With the Stanley Cup Final poised to begin this weekend, I’ll take one final stab at prognosticating who may win the final series of the 2011-12 NHL season. I suffered through an up-and-down run of picking this year’s series and stand at 5-8 entering the Finals.
This year pits a pair of unexpected opponents as neither entered the playoffs as a sexy pick to be playing for the Cup. While the Kings have been an annual choice for pre-season success, they had an underwhelming regular season and nosed their way into the playoffs. The Devils were quiet for most of the year and are just now getting fully healthy. While their aging goaltender was average in the regular season, he has been stellar in the playoffs.
Somewhat ironically, the Devils enter this series as the more potent scoring team as the Kings were the team whose blanketing defense helped them through the regular season. However, Los Angeles has played David to the NHL’s Goliath this spring, knocking off the top three seeds out west thanks to terrific goaltending and a recent injection of offense.
This may serve to be a very entertaining Cup Final, and has the potential to make a major impact on the national sports scene with LA as part of the series. While the NHL and NBC didn’t get their silver platter matchup of the Rangers and Kings, the Devils seem to be slowly reminding people in the tri-state area that hockey is indeed a serious sport. Continue reading
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 Continue reading
Yesterday I rolled out my Eastern Conference picks. I see room for a number of upsets in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs. In fact, there is a good chance that seeds five through eight advance if the chips fall properly.
#1 Vancouver Canucks vs. #8 Los Angeles Kings
I really like both of these teams, which will make this a difficult series to watch. I think the ultimate edge in this series goes to Vancouver because of their scoring depth. The Kings have a lot of talent up front, but can’t seem to translate that to goals. I do think the Kings have the edge in net, which may be all that matters.
Why Vancouver will win: Between the Sedins (if both are healthy), Ryan Kesler, David Booth and the numerous other faces that played to game seven last year, the Canucks have a playoff worthy roster. The Canucks also have a bit of a goaltending controversy. I’m interested to see how much rope is given to Roberto Luongo.
Why Los Angeles will win: Jonathon Quick probably could have won 50 games if his team could score goals. In a tight-checking playoff series, he could be deadly. I think this upset is more likely than any others that may be out there.
Outcome: Kings in six Continue reading
With the playoffs starting tomorrow night, here are my predictions for the Eastern Conference matchups. It is a shame that the Panthers drew the third seed considering they find themselves ahead of five of the other seven teams in the bracket. I would have to think the playoff format will be addressed in the near future, because this year (more than others) has really shown off the biggest flaws in the system.
#1 New York Rangers vs. #8 Ottawa Senators
Ottawa was bumped down from seventh place due to the late charge put on by the Capitals. The Senators had a good regular season against the Rangers, but I have doubts about their chances for success in the playoffs.
Why the Rangers will win: Henrik Lundqvist has been one of the three best goaltenders in the league all year. He plays the type of game that will be successful in the clogged style of hockey that is prevalent in the playoffs. New York is a physical team that should have little trouble pushing a young Senators team around.
Why the Senators will win: They have plenty of offense. Erik Karlsson was magical all year long and is a key piece of Ottawa’s attack. However, their defensive zone struggles will probably bite them in the end. Still, Ottawa will win if they can create offense early and often.
Outcome: Rangers in five Continue reading