For the third-straight season I rolled up six out of eight correct playoff series predictions in the first round. I fully expect to almost completely whiff on my second round predictions for the third-straight season.
While I swung and missed on my Cup Finals prediction, I managed to guess most of the second round participants and I’ll now provide my predictions for the second round series.
Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Ottawa Senators
This will be a very interesting series to follow. The main storyline is the Penguins struggles in net but this will really come down to Pittsburgh’s firepower matching up against Craig Anderson and Ottawa’s ability to defend. Pittsburgh has a deep offensive lineup that would create ugly matchup choices for an All Star team, let alone the seventh seed in the playoffs. If Paul MacLean can work his magic and Anderson stays hot, this will be a long series.
Why Pittsburgh will win: Firepower is the name of the game for the Penguins. They outscored their way to the second round with little more than average goaltending supporting their back legs. This is an offensive juggernaut which also has a pair of bottom six lines capable of mixing offense and defense quite nicely. Goaltending will obviously be an issue and the hot button issue until Tomas Vokoun proves he can carry this team.
Why Ottawa will win: The Senators have continuously proven that they’re capable of overcoming and they did a fine job of that all year. They certainly weren’t overmatched by the Canadiens but I feel they will be in many ways during this series. However, if they can find offensive success they should have little issue being very competitive against this team
Outcome: Penguins in six
Boston Bruins vs. New York Rangers
A nice, tidy Original Six matchup between a pair of teams that had the hell beaten out of them over two lengthy seven-game series. Both squads have top guns who aren’t performing (see: Seguin, Nash, Richards) while other heroes have emerged. For me, this series is all about how the Bruins handle Henrik Lundqvist and if the Rangers will be able to score goals. The Rangers advanced to the Conference Finals last year on the strength of timely – but not overwhelming – offense and terrific goaltending. If the Bruins are stymied by Lundqvist it will be a quick round.
Why Boston will win: What scares me about the Bruins is the sudden rash of injuries on the backend and the dwindling list of players to fill those spots. Zdeno Chara is good but I don’t think any human is capable of continuing to see the minutes he’s being given. Then again, there’s a good chance he’s not human. Boston has the firepower to exploit matchups and I expect them to collect plenty of chances. Whether or not they find the net is yet to be seen.
Why New York will win: Lundqvist is this team’s savior. They put together a couple of high-scoring games against the Capitals but they haven’t gotten consistent scoring from anyone on their roster. Rick Nash and Brad Richards have been invisible and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them kept quiet by line matching. But if Lundqvist continues to stand on his head, the Rangers will only need a goal or two per game. Also keep an eye on Boston’s fatigue, that could give New York a decided advantage.
Outcome: New York in six
Chicago Blackhawks vs. Detroit Red Wings
Another Original Six showdown with far different circumstances. I’m sure you will hear plenty of guys wax poetic about the termination of this glorious rivalry as if the Wings are moving to the AHL. This will provide a nice backdrop for the Chicago/Detroit Western Conference rivalry to fizzle out with, but these teams will still play. It really isn’t that big of a deal.
Why Chicago will win: Like the Penguins, the Blackhawks just have too much talent. Their power play looks like one you would see at an All Star game, they have two world class lines and a third set of forwards who can all play. Defensively they’re crazy deep as well. This is a good team that will be very tough to beat.
Why Detroit will win: Despite his success in the first round, I don’t necessarily trust Corey Crawford and I feel that Jimmy Howard is the more capable netminder. However, the Wings will need to match lines well and play phenomenal defense to ensure that they stay competitive with the Hawks.
Outcome: Chicago in six
Los Angeles Kings vs. San Jose Sharks
If there is any series that is a total toss up, I’d say it’s this one. The Bruins/Rangers series could go either way but there are still some obvious factors that can lean that series in either direction. This one is between two teams with strong goalies, impressive scoring depth and quality coaching.
Why Los Angeles will win: If the Kings start scoring they’ll be nearly impossible to stop. The issue is that their offense has been very hit and miss and that kept their first round series far closer than it could have been. There’s no doubt that Jonathan Quick will keep the Kings competitive, it is up to their offense to power the train.
Why San Jose will win: Despite all the claims that the Sharks were done, their vets have awoken and their budding stars are producing on a consistent basis. San Jose has four legitimate threats to score on a nightly basis and a handful of role players who will chip in equally at both ends. Antti Niemi may not be the best goalie in the series, but he can really prove his worth with a massive performace over the rest of these playoffs.
Outcome: San Jose in seven