomly guessed the answers).  Fortunately for me, the experts didn't fare much better.  Only 4 did better, 4 the same and 4 even did worse.  To put that into perspective, a monkey did as well or better than eight out of the twelve experts (and me).

Things of note in the first round:  There were a lot of overtime games, including 5 straight between the Blackhawks and the Coyotes, three of them ending in pain for Hawks fans.  There were a million suspensions, dirty hits and dumb plays and it was getting hard to stomach at times.  I f Shea Weber just would have gotten more than the meager $2,500 fine he received for slamming Henrik Zetterberg's head into the glass after the game had ended, maybe things wouldn't have gotten out of hand.  And maybe the referees need a suspension or two, especially after the missed not one, not two, but THREE SEPARATE PENALTIES on Raffi Torres's hit to Marian Hossa.  Here's how you know the rules are messed up: Shea Weber gets just a  $2,500 fine for his act against Zetterberg and Joel Quinnville earns at $10,000 fine for saying the officiating was "horrendous."  Words stronger than actions?  Let's get this ironed out, NHL.

For the second straight year the Hawks get knocked out in the first round, so I went on hockey hiatus for a week.  But now I am back for my round 2 predictions, again, trying to top the ESPN experts.

Western Conference Semifinals

St. Louis Blues vs. Los Angeles Kings

My friends in St. Louis are probably going to be upset with me, but there is something about the Kings right now that makes it hard to pick against them.  If you would have asked me this question ten days ago, I might have picked the Blues.  The Blues dominated the Sharks, who were an average team this year, and the Kings destroyed the Canucks, limiting them to a handful of goals over their five game series.  Jonathan Quick has been incredible.  Overall the teams are very similar, great goaltending, strong defense and just enough scoring to win.  I think the Kings are just a little bit better right now.  Kings in 7

Phoenix Coyotes vs.  Nashville Predators

Mike Smith is the main reason the Coyotes ousted the Blackhawks in the first round, but there were a lot of other reasons, too.  They won the puck battles, they blocked shots, and they played well short-handed.  The Preds looked good against the Wings (a team that clearly needs some changes in the off season) and I still think they have what it takes.  This is Nashville's best chance, and with their slew of impending free agents, it might be their only chance.  If they can score early and hold the lead, they can hold off Phoenix.  The Coyotes barely trailed at all in the first round and were able to bounce back three times after giving up late game leads to win, so you don't want to be trailing them late in the game.  Nashville in 7.

Eastern Conference Semifinals

New York Rangers vs. Washington Capitals
I still can't figure out how the Caps came back to knock of the Bruins, but they did, with Ovechkin's minutes down.  The Bruins got spotty play from Tim Thomas and Braden Holtby played well for the Caps.  Holtby has now played more games in the playoffs than he did during the regular season.   The Rangers were pushed to a seventh game before taking out the scrappy Ottawa Senators.  My money is on the Blue shirts.  Rangers in 7.

Philadelphia Flyers vs. New Jersey Devils

It took back to back overtime wins for New Jersey to KO the Panthers in the first round (Panthers fans got used to seeing their team lose in overtime/shootouts late in the season), while Philadelphia was on fire in the first round against the heavily favored Penguins in a wild series.  Pittsburgh played dumb, couldn't stay out of the box, couldn't keep the puck out of the net when they were shorthanded and now their season is over (PHI was 12/25 on the power play).  Some of the Flyers who had average regular seasons have come alive in the playoffs (Danny Briere I am looking at you).  It's not often you give up four and a half goals a game in the playoffs and win the series but the Flyers did that in the first round .  Unless Marty Brodeur jumps into the way back machine and channels his 1995 self, Flyers in 7.

Thanks for reading.  See you for the Conference finals.

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