After a wonderfully successful set of first round selections, I fully expect to fall flat on my face with my choices for the second round. I went five for eight in the first round, missing only the Penguins, Bruins and Sharks as eliminated teams. Admittedly, I chose San Jose as my reach upset. So I wasn’t torn up by their elimination.
I made some preliminary choices last night, but I reserve the right to make tweaks prior to the bulk of the games starting this afternoon. Now, on with my second round predictions.
New York Rangers vs. Washington Capitals
The Capitals got by New York last year in what was a pretty entertaining series. The Capitals sat atop the East with the Rangers barely getting in last spring. The tables have turned here in 2012, with the Rangers taking the East and the Caps sneaking into the postseason before upsetting the Bruins in round one.
I like the Capitals to pull the upset again in round two, but I question their ability to beat King Hank. The Rangers struggled with the Senators and their hot goalie. Now they get a deeper team with a hot goalie in the Capitals. Washington is coming off a seven game war with the Bruins in which they survived on ugly, low scoring affairs to advance. I think the Rangers are perfectly built for low scoring affairs.
Why New York will win
Henrik Lundqvist was quite good in round one and is adding to his Hart Trophy resume as each game passes. The Rangers have the ability to choke out any offense that the Capitals may still have after a low scoring first round series. New York will need to find a way to put some goals in the net, however, if they hope to make quick work of the Caps.
Why Washington will win
Braden Holtby has been dazzling for the Caps, playing a key role in their upset of the Bruins. The Capitals are a dangerous team considering they’re playing with house money, more or less. There are very few expectations considering they snuck into the playoffs late. Washington didn’t score too many goals against Boston and won’t find much more skating room against the Rangers. They will need to control the offensive zone if they hope to pull the upset.
Outcome: Rangers in six
Philadelphia Flyers vs. New Jersey Devils
Originally I thought the Devils may be capable of pulling an upset here. I’m still not sold on the Flyers as a defensively successful model. Typically, strong defense is important in the playoffs. The Devils had a really terrible time trying to get past Florida, I can’t imagine they will do well against an offensively gifted team like Philly.
Why Philadelphia will win
The Flyers just have too much offense. Philly basically steamrolled everyone’s Cup darlings in the first round. Short of a couple hiccups –centralized in the crease – the Flyers had a pretty easy time dispatching the Pens. I think that the Flyers should have an easy time finding the back of the net against Marty Broduer, as well. I think they could really make short work of this series.
Why New Jersey will win
The Devils, if healthy, are capable of scoring goals. This is something the Penguins found success with. The problem that Pittsburgh had was keeping pucks out of the net. I think the Devils will have far more success in net and defensively as compared to the Penguins. If New Jersey get timely saves from Broduer and are capable of controlling the defensive zone, they will have a puncher’s chance.
Outcome: Flyers in five
St. Louis Blues vs. Los Angeles Kings
I’m a big fan of the Kings. I want them to do well in the worst way. However, they didn’t have much success scoring goals against the Canucks and I can’t imagine a defensive stalwart like the Blues will yield many more tallies. The Blues are rested and should be able to control play in this series. The x-factor comes in net. Whichever goalie steals more games may carry their team to victory.
Why St. Louis will win
The Blues are a well-built squad with plenty of strengths. They have been getting good goaltending and do a great job of supporting any goalie who suits up for them. I think they have some electric scorers laying in wait; they just need to get let loose. They aren’t an exciting team, but they get the job done. The Blues may have the inside track to the Cup final at this point.
Why Los Angeles will win
Jonathon Quick has been the most valuable player in hockey this year. Of course, he isn’t a Hart nominee. Regardless, he should win the Vezina and will likely add more to his resume with this series. Quick won the first round series for the Kings and will need to steal four more wins in this series. I don’t know if the Kings have the offensive wherewithal to carve up the St. Louis system. If they do, this will be yet another upset.
Outcome: Blues in six
Phoenix Coyotes vs. Nashville Predators
The Coyotes benefit with home ice against a team that finished above them in the standings. They also benefit from running a truly effective system. Last night’s game one showed a severe talent mismatch, but a team with a hot goalie capable of pulling an upset. This should be a long series that is decided by bounces, rather than skill.
Why Phoenix will win
The Coyotes were severely outplayed in game one, but blocked a ton of shots, won a ton of faceoffs and got great goaltending. They will win this series by choking the life out of Nashville (and all those watching) with their defensive prowess. I wonder if the Preds will eventually find ways to get some pucks behind Mike Smith, but the Phoenix counterattack was the most deadly portion of last night’s game one.
Why Nashville will win
The Predators are simply a better hockey team. They have more depth, more skill and proved it during the regular season. However, they will be frustrated by Phoenix defensively and will need to cash on some pretty shots if they hope to separate on the scoreboard. Nashville cannot get into a game of momentum swings in which they carry the play but stay close or tied. That series will benefit the Desert Dogs.
Outcome: Nashville in seven